"Grave of Emily Geiger"

Myth Worshipers’ Mecca

Secretary of South Carolina Historical Commission

Writes of Place Near Columbia to Which Credulous

Patriots Pious1y Resort.


By A.. S. Sa1ley, Jr.

Some of the absurdities that are offered in support of spurious history would be amusing if so many people did not take them seriously. One such absurdity is the alleged grave of Emily Geiger. This grave is an invention mothered by necessity. In l848 Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet published in her "Women of the American Revolution," a story of a ride by Emily Geiger to take a dispatch from General Greene in the fork of the Broad and Saluda rivers to General Sumpter on the Wateree. Mrs. Ellet put quotation marks at the beginning and end of her story, but she gave no authority for the story. She was a Northern woman, wife of a professor at the South Carolina college. She knew very little of the history of South Carolina or the part played by the state in the Revolution and, consequently, she perpetrated several absurdities.

In 1850 Benson J. Lossing published another version of Emily's ride in his "Field Book of the American Revolution." Lossing knew more about Green’s Campaign against Ninety Six and his retreat to Winnsborough, during May, June and July, l78l, than Mrs. Ellet did, so he changed the story to make it come within the realm of possibility. Lossing was also a Northerner. South Carolina Writers such as William Gil1more Simms, Prof. William J. Rivers, Judge O'Neal and Benjamin F. Perry, did not give credence to the alleged ride in any of their writings and Emily bid fair to pass into oblivion when, about 1890, writers of papers for Women’s patriotic societies resurrected her.

In 1899 the city of Charleston published the greater part of the correspondence between Greene and Sumpter. It is at once seen that there could be no truth in the story; that the two officers never occupied the relative positions assigned to them by the story; that no such condition as described in the story existed. Other letters of Greene and Sumpter during that campaign were examined and all strengthened the case against Emily's ride. McCrady's last volume was at that time in process of publication and at the request of its author the writer hereof prepared a footnote pointing out the falsity of the story of the ride. About the same time Asbury Francis Lever, a young man who has been heard from many times since, was elected to the House of Representatives from Lexington County. He conceived the idea of introducing a bill in the General Assembly to erect a monument to Emily, and wrote to me to get the facts. I gave him the facts as revealed by the letters of Greene and Sumter, the Documentary History, in three volumes, by Dr. R. W. Gibbs, Johnson's Life of Greene, etc., and I published my reply. I never heard from Frank again -- not on that subject -- and the bill was never introduced. Nevertheless I started a little tempest in a teapot. It was not long before I was told that the story was certainly true; that "they can show you her grave." "Is there a tombstone there showing dates of birth and death end reciting the Ride?" "No, but the grave is there. They know it is hers."

Last year in company with Mr. John M. Bateman, who is seriously interested in local history, I went to see Emily’s grave. Out on the road to Charleston (highway No. 2) about 14 miles from Columbia is a plantation that was long in possession of Major John Threewits, a veteran Of the Revolution and for many years a member of the General Assembly, serving in both the House and Senate. In a plowed field behind the field in which the old dwelling stands we found a piece of a tombstone sticking out of the ground near the edge of woods. We prodded about into the soft dirt with a rod until we struck the other piece of the tombstone and dug it up. Putting the two pieces of stone together we read the following inscription:


to the

memory of

Josephine Love Threewits

consort of

Lewellyn W. Threewits

who departed this life

May 19th 1813

aged 22 years

(months broken off)

and 6 days.

This is the only tombstone there and there is no indication that there ever were any other graves there. Upon what grounds is it asserted that a Geiger should be buried there on Threewits land? The only connection between this Threewits family, which appears to have come to South Carolina in 1772, and the Geiger family, which came from Switzerland in 1737, was when Epps Davis Threewits, daughter of Joel Threewits and niece of Maj. John Threewits, married William Geiger after January 21, 1818, the date of her father’s wi1l which shows her to have been single at that time.

Joel Threewits, the elder, had 350 acres of land certified to him January 5, 1773, and granted January 20, 1773, on Stevens Creek, Ninety Six District. He had four sons and two daughters, which accounts for the acreage at the then bounty of 50 acres for each member of the family above two years of age. Some time after this he married Mrs. Mary Thomas, widow of John Thomas, 3rd. She had a son, John, and two daughters, Mary and Sarah Thomas. John died under age prior to 1787. Sarah married Roland Williamson and Mary married her step-brother, John Threewits. Joel Threewits served in the militia of South Carolina during the Revolution, attaining the rank of captain in the regiment of Co1. Robert Goodwyn. He was either killed, or died in service, as his son John, in an affidavit dated September 13, 1784, declared that the "acct; against the Publick as stated was left by the above named Capt. Joel Threewits deceased". John also receipted for the pay due on the account, as administrator, September 3, 1785.

After the death of Capt. Joel Threewits his widow married Ethel Heath. On February 26, 1802, John Threewits, of Orangeburg, District, wherein his plantation then lay, sold the 350 acres of land on waters of Stevens Creek that had been granted to his father in 1733 to Jonathan Weaver. His wife, Mary, renounced dower as did his step-mother, Mrs. Mary Heath, who was at the time a widow residing in Richland District.

John Threewits, eldest son of Captain Joel, also served in the Revolution and attained the rank of captain in the militia and after the war became major, by which title he was called to the end of his life.

His brothers, Llewellin and Williamson, were also in service. Williamson appears to have been killed, or to have died in service, as John made a bill against the state for Williamson’s services and signed the affidavit and receipt as administrator.

Joel Threewits was too young to serve in the Revolution. He was unmarried when the census was taken in 1790, but evidently married soon thereafter. Ha made his will January 21, 1816, and it was probated December 2, 1836. He therein mentioned his wife, Lucretia, sons, John Hawkins, Joel Thomas and Llewellin Williamson and daughters Mary Adeline, Emme Elize and Lucretia Silvia Threewits, who were under age, and Lucy Vaughn Lowerman, Jermina Wi1liams Threewits. Epsey Davis Threewits, Kezia Ann Ross Threewits, daughters to whom he gave a shilling, each "because Mrs. Mary Phelps gave my four daughters more than I was able to give my other children." His wife and John Hatton were named as executors and John Threewits, John Thomas and Mary Threewits were witnesses.

Llewellin Williamson Threewits, one of the three sons named in the will, was the husband of Josephine Love Threewits who was buried in the edge of the field on the plantation of his uncle, Major John Threewits, as heretofore recited. As she was 22 years and some months old in May 1813, it is apparent that she was born in 1790 or 1791. As her husband’s father was not married when the census of l790 was taken it is also evident that she was a little older than her husband. He appears to have married again and to have left descendants.

Mrs. Mary Heath made her will August 15, 1807, and it was probated November 28, 1807. Her daughter "Mary Threewits" and John Threewits, husband, were named as two of the executors. Her husband Ethel Heath had died in 1796. In his will he mentions his wife Mary and her "first husband John Thomas."   John Threewits was named as executor. John Threewit’s sister Martha married a Tucker and his sister E1izabeth married, June 14, 1780 Hicks Chappell, a captain of South Carolina mi1itia. Mrs. Chappell died July 4, 1841, her husband having predeceased her, April 11, 1830.

Mary, wife of Major John Threewits, died in 1840, and the old Major himself died June 22, 1842, in his 89th year. The following account of his death appeared in the Charleston Courier of July 16, 1842:

"Died: In Lexington District, S. C. on 22 Ultimo, in the 89th year of his age, Major John Threewits. The deceased, served first as Lieut, and subsequently as Captain in the Militia during the Revo1utionary War, end was in several engagements with the enemy, particularly at Stono. In after life he filled many important public stations. He was a member of the Convention which adopted our present Constitution, and for a long time occupied a seat in the Senate of the State. He lived respected and died regretted by a large circle of Friends and acquaintances."

The settlement of Major Threewit’s estate shows the following heirs surviving: Joel Threewits Tucker, Martha J. Jumper and Ann R. Williams, children of his sister Martha Tucker; James H. Chappell and John T. Chappell, chi1dren of his sister, Elizabeth Chappell; John Hawkins Threewits, Llewellin Williamson Threewits, Jemima Williams Pool, Eppes Davies Geiger, wife of William Geiger; Mary Adeline Jones, wife of Henry Jones; Emma Eliza Rivers, wife of James Rivers, and Lucretia Casson, wife of William Casson, children of his brother Joel Threewits. Where does Emily Geiger come into that family circle? She came in when the Emily Geiger Story began to be explicited. Relatives of the Geiger and Threewits families recalled that there was a connection between the families and then various individuals began to grope around to show it. During the past thirty-odd years I have gathered many newspaper articles about Emily, all written by persons who had no more know1edge of the history of South Carolina than a Tennessee school child has of the science of evolution. Some of these stories make her the wife of Major John Threewits; others make her the wife of Llewellin Threewits. I have seen an invitation to the wedding of Emily Geiger to John Threewits. It was written on modern paper, in modern handwriting, and with modern ink and steel pen. The wedding day was fixed for October 18, 1789.

It is well established that John Threewits was then married to Mary Thomas. I have also seen a brooch that General Nathaniel Greene is alleged to have given Emily the morning before her marriage. General Greene died in July 1786! Because Llewellin Threewit’s name is on that tombstone over in Lexington county another straw was found to grab at. Emily married Llewellin. But the tombstone shows that his wife’s name was Josephine Love. Then Emily was his first wife and Josephine his second, or vice versa, we are told. While Mr. Bateman end I were at the grave, Mr. Martin the tenant of the place, came up and he said: "They say Emily Geiger was his second wife and she is buried here beside the first". Yes. A woman who was 17 or 18 years of age in 1781 married a man who was born about 1793 and bore him children when she was 50 or older — — another absurdity. She could not have been Liewellin’s first wife, and at the same time, have attended the ball in Charleston given to Lafayette in 1825, as we are told she did. We are also told that Lafayette gave her a shawl, which is still shown. When did that happen? Lafayette landed at North Is1and, Winyah Bay, about midnight of the l4th—l5th of June, 1777. On the afternoon of the 15th he set out for Charles Town. From there he went to Philadelphia without passing near where the Geigers lived and four years before Emily is alleged to have sprung into fame. Lafayette’s secretary kept a journal of his tour in 1825 and therein recites the incidents of note — — such as presenting a shawl to a celebrity would be. The daily papers in Charleston gave full accounts of the entertainments given for Lafayette, but they do not mention Emily Geiger, or Mrs. Threewits, as having been present. At one function transparencies were displayed bearing the names of Mrs. Rebecca Motte and five other lady celebrities of South Carolina during the Revolution, but Emily was not of the number.

The writer does not know who Llewellin Threewits, brother of Major John, married; nor does he know whether he had issue or not. The census of 1790 shows that at that time he had dependents, but those could have been his brother, Joel, and. his sister, Mrs. Tucker, and her children, etc. It is evident that there were no living descendants when the estate of his brother John was in the court of Chancery for adjudication.

Of course such a person as Emily Geiger might have lived, and might have married Llewellin Threewits, brother of Major John despite the fact that she is ignored by the wills of all of her Geiger relatives who left wills, despite the fact that not a single mention of name in any writing or in any publication earlier than Mrs. Ellet’s book published in 1848, has been discovered, but it is highly improbable.

 Copied from papers of Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof by Sara Texas (Geiger) Geiger.

January 29, 1965

Copies for Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof (Daughter of Frederica Geiger & J. Archibald Wolf) Alexander Milburn Geiger (Son of Lellan Caughman and Alexander Geiger) Sara Anne Geiger (Daughter of Sara Texas Geiger and William Muller Geiger William Henry Geiger (Son of Sara Texas Geiger and William Muller Geiger)

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