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THE MAGAZINE OF HISTORY
WITH NOTES AND QUERIES
WHEN WASHINGTON TOURED NEW ENGLAND
(Sixth Paper) WINFIELD M. THOMPSON 15
Entered as second-class matter March 1, 1905, at the Post Office at Poughkeepsie, N. Y.
Act of Congress, March 3, 1870.
HER STORY AS ORIGINALLY GIVEN
In June 1781, General Greene sent a message to General Sumter, by a young woman, Emily Geiger, the daughter of a German planter in Fairfield County (S. C.). Fearing lest she might lose it on the way he told her the contents. Mounted on a fleet horse, she crossed the Wateree at the Camden ferry and pressed on towards Sumter's camp. Passing through a dry swamp on the second day of her journey, she was stopped by some Tory scouts, who took her to the house now known as Fort Granby, the residence of James Cayce, and sent for a woman to search her. As soon as left alone, she tore up Greene's letter and swallowed the pieces. On being searched, of course no letter was found, and she was released. Pursuing her journey, she reached Sumter's camp, communicated Greene's message, and thus caused Lord Rawdon's defeat.
-Lossing, Field Book of the Revolution II.,
pp. 488-9. II.
WO years ago a gentleman in South Carolina wrote the editor about Emily Geiger: "In my opinion she never existed. The full correspondence between Greene and Sumter completely refutes the stories-numerous and varied-of her alleged ride; and although I have searched high and low, and gathered nearly everything in contemporaneous records about the Geiger family, I do not find her name on a single document. Her story began with Mrs. Ellet and Lossing, so far as proof goes. Besides, in all of my work among proper names here, I have not found an Emily at that early day."
Confronted with this discouraging assertion, from one who ought to know, the Editor concluded to find out for himself, by South Carolina investigation, the "real" Emily. For two years he corresponded with people not only in South Carolina, but in Missouri, Texas, New York, Washington, and other States, accumulating a great deal of miscellaneous information, some trifling, some worthless, but the greater
part tending to prove indisputedly that Emily was one reality, and her famous ride another.
Naturally, most of his information came from South Carolina; although a very interesting piece came from Texas: unfortunately chronology was against it.
In South Carolina, the information came entirely from members of the Geiger family, in Columbia, Cayce, Gaston, Winnsboro &c. and from them I have received so much and so detailed and supported testimony, that no doubt remains in my mind of the entire truth of the story as first told by M.. Ellet and then by Mr. Lossing. On one minor point I have been disapinted—the whereabouts of the oil painting of the arrest of Emily Geiger. When Lossing copied it, it was in the possession of Mr. Stacy G. Potts, Trenton, N. J., but my inquiries, reaching as far as California, only show that it was taken there by Mrs. Potts, who died in Preston, Sonoma County, some years ago. None of her relations know anything about the painting, though some remember seeing it. This being the case, our illustration, for which we are indebted to Harper and Brothers, the publishers of Lossing's Field Book, remains the only graphic representation of "Emily Geiger's Ride.”
Geiger is a not uncommon German name, which appears today in the directories of New York, Philadelphia and other cities. The ancestor of the family in South Carolina was Herman Hans Conrad von Geiger, once private secretary to the King of Wurtemburg. He is said to have settled in Lexington county, on the Congaree River, just south of Congaree Creek between 1730 and 1745. He married and had two (or three) sons-Hans and Herman (or Jacob Herman). If there was a third, his name has not been preserved. The name of Hans Geiger's wife is also unknown. His brother (Jacob) Herman married Miss-Tyler.
Hans had possibly a son, as well as the daughter who has made the name famous, but of him I have not been able to obtain any definite information. Whether Hans removed from the tract called "Switzer Neck" near the mouth of the Saluda River, (from the number of the "Swiss-Palatine" emigrants who had settled there) before or after Emily's birth, is unknown-so she may have been a native of Lexington county, or of Newberry, as her father settled in the fertile section between the Enoree and Broad rivers, now known as Maybinton Township.