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King Hagler

On Highway 5 in Lancaster County there is an official South Carolina historical marker which reads: "On the Catawba path near here, King Hagler, Chief of the Catawba Nation (1750-1763), was slain on August 30, 1763, by a raiding band of northern Indian braves as he journeyed from the Waxhaws Settlement on Cane Creek to a Catawba town on Twelve Mile Creek."

King Hagler (also spelled Haggler, Haglar, Hegler, Heiglar, etc.) has often been called the greated of Catawba leaders. At least this is the viewpoint of whites who benefited from Hagler's unwavering friendship and loyalty to the South Carolina royal governor upon whom Hagler depended to keep peace among white settlers, enemy tribes, and the Catawbas.

Hagler believed that his tribe was destitute until the white man came in and raised the standard of living. This is a generous assessment on Hagler's part considering that the white man also brought the plagues of alcohol and smallpox, both of which in less than one hundred years helped to reduce the Catawba population from six thousand to around twelve hundred.

Royal governor James Glen, for his part, found the Catawbas "as brave fellows as any on the continent of America, and our firm friends."

Hagler's name frequently crops up on the pages of the South Carolina Council Journal. The Council regularly paid Catawbas for services of tracking runaway slaves, bounties for Cherokee scalps, and for the services of doctors, gunsmiths, and tavern keepers.

In addition Hagler regularly petitioned the governor for gifts. Not only did he ask for corn, horses, and ammunition but also for fancy "cloathing" (velvets and laces for his headmen) and saddles for his daughters.

By 1759 Hagler was so skilled as soliciting favors that he was able to send this rather eloquent request to Governor James Glen: "Formerly I walked fast, but now am old and unable to walk home, therefore must be the favour of a horse from your Excellency and as my sight is fail'd shall be obliged to you for a good gun."

The raiding band of Indians who slew Hagler were seven Shawnees out of Virginia who were longtime enemies of the Catawbas. Six bullets were fired and Hagler was killed instantly. His only companion, a slave, escaped to spread the word. Catawba drums made of deerskin stretched over clay pots spread the message quickly.

There was immediate panic on the frontier. Many of the Scotch-Irish settlers had come to the Waxhaws to escape the French and Indian War rampages and torchings in Pennsylvania and Virginia. They had thought themselves safe among the Catawbas. The loss of Hagler was a severe blow.

The location of Hagler's burial place is not known. The Catawbas say there were two locations' the second one they never divulged to any non-Catawbas. Maurice Moore described King Hagler's grave as 10 feet wide, 10 feet long and 10 feet deep. Along with Haigler's body was buried his silver-mounted rifle, powder flask, gold and silver money, pipes, tobacco, and other personal possessions.

According to Moore, for one month there was a guard of 16 warriors. Then a band of Virginia gamblers got the guards drunk and rifled the grave.

The Camden militia investigated the murder of Hagler, and the North Carolina government sent a lieutenant with thirty men to pursue the Shawnees. Their search was unsuccessful.

King Hagler was killed four months before the Treaty of August awarded the Catawbas an area 15 miles square as a reservation. It had been a dream of Hagler and something for which he had long worked. His Quaker friend, Samuel Wyly, who surveyed the reservation, put Hagler's name on the map to do him honor.

Copyright 1999, Louise Pettus