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Some sources--both online and in print--are still repeating the story that Indian agent Herman Geiger (1707-51) was kidnapped and killed by a tribe of northern Indians. Since that didn't happen, how did such a story get started? And why is it still around? Robert Meriwether explained it in "Expansion of South Carolina, 1729-1765" (published in 1940).
In 1747, Indian agent George Haig of Saxegotha was kidnapped by a raiding party of the Nottaway band of Iroquois from New York. He was exhausted by the time they'd reached PA and refused to keep marching, so they killed him. This was reported in multiple sources: a letter from President Palmer of PA, the journal of Indian agent Conrad Weiser, the SC Council Journal, a letter from Haig's wife Elizabeth begging the government to intervene, and a notice of Haig's death in the SC Gazette on 14 Apr 1748.
In 1775, James Adair published "History of the American Indians", in which he related the incident in detail. He used initials rather than names for the people he described, so the murdered trader was one "G.H." In 1859, John Logan included the Adair material in his "History of the Upper Country of South Carolina." In a moment of absent-mindedness (or dyslexia), he reversed the initials from G.H. to H.G., decided that the murdered trader must have been George Haig's successor Herman Geiger. Logan didn't bother to check his sources. In 1898, SC historian A.S. Salley Jr. published "The History of Orangeburg County". He borrowed the story from Logan (on pp. 233-4), but he didn't check his sources either. In fact, he included the real story--the death of trader George Haig--on pp. 231-2 in the same chapter, didn't notice that he'd assigned the same fate to two separate Saxegotha Indian traders at the same time.
This story can be used as a litmus test to see if a family history or a local history has been properly researched or not. If it repeats that Herman Geiger was killed by Indians in 1748 (as opposed to dying at home in bed in 1751), you can assume that the rest of the facts have not been documented either.
Submitted by: Harriet Imrey
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Last updated Sunday, 22-Nov-2009 17:12:15 MST