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Thomas McKie Meriwether
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Birth: Dec. 4, 1852
Edgefield County
South Carolina, USA
Death: Jul. 8, 1876
Hamburg
Aiken County
South Carolina, USA

McKie Meriwether [9618]
The State (Columbia, South Carolina) biographical sketch
January 23, 1914

The subject of this sketch was born December 4, 1852, near the Savannah river in Edgefield county, South Carolina. His family on both sides were the most respectable in the county, gentle people with plenty of land and negroes before the war.

We remember him well and he would attract attention in any crowd, handsome, clean shaved, black hair and brown eyes, tastefully and neatly dressed, with the easy manners of a country gentleman.

July 8, 1876, his father requested him to go over into Georgia on [a] business trip, and he rode horse-back. I well remember the horse he rode, named Selem, a small sized dark bay stallion, evidently a cross between a well bred home raised horse and a thoroughbred compact, well muscled and active and durable.

When my hero rode up to Fury's ferry on the Savannah that lovely clear morning he holloaed for old Peter and Isaiah, the two old negro ferrymen, and they said, "Good morning, Marse McKie," and as usual the horseman asked them the news, and they told him there was trouble down the river, between the negroes and the white people, and that the negro Doc Adams had declared war against the white people. The cause of the trouble was as follows: Tom Butler and his brother-in-law, Henry Getzen, were riding home in South Carolina, having been over in Augusta, and Doc Adams, a leading negro, was drilling him company of negro malitia in the streets of Hamburg, and defiantly refused to give the gentleman the right of the public road. Of course Mr. Butler and Mr. Getzen had to yield to the threats of these belligerent negroes. Finally the young men arrived safely at their home some distance of Hamburg. Col. Bob Butler, the father and father-in-law of the aforesaid! gentlemen, called on his lawyer, Gen. M.C. Butler, at Edgefield, to come down and prosecute these law-breaking, insolent negroes.

The lawyer proceeded directly to Col. Butler's residence on the hill outside of the town of Hamburg. They went to a negro trial justice, Prince Rivers, to indict the military company, armed and equipped by the Radical Negro carpet baggers' governor. Prince Rivers told the lawyer and his clients that he couldn't arrest the negroes who, by that time, had retired into their armory with arms and plenty of ammunition.

Gen. Butler could do nothing but the country around learned like McKie Meriwether at Fury's ferry that the negro company was defying the white man's country, and had to be suppressed by some means, and the ignorant, venial officer of the law was powerless to give protection and redress. The news spread far and near and McKie Meriwether and Selem took up the spirit that had permeated the country and they changed their course and went to Augusta, where Meriwether very wisely, justly and patriotically armed himself to defend his people and his country.

About nine miles above Hamburg was a sabre company known as the Sweet Water Sabre club and in command of Col. A.P. Butler, a veteran of the Confederate war, so these gentlemen, about 65 or 70 in number, armed and well equipped to defend their homes and firesides, at once deputized themselves into a posse to enforce the law, legally if possible, and if not, by the way most expedient of the welfare of their country. This company was composed of the very flower of the manhood of country up the Martintown and Augusta road leading from Hamburg. Evidently McKie Meriwether had heard that the company of which he was a member was on the way to the seat of war. After fixing himself in Augusta as stated above, he went over to Hamburg, and through the town and joined his company in the suburbs.

The negro, fired on by the malignant spirit that prevaded South Carolina then, urged by the Yankees, who pounced like a set of buzzards on us after old Lincoln had with one stroke of the pen set the poor happy negro free was hardly himself responsible for the fearful state of affairs that existed in South Carolina then. The Sabre club or company marched into Hamburg that hot summer day, July 8, 1876, and deployed in regular military from, having been convinced that the negroes had become obdurate and more defiant. Our hero, than whom there was no truer or braver and knightly spirit ever existed in South Carolina, went with a detail to the bridge that spanned the Savannah river. The battle had been most active for some time and the negroes apparently were invulnerable in the besieged position in a brick building on the banks of the river. An ex-United States soldier, on the federal side during the late war, come up to those in command and suggested that the artillery from Augusta be brought over, and by the way, the young and old, brave spirits from Georgia came over to have a hand at protecting their own country from the attack of the negro company; the idea was agreed to and here came the artillery, capped and primed for the fray. The attack of the artillery effectually put a quietus on the defiant, badly advised negroes. In the meantime McKie's gun had become hot from the incessant firing and the brave fellow leaned it up against a pier of the bridge and a bullet from the negro fort hit him in the head and killed him instantly.

Thus died the greatest hero of the Hamburg riot, with no recognition ever given him for his heroism, not even a simple stone to mark his resting place on the hills of the Savannah river, where he was born and lived.

Some will say why write of his because he is not the first man ever killed in a riot, etc. Let me tell you, though, that this fight in Hamburg that July day had as much to do with the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon civilization and white supremacy as any other era in the history of our State. Up to that time of the Hamburg fight, ten years after the war, we had suffered, prayed, begged, preached and offered every possible expedient known to human effort to throw the yoke of tyranny off of our war beaten, sorely afflicted South and all apparently seemed in vain and useless. The younger and more spirited men of our State were strong in their advocacy of what was known as the straightout movement to take our country at any cost. Others equally as wise and as patriotic advocated a conservative plan, so there it stood with seemingly very little prospects of a solution. At any rate, those brave men who took the initiative in Hamburg very effectively demonstrated to the straight! out meant that it should be tried when the occasion should arise. Apparently I have left my hero but will say that all these questions I am trying to discuss only add to the bravery and gallantry of young Meriwether who was the most heroic maker of history that night when he gave all he had - his life - on the alter of his country valiantly fighting for the decency, intelligence and white civilization of South Carolina. Without question he would have been a daring spirit in the events I am about to relate. Suffice it to say that Gen. Butler, A.P. Butler and the brave men who suppressed the negro riot in Hamburg after it was over repaired to their homes. Gen. Butler came back to Edgefield and told his friend, Gen. M.W. Gary, a leading spirit in the straightout movement, when the scenes at Hamburg had been enacted so effectually, what had happened and they both caught the spirit which materialized into a reality that the time to act had at last come.

The Hamburg riot only added impulse and fervor to the usual mercenary crowd that was playing havoc in South Carolina at that time and it threw no damper on their arrogance and boldness, but the white people organized them more thoroughly and through A.P. Butler and others adopted the bloody shirt as a uniform. A red shirt was worn by every white man, woman and boy in South Carolina then. This red shirt idea was taken from the Republicans, who had been flaunting it in our faces in Washington and everywhere in their hatred and venom, and we therefore adopted their own emblem of warfare and finally whipped them with it. On August 12, 1876, the Radicals with Camberlain at their head came to Edgefield to speak, and Gen. Butler and Gen. Gary demanded a joint debate and they objected, and the Red shirts in great numbers told them to take part of the time and they took I and had a trigger under the stand they spoke on. I, as a boy, with my red shirt on remember distinctly Gen. Gary speaking, and he was certainly a speaker of great force and ability; was pouring hot shot into Chamberlain and his negro and white cabinet, and when Gen. Butler rose to get a drink of water some Red Shirt patriot touched the trigger and down went the stand with the radicals, but Gen. Gary and Gen. Butler remained on the middle plank of the platform. This was what the Hamburg riot moved us up to do and it was most effectual and took the State like fire in prairie grass. Then Gen. Butler wrote to Gen. Wade Hampton on his Mississippi plantation to come and lead us and like Cincinnatus of old, the brave and gallant Hampton came and we all know the rest. Now I want to say that the main object in writing this sketch of McKie Meriwether, in which I have had to narrate in my humble and feeble way the events that caused him to give his blood for his country's good, is to endeavor to stir up some recognition on the part of our legislature to him and his illustrious memory to which I look with pride and reverence. McKie Meriwether on that July m orning did not question what hid duty was. He decided in a second what course he would take, so he went when men were needed and did his duty. Monuments have so rarely in the history of our country been erected to people in the ordinary private stations of life that we think it time to make an exception to the rule and give T. McKie Meriwether some memorial recognition of his valor and heroism by placing a monument over his resting place.

F. W. P. Butler, M.D.
Columbia, January 21, 1914
=====
Contributed by Diana B.:

McKie Meriwether
The State (Columbia, South Carolina)
February 5, 1916

M'Kie Meriwether Is Not Forgotten

Monument in Memory Soon To Be Erected on North Augusta Square

North Augusta, Feb. 4
An event in which there is much local interest is scheduled to occur soon when the monument to Thomas McKie Meriwether is to be unveiled. It will be recalled that he lost his life in the famous Hamburg riot during 1876. Efforts have been made to erect a monument to his memory and these have been successful. The monument has been provided by the State and also the friends of Meriwether. The contract was awarded to the Owen Bros. Marble Company of Greenwood and it has announced that the job is practically completed. It has been decided to place the monument on the public square of North Augusta, near the intersection of Georgia and Carolina avenues. The monument is of Winnsboro granite and is 21 feet in height. Approximate exercises for the unveiling have been arranged and Col. D.S. Henderson of Aiken, the only living attorney who was engaged in the trial of the case, will make the principal address.
 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Joseph James Meriwether (1823 - 1886)
 
 Sibling:
  Thomas McKie Meriwether (1852 - 1876)
  William Robert Meriwether (1858 - 1888)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Asbury Cemetery
Clarks Hill
McCormick County
South Carolina, USA
 
Maintained by: The Meriwether Society, ...
Originally Created by: Kathy Cave Wells
Record added: Oct 05, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 77674004
Thomas McKie Meriwether
Added by: The Meriwether Society, Inc.
 
Thomas McKie Meriwether
Added by: TobyTovar
 
Thomas McKie Meriwether
Cemetery Photo
Added by: TobyTovar
 
 
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- Anna
 Added: Oct. 23, 2013
 
 
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