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Papers, 1770-ca. 1920, of the Kaigler and Davis Families
    A gift to the SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2004

| Gifts to Manuscripts 2004 | Front Page 2004 | Friends of the Library | Endowments |

One hundred twenty-eight manuscripts and five manuscript volumes, 1770-1905, document activities of the Kaigler and Davis families who lived in the Sandy Run area of Lexington District. The majority of the collection centers on George Kaigler (1772-1831) his wife, Elizabeth Geiger Kaigler (1776-1856), and their children, who included John G. Kaigler (1801-1843), George Kaigler (1803-1887), Caroline Ann Kaigler Wolfe (d. 1874), Maria Kaigler Plant, and Harriet Kaigler Haughaback. Later materials document a Lexington District sawmill business operated by Thomas Davis and John Kinsler Davis and include Davis family farm accounts with sharecroppers.

The bulk of the collection consists of legal and land papers; bills and receipts documenting the purchase of plantation and household supplies, cotton sales, medical treatment of family members and African-American slaves, and family and business relationships with the related Geiger and Wolfe families and other residents of the area; and genealogical information from a family Bible.

Receipts, accounts, and correspondence with local merchants and factors in Charleston suggest the potential profits as well as economic liabilities for cotton planters in central South Carolina during the nineteenth century. Land papers in the collection suggest that successful harvests allowed George Kaigler to add to his property over time, implying rising fortunes for the family. Conversely, evidence of debt, urgent demands for remittance, and legal documents suggest economic difficulties and debts for the Kaigler family. Although receipts outnumber letters in the collection, these records of trade hint at other details of life for George Kaigler, his family, and his slaves.

Among the earliest items is a plat that depicts property surveyed in 1770 for James Kaigler. His narrow strip of land fronting on the Congaree River was adjacent to the land of Jacob Silar and others. Later land papers suggest that Kaigler acquired additional land along both banks of the Congaree River in the districts of Lexington, Orangeburg, and Richland.

A receipt identified as a “marriage contract,” 5 February 1808, was signed by Ann Ka[i]gler, and acknowledges that she received three pounds sterling from George Kaigler, “being in full for his part of fifteen pound due me on my marriage contract for the year one thousand eight hundred and seven.” The document features two paragraphs of identical text, apparently indicating that the it was never cut into two matching pieces for the parties involved, as was customary with indentures.

Receipts for business transactions document purchases of food, drink, and other goods from merchants in Charleston and closer to home in Lexington District. Receipts dated 16 July 1796, from the Charleston firm of Thomas Frink and Company list prices for beer, gin, port, crackers, brown sugar and loaf sugar, while others dated May and November 1792 specify varieties of fabric, including “fine Cloth,” linen, and “Negro Cloth,” as well as thread and buttons. Two items suggest that Kaigler’s neighbors may have engaged in weaving cloth locally. An account spanning 1 July 1797-25 April 1798 details expenses with tailor Fred Class. Among the various articles of clothing identified, Class charged for the cost of fitting a “homespun coat.”

A letter addressed to George Kaigler includes another reference to weaving as a possible home industry in his Sandy Run neighborhood. Bearing only the date 7 June, but possibly written in the 1830s, the message from Columbia resident A.R. Taylor expresses satisfaction with the product and requests additional fabric—“I send my servant for the cloth you were kind enough to have woven for me and also money to pay for same. Please direct him where the Ladies live who wove the cloth as he has thread to leave with them for another piece.”

Other receipts of interest document medical treatments underwritten by the Kaigler family. A record of expenses, 26 December 1798, shows payments to Dr. Koester for bleeding, injection, diuretic powder, and multiple doses of “Expectorating Julap.” A later medical bill, 24 March 1848, records treatments administered by Dr. Gerhard Muller for patients who included African-American slaves Jack, Easter, and “negro boy” Edmond and Phillip.

The earliest surviving materials in the collection suggest less interaction with the Columbia business community than is evident from later materials. However, an early receipt, 3 April 1808, indicates that Kaigler paid $6.00 in Columbia for the repair of a chair to “Greenb[er]g Marshall for John Glover.” Evidence of new construction or other building improvements around Kaigler’s property is suggested by lumber accounts that span half a decade during the 1820s. A record of wood products purchased from Harmon Geiger spans the years 1821-1826 and documents expenses for planking, lathing, and “scantling,” the small pieces of wood used during construction.

A planter’s vulnerability to the vagaries of the market is suggested by letters from Kaigler’s cotton factors over the years that discuss fluctuations in prices, charges for the storage and weighing of his cotton crop, and other concerns. Although the innovation of canals improved transportation networks, the water added another potential hazard to a valuable commodity en route to market, as noted in a letter of 12 February 1810 from Charleston factor W[illia]m Purvis. Kaigler’s cotton had been delivered via “Mr. Kersh’s Boat,” Purvis reported. Although two of Kaigler’s bales of cotton sold immediately at 14 cents, the ten remaining bales had suffered water damage and had been repackaged for future sale whenever possible— “Neglect in pumping the boat is the cause of the damage....the Boat took in water in the canal at Hatches. I am fully satisfied that no water came into the Boat from above, as all the corn above the cotton was perfectly dry. Their will be a considerable loss on the cotton.”

At market fourteen years later, it is interesting to note that Kaigler again received only fourteen cents for his cotton, as evidenced in a 3 April 1824 letter from Charleston factors Lange and McCormick. The firm informed Kaigler that sales of his cotton returned $3683.30, from which they deducted several advances for purchases or drafts drawn during February and March, for a total of $1181.68. The factors did not expect the market to improve in the near future, reporting—“our Cotton market becoming more brisk the last 3 days than for sometime back, I thought it prudent to accept 14 cents for yours as soon as I could get it, for from all the information I can obtain¼I see no reason to expect any material improvement in the price.” This note includes a detailed listing of two shipments of “40 Bales received 23 January and 42 Bales 20 Feb. last by Mr. Henry Muller’s boat.”

The connections and sensitivity within the international markets is suggested by notes dated 22 and 26 April 1825 from Lange and McCormic, in which they inform Kaigler of a decrease in British demand and the resulting impact upon Charleston cotton prices—“31 cents was offered for the lot as it stood—the Sale was made in the morning, in the afternoon news from Liverpool reached here, which occasioned very long faces among the cotton buyers & Since then I have not heard of any Sale higher than 25 or 26 Cents¼the market is just now¼in a dead Calm.”

Other papers relate sad news of a more personal nature. Child mortality remained high during the nineteenth century, and the Kaiglers were no strangers to this loss. In a poignant letter, [ca. May 1851], addressed to Catherine “Caddy” Kaigler, the correspondent, identified only as “your sister Mary,” offers comforting words and advice to her troubled sister who was haunted by macabre thoughts. Mary attempts to provide Catherine with some perspective on the death of her young son for whom she continued to grieve. In the letter, Mary notes that she herself had lost two children, and she hoped her sister would not fault others for apparently not suffering as much pain as she—“it is far better to grieve for the dead than the living¼I [k]no[w] it is a long time before we can feel so but [to] see those around us acting so contrary, it is enough to break the h[e]art of stone. As for the child being buried alive it is out of the question; he is dead and was dead before he was buried so reconcile your selfe for the child is happy. You think this affliction is great and so it is heart rending and h[e]art breaking but if it was Mr. Kaigler it would then be h[e]art breaking and a breaking upp.”

George Kaigler’s wife, Elizabeth, outlived her husband by more than twenty-five years. Legal documents suggest that George Kaigler regularly added to his lands during the early decades of nineteenth century, although several of these properties were never added to his will, an omission that complicated inheritance for his widow and other survivors. Issues relating to the management of Elizabeth Kaigler’s real estate and slaves dominate a number of items dating from the time period following George Kaigler’s death in 1831. In an indenture dated 16 March 1833 Elizabeth Kaigler signed her property over to her children—“by reason of her age and infirmities [she] is not capable of attending to her estate and affairs as formerly, and has therefore agreed for the advancement of her property to them.”

The heirs of George Kaigler also inherited a number of African-American slaves, an issue that was discussed in a letter of 12 June 1851 from an unidentified daughter of Elizabeth Kaigler. Although the name of the author of this letter has been lost, it is thought to be Maria Kaigler Plant, who lived in Macon County, Ga. At this time, she was the widow of Benjamin D. Plant, a native of New Haven, Conn., who died in Georgia in 1829. The letter implies that Plant’s slaves may have been left in trust to George Kaigler, who had died some twenty years prior to the date the letter was written.

The letter discusses inheritance issues involving portions of George Kaigler’s estate, specifically African-American slaves, and is indicative of how a widow of the time might best plan for her children’s future. The writer cites a previous letter in which her mother had reported the purchase of slaves which Plant thought to be a portion of her inheritance “left me by my Father of Mr. Plant.” Maria acknowledges that she had chosen to invest in the education of her children instead of opting for a cash inheritance, although she hoped to assist her children in the future—“I have done as fairly I think for my children with the little property that I had, or I think can be done; I have reserved half for my first children and the balance for myself. We have given Caddy three negrows that is able to work from that place, and I intend to do the same when the others need it. My children has been at considerable expense in boarding them out, and sending them to school, which has taken all and more too...than there part or income would have been up to this time. I know it was thrown at me in your presence last fall, that I had portioned a part of my property to my children, and that they ‘did not get any money,’ but I would leave it to any reasonable sense if they have not had there full share of what would be their due, in that, which would be more profitable such in sending them to school, and placing them in a respectable position in society, than to have them at home in ignorance and put money in their pockets and by the way perhaps spend it in going to the little frolics about the country.”

Other papers in the collection identify African Americans more specifically by name and skill or tasks performed. A 20 April 1795 receipt documents Kaigler’s hire of a slave, Ariel, from Joseph Culpepper. The will of George Kaigler, signed 26 January 1831, identifies several African Americans by name, including “Ben the driver¼and Peggy the Seamstress,” as well as Jack, Becky, and Theresa. A fragment of a plantation work volume dated December 1854-April 1855, lists slaves by name, recording date and task performed—childcare, tending livestock, cleaning cotton, mending fencing, and plowing. The volume includes a column classifying the completed tasks as full- or partial-time.

The collection includes few materials dating to the Civil War; however, a brief letter delivered to George Kaigler, Jr., by a slave family offers insight on how one African-American family faced the uncertainty of wartime conditions during its relocation to Lexington District. It is unclear if the move was intended to be temporary or permanent. In a letter to George Kaigler, Jr., written from Log Castle plantation in lower Richland County on 25 March 1863, James O'Hanlon reports that, “Major Davis’ 2 carts got here at 10 o’clock and I send [this letter] by the 6 negros, Tobias and Betty his wife¼Sambo, Sophia, Rosanna, and Lucy their children and trust the neg[roe]s reached your place in safety. The river is high and rising and, but that the negros had been sent for, I would have preferred a better day and lower river. The family takes with them more luggage than necessary, but like most negros, they wish to carry all with them, and in this it is as well to gratify them.”

The end of the Civil War did not improve the fortunes of the Kaigler family. The collection preserves legal and personal papers identifying creditors and foreclosure proceedings begun during the late 1870s. One of the more personal and urgent requests for remittance, dated 20 June 1866, came from J.W. Radcliffe, of Columbia, who requested payment on a debt unpaid since 1861. Radcliffe lists expenses plus interest owed by George Kaigler—“I am compelled to pay my debts and have nothing to do so with unless my friends will pay me and that without delay to save me from being Sold out of doors.” A foreclosure document from 12 March 1878 provides insight into the financial conditions of the time as the lawyers identify the location of adjacent properties with names of former owners. Kaigler property lay adjacent to the “lands formerly of Jacob Wolfe.”

Davis family papers represented in the collection document saw mill operations that began during the antebellum period and continued through the Reconstruction years. Lumber was always in demand in the Columbia area, as seen in the account books and journals recorded by the Davis family. An account book that spans the years 1835-1850 documents business activities of the firm of John Lomas and Thomas Davis. Clients listed include South Carolina College and other institutions and individuals in the city. Earlier entries in this volume may document business among two or more saw mills, as entries continue on even after mention of a sale and possible dissolution of a partnership, 31 August 1843, titled “Sale of Steam Sawmill, Lands, & Negroes to John Lomas.”

Other evidence of the Davis family’s continued involvement with the local timber industry is found in a small pocket volume, listing entries from ca. 1866-1867 in which John Kinsler Davis recorded amounts of “Lumber hauled to Col[umbia by] Thomas Davis” and records of “Mr. W. Baughman’s time & acc[oun]t with J.K. Davis for building mill,” [ca. October-December 1866]. Entries list time worked, time lost, total time, and wages earned and paid to African-American employees identified by name.

Two other Davis family volumes include fewer business records and suggest more information of domestic life on the farm. In a volume dated ca. 1857-1868, John Kinsler Davis recorded various activities of the agricultural calendar. Entries record accounts with sharecroppers and others, including a list titled “Lost Work in 1868 by Freedmen.” John Kinsler Davis also kept a diary, 1868-1869 and 1881, in which he recorded descriptions of purchases in Columbia, sales of corn and cotton, work at the saw mill, records of hauling lumber to Columbia, his attendance at Mt. Zion church, weather observations, deer hunting, and accounts with African- American sharecroppers and others.

Later materials include two undated and unsigned essays, written in the same hand, including a speech that thanks the audience for their previous support for the speaker’s public service as he campaigns for the office of senator, suggesting that he was an incumbent currently serving in elective office, which may in fact have been the South Carolina General Assembly, given that this speech was composed on the verso of an 1888 printed bill copy from the legislature that proposed to “renew and amend the charter of the town of Blackville.”

A second incomplete speech consists of pages three through seven of a seven-page historical sketch, [ca. 1920], of the 1876 election, in which the speaker praises Confederate veterans and discusses “Red Shirts,” the contested election of Daniel Henry Chamberlain, and the eventual inauguration of Wade Hampton, including the Republicans’ claim that “fraud had been practiced in Edge[field] and Laurens Co[untie]s.” The speaker closes by admonishing his audience to remember the sacrifices of previous generations and to avoid voting the Republican ticket—“here let me ask that you will keep fresh in memory recollections of hardships [that] your Grand parents and Parents had to endure to unfurl from the Ram Rods of our political defenses the flag¼and give it over to your keeping as the custodian of a Sacred trust for in the course of Nature you will soon take the places of these grand old Vets of a lost cause who dared so much to redeem our State from its prostrate condition. Let me enjoin upon you to ever be Alert to its every interest and never pollute y[ou]r finger by voting a rep[ublican] ballot; by so doing this flag will ever continue to waive o’re the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Additional items in the collection include transcriptions from a family Bible, with genealogical information on the Kaigler, Wolfe, Geiger, Davis, Fox, and Seibels families. An invitation from the Richland Volunteer Rifle Company for its “79th anniversary barbecue at Schuetzenplatz” to be held on 10 August 1892 is printed with the logo of the Palmetto Regiment, Co. D. The card identifies members assigned to committees charged with responsibility for barbecue, invitations, reception, amusements, target shooting, prizes, and transportation.

This page updated 5 April 2004
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