~ John Gee of South Carolina

©2009 Kathryn Gearhart (No portion of this web site may be reproduced, in any form, including Internet, electronic or print, in whole or in part.)

Revisions forthcoming upon completion of Heath family and Taylor family research. 11/2009

John Gee and Rebecca Tomlinson of South Carolina

John was born January 20, 1742 and he left Sussex County Virginia for South Carolina soon after his father Charles Gee II died in 1768.  He was on of several young men whose families were from Sussex County that migrated to South Carolina between 1740 and 1776.

South Carolina before the Revolution

South Carolina was a boom area.  In 1767 Charleston, the capital, had a population of 10,000 and was the center of a thriving economy.  The city’s culture was shaped by French Huguenot immigrants and planter aristocracy.  Their wealth came from rice, indigo and naval stores.  Rice and indigo plantations filled the fertile tidewater region.  Beyond the fresh water cypress swamps the higher ground was cleared and maize, wheat and other crops were planted.  Further inland was the Pine Barrens, which stretched down from North Carolina.  The red pine was harvested to provide tar, pitch, turpentine and resin, all valuable naval stores.  In the backcountry were the “pens” where cattle thrived in the meadows and canebrakes along the rivers and streams.  Further west, traders to the Cherokee bargained for deerskin.  Everything was floated down the major rivers from the interior to Charleston for export to England and the West Indies.

Virginia had reached its economic peak by 1750.  The tobacco market was depressed for another 15 years.  Many Virginia planters turned to wheat, cattle and other crops to survive.   South Carolina offered the opportunity to prosper quickly.  The old headright system was still in place.  A new settler could get 100 acres plus fifty more for each dependent.  There were no quit rent taxes for the first ten years and bounty money could be secured for the purchase of farm tools and livestock.  Historian and contemporary Dr. David Ramsey claimed that capital could be doubled in three to four years by hard working and prudent landowners.  Undergirding the economy was slavery.  In 1766 there were 95,000 slaves and 40,000 free in South Carolina.

Into this burgeoning region came John Gee.  Charles II made no provision of land for John as he had done for his other sons.  It would seem John’s decision to go to South Carolina was made before Charles died.  John received half his father’s stock of cattle.  This was about eight cattle worth less than a pound each.  Still this was a decent inheritance to settle with in South Carolina.

The first record we have of John Gee is his will written in December 1780.  Charleston had fallen only a few months before to the British and the entire Southern Continental Army along with a large number of Militia had been captured.  Held on prison ships in Charleston Harbor, many died of cholera and other contagious diseases. John Gee was one-month sort of age thirty-nine when he died.

In a deed filed in the Camden District in June, 1784 the land of John Gee was noted.  The land lay along the Congaree River and among the neighbors noted in the will were  Henry Brown, James Daniel, Jacob Geiger, John Hopkins, John George Kappy, Robert Lyele, Philip Pearson, and Drury Wyche.  It is likely, that this deed was filed after the end of the Revolution, as was the will of John Gee.

In 1772 John Reeves, formerly of Halifax County, North Carolina purchased land which was near the property of John Gee.  John Gee served in the Revolution.

Gee, Joseph    Drum   7 April 77      April 80           time out 3rd Reg
Gee, George    8 May 79         July 79             deserted 3rd Reg.
Gee, Richard  4      do        23 Aprl 77       1 Nov 80         presentRichard Gee   Orderly Hosptl. July
John Gee       P 9TH COMPANY. CAPT. FRANCIS REVELLY

The Will of John Gee, Camden District, South Carolina

Kershaw Court, Camden District 1783

Will of John Gee being very sick and weak in body December 6, 1780.  To Rebecca Tomlinson, Negro man Fryday, Balker mare, 500 weight of pork, five sows, (unreadable), piggs, two cows and calves, 25 head of Gees and my best bed and furniture, 100 bushels of corn, a saddle bought out of my Estate.

To Rebecca Tomlinson’s 2 youngest children, Bridget Gee Tomlinson and Nevil Gee Tomlinson, all my lands and my Negroes, (8 named) and my stock of horses, cattle, hoggs, together with all the rest of my personal estate and my desire is that it shall be kept together til the Eldest Child shall come to age and then be divided equally between Rebecca Tomlinson’s two children before named.  If both should die without issue the estate should return to Ethel Heath.” Ethel Heath and James Taylor were the executors and Hicks Chappell and John Partridge were the witnesses.

Unraveling the mystery of John Gee and Rebecca Tomlinson begins with identifying the parties to his will.  The Sussex neighbors of John’s parents Charles and Bridget Gee were Thomas Tomlinson and Thomas Taylor.

The will of Thomas Tomlinson was filed in 1750 in Sussex and lists sons William, Thomas Jr. and Benjamin.  The witnesses to his will were Henry Gee and James Carter.  Thomas had three daughters, Sarah Carter, Amy Carter and Elizabeth Moss.

The will of Thomas Taylor was filed in 1743 in Sussex.  It lists sons John and Thomas as well as daughters Elizabeth Chamliss, Katherine Hobbs and Mary Tomlinson, wife of John Tomlinson.  The witnesses to his will were James and Charles Gee and Wyche Hunnicutt.

Tomlinson

It would seem there were three Tomlinson brothers: Thomas, John and Richard.

Thomas had sons Thomas Jr., Benjamin and William. Richard apparently had sons Richard Jr., William, Mathew, Thomas and Alex. John had sons Burrell (Burwell), John, Thomas, James and daughters Rebecca the wife of James Heath, Sarah the wife of Thomas Partridge and Ann the wife of Henry Weaver.

Also noted in the Albermarle Parish Register for Sussex County is Nathaniel Tomlinson who was godparent in 1761 to Littlebury, son of Alex Tomlinson.

Heitman, who documented the South Carolina Revolutionary Soldiers, notes four Tomlinsons who fought in the Revolution from South Carolina:  Richard, John, Nathaniel and an unknown.  The Daughters of the American Revolution records, which are sometimes suspect, notes three Tomlinsons.

Nathaniel, born 1752 married first Rebecca Anderson, second Mary (?).

John, born 1750, married Rebecca Hardeman.

John, born 1755, wife unknown.

Heitman includes notes on two of the Tomlinsons he recorded.  John provided provisions for the Continental Line as a member of the Militia and the Unknown Tomlinson was a member of Sumter’s Brigade.

Finally, there is a Samuel Tomlinson who filed suit at Kershaw County Courthouse in 1759 for the collection of debts.

If Rebecca Tomlinson was the sister of John Gee and daughter of Charles and Bridget Gees she would have been born before 1748, the year Bridget Gee died.  It is unclear why she was not listed in her father’s will along with two other married daughters.   Her omission as a party to a power of attorney filed years later by her siblings is most likely because of the nature of the document as an appointment of an attorney in fact for the brothers and sisters not living in South Carolina. This may not indicate an absence of relationship on her part as a sister.

The other possibility is Rebecca was John’s daughter.  If John, who was born in 1742, married by 1760 at eighteen years and had daughter Rebecca by 1761, then she could marry by 1775 at age 14 and been the mother to two or more children in 1780.  This is possible, but I conclude, not probable.

It would seem most likely that Rebecca was John’s sister and was omitted from her father’s will because she resided far away in South Carolina.  I suspect she married one of the Tomlinsons who lived adjacent to her father’s plantation.

Taylor

In 1749 John Taylor left Virginia to settle in South Carolina.  It would seem he was the son or grandson of Thomas Taylor of Sussex County, although he may have spent some time in Amelia County.  One source claims his son Thomas was born there, but this is not mentioned in the family’s printed genealogy done by his descendents.  John settled on 100 acres on a branch of the Santee River about ten miles from present day Columbia, South Carolina.  His wife is unknown.  His children were:

Thomas, born in 1743, married Ann Wyche.  The Wyche family was represented in Surry and Sussex.  In 1731 Captain James Gee witnessed the will of William Wyche in Sussex.  Anne was the daughter of Peter Wyche of Brunswick and Alice Scott, granddaughter of John Scott, Jr.

James married in 1768 Mary Hirons.  She died in 1772 and he married Sarah Daniel.  The Daniels were associated with the Chappell family and were also represented in Prince George County and Sussex County.

John married Sarah Hirons.

Mary married (?) Hay.  Widowed, she then married Thomas Heath.

Martha married Major Center and then Captain George Wade.

? Daughter married Drury Wyche, son of Peter and Alice.

Thomas Taylor was a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress in 1775.  In 1777 he was Captain of the 3rd Regiment, Militia and was promoted to Colonel in 1780.  He served under Sumter until 1781 and then under Henderson.  He was involved in quite a number of military engagements including the battle at Fishing Creek. The British captured him and his brother James at Fishing Creek.  They escaped and fled to North Carolina.

Thomas Taylor laid out the city of Columbia on land he and his brother owned.  He was referred to by South Carolinians as Thomas Taylor of Taylor’s Springs.

The British captured James Taylor at the fall of Charleston in 1780.  According to family records he gave his parole by swearing an oath of allegiance to Great Britain, as was customary.  This kept him from being held indefinitely in one of the prison ships anchored in Charleston Harbor.  Disease killed large numbers of patriots in the dark interiors of these floating dungeons.  Released, James Taylor took up arms again to fight for the Revolution.  He was captured and brought to trial by the British for violating his sacred oath and the terms of his parole.  Punishment when convicted was death.  According to the Taylor family’s history, James was acquitted of violating his parole, because of the testimony of a man called Friday, who lied to the court on his behalf.  James Taylor became Captain and Deputy Commissioner of South Carolina under William Hoit.

Heath

Ethel Heath, Esquire and Frederick Heath are frequently noted as the appraisers of estates during the period 1780-90.  On at least one other occasion James and Thomas Taylor were noted with them.

According to Heitman Mrs. Ethel Heath enlisted in the 3rd Regiment on October 20, 1776 as quarter master sergeant.  She assisted in providing quarters, clothing and stores to the troops.  From February 1779 until June 1779 she served under Colonel Robert Goodwyn.  Mrs. Heath fell ill at the fall of Charleston in 1780.  In May and June of 1781 she served as commissary in the Militia.  In May 1782 she was assistant commissary under James Taylor in the 3rd Regiment.

In 1861 a deed notation recites …plot made from the estate of Thomas or Ethel Heath…. Thomas Heath married Mary Taylor, sister to James and Thomas Taylor.  She died in 1807.  The names Frederick and Thomas are found in the Heath family of Virginia, but there is no known connection of the South Carolina Heaths to the Virginia Heaths.

Chappell

Hicks Chappell was born in Brunswick in 1757.  He was the son of Henry Chappell whose father was James Chappell Sr.  Henry moved his family to the Camden District of South Carolina about 1765 to 1769 and died in 1779.

Hicks Chappell served under Goodwyn and Thompson.  He was captured at Ft. McIntosh and then exchanged.  Joining Sumter under Lt. Colonel Thomas Taylor he too was captured at Fishing Creek.  Again he was exchanged and was promoted to Captain under Taylor.  Serving with him was his brother Robert.  Hicks was promoted to Major and Green Rives served under him.  Green Rives was the son of William Rives and Lucy Wyche, daughter of Peter and Alice Wyche.  William Rives’ will was filed in 1783 and Thomas Taylor, friend and probably also his brother -in-law, and son Timothy Rives were the Executors.  William held two plantations, one on Mars Bluff on the Peedee River and the other in the 96th District, according to Childs Relique of the Rives, which chronicles the Rives family of Virginia.

Quite a story lies hidden here.  Fit, I would think, for a good movie someday.

It seems that these young men from Sussex and Prince George headed for South Carolina at about the same time.  Clearly their families were interrelated in Virginia and they may have known each other before migrating.  Initially they all settled in the same area and spread out across South Carolina after the Revolution.

It would seem that John Gee went to South Carolina with his older sister Rebecca and her husband.  She evidently had several children, the two youngest being named after her mother Bridget Neville Gee.

When the Revolution began these young Virginians took up arms against the invading Redcoats.  While there is no record of John Gee in the South Carolina militia this certainly doesn’t mean he didn’t serve.  Most of the militia records were destroyed when the British burned Charleston.  For many Revolutionary soldiers the only record is the petition filed by their heirs for payment of service bounties by Congress or State Governments many years after the Revolution.  Frequently the soldiers were already dead.

The date of John’s will and the presence of Ethel Heath and James Taylor virtually prove he died at Charleston, probably after the British captured the militia and continental troops protecting the city.  He seems to have been one of the victims of disease, which killed so many of the patriots.

What I find most intriguing is John’s slave Fryday, mentioned in his will.  Certainly this must have been the same man Friday, whose quick thinking and false testimony saved the life of John’s friend James Taylor.

Twenty three years after John’s death in January 1803 the following power of attorney was filed:

We, Charles Gee, Henry Gee, Nevil Gee, and Benjamin Gee of Lunenburg County, Virginia have appointed our brother Jesse Gee of the same county our lawful attorney for us… and for the hers and legatees of our deceased brothers, William and James Gee and our deceased sisters Elizabeth Bonner and Penelope Heath all of us sisters and brothers legatees of John Gee dec’d late of the state of South Carolina as will appear from the annexed affidavit of Jonathon Patterson and Jeane Tomlinson to take possession of all real estate which John Gee was possessed at the time of his death… and to sell the estate this 3 Jan. 1803 witnessed Jeremiah and Jesse Gee.

It appears the estate returned to the executor, Ethel Heath.  Living in South Carolina in a county near John’s estate were two of John’s nephews, William and John, sons of Charles of Halifax, North Carolina.  Jesse, who had close ties to the Tomlinson family, or these two nephews, may have informed the family of the affairs of the estate.   Clearly Bridget Gee Tomlinson and Nevil Gee Tomlinson both died.