Biographical Sketch of Major James Meek

By Phil Norfleet


Major James Meek (1758-1819) was one of the men involved in the murder of Tory Lieut. Colonel John Mayfield.  Meek was born in 1758 in Cecil County. Maryland. Upon removing to South Carolina, he settled on Bullocks Creek in the  Camden Judicial District.  Major Meek sided with the Whigs during the Revolution and enlisted in the SC Fourth Regiment on 15 January 1776.  He served as a captain and later as a major, under the overall command of General Thomas Sumter. During the Battle of Kings Mountain, Meek commanded a company of militia from the area that later became York County SC.  His wife was Susanna Byers (1771-1844), the daughter of Captain William Byers and Elizabeth Walton Byers.  On 3 March 1819, Meek drowned while attempting to cross the Seneca River in Northwestern South Carolina, while on his way to attend a sale of public lands in Alabama.

The Draper Manuscripts, Sumter Papers, at pages 16VV321 - 323, contain part of an interview conducted by Dr. John H. Logan, in about 1858, with Colonel A. S. Wallace regarding his recollections of events that occurred during the Revolution.  The interview contains several references to Captain John Hood and Major James Meek, including an account of their murder of Lieutenant-Colonel John Mayfield, as follows:  

" ... Maj. [James] Meek, Capt. John Hood & several other Whig partisans succeeded in ridding the Country of the notorious Mayfield of Union, whose house was the rallying point for the Tories.  He was a muscular bully of the time, and kept also a grocery.  He was disposed of in the following manner:  They dressed themselves in British uniforms & approached the house dragging Meek along with them as a Whig prisoner.  Mayfield knew none of them, & was disposed to believe them to be what they seemed; but before getting quite into their hands, he suspected something, & turned to fly.  Hood exclaimed "You may run sir, but I have something here to overtake you" & leveling his rifle [he] shot him dead.  The ball passed through his head.  Meek was father-in-law of Mr. John S. Moore of York.

"Meek and Hood went side by side through all the privations and dangers of the Revolution and escaped without a wound.  They were at Briar Creek, Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, Sumter's Defeat, Fishing Creek, Fish Dam Ford, Blackstocks, Biggin Church and Eutaw Springs.  At Eutaw Springs Hood's hunting shirt was pierced with seven bullets.

In the Sumter Papers portion of the  Draper Manuscripts, at 15VV141, is a note regarding a communication, dated 14 June 1884, from Mrs. Chesterfield McKinney, who, at that time, was the only surviving child of Major James Meek of Bullock's Creek, York County SC.  The letter references a "Captain Mayfield," which might be John Mayfield before his promotion to Lt. Colonel or, more likely, it refers to Stephen Mayfield, who seems to have been made a Captain in the Tory forces after the fall of Charleston in May 1780.  The reference is as follows:

" ... Meek was captured by the Tories, who had to cross a river, and could find no other conveyance but a large hog trough into which they put their prisoner and ferried him over; and carried him to the house of one Capt. Mayfield, a Tory.  While at dinner, the sentinel cried out - "Yonder comes Sumter's men!"  When the Tories fled, and left Meek ... behind.  Hood, of Union, cut the cords that bound him, who with John Swan carried him back to Sumter's camp.

"In 1819, Meek started to Cahawaba, Alabama to attend the land sales.  He got as far as Seneca River in the NW corner of South Carolina.  His body was found in that river lodged against some driftwood.  It was supposed that he was murdered for his money, & his body thrown into the river.

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