2017-10-26 / Editorial Page

Agnes of Glasgow A Ghost Story

Across The Savannah
By TOM POLAND tompol@earthlink.net

Paying respects to Agnes of Glasgow in Camden, South Carolina. 
(Photos by Tom Poland). Paying respects to Agnes of Glasgow in Camden, South Carolina. (Photos by Tom Poland). With Halloween fast approach­ing, now’s as good time as any for a ghost story. As haunted tales go, the tale I’m about to tell is not the scariest. In a way it’s a sweet tale of separated lovers. Last Thurs­day I had a book event in Cam­den, South Carolina. Afterwards, I visited Camden’s Old Quaker Cemetery. There I paid my re­spects to Agnes of Glasgow and her supposedly haunted gravesite. Perhaps so. Four hours after vis­iting it a sudden illness struck. I was sick for three days. No good deed goes unpunished they say.

Agnes of Glasgow, this figure of American folklore, a Scot­tish woman, really existed. This woman whose last name no one knows, 1760-1780, died when she was twenty years old. If you visit the Old Quaker Cemetery just off I-20 near Camden, you’ll see that her grave is set apart from all oth­ers. Standing over it is a green, metal marker. “Here sleeps Agnes of Glasgow, who tradition says followed her lover, of the Brit­ish Army, across the ocean and through the wilderness to Cam­den. She was taken by death before she found him and buried here by King Haigler and his men.”

So, what is the story behind this legend? It’s a tale steeped in romance. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Agnes came to know a British Army officer, Lt. Angus McPherson at the time of the our Revolutionary War. She fell in love with McPherson who was as­signed and shipped to the South Carolina colony. Determined to join him, she stowed away on a ship bound from England to America and thus came to the Holy City, Charleston.

At this juncture, the tale gets a bit out of focus, but apparently Agnes and McPherson were in Charles­ton at the same time. McPherson, however, mistakenly believed his unit was assigned near Camden. McPherson must have seen com­bat, because Agnes heard that he may have been wounded. She left Charleston determined to make it to Camden, some 127 miles away. Her time of wandering had ar­rived, a journey that would end in tragedy. She wandered through towns and the wilderness looking for McPherson and anyone who might know his whereabouts. No luck, other than bad. Illness struck and she died before she could find her lover. Though some dis­pute it (Haigler supposedly died before Agnes came to Camden), her friend, Wateree Indian King Haigler, and his men buried her under cover of darkness.

Up close view of head stone. Up close view of head stone. All these many years later Ag­nes searches for her lover still, but only at night. Maybe I’ll visit the Quaker Cemetery one night and see what develops. Maybe on a full moon night when the stones gleam silver a beautiful woman in a ghostly white gown will float my way.

Agnes of Glasgow plaque tells her story. Agnes of Glasgow plaque tells her story. The old Quaker Cemetery it­self makes for a good story. It’s a beautiful setting with its share of history and fame. You’ll find it on the opposite side of High­way 521 across from Camden’s Revolutionary War Park. Quaker settlers arrived in Camden around 1750 and chose this location as a resting place. If you visit it, you’ll find headstones dualists used as target practice in the 1800s. There, too, you’ll see the resting place of Abraham Lincoln’s brother-in-law (a Confederate doctor), a female Confederate spy, Civil War gener­als, and the tombstone of Richard Kirkland, “The Angel of Marye’s Heights,” a Confederate who gave water to dying Union soldiers at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Ex­pect to see water bottles and can­teens on his stone.

As for Agnes’s tombstone, visi­tors lay objects atop it, too. I see this tradition in many cemeteries. Visitors leave coins, stones, and other objects for various reasons. For some, it’s a way to pay trib­ute to the dead and a reminder that someone visited the grave. Some believe a stone placed on the grave keeps the dead from haunting the living. Maybe, just maybe, that fails to work, for peo­ple swear that Agnes roams the cemetery and has for a long time. The inscription on her stone, worn by time and the elements, reads “Here Lies The Body Of Agnes of Glasgow.” She’s been lying there 237 years now. Pay her a visit and see if illness or strange happen­ings afflict you.

Visit my website at www.tom­poland.net

Email me at tompol@earthlink.net

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