Mary Musgrove (c.1755 - c.1790) MP

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Nicknames: "patriot in petticoats"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Laurens, South Carolina
Death: Died in Laurens, South Carolina
Managed by: Erica Howton, (c)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Mary Musgrove

"Patriot in Petticoats"

"This monument, erected in the early 20th century, stands as a reminder of the legendary Mary Musgrove. She is remembered as a character in the 19th-century novel 'Horseshoe Robinson' who took great personal risks spying for the Patriots.

While we do know that an actual Mary Musgrove (1755-1795) lived on this site, we do not know what specific role she played in the American Revolution. Her legend does, however, stand as a tribute to the countless women who served as spies, messengers and even combatants during America's fight for independence.

Title page to ' Horseshoe Robinson: A Tale of the Tory Ascendancy.' Because of the novel's popularity the mostly fictional account of Mary Musgrove persists today. This image was taken from the 1854 revised edition published in New York by George P. Putnam."

- “Patriot in Petticoats” –Musgrove Mill Historic Site, 398 State Park Rd., Clinton, Laurens, SC. May 12, 2009.

"Mary Musgrove was a [Revolutionary War] spy and on numerous occasions saved the patriots by her forewarnings. Edward Musgrove, Mary’s father, was a mill owner on the Enoree River near Horseshoe Falls. He sympathized with the Tories and therefore they often camped around his home. She was never suspected as a spy and often gained valuable information for Ramsey from the Tories." - from Horseshoe Falls, SC

patriot in petticoats

Horseshoe Robinson stumbled onto two romances in which he played a valiant part: those between the Major and Mildred Lindsay, daughter of a Tory sympathizer whose home was used as a headquarters by the British; and Mary Musgrove, the "patriot in petticoats" and John Ramsey, soldier of the Revolution.

Mary, a sparkling spy in her early youth, on more than one occasion saved the patriots from disaster by her forewarnings. Her father, owner of Musgrove's Mills on the Enoree, embraced the British cause, though sotto voce, and frequently detachments of Tories camped at intervals around their home. Because of her skilled maneuvers, radiant personality and beauty, she was never suspected as a spy but rather was given "preferential treatment" by the young officers and soldiers on the opposing side. They never discovered the secret of her betrothal to John Ramsey, the neighborhood lad, who was well known for crossing through and routing their lines. Mary and Horseshoe became warm friends from their first meeting and exchanged information at their trysting place, the falls. It was here that she learned of the Major's capture from Horseshoe and where together they made plans for his escape. To do this, it was necessary to obtain complete information regarding the enemy and the whereabouts of the Major. Consequently, Mary found the perfect hiding Horseshoe. Behind the falls! On this narrow, rocky ledge, he lay by day. Concealed by the waters which fell in a thin veil before him. At nightfall, he emerged, and was met by Mary who brought him supplies and whatever information she had learned during the day. Also to the spot came John Ramsey to see his beloved Mary and then to roam the forests with Horseshoe to scout the Tories.

Finally, everything was complete and the time for springing Major Butler from the British hands had come. But, alas! In the skirmish, John Ramsey lost his life. An excellent soldier, he had carried bravery too far by pursuing the fleeing enemy. Young, impulsive, vigorous, he felt he had not done enough though Major Butler had been rescued. Shot through the heart, he fell some distance from his comrades who missed him only when the usual count was made. And suddenly; his horse crashed through the bushes, his bridle hanging... When found, Ramsey was dying. The blood from his wound oozed onto Major Butler, who held his head in his lap, meanwhile exclaiming, "I wish it had been I." To the Major, the solider imparted his last words, sweet remembrances to his mother and to Mary. To the letter, he sent a keepsake, a small testament which upon receipt she clasped to her bosom and covered with tears.[2]

Ironically, the Major was again captured - at the funeral of Ramsey which was held in the dead of the night to escape detection for his friends.

The name of Musgrove lives on in South Carolina. Both a street and a hotel in Clinton bear the name of the Revolutionary War heroine. And, Horseshoe Falls - however it came by its name - now is a serene, beautiful place. It gives no inkling of the part it has played in history, and only in imagination can one visualize the drama and the leading players: Mary Musgrove, John Ramsey, Major Butler and Horseshoe Robinson. [2]

Footnotes

Edward Musgrove - Laurens District did not have any navigable waterways, but the crystal-clear streams were filled with fish, a handy food supplement. The bolder streams powered mills for grinding grain and sawing lumber, even enabling rafting and a bit of short distance traveling; and the water-edged lands furnished good breeding grounds for birds and animals. The convenience of water for both man and beast was to be seriously considered in the settlements to be laid out. The names of rivers to be found on old maps and in court house records are Bush, Enoree, Saluda, Little River, and two forks of Reedy River, the last four running nearly parallel with Enoree for a short distance. Among the earliest colonists of upper South Carolina was Edward Musgrove, of British descent, who, prior to the controversy with the mother country, had established a residence described as being about one mile below Head's Ford on Enoree River and less than half a mile from the Cedar Shoals Creek Falls. He had been well educated and trained for law. Major Edward Musgrove owned and operated one of the most noted of the old mills, Musgrove's Mill. The dwelling house was situated on a hill overlooking Enoree River at a point once known as the Horse Shoe Bend, where a long bridge afforded a connection with the opposite shore. Down almost beneath the bridge nestled the small, low-browed mill built of wood. A mill cottage stood close by, erected for the comfort of the miller's guests. The original Musgrove home and the mill were burned by the British in an act of retaliation but they were rebuilt on the same sites. Major Musgrove gave legal advise, wrote up legal papers, was a practical surveyor and was very popular in the area with his neighbors. He was a little taller than medium height and was slender with prematurely gray hair. By the time of the Revolutionary War he was living with his third wife and too old to participate in the War. He tried to stay neutral but his home and mill were soon taken over by British and Loyalists

His first wife gave him a son, Beaker Musgrove. His second wife gave him two daughters, Mary and Susan. (Wife Rebecca Shaw may have been connected to the Adair family, who married in with members of the Cherokee Nation.) Both girls were known beauties but they died young of consumption within a year of each other and just a 1-2 years after the War. They were unmarried. Major Edward Musgrove died in 1792 at 76 years of age.

Links

  1. Battle of Musgrove Mills on Laurens County and Union County, SC
  2. Legend Of Horseshoe Falls
  3. John Pendleton Kennedy, 1795-1870 Horse-Shoe Robinson: A Tale of the Tory Ascendency New York: George P. Putnam, 1852.
  4. [http://tlc.lcpl.org/TLCScripts/interpac.dll?LabelDisplay&DataNumber=550586002&RecordNumber=157872&SearchAvailableOnly=0&FormId=45383459&ItemField=4&Config=pac&Branch=,0, Mary Musgrove and other heroines during the years of the Revolutionary War in this area] / compiled by Clinton Chamber of Commerce, Inc., Clinton, South Carolina 29325.
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Mary Musgrove's Timeline

1755
1755
Laurens, South Carolina
1790
1790
Age 35
Laurens, South Carolina
1790
Age 35
Musgrove Cemetery, Laurens, South Carolina