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LEXINGTON RELIGIOUS CULT MURDERS, PROMINENT, PARDONED BY GOVERNOR

RELIGIOUS CULT MURDERS PARDONED BY GOVERNOR
RELIGIOUS CULT MURDERS PARDONED BY GOVERNOR

Lexington has seen its fair share of criminals come and go and, in some cases go unpunished. This is the case of the Weberite murderers most of whom were pardoned by the Governor. The following is an account and information by Nancy Poquette: 

In Lexington County, South Carolina, and ‘in the neighborhood of what is now called Younginer’s Ferry,’ there originated a sect among the Swiss and German settlers, who were called ‘Weberites’…the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg has furnished us a more extended account of them in his journal, translated and published in Volume I of the Evangelical Review, dating their transactions as having occurred in the year 1760…Dr. Muhlenberg’s account is as follows:…’They committed murders on which account one of them, named Jacob Weber, who called himself a god, and slew a person, was hanged. Their founder is said to have been Peter Schmidt. The sect originated at Saluda Fork, about one hundred miles from Charleston (125 or 130 miles.)”

 

            “‘Jacob Weber was a Swiss. He first became an exhorter, then he advanced himself still farther, but before his end, he came to his senses, and saw his error. The people in the country, in general, grew up without schools and instruction. Occasionally a self-taught…minister may labor for awhile amongst them, yet it continues only a short time. The people are wild, and continue to grow wilder…’”

 

            “‘The aforesaid sect had so far obtained the supremacy that several families united with it for fear of their lives; numbers of both sexes went about uncovered and naked, and practiced the most unusual wantonness. One of them pretended to be God the Father, another the Son, and a third the Holy Spirit: and the pretended Father, having quarreled with the son, repudiated the pretended son, chained him in the forest, declared him to be Satan, and finally gathered his gang, who beat and trampled on the poor man until he died; he is reported also to have killed the pretended Holy Ghost in bed. A report of these circumstances having reached the authorities in Charleston, the militia were ordered to arrest the pretended deity, when he was tried, condemned and executed upon the gallows.

 

            From the Internet, Ancestry World Tree Project, Mark Freeman has posted the following primary and secondary source materials:

            Under Abraham Geiger’s page, Mark Freeman has posted the following:

 

            “Abraham Geiger was banished from South Carolina as a result of involvement in the Weberite heresy…A John Geiger [was this the John Casper Geiger, mentioned by The History of Orangeburg County, SC by A. S. Salley, or one of Abraham’s sons?] was found guilty (SC Gazette, 25 April, 1761)

 

            “The Weberite Heresy (as recorded by Clayton B. Kleckley):

 

            “A very strange sect known as the Weberites arose among the German speaking people in Saxegotha and lower Dutch Fork, South Carolina, in 1756-1761. This cult originated along the Saluda River in the neighborhood of Younginer’s Ferry. Its area of local influence extended from above Little Mountain to the confluence of the Broad and Saluda Rivers.”

 

            “This sect originated with Jacob Waber (Weber), who was born in Switzerland and was raised and educated in the Reformed Church. He came to South Carolina at the age of 14 with a brother. Weber prospered early in life as a local planter. But the death of his brother caused him to brood about religion and the state of his own soul. In May 1756, inner excitement reached a climax in his soul-searching experiences. Weber shared his religious enthusiasm with his neighbors by inviting them in for Sunday hymn and singings and readings from sermon books. He was encouraged by the response he received and those meetings seemed to be beneficial. Gradually the participants began to admire the reader, which in turn caused him to admire himself. The more recognition he received, the more esteem he had for his talents.”

 

            “During the peaceful years of 1758 and 1759, this bizarre sect caused no trouble in the settlements. It became evident that the Cherokee War had made deep impressions and caused strain among the followers of Jacob Weber. Saxegotha and the Dutch Fork did not escape the Indian raids. Cherokee parties penetrated their forests and emerged to scalp, murder and burn…by spring of 1760…The spiritual condition of the settlers was most deplorable as the self-appointed ministers usually wandered into the settlements every four to twelve weeks. A pastor visited the isolated community hardly twice a year…”

 

            “After a season of depression and the ending of the Cherokee War, Jacob Weber became obsessed with the idea that he was the Deity. He began to put aside the teachings of the Bible and preach out of his own spirit. Jacob Weber won over two co-workers who desired to be no less important in the meetings of the cult. They too professed most extraordinary revelations and helped to promote the sect. Meanwhile the three leaders adjusted their differences by agreeing that Jacob Weber should represent and act as God the Father, Schmidt Peter the Son, and a third person, Mr. Dauber, a godless black preacher, the Holy Spirit. These three leaders of the sect claimed to be the Holy Trinity…Jacob Weber’s wife, Hannah, was declared the Virgin Mary. Facts reveal that she was Anna Shrymerin before marrying Weber (Weaver). She originally received a grant for 50 acres in 1754 on the south side of the Saluda River, below the Twelve Mile Creek.”

 

            “With this organization, the sect grew stronger and stronger and practiced the most atrocious blasphemies…The sect gained such momentum that neighbors joined it because they feared for safety of their lives. Jacob Weber was determined that unconverted members must be healed through his stripes. Groups of both sects went about unclothed and naked, and practiced the most abominable, wanton atrocities. In their religious rites, they often fell into trances. They sanctioned nudity and marital confusion.”

 

            “Finally the leaders began to quarrel among themselves. Jacob Weber and Schmidt Peter had a disagreement with the third man, Mr. Dauber, who represented himself as the Holy Spirit. Jacob Weber and Schmidt Peter agreed that Dauber was not properly exercising the office of the Spirit, and that he was neither hot or cold, but only lukewarm. They placed a mattress on the bottom of a pit, threw Dauber in and piled more mattress and pillows on him. Members of the sect leaped in upon Dauber and trampled him until he suffocated. The corpse was taken out of bed and thrown into a burning pile of wood, to be consumed to ashes.”

 

            “Soon afterwards, Weber quarreled with Schmidt Peter, ‘the Son.’ He declared Schmidt Peter to be Satan in disguise and ordered him to be chained to a tree. The band surrounded Schmidt Peter, struck him with their fists, and beat him until he fell to the ground. Finally, they danced around him and trampled upon his throat until he was dead. These atrocious murders were committed on February 23 and 24, 1761.”

 

            “Charlestown authorities learned of these murders by the Weberites and soon the whole province was shocked by these crimes. After another murder in February 1761, the leading members of the sect were brought to Charlestown for trial. Jacob Weber, his wife, Hanna Weber, John Geiger and Jacob Burghart were convicted and hung in April 1761, but the others were pardoned by Lieutenant Governor William Bull.”

 

            Interpreted from the SC Gazette, April 25, 1761, by Stanley D. Rogers, Sr.:

 

            “On the 5th ult, some unhappy wretches, who in a fit of religious (?) and enthusiasm, had in a most barbarous manner, murdered one Michael Haas (?) and Captain John George Smith Bader (?) on the 23rd and 24th February last, at Congaree. Were brought down from thence, and committed to jail. This delusion was so great that they acknowledged the murders, and for some days attempted to justify themselves; but at March sessions they were too well convinced of their error, that seven of them were indicted and tried and four convicted. Jacob Weber, John Geiger, Jacob Burghart and Hannah Weber, who all received sentence of death on the 3 (?), and on the 17th (?), Jacob Weber was hanged pursuant to his sentence, behaving in a very becoming manner and dying a true penitent. The other three are reprieved until May.”

 

Governor William Bull's Letter to William Pitt, Secretary of State Requesting Pardons

For Hannah Wieber, John Geiger, & Jacob Bourghardt

26th April 1761

Charles Town, South Carolina

Received 23 July 1761

 

Sir,

“I am to acquaint you that at the last General Sessions of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, Assize and General Goal delivery held at Charles Town, Jacob Weiber, Hannah Wieber, John Geiger and Jacob Bourghart were tried and found guilty of murder, and received sentence of deaths on the thirty first of March last, and in pursuance thereof Jacob Weiber was executed.  I thought Hannah Wieber, John Geiger and Jacob Bourghart, who acted by his commands, to be objects of His Majesty's mercy and therefore reprieved them till His Majesty's pleasure therein shall be known.  I beg leave to inform you of the nature of their ence.  In the remote part of the Province beyond the Congarees, where there is no Dutch Minister, these ignorant Germans from a pious desire of having some religion had unhappily formed a Sect of Enthusiasts.  Jacob Weiber who unpiously called himself the most High, pronounced to them that Smith Pieter, the person murdered, who it seems differed with him in some points of doctrine, was the old Serpent, and unless he was put to death, the World could not be saved.  The deluded people immediately seized SmithPieter and with all the rage of religious persecution beat him to death without remorse.

 

“In order to put a stop to this Goil, I thought it necessary that one, the Chief, should suffer, and as Public Justice is thereby satisfied for the blood of Murder, and as Hannah Wieber, John Geiger and Jacob Burghart each with numerous Families, bear the character of being long known, orderly and industrious to recommend them as Objects worthy His Majesty's most gracious Pardon.  I must further take the liberty of representing to you, that as they are very poor, they have no Friend but your Compassion to solicit for their Pardon, no money to defray the expense of issuing this Act of Royal Grace through the usual Channel particular persons, and stand no chance of receiving this Benefit, if they shall fortunately be thought worthy of it, but by being inserted in some General Pardon.

"I have the Honor to to be with the greatest respect, Sir,

Your most humble servant

William Bull

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