“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Gaffney in Cherokee County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

Steen Family Cemetery

Steen Family Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brian Scott, July 11, 2011
1. Steen Family Cemetery Marker
The family cemetery of Lt. Col. James Steen (d. 1781), S.C. militia officer during the American Revolution, is on his plantation nearby, along Thicketty Creek. Steen, who commanded units in several campaigns from 1775 to 1781, was killed in 1781 while attempting to arrest a Loyalist in N.C.
Erected 2011 by Cherokee Historical and Preservation Society, Inc. (Marker Number 11-10.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesPatriots & Patriotism. A significant historical year for this entry is 1775.
Location. 34° 56.05′ N, 81° 35.467′ W. Marker is in Gaffney, South Carolina, in Cherokee County. Marker is on El Bethel Church Road (State Highway 11-15) when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Gaffney SC 29340, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Littlejohn Family Reunion (approx. 3.4 miles away); Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church (approx. 3.6 miles away); Nuckolls-Jefferies House (approx. 3.8 miles away); Whig Hill (approx. 4½ miles away);
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Flat Rock Cemetery (approx. 5 miles away); Professor Lowe Balloon Landing Site (approx. 7 miles away); Balloon Landing, 1861 (approx. 7 miles away); Kelton (approx. 7 miles away); Goucher Baptist Church (approx. 7.2 miles away); Jonesville Confederate Monument (approx. 8.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gaffney.
Also see . . .  James Steen. Lt. Col. James Steen (1734–1781) was a successful planter who, at the time of the American revolution, resided in the Thicketty Creek area of what was once the northern part of Union County (formed in 1785) and is now part of Cherokee County, South Carolina (formed 1897). (Submitted on July 17, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 
Additional commentary.
1. When and where did he die?
There is an interesting dichotomy described on this marker. While the biographical data appears accurate, there is a conflict regarding his death.

At the top of The Kings Mountain battlefield, his name is inscribed on the War Department monument
Steen Family Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brian Scott, July 11, 2011
2. Steen Family Cemetery Marker
as among those PATRIOTS that died in the battle. However, other narratives, including that on the marker, show him as having died in NC in the Summer of 1781.

Both cannot be true.

An unattributed comment has been made that, in the late 1870s, when the War Dept was planning the monument, members of the Steen family petitioned them to place Col. Steen's name on the monument as on that died in the battle. Apparently, the evidence they presented was convincing, because his name is there.

The exact date and location, if different from that on the monument, can -- of course -- in no way detract from the fact that his actions helped contribute to the formation of our nation, and that he was certainly both a HERO and a PATRIOT!

Can anyone shed any light on this anachronistic issue?
    — Submitted January 6, 2013, by William Steen Miller of Matthews, North Carolina.

2. Kings Mountain monument
James Steen's name wasn't included on the original Kings Mountain monument; his name was added later, in 1909, when the family somehow prevailed on the Park Service to add his name. Notably, James fought at Cowpens, which occurred after the Battle of King's Mountain.
    — Submitted September 26, 2019, by Ken Green
Steen Family Cemetery Marker<br>Looking East Along El Bethel Road image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brian Scott, July 11, 2011
3. Steen Family Cemetery Marker
Looking East Along El Bethel Road
of Rancho Cordova, California.

3. Death of Lt. Colonel James Steen
Actually there is no proof from any pension statement or other soldiers or evidence that I have found in 30 years of researching this that definitely prove that Steen was at the Battle of Cowpens. In fact I have studied the memoirs of Joseph McJunkin, the crippled spy Joseph Kerr and I have poured over the writings of Lyman Draper (1881) (but Draper only mentioned Steen was at the battle of Cowpens but gave no proof whatsoever), James Davis Bailey(1924) Heroes of the Revolution.

Banister Tarleton's history of the campaigns of 1780 and 81 and numerous other sources lead me to believe that Steen might actually have died in November of 1780 (even before Draper's mention of the stabbing in the spring of 1781). I deduced this from the promotion of other officers around Steen and the timing of their promotions within 30 days of the battle of Kings Mountain. I actually think Steen survived Kings Mountain and died only weeks later. I don't know who Draper talked to in the 1800s because he never gave any proof statements that Steen was stabbed in the spring of 1781.

James Steen is my Great x 6 -Grandfather and this mystery of the timing of his death has baffled me for over three decades. I have also talked to Bobby Moss while he was alive (SC Patriots
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in the Revolution) and many other dedicated historians and experts on the campaigns of 1780 and 81 and we definitely agree Steen probably did not die at Kings Mountain.

The only source I have ever found that says Steen was stabbed by a Tory in the spring of 1781 in Rowan County NC was Draper's Heroes of Kings Mountain (1881). This is the one single source stating the timing of Steen's death. But the problem with that source is Draper did not prove it. He gave no source for that information. Wish I knew what the family did to try and convince the war board in 1909. I will always think that Steen probably was killed by Tories only weeks later in mid to late November, probably alone and somewhere his body was never found.

I had a long conversation with Diane Culbertson as well. She is my distant cousin who is responsible along with the South Carolina DAR for pursuing the placement of this historical marker. Diane petitioned the State of South Carolina to honor Steen and I'm glad she did. Because regardless of how and when Steen actually died, he was a great Patriot and served the soon to be new nation with honor and distinction. I am proud to be a descendant of James Steen.
    — Submitted December 15, 2020, by Dallas Reese of Daytona Beach, Florida.

4. Death of Lt. Colonel James Steen
Dallas, you’re probably correct. Going back to my notes from James Saye, he repeats the story of James Steen being stabbed while pursuing a Tory, but gives the date as Summer of ’80, not ’81. With that in mind, and the lack of other evidence you’ve noted, it seems Draper must have gotten the date wrong. And as the Battle of Cowpens didn’t occur until January of ’81, James Steen couldn’t have been there.
    — Submitted December 28, 2020, by Ken Green of Rancho Cordova, California.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 17, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 2,046 times since then and 33 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 17, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

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Feb. 25, 2024