Reuben Golding and the Battle of Hayes Station, Kings Mountain, South Carolina, 1781

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Reuben Golding is the son of William Golding (1704-1782) and Elizabeth Foster (1704-1775).

Born 1741 or 1743 in Orange County, Virginia and died 1835 March 5th at Milton, Laurens County, South Carolina.

Reuben would serve in just about every major South Carolina campaign of the Revolutionary War, to include campaigns against the Cherokees.

Reuben entered service on June 26, 1775 and served three years as a sergeant in the Rangers and the third regiment under Capt. John Caldwell, Maj. Taylor, Lt. Col. Mayson and Col. Thomson. During the Cherokee Expedition he served as a Lieutenant under Capt. Leonard. (1)

At some point during this service, Reuben would become a prisoner at the Battle of Edgill (Edgel’s) Old Field (1779).

His service would continue through 1781.

Reuben lost just about all personal possessions during the war — with a claim filed at the war’s conclusion (2).

The Nature of War in South Carolina

The Revolutionary War in South Carolina was vicious and often fratricidal. Most of the ‘British’ troops in South Carolina were overwhelmingly American by birth. Both sides targeted the families of the other.

Hayes Station
Names of rebels killed at Hayes Station. Photo by Paul, Karen, & Katherine

During the Battle of Hayes Station (Nov 19, 1781), a surrender of American rebel forces was grudging negotiated. The loyalist commander warned that if any of his troops were fired upon then he would put all to death. Despite the negotiated surrender, it appears that one of rebels took a shot at the loyalists. ‘All put to death’ was no bluff.

The only rebel fighter to survive was Reuben Golding. The Loyalist militia commander was named “Bloody Bill” Cunningham. Cunningham supposedly knew Reuben “… to whom he was indebted for some past favors”. (3)

The women, young children and Reuben Golding were separated out and released. All other rebels at Hayes Station were put to death by hanging or sword.

Cunningham was once an officer in the local pre-Revolutionary militia. He was unforgiving of the rebellion against England. Other than being an influential local leader of the Tories (loyalists), Cunningham does not seem to have held any specific rank at the time. Just prior to the Battle for Hayes Station, he rode to the home of his former pre-Revolutionary War militia commander and shot him dead in front of his family. He then rode with 100-300 loyalists to Hayes Station — at stagecoach stop outside of Laurens, South Carolina. The actual engagement was just a bit further away at an old defensive blockhouse from the Cherokee wars.

The story goes that the rebel commander, Daniel Williams, and his men, 14 or so, were eating a meal at Hayes Station when smoke was reported coming a nearby plantation home belonging to a rebel general, James Henderson Williams (KIA a month earlier in the Battle for King’s Mountain). While en route to the plantation, the rebels were surrounded by Cunningham’s loyalists. They took refuge in the old blockhouse.

This is from the family history of the John Drayton Williams:

Daniel Williams, b. ca 1763 Granville Co., NC. Served as Lieutenant and Captain under Col. Benton and Gen. Marion. He served under his father at the Battle of Kings Mountain in Oct. 1780 and witnessed his death. Daniel was later executed alongside his brother on 9 Nov 1781 by “Bloody Bill” Cunningham at Haye’s Station, South Carolina during the American Revolution. (Source: The Patriots at Kings Mountain, by Bobby Gilmer Moss, Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1990.)

The situation at Haye’s Station came when Col. Joseph Hays’ blockhouse came under attack by the Tory, Bloody Bill Cunningham. The block house sat near the Little River Presbyterian Church. Among the 23 defenders of the block house, including Daniel and his brother, Joseph, were women and children. The house was set ablaze, by red-hot blacksmith irons thrown on the roof. Colonel Hays requested they be allowed to surrender if they be treated as prisoners of war. Cunningham consented but violated his oath when the group exited the blockhouse. Sparing only one man, Reuben Golden and some women and children, he began executing the defenders. Cunningham personally hacked them to pieces with his sword.

Reuben Golding served alongside his cousin Golding Tinsley throughout the war. Tinsley was also of Virginia birth and Tinsley appears in many Revolutionary War accounts as a ‘hero’.

??? Which Golding survived at Hayes Station? Another version has it that Golding Tinsley was the survivor of Hayes Station, ‘saved by a friend’. All such stories agree that there was one combatant survivor and that a Golding was involved.

Most versions of the Battle at Hayes Station, part of the Kings Mountain campaign, do not mention a survivor at all.

In 1832, Reuben would testify on Golding Tinsley’s behalf in pursuit of a war pension. One result of this was partial documentation of Reuben’s service as well.

Laurens District South Carolina:

Personally appeared Reuben Golding before me one of the Justices of the peace for said District — and on his oath saith that he saw Golding Tinsley in the Army at the Battle at Stono in the service of his Country in June 1778 and also saith he saw the above named Tinsley at the siege of Savannah in Georgia in 1779 the date to the best of his recollection, and further saith that he saw said Tinsley in the Army at the Siege of Cambridge under the command of General Greene in the year of 1781 the date to the best of the memory.

Sworn to before this 22nd day of September 1832

S/ Z. Bailey, JP S/ Reuben Golding

Golding - Reuben - 1832 signature on affadavit for Golding Tinsley RevWar service pension claim

In pursuit of a war pension just before he died in 1835, other Revolutionary War veterans would come forward and testify as to Reuben Golding’s exemplary war service. These affadavits can be read via this link (PDF).

(1) Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, Vol I, A-J, by Bobby Gilmer Moss, 1983.

(2) File No. 2927 of claims growing out of the American Revolution. SC Archives; info not online; see Series: S108092 Reel: 0056 Frame: 00427 // The date given in the SC Archives Online is ‘c1776 or later’.

(3) Colonial and Revolutionary History of Upper South Carolina, by John Belton O’Neall Landrum, 1897, page 362.


You are welcome to add to or to correct this story by contacting: Bill Golden, Norfolk1956@gmail.com

BTW – I look forward to sharing your stories, photos and in-search-of quests. Contact me at the email address above.

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