A Possible Lewis (1758? – 178?)

Perhaps this brief chapter should be entitled “How Many Lewises?”

A well documented line of Boatners is seeking their attachment to the family tree begun by Ludwig Bottner. Their hopes are pinned on the existence of a Lewis Jr., presumably born in 1758 who became the father of their predecessor, Lewis Boatner born c1783. From then on, they have accurate lineage.

The younger Lewis lived in Newberry County near other Boatner families with his wife, Sarah Root Suber, and family – two sons and a daughter – until the family moved to Alabama in the 1830s. The Boatners apparently lived in the southeast corner of the county.

In my book I designated this Lewis as a son of John Boatner of Sumter County, partly because the 1790 census said John had three young males in his household. Also, some early unidentifiable source had listed Lewis as a Sumter County resident, and another claimed that he died there. These were evidently deductive errors made by students of the family who did not appreciate the significance of the location. (The Boatners of Sumter County migrated to southwest Mississippi; the Boatners of Newberry County migrated to Alabama, though not as a group.)

Our firm knowledge of the Lewis born c1783 begins with his marriage about 1806 to the widow of a Newberry County man, Gasper Suber. Her maiden name was Sarah Root, and her descendants may be correct in their assertion that she was “a Yankee,” possibly from Pennsylvania or Connecticut. She had a son, Micajah Suber, who was an affectionate mentor to his younger half-siblings. The story of this family has been documented genealogically and by reminiscences. It is only their version of the earlier generations that is undocumented and perhaps questionable.

If his father was indeed Lewis Boatner Jr. and a son of Ludwig, the 1758 man fills a missing link. However, he must have died before the census began in 1790.

Solomon’s great granddaughter, Augusta Boatner Bray, wrote in 1946 that a Lewis Boatner was murdered by the Tories during the violence in the back country in 1780-81 during the Revolutionary War.

Another descendant of that line claimed that it was Solomon himself who was murdered, clearly an impossibility.

But both versions place the scene on the Saluda River, which was indeed the locale of the worst Tory violence. Just a young boy at that time, Solomon was presumably living in his father’s household on the Broad River in Fairfield County, where such violence did not occur. But the incident narrated by Solomon’s descendants and by no other line does command one’s attention.

Although Mrs. Bray’s own ancestor was also a Lewis Boatner, the eldest son of Solomon, she did not fall into the trap of mistaking him for the victim, for he was not born until 1795. So the story must have come down from Solomon himself. Mrs. Bray also said that both Lewis and his wife were beaten to death and that they had no children.

With some adjustment in dates and details in this story, the victim could have been Lewis Jr. The known victims of violence in that terrible time were named in an early history of Edgefield County and Lewis Boatner was not one of them. But he would at that time have been only 23 or younger, perhaps newly married and living temporarily with his brother Elias or a neighbor on the Saluda River. His wife was not necessarily killed; she may simply have fled to a haven across the river and thus her whereabouts became lost to the Edgefield families. And if she bore the posthumous child of Lewis Jr., his birth date could have been about 1782. And thus we are not far from the birth date claimed by the descendants of their ancestor.

But if we are to allow that the Tory victim might have been Lewis Jr., then we must discount most of the claims of his descendants. Among them are that he was the original immigrant (Ludwig was born in 1723), that he was married to Polly Lashley (George’s wife) and to Sarah or Martha Suber (Sarah was the wife of the younger Lewis), and that he died in 1849 in Alabama (this was indeed the younger man).

These versions found their way into the Mormon records and the DAR application in the early 20th century of Cecil Boatner Jones. In some cases, Sarah Root and Sarah Suber have been presented as two separate people. The principal authority for these claims was Helen Boatner Glasscock (1842-1930), a daughter of John Root Boatner and granddaughter of Lewis and Sarah Root Boatner.

Here is a notarized statement she made when she was contributing her family history to support her niece, Cecil Boatner Jones (1879-1959), in her application to the D.A.R.:

“June 4, 1928, personally appeared Helen Boatner Glasscock, born Dec. 1, 1841, at Abbeville, Dist. of South Carolina, daughter of John Root Boatner, b. in 1812 in S.C., son of Lewis Boatner, b. in S.C. in 1783. He and his half brother John Wesley Boatner were the older and younger sons of Ludwig Bottner, b. in Germany in 1758, who came to America in 1776 as a lad of 18, to fight with the Americans against English rule in the Rev. War.”

This statement is the source for the arguments of the claimants that John of Newberry and Lewis, ten years older, were half brothers by the two wives of Lewis Jr. Unfortunately, she then assigned all of John’s younger brothers and sisters to Lewis as well. And these are provably George’s line. (John W.’s Bible makes no mention of a half brother.)

Further, Mrs. Glasscock is off by at least one generation in her version of the early family history. And it is mostly her contributions that have been used in the Mormon records and are now circulated on the genealogy pages of the internet, giving rise to versions that cannot be reconciled with the known facts.

Here is another of her statments:

“Ludwig Battner Boatner died Dec. 6, 1849 in Camden, S.C.; married Polly Lashley Mch. 2, 1783; married Marthe Suber Nov. 2, 1788. Children – Lewis – Lucindy – George – John Wesley – George – Bertha.”

Of course, there could have been two Polly (or Mary) Lashleys and a real Martha Suber, but the children are George’s. And Lewis who died, not inSouth Carolina but in Alabama, was the man born in 1783.

A further confusion which could have clouded her memory in the recollections of her old age is that John’s wife, Rachel Egner, was the product of her mother’s second marriage, the first being to a Suber. In fact, Rachel’s mother was also the mother of the Gasper Suber whom Sarah Root first married. Thus John Boatner’s wife was a half sister to the deceased Gasper.

Still another confusion that may have clouded Mrs. Glasscock’s memory is that her niece, Cecil Jones, was a Boatner on both sides, on her mother’s side descended from John and Sarah Root and on her father’s from John W. and Rachel Egner. (He was the one and only John Wesley Boatner, whose name was retroactively applied to John, his grandfather, by later descendants who confused the two.)

It is undeniably a confusing picture to visualize, and as Helen Glasscock herself wrote at one point, “Well, it is all too much for me.” Perhaps someday it can be unravelled and the picture made clear. Meanwhile, I am awarding Lewis  line to a possible Lewis Jr., whose dates would have to be 175? To 178?, as he never made it to the first census.

The Son, Lewis of Newberry County – c1783-c1849

Thanks to the diligent research of their descendants and setting aside our concerns with Helen Glasscock’s versions, we are fortunate to have a thorough history of the offspring of Lewis and Sarah Root Suber Boatner, who were near neighbors to John and Rachel Egner Boatner in the 1820 Newberry census. When the families moved to Alabama, they moved at different times and to different localities. And some still unidentified young Boatners accompanied them (see their chapter), deepening the mysterious history of the Newberry County Boatners.

Lewis Boatner lived in Newberry County for about 30 years after his marriage to Sarah Root Suber. His wife had at least one son by Jaspar Suber, her first husband. This son, Micajah Suber, remained in South Carolina, but he evidently had affectionate ties to the children of her second marriage.

Together, Lewis and Sarah had three children: Maria, born 1809, John Root, 1812, and William Lewis, 1814. The family lived in relative affluence; in the 1830 census, there were 22 slaves in the household. About 1835, Lewis and his family departed for the new state of Alabama.

His destination was near today’s Huntsville (in Marshall County), some distance from his cousin John’s Newberry contingent, which had preceded him by ten years and settled in Tuscaloosa County. The expanded family now included John Root’s wife, Eliza Taggert of Charleston, and Maria’s husband, Jesse Pratt.

One senses some estrangement between Lewis and his sons. By 1840, both young men had departed to join their Newberry relation, John Boatner, who had relocated in 1835 in northern Mississippi.

Lewis Boatner died about 1846 in Marshall County, Alabama, and very little can be gleaned about the decade that the family lived there.

Another mystery is the identity of a young Boatner named Fielding (born c1816 in South Carolina according to the 1850 Alabama census) who remained in Marshall County after Lewis’ family departed. (When he died about 1858, Fielding left part of his estate to an aunt, Sarah Durrett, another link with the Durrett family to be explored.) Also remaining in Marshall County was an unidentified older woman living alone named Elizabeth (See Unidentified Boatners.)

Lewis’ widow, daughter, and son-in-law followed the earlier path of his sons to northern Mississippi where they settled as neighbors of John Boatner, John Root, and William in Tippah County. Sarah Root Suber Boatner died in 1855; she is buried with many other Boatners in Amaziah cemetery. A few years later, John Root moved his large family to Arkansas, and still later to Robertson County, Texas, where his offspring added considerably to the Boatner population of that state. Jesse and Maria Pratt remained in Tippah County.

William Lewis Boatner stayed in Tippah County less than a decade. Before 1850, he moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. There is some mystery surrounding William’s marriages. It has recently come to light that he had a Newberry bride, Eliza Lyles, by the time he reached Tippah County, Miss., in 1840 (The county tax list of 1845 credits him with a household of five members.)

William Boatner and Eliza Lyles were granted a divorce on July 27, 1847, in Marshall County, A1a.  (which may indicate that that was where their marriage had taken place).

In the 1850 Missouri census, William had an infant daughter, Josephine, born in that state. and a boy who was evidently his oldest son, Thomas, by his wife Eliza Lyles. His new wife was also named Eliza; it remains to be verified whether she is the same wife reported elsewhere as Josephine Morgan.

Eliza Lyles Boatner moved to Chickasaw County, Miss., to reside with her brother Jesse. It was the 1850 census of her husbandless household there that created a mystery for her descendants for so many years. She and her children remained in Mississippi (though Thomas’s children passed down dim recollections of a Missouri connection).

Meanwhile, recent evidence has credited William with still another wife – Mary Bridgeforth, whom he married in Cape Girardeau in May, 1856. (The following year, he married Louisa Gholson, and their line has been well traced.)

The persevering descendants of Eliza Lyles Boatner, who have long sought their place on the family tree, have evidently found it at last. But like the many other descendants of William Lewis and John Root Boatner, their ancestor Lewis’ origins are not yet securely identified.

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