In contrast to the eastern part of South Carolina, where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one, the piedmont and western section of the state had a small slave population in the 18th century.
Ludwig himself owned but two slaves, whose names, we know were Caesar and Nero. His son John owned five slaves in 1790, and Jacob but two in 1800.
After the beginning of the nineteenth century, slave owning in the back country became much more common, as cotton became the backbone of the local
economy and slave labor was needed in its production. To meet the demand, the South Carolina legislature re-opened the slave trade in 1803, and over 40,000 new slaves were imported.
The Boatner family reflected this trend. In 1810, Elias Boatner owned 14 slaves; and his brother Jacob, about to depart for the Mississippi territory, had acquired 28.
Even after these Boatners had departed from South Carolina, the trend toward larger and larger holdings continued there. By 1830, Lewis Boatner of Newberry County owned 22 slaves. And by 1860, the proportion of slaves in the county had grown to more than two thirds of the population. (Among the fifty largest slave owners of Newberry County was Micajah Suber, oldest son of Sarah Root Suber Boatner and half brother to Lewis Boatner’s children.)
But like the Boatners, many farmers had migrated to the west and south, some to leave behind the deteriorating land and others, no doubt, who simply sought the adventure of a new frontier. By 1860, forty percent of the native born population had left the state.
The first Boatners to leave – Jacob and Elias – seemed to have been imbued with the largest entrepreneurial spirit. And it was they who capitalized most profitably on the opportunities for large plantations in the new territory. Jacob was one of the largest slave holders in the area when he arrived in southwest Mississippi in 1810, and he and his brother both acquired large land holdings and became prominent planters. There were 35 slaves in Elias’ estate when he died in 1835.
In the next generation of Boatners in that area, Daniel and William Jared probably epitomized the prosperity that peaked before the Civil War in southern Mississippi and Louisiana. Daniel was reported to have had 200 slaves at Rosedale plantation. And Jacob’s son Lawrence enlarged on his legacy from his father.
The other early Boatners were neither so ambitious nor so prosperous, with the exception, perhaps, of John W. Boatner of Tippah Co.. Miss., who amassed 2,000 acres and a considerable number of slaves. His brothers were evidently not slave owners. And there is no evidence that Solomon and his children owned slaves in South Carolina or Georgia.
As a consequence, when slaves were freed after the Civil War, the lives and livelihood of the small Boatner farmers in Alabama and northern and central Mississippi were probably less affected than their more affluent cousins in southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
And as another consequence, a number of blacks took the Boatner name as their own surname. In the 1870 census, some of the heads of these newly freed households listed their place of birth as South Carolina. Understandably, the largest assemblage of black Boatners was in Louisiana and Mississippi. The 1880 census shows this clearly.
HEADS OF BLACK HOUSEHOLDS IN THE 1880 CENSUS
(List may not be complete)
Aleck Boatner, age 24, Morehouse Parish
Charlotte Boatner, 50, (born in Virginia), East Feliciana Parish
Frank Boatner 45, LaFourche Parish
Jonas Boatner, 33, West Feliciana Parish
Si Boatner, 25, Jackson Parish
Sol Boatner, 35,. Caddo Parish
Thomas Boatner, 27, Ascension Parish
Amander F. Boatner, 48, Wilkinson County
Harriet Boatner, 33, Union County
Emmett Boatner, 36, Wilkinson County
George Boatner, 30, Benton County
Isaac Boatner, 44, (born in Alabama), Marshall County
Joicy Boatner, 17, Wilkinson County
Lem Boatner, 40, Wilkinson County
Samuel Boatner, 55, Amite County
Sandy Boatner, 55, Wilkinson County
Daniel Boatner, 64, Newberry County
John P. Boatner, 43. Newberry County
In the early twentieth century, many black Boatners found their way north to seek their livelihood in and around Chicago, and they probably were the core population which produced the very large number of black Boatners in that area today.
Indeed, by conservative projection, the sixteen black households reported in Mississippi and Louisiana in 1880 could account for more than 6,000 black Boatners today.
Few black Boatners have evidently preserved their family history. One colorful anecdote was passed down in the family of General Hayden Boatner:
During the Reconstruction days, when my grandfather Charles J. was a very young state senator, a black Daniel Webster Boatner from South Carolina appeared in Baton Rouge on the senate floor to harass white speakers. He got my grandfather mad as hell.
(The story may well be true. The 1880 census confirms that a black Daniel Boatner, age 64, resided in Newberry County with his family.)
A brief history of a Louisiana family was contributed to his book by Mrs. Rosalie Andrews Boatner of Baton Rouge:
My husband (Samuel) often told me how his grandfather was a slave and had been sold seven times ending with the Boatner name. . . He was a blacksmith who could make the farming instruments as well as keep them in good condition. . . As you see, Grandfather Jarrette Boatner was a very interesting man.”
Perhaps if we are fortunate. more fascinating glimpses of black Boatner history will emerge.