The Closing Years

When Ludwig returned to his Edgefield land in 1792, he was relocating near two of his older sons. Elias had married Jane Black of Newberry County and was living a few miles down river from Ludwig’s farm. There were already four children in his household. Ludwig’s son George was living in the southern part of Newberry County.Ludwig’s son John had long since settled in Sumter County some mites to the east. And son Jacob, now 21, had apparently elected to settle near John in Sumter County.

In Ludwig’s Edgefield household, there were his two remaining sons, Solomon and Samuel, and, presumably, his remaining unmarried daughters (who had all departed by the end of the decade).

Ludwig had hardly unpacked his meager belongings in Edgefield when in April. his presence was needed back in Fairfield. Caesar had run away from his new owner, Minor Winn.

On April 27, five weeks after the hasty termination of his affairs, Ludwig returned to Fairfield County. By deed (in which he listed his residence as Ninety Six District), he resold Caesar to Joseph McDonald for £27 pounds “working money.”

A contingency clause was written into the document that “the said negro Ceasar (sic) which is now absent and cannot be delivered by the said Lewis Bortner” be delivered within one year. Failing this, Ludwig was to refund McDonald’s money.  Both McDonald and Minor Winn noted their acquiescence on the margin of the deed, and Thomas Means was one of the witnesses. We can only hope that the combined efforts of Ludwig’s neighbors allowed the old man to go home with a clear conscience.

During the last years of his life, Ludwig apparently had little or no contact with his sons in Sumter County. But he did visit his son George in Newberry County across the river at least once. And he must have had fairly frequent contact with Elias, for that son borrowed a sizeable amount of money from his father, no doubt to finance some of his numerous land acquisitions.

Solomon remained at the Edgefield farm for only a few months. His descendants believe that he was married in 1792 or shortly thereafter; the surname of Mary, his bride. was unfortunately not recorded for posterity. During the closing years of the century, only young Samuel lived in his father’s household.

Something about the events in Fairfield must have continued to rankle the old man. Perhaps he had given up his land against his wishes, after a11. On July 18, 1798, Minor Winn sold the last parcel of his Fairfield   land, the easternmost section, to Walter Poole, a neighboring farmer. Ludwig must have had immediate news of the transaction. Whether he had an aversion to the buyer or was simply stirred by festering memories, we cannot know.

But the following week, he visited his son George in Newberry County, and there he sold 50 acres of his Edgefield river front to Thomas Chappell of Newberry. (Chappell began a ferry in 1802.  Today there is a bridge at the site.) For the land, Ludwig received £10 sterling.

The sale was transacted on July 25 and recorded on the 29th. George no doubt saw to the arrangements; the witnesses were Newberry County men. (The document refers throughout
to Lewis Boatner but is inscribed, not in his handwriting, as Ludwig Bottner.)

It can hardly be a coincidence that George Boatner, on the very next day after the deed was recorded, traveled across the Broad River to Fairfield County where. for just over £11, he repurchased the parcel from Walter Poole – 118 acres which was stipulated in the deed to be part of the land “originally granted to Lewis Boatner on the waters of Rock Creek. . . .”

At his fatherly bidding, apparently, George had redeemed a small portion of the Fairfield land. Ludwig may have rationalized that it was a gift for his son, but it must actually have been some kind of vindication for the old man. There is no record that George ever claimed the land or even sold it. He had pacified Ludwig by executing his wishes at no expense to himself and little inconvenience. Perhaps he was satisfied to let the matter end there.

Soon after this incident, Ludwig must have failed in health. In 1800, the census taker listed Samuel as the family head, while Ludwig was counted as the only other occupant of the sparsely furnished farmhouse on the Saluda.

In 1801, there was a serious flu epidemic and, it is very likely that, this brought on Ludwig’s final illness that winter. He dictated his will on his deathbed in the closing days of the year. The witnesses were Samuel Mayes (Ludwig’s most prominent neighbor and later a brigadier general in the War of 1812), John Lowe, and William Leaney. Ludwig is referred to throughout this document as Lewis Bortner, the customary Edgefield spelling.

His sons Solomon and Samuel carried the will to the Edgefield courthouse to be recorded by the clerk on the first of January, 1802. They were named as the executors of his estate. They were also named the sole heirs in his will. Ludwig specifically cut off “all the rest of my children from having any part of my estate as I have given them what I intended for them heretofore.”

(This enigmatic reference has caused students of the family history unresolved frustration for many decades, and it is likely to keep on doing so, for it has deprived us of knowing once and for all the names of Ludwig’s sons and daughters.)

The meager estate inventory submitted to the court on January 16 had a value of only $100.22 in personal property: a bay mare, saddle. wagon, 40 bushels of corn, “one old bed and furniture,” a wheel and two chairs, one cow, calf, and heifer.

But there were debts owed to Ludwig. Samuel had given his father a note for $12.36. John Buffington and William Towles and John Lowe owed a total of $11.10. Jesse Scurry, his neighbor, had borrowed $4.17. These relatively small debts totaled $29.63.

But “Elijah Bortner” owed notes totaling $700. In the context of the size of the estate, Elias’ debts stand out dramatically. And indeed, they could recount for any money that Ludwig might have realized from the sale of his Fairfield

Many a student of the family’s history has pondered Ludwig’s will and wished fervently that he could read the old man’s mind, or at least know his reasons for deliberately cutting off all but two of his children. What had he given the others that he “wanted them to have”? Had he indeed bestowed gifts – or was he settling scores?

For Elias and George, there is a possible explanation.  Ludwig may have felt that they had been recognized sufficiently – George by a gift of land and Elias by lenient credit which had led to a large debt and possible estrangement.

As for John and Jacob, they had been gone from home the longest, and they had gone the farthest. John had predeceased his father. Had he left his widow and children in straitened circumstances, or did Ludwig even know how they fared?

Perhaps Ludwig had satisfied his conscience by bestowing a material blessing on John and Jacob when they left to set up their own households. But, what of his daughters? Since we do not even know who they were, we can only assume that Ludwig felt that his duty was done by them when he found them husbands.

The traditions of filial respect must have been engrained in the German heritage of these children. Still. one cannot help wondering if there were suspicions among the older brothers that Samuel and Solomon had unduly influenced the dying man.  And one cannot help wondering also whether Ludwig had perhaps become a cantankerous and even irrational individual whose departure might have evoked a sense of relief as well as respectful filial grief.

In any ease, Solomon and Samuel proved to be poor custodians of their patrimony. There are no documents to record the subsequent history of Ludwig’s land; we do not know
when or how they disposed of it.

Though Solomon moved farther west to Pendleton County about 1809, his grandchildren remembered the Saluda River.  This suggests that the land remained in Solomon’s possession until the late 1830’s. when he and his children and grandchildren began their exodus to northern Georgia.
Samuel’s history can hardly be written at all. He served briefly in the militia of Sumter county during the War of 1812. He acquired a small tract there on the west side of Long Branch, which may have placed him in the old neighborhood of his brother John’s widow, Elizabeth. He had to mortgage his property in 1814; and in 1817, it was sold by the sheriff for debts.

Thereafter, Samuel seems to have lived a generally unnoticed and threadbare existence residing sometimes in Sumter and sometimes in Kershaw County. In the censuses his household consisted only of himself and his wife. (The 1830 census and the Sumter County documents both confirm that Samuel used the middle initial “J.”) In 1850, a Mary Boatner, presumably his widow, was listed as a pauper In Sumter County.

And what of the other sons: Elias, John, George, and Jacob? Elias and Jacob Boatner and their families were reunited in 1816 when Elias sold his large landholdings on the Saluda and followed his brother Jacob, who had been a part of the great migration out of Sumter County in 1810 to southwest Mississippi.

Elias Boatner lived out his life in Amite County, but four of his children – Daniel, Mark, Elias Jr., and Mary – traveled southward a few miles to live in Louisiana, as did William Jared, John’s son.

John Boatner of Sumter County died, according to family recollections, about 1796. His widow, Elizabeth Gaulden Boatner, and her son William Jared and daughter Louisa joined their Boatner relations in the Mississippi Territory about 1811.  The identity of his remaining children has been the subject of much inquiry and debate by students of his line.

Gorge Boatner of Newberry County had four sons and two daughters, all of whom moved in the 1820’s to Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, to settle on land newly taken from the
Indians. They may have been accompanied by their aged parents. The leader of the move was George’s oldest son, John, who led a further migration westward a decade later to the red clay hills of northern Mississippi. There he, and a large number of descendants, put down roots that still run deep.

Other descendants of Ludwig were among the early arrivals in Texas in the 1850’s – in particular, Ezekiel Grandberry Boatner, a grandson of Solomon, and John Root Boatner possibly a grandson of John), were among the first members of the Boatner Texas population. By 1880, there were seven Boatner families in Texas; by 1900, there were 24.
Through census records and family documents, it has been possible to accumulate a great deal of information about many of the descendants of Ludwig Boatner and his sons. But there are mysteries.

Several Boatners, most of them living in Alabama in the 1820’s and 1830’s, have not yet been attached to any known branch of the family tree. They are of an age to be Ludwig’s
grandchildren or perhaps great grandchildren – but by what father? How can we account for James, Isham and Fielding Boatner of Alabama – all born (according to census records) in South Carolina between 1806 and 1816? And who was the John Boatner, born in South Carolina c1800 and residing in Alabama in 1850 with sons named Elias, William, and Solomon?

There are today many Boatners who have not been able to find their place on the family tree because they are descended from these men. And so, this history is handed down unfinished.  Was there a son of Ludwig whose existence has not been documented, or do these men belong to Ludwig’s known sons?These questions have not yet yielded to the most diligent students of our family history. 1 hope that they will not give up trying. And I hope that this book will challenge all Boatners to write down their own lineage and to appreciate their heritage.

Leave a Reply