A Commentary by Paula S. Felder, Author of
Ludwig Bottner and His Sons: The Beginning of the Boatner Family in America
This book was researched and written between 1970 and 1985. I began it at the urging of the late Major General Haydon Boatner, who was the early leader in Boatner genealogy research and who created my first files with a copy of the report he commissioned by Leonard Andrea in 1948 and his own collection of papers. These were an invaluable start.
Much of the research and all of the interpretation of the life of Ludwig Bottner (aka Bortner and also Boatner – the name his sons adopted) is my own, and, of course, is subject to revision as more findings occur.
My work took place before there were computer generated indexes or e-mail or the internet. There were countless hours of census microfilm reading, collecting local histories, and inquiries to the South Carolina Archives and county court clerks all over the South. I also visited the state Archives and stumbled on heretofore undiscovered deeds and law suits which documented Ludwig’s arrival in South Carolina as early 1755.
On a wintry day many years ago, I visited his properties in old Edgefield (now Saluda) County on the Saluda River and in Fairfield County on the Broad River. Both sites were uninspiring. The Broad River land where he had his saw mill was part of a state forest.
I must confess I did not feel closer to my ancestor for having stood on his land. The reasons for his actions remain unrevealed, or at least must be guessed at, and his times were so different from our own.
And yet his persistence in pursuing an independent life (in an area that had a strongly bonded German community) and in formalizing his business affairs through deeds and legal actions cannot fail to rouse our curiosity about him.
Why an Update?
Paul Boatner of California, who is rendering all Boatners an invaluable service by creating a Boatner web page, is working with me and other family historians to place an updated version of my book in his history section.
One of the reasons for the update is the discovery of Mary Boatner, one of Ludwig’s daughters, who grew up on the Broad River farm, married and died young, leaving descendants. We may yet find other daughters (but for the sake of continuity, I will leave the book title unmodified).
Paul Boatner will begin with the chapters covering Ludwig’s life as they appeared in the print version. In spite of versions now being circulated on the Internet about a Pennsylvania connection, we still have no proof that would warrant rewriting the beginning chapter with stronger claims.
Though we know Ludwig Bottner was born about 1723 and was thus about 32 when he appeared before the South Carolina Council to be awarded 150 acres of land in Amelia Township, we still have been unable to document his origins or where he had immediately resided before he came to South Carolina.
Discovering the answers to these questions is an important goal. Family versions passed down from generation to generation are welcome contributions to our archives. But their source should be included – and documentation is urgently needed if we are going to be able to sort out the true history. (On the GenForum web page, we have conflicting and unverified versions of the early generations which cannot be reconciled.)
A Pennsylvania Beginning: Yes or No (or Maybe)
As to the Pennsylvania theories, many years ago, I researched the records of Lancaster County and the histories of the Bortner and Botner families, with invaluable assistance from very knowledgeable genealogists and historians there.
There was just no evidence (as yet, at least) to connect our man to those lines, which are very well accounted for. But I will happily rewrite my first chapter when there is a smidgeon of documentation that leads to a reasonable hypothesis. Meanwhile, I continue my book with Ludwig as our first generation.
Most of the chapters on Ludwig’s sons have held up well, thanks to the contributions of many dedicated genealogists – some of whose names I see now appearing on the GenForum web page. With their help (and with their enthusiasm and encouragement), I was able to compile the genealogical tables which cover more than 130 pages in Part Two of the book. Paul Boatner is working now on a way to post the original tables as well as revisions and additional contributions.
In the meantime, our principal challenge is to resolve the problems still remaining in our accounting of the second and third generations, which are in Part Two. The early lines of Elias, John, George, and Jacob are in the best shape. Solomon’s line has good information only on his eldest son, Lewis. Little is known of the last son, Samuel. So much remains to be done.
There are still some second and third generation Boatners waiting to be attached to the family tree. I hope Paul’s web page will encourage their descendants to pursue the search.
I hope also that we can receive contributions which will expand our knowledge of the black families who took the name of Boatner after the Civil War. We have made only a modest beginning on their history. But for many of them, it is intertwined with the Boatner families who first ventured beyond South Carolina in the early 19th century, especially those who settled in Mississippi and Louisiana.
The censuses after 1870 provide important documentation of these families; but for many the linkage began as much as two or three generations earlier. With luck, we should be able to trace these relationships through wills, estate inventories, and anecdotal evidence from both black and white families.
Please know that any contributions relating to these important subjects will be most appreciated. Our goal must be to account for the gaps and discrepancies and then to arrive at a true picture of our family’s early history and our own heritage.
Paula S. Felder