Elias Boatner’s indebtedness to his father, recorded in Ludwig’s estate inventory as $700, probably represented a substantial acreage of required real estate. Throughout his Edgefield years, Elias purchased parcels of land on both sides of the Saluda River, sometimes at sheriffs’ sales.
His birth date has only recently been established, from a long-buried tombstone unearthed in Clinton, La., where his daughter, Mary Spencer, had evidently relocated her patents’ graves. A fragment of the broken stone reads: “. . . Amite Co., Died 1835, Aged 80,” the first evidence found to suggest that Elias’ birth year was 1755. (This date is somewhat earlier than his descendants had conjectured. Moreover, it leaves us in doubt as to whether Elias was a babe in his mother’s arms when Ludwig appeared before the South Carolina Council in October, 1755, or whether he had not yet put in an appearance.)
The year 1781 has been named as the time of his marriage to Jane Black, daughter of a family which had moved from Mecklenburg County, Va., to Newberry County, S. C., in the mid-eighteenth century. Although not documented. the date is a logical one, for by 1790, Elias was ensconced on the Saluda River a few males south of Ludwig’s farm with his wife, two boys under 16 and two girls. The sons were Daniel, born in 1787, and Mark, in 1789. The girls, if daughters, are unidentified; Elias’ two known daughters, Eleanor and Mary, are both thought to have been born after 1790. Two other sons in the household were Elias Jr., born 1793, and Ezekiel, born after 1800.
If Elias named a son for his father, the infant did not survive. Considering the size of Elias’ indebtedness to his father, however, one might conjecture that there was a definite estrangement between the two. Still, Elias was sufficiently family minded to adopt the Boatner spelling already used by his brothers.
Aside from his land transactions, which involved more than 1,600 acres there are two other references to Elias in Edgefield history. In 1802, he contributed $2 as one of 23 subscribers for the building of a non-denominational meeting house at Joel Abney’s about five mites west of his land.
In 1806, he received permission to operate a ferry across the Saluda River, and it was no doubt for that purpose that he required land on the Newberry side. The ferry continued in operation for a number of years after Elias old out to Dr.
Joseph Waldo and moved away. It appears on an 1820 map of the county as “Lorick’s Ferry late Waldo’s.” Elias’ land in Edgefield County is today inaccessible; the road which replaced the Cherokee Path is gone.
In December, 1815, Elias sold his South Carolina property and joined his brother Jacob on Comite Creek in what is now Amite County in southwest
Mississippi. Between 1816 and 1818, he acquired 1,181 acres adjoining his brother’s land.
It was here that Elias spent the final two decades of his life. The estate which he left in 1835 was a well stocked farm, valued at “about $25,000, mostly slaves (39).” His youngest son, Ezekiel, managed the home plantation for his mother until his death about 1848. Jacob Boatner’s widow, Elizabeth, was apparently also a part of the household after her husband’s death in 1837. (After Ezekiel’s death in 1848, both widows joined the household of Jacobs’s son, Lawrence, who had inherited his father’s estate adjoining Elias’.)
These early Boatner “home places” evidently passed out of the family within the second generation. Camp Van Dorn, the military reservation built in World War II, included the lands of both Elias and Jacob Boatner.
The three other sons – Daniel, Mark, and Elias Jr. – and their sister Mary soon moved a few mites south into Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. The remaining daughter, Eleanor, married Eldred N. Coleman of Wilkinson County, Mississippi.
Daniel (1787-1834), Elias’ oldest son, married Elizabeth Jelks while his cousin William Jared (of John’s line) married her sister, Sarah Ann Jelks. Family tradition has it that they built identical houses. Daniel’s home, called “Holly grove,” has been well restored (about 1960) with a modern interior.
In 1824, Daniel and Elizabeth moved to the Bayou Lafourche region of Acadian country, near Napoleonville. Here about 1830 they built “Rosedale” on a 3,000 acre sugar plantation. But both died in 1834 in a yellow fever epidemic.
In 1858, Henry Jelks Boatner, Daniels son, married Belle Howell of Missouri. All four of their sons were born at “Rosedale,” but after the birth of David Newell in 1875, the family moved to Missouri. Henry sold his interest in “Rosedale” to his sister Ellen, but she lost the plantation by foreclosure in 1883.
Ellen Boatner became the wife of Alexander F. Pugh; they lived at “Rosedale” until 1864, when they moved to ”Belleview,” which had been the home of his parents. Laura Boatner, Daniel’s other daughter, married John M. Howell, who purchased ”Waverly” plantation in 1869.
Elias Boatner’s second son, Dr. Mark Boatner (1789-1848), was so called because he was, among other things, an apothecary (druggist) in Clinton, La. The inventory of his estate listed medical books, 129 boxes of pills, and textbooks on geology, geography, grammar, and algebra. Mark was also closely associated with his brother, Elias Jr., in a variety of enterprises in the Felicianas.
Mark married Mary Butler, who was from an Edgefield County family. Their only son died young. They had five daughters, all of whom married and had offspring.
Elias Boatner, Jr., the next son (1793-1839), married Ann M. Hudson, whose family had come from Alabama and had given their name to Port Hudson, La. Among the activities of Elias Jr., many in collaboration with his brother, Mark, were construction of the Port Hudson to Clinton railroad, operation of the Clinton hotel, trading in real estate and slaves, and a quarter interest in a steam saw mill in Port Hudson. He died intestate at the age of 46, leaving his property heavily mortgaged.
Elias Jr. and Ann Hudson Boatner had eight children who survived to adulthood. The oldest, James W. (1817-188?), served as administrator of his father’s estate and freed claims of more than $40,000 (although these appear to have been met satisfactorily by sales of assets in a drawn out probate procedure). He later moved to Arkansas, and during the Civil War, he was commended in the report of a Union officer for his valuable service as a guide for a mounted patrol. (So far as is known, all other Boatners fought for the Confederacy.)
James married Courtney McCay and had sons Robert, Mclvor, and Henry, and a daughter, Delia.
Isaac Hudson Boatner (1821-1884), second son of Elias Jr., and his younger brother! Mark (1822-1858), married sisters Eunice and Sarah Stirling, who were granddaughters of Alexander Stirling and John Alston, two prominent and colorful 18th century figures. (Stirling had come to Louisiana from Scotland as a young man; he became an alcalde under the Spanish government and later established many plantations in West Feliciana around St. Francisville. John Alston was a Tory who had moved from North Carolina to Natchez, where he allied himself with the Spanish in their war against England.)
Isaac Hudson Boatner represented East Baton Rouge Parish in the state legislature before moving to Catahoula Parish. He was re-elected to the state legislature from there and became a planter, building a fine house which he named ”Marengo,” overlooking Little River. After the death of Eunice, Isaac married Anna Young (1833-1896). ”Marengo” passed to a son of this marriage, Isaac II, whose widow sold it in 1902. By then, most of the family graves had already been moved (probably after the record flood of 1991) to the large family plot preserved in Harrisonburg.
Isaac’s brother, Mark Boatner (1822-1858), graduated with honors from the new College of Louisiana in Jackson (later moved to Shreveport as Centenary College). He and Sarah Stirling, who were married in 1846, made their home in
Columbia, Caldwell Parish. Remarkably literate and affectionate letters exchanged by the couple during their brief marriage have been preserved. A daughter, Edith Lilley, and two outstanding sons were the fruit of this union: Charles Jahleal and John Stirling Boatner (who married sisters, the daughters of Judge Oren Mayo). Mark’s brief second marriage to Malvena Hebert produced a daughter, Marcella. Before his career was cut short by death in his both year, Mark had become county attorney, state senator, and was pursuing higher clinical goals.
Mark’s elder son, Charles Jahleal, was reared by his uncle Isaac Hudson, and ”Marengo” was his home until 1865. After his marriage to Frances Rowena Mayo, he was elected a state senator in 1876. Later (1888-1894), he represented the Fifth District in the United States Congress, then established himself in New Orleans to continue a successful law practice. He died prematurely at the age of 54. His brother John also studied law and for a time the two were law partners in Monroe, La. John ended his career as judge of the Tenth Judicial District. Both brothers had large families.
Perhaps because Charles J. and John Stirling married sisters in the distinguished Mayo-Spencer line, they produced notable spring down through the most recent generations. Many followed the law and became judges. In the line of Charles J. through his eldest son, Judge Mark Mayo Boatner of Hew Orleans, there has been six West Pointers.
Less is known of the daughters of Elias Jr. – Ann, Louisiana, Josephine, and Susan – whose descendants have not been traced into the twentieth century. A son, William Henry Boatner, also remains untraced.
The youngest son of Elias Sr. was Ezekiel Boatner, born between 1800 and 1810. He married in 1827 Eliza M. Caston, and the couple had a son and four daughters. As the son never married, the only descendants from this line are from the daughters: Sarah Eliza married Thomas Henry Phipps; Martha Ellen married Ed F. Davis; and Amanda married A.T. Way.
Ezekiel’s mother and the widow of his uncle Jacob both made their home with Ezekiel for a time. He is said to have died about 1848, and he is certainly not in the 1850 census. A granddaughter recalled that he went to Texas, but this
information has never been confirmed. (There was an Ezekiel Boatner in Texas in 1850, but that man is well identified as a grandson of Solomon Boatner, who had emigrated from Georgia.)
Elias’ two daughters – Eleanor and Mary – have the distinction of being the earliest female Boatners whose descendants have been traced. In particular, Mary has a thoroughly charted genealogy; this is due to the efforts of Judge Alva A. DeLee of Port Arthur, Texas, who has published a history of her colorful life.
Among the highlights of his story, Mary Boatner was married in 1819 to a neighboring plantation owner and steamboat captain, Joel Shepherd Spencer. They started a remarkably litigious life by suing her father over wedding presents he wanted returned to him; and they ended twenty years of marriage with divorce proceedings of epic proportions. When Captain Spencer made a sudden departure on his boat, Texian, for New Orleans, Mary pursued in a chartered steamboat, taking their nine children, friends, servants, lawyers, and a sheriff. While the two boats lay docked bow to stern at New Orleans, attorneys worked out an agreement which permitted Spencer to proceed to Texas. Mary moved temporarily from Clinton to Jackson, La, with her children; but eventually, most of them joined their father in Texas.
Mary Spencer is buried in a small family plot adjoining the historic Braeme-Bennett House in Clinton, La. It lies across the highway from the Boatner-Record family house in which Dr. Mark Boatner is said to have died. Both houses are well known landmarks, on state Route 67 from Baton Rouge.
It is in this plot that a storm blew over a very old tree and exposed the tombstone of Jane and Elias Sr. As the only child to survive her mother, Mary had evidently brought her aged parent to live in Clinton and reburied her father so that they could be reunited.
Other Boatners lie in the Clinton cemetery: Dr. Mark Boatner, his wife Mary, daughters Elizabeth and Sophia, granddaughters Mary Boatner Fuqua (infant) and Josephine Boatner Haynes. On the west side of town, Elias Jr. once owned a town home. (His plantation was some five mites to the northwest. near the present village of Wilson’s.
The town of Clinton was not established until 1824, when the old Feliciana Parish was split into East and West Feliciana. When John James Audubon worked in the region (1823-1828) on his Birds of America series, he called it “the Feliciana wilderness.” Boatners were pioneers on this early 19th century frontier; in the next generation, they dispersed to other parts of Louisiana – to wild Catahoula Parish and to the piney hills of the northeast part of the state.
Death or the traditional economic mobility took the second generation of Louisiana Boatners away from Clinton. “Sickness is very severe this year,” wrote Elias Jr’s daughter Ann Murray, a recent bride of Richard Gordon, in the fall of 1842.” (She herself succumbed to the mysterious fevers only three years later.)
“We will reside in a small log house (in Clinton) until ours is finished,” Ann Gordon continued. Log cabins were the most common form of housing throughout the south, and they also served as temporary residences for the more prosperous while their new homes were being constructed. Her mother, alias Jr’s widow. was also living in primitive accommodations while awaiting the completion of the plantation home of her son Isaac Hudson.
“Money is very scarce,” Ann Gordon wrote of those times. “We are all on equality now. The poor have as much as some of our most wealthy planters.” It was these conditions, no doubt, which took the second generation of Boatners away from Clinton, though most elected to remain in Louisiana.
The records in the beautiful old white columned Clinton Court House preserve the early heritage of Boatners. In a state that probably has a larger concentration of Boatner kin than any other, East Feliciana and Clinton hold a very special place.