There is very little of record pertaining to George Boatner, who was among the older group of Ludwig’s sons. The first probable reference to him was as George Batner in the 1790 Newberry County census. From the neighbors listed, he would seem to be living in the lower part of the county. His 1790 household contained two females of unidentified age.
lf this is our George, however, we have a puzzle to be resolved; for two years after that census was taken, in February, 1792, George Boatner (by that name) was indicted by a Newberry grand jury “for living a disorderly life with a certain woman.” The court minutes do not provide a hint of her identity.
Whether George mended his ways and legalized his domestic arrangements, or whether he chose elsewhere for a wife, we may never know. However, his son John was born March 25, 1793 (according to dates entered in John’s Bible). And this John’s daughter Nancy confirmed in her old age that her father’s father’s name was George. Nancy named as her father’s mother Mary Ashley, which has also been spelled Polly Lashley. (With this as our only clue, we can conjecture that she was perhaps a member of the Lasle family of Newberry County; several Lasle men enlisted in the Loyalist militia, which may have earned the family an unpopular reputation. But there were also Ashleys and Lashleys in the back country.)
The transactions of 1798, in which George assisted Ludwig in selling land to Thomas Chappell and re-buying land in Fairfield county, become specially important, for they are the principal evidence which links him to the older man.
Aside from his appearances in the 1810 and 1820 censuses, no other record of George’s existence has yet been found. He sired a family of at least four sons and two daughters, all of whom left Newberry County about 1824. George and his wife may have accompanied their children to northern Alabama, but if they did, it was as dependents in the home of one of their sons.
The leader, indeed, one wants to say patriarch, of this branch of the Boatner family was George’s son John (1793-1864), whose name has been revered by many generations of his descendants and who influenced the lives of several other Boatner families.
But here, we must digress to consider some conflicting information which has been handed down about this man’s name. John has been known by later generations of his descendants as John Wesley. However, William B. Craig, the resourceful historian of this line who has in recent years combed every known document relating to the man’s existence, has yet to find any contemporary paper by or about him in which he is listed as anything but John.
Two sources of the attributed middle name can be traced. One is Helen Boatner Glasscock, a daughter of John Root Boatner, whose sister married John’s grandson, and this young man was indeed named John Wesley Boatner. Either Helen or her niece Cecil Boatner Jones, to whom she related her family’s history in her old age about 1927, took this John Wesley to be a namesake of his grandfather. Mrs. Jones so reported this lineage in her application to the D.A.R. (And in 1943, it was again I listed by other descendants in the Mormon records.)
Another contemporary clue was provided by John’s grandson, Franklin Pierce Boatner (b. 1852), only son of Daniel Jefferson Boatner. When he lost his father in infancy, Franklin received his devoted grandfather’s attention for twelve years and also a generous legacy of 160 acres which included the Amaziah Church tract when John Boatner died in 1864.
In 1910, Franklin wrote to his aged Aunt Nancy Boatner Baker, inquiring about his antecedents. He referred to his grandfather (her father) as John W. Boatner. (In her reply, she referred to her father as John.) Some years later, in the biographical information which he submitted for The Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi (Sketches of Senators), Franklin also referred to his grand Father as John W.
Both Helen Boatner Glasscock and Franklin P. Boatner lived in close proximity to John Boatner for many years as children. (Helen’s family moved to Arkansas when she was fifteen.) To this day, we do not really know whether it was their incorrect attributions which resulted in the name by which he has been known for generations, or whether there exists any proof that his name actually was John Wesley. But for ease of identification, and in deference to the many descendants who have always referred to him so, he will be designated in this section as John W.
(William Craig, incidentally, endorses Helen Glasscock’s claim that the Lewis Boatner who married Sarah Root Suber in Newberry County, and who is assigned in this book to the line of John Boatner of Sumter County, was actually the son of George Boatner and an older half-brother of John W. While there is no documentary or circumstantial evidence to support the claim, and no mention is made of Lewis in John W’s family Bible, still the hypothesis is set forth here as a challenge to future students of this line of the family. Many of the unanswered questions relating to early Boatner history can be traced to Newberry County.)
At the age of 23, John W., after a brief mandatory stint in the S.C. Infantry, married in 1816 Rachel Egner. Rachel’s mother was thrice married and her Egner husband was a Newberry resident.
There were also some Suber connections. Rachel’s mother’s first husband was a Suber and a son of this marriage had taken as his wife Sarah Root. When the widowed Sarah next married Lewis Boatner about 1806, she gave up her dower rights to and on Heller’s Creek in the southeast part of Newberry county, which was the area of heavy German settlement. John W. himself bought land on Heller’s Creek in 1819.
(The relationship between John W. and Lewis, whether half-brothers or cousins, was surely close, made closer, perhaps, because John’s wife had been half-sister to Sarah Boatner’s first husband. Both John W. and Lewis would move to northern Alabama, although some distance apart. And both of Lewis’ sons would depart from Alabama – while their father was still living – to settle near John W. in Mississippi. These are still more of the unexplained actions and relationships which can be traced to the Boatners of Newberry County.)
In 1819, the mother of Rachel Egner Boatner died, and there was a lawsuit involving her heirs which dragged on for several years. Once it was settled, John, his brothers and sisters, and possibly his parents also, migrated in 1824 to Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, an area which was attracting many South Carolina settlers.
The interior of present day Alabama had remained Indian country throughout most of the both century. Early in the 19th, the Unites States government began to absorb the Choctaw lands in the north by treaties. During the War of 1812, General Andrew Jackson routed the Creek Indians, and most of the area became open for settlement.
Alabama was organized as a territory in 1817, and there was eager interest in settling it. A village, later called Tuscaloosa, was established in that year at the falls of the Black Warrior River. It consisted of “a cluster of log cabins with mud and stick chimneys,” according to the account of a contemporary visitor. Of the farmers who soon peopled the surrounding land, another visitor wrote in 1821, “They were a hearty, frank, plain-spoken, unequivocal set who would share with you their hoecake and bacon or take a fling or dash of fisticuffs with you according to the several positions as friend of foe which you might think proper to take.”
John W. had in his party not only his wife and children, brothers, sisters and trends, but also a young man named Isham Boatner. (Another one of the Newberry County mysteries, he is listed in the section on Unidentified Boatners.) Isham had probably been a member of John’s household for several years. A young lad in his age range is listed in John’s household in the 1820 census. Isham was the first male Boatner to marry in Alabama; in 1829, he took as a bride Elizabeth Hogg, who was also from a Newberry family.
Earlier, in 1826, Jane Charlotte, John W’s sister, had married a Lewis Hudson. (In the same generation, a first cousin in Louisiana, Elias Boatner, Jr., married Ann Murray Hudson from an Alabama family.) In 1832, John W’s, brother Jacob took another Newberry bride, Lucy Evans. The Boatner population of Alabama seemed to be settled and growing
In 1836, a James F. Boatner (unidentified) married Nancy Swindle in Tuscaloosa County. This young man, possibly Isham’s brother, may have arrived in the party of Lewis and Sarah Boatner, who had brought their family to Marshall County in another part of the state about 1832. Early in the 1840, John W’s brother George married an Alabama girl, Harriet Barnes.
Both John W’s and Lewis’ groups included unidentified young men born between 1800 and 1816. (See in section on unidentified Boatners profiles of John, Isham, James, and Fielding.) And in both counties, there were legal and marital relationships between Boatners and members of the Durrett family. Additional research on the Durretts seems warranted.
John W. remained in Tuscaloosa County for only a decade. Perhaps his desire for land could not be satisfied by the rapid settlement of Alabama. He left this pioneer territory to become a settler in the red clay hills of northern Mississippi.
Although Mississippi had achieved statehood in 1817, the territorial claims of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations were not staled until the 1830’s. The land rush in the ensuing years almost doubled the state’s population by 1850.
John W. and his family arrived in 1835. They were soon joined by young John Root Boatner and his family; and then for a few years by Lewis’ other son, William Lewis; and still later – after Lewis’ death – by his widow Sarah and her daughter and son-in-law, Maria and Jesse Pratt. (See map page 116.)
John W’s brother George and his wife Harriet, together with their young children – Jacob, Lewis, and Mary – were settled nearby by 1852. By that time also, John W’s oldest sons had begun families of their own, so that in less than 15 years, there were seven Boatner households in Tippah County, Miss.
Jacob, the third of George’s sons, had also moved across the state line to Neshoba County. (Their sister, Jane Charlotte Hudson, evidently died in Alabama. Two young Hudsons had joined Tippah County households by 1850.)
William Lewis Boatner did not remain long near his relations. Within the decade, he departed for Missouri. John Root remained about 17 years; then moved on to Arkansas and later to Navasota, Texas. But their mother Sarah, together with Maria and Jesse Pratt, settled permanently in northern Mississippi.
John W. Boatner acquired considerable land by patent and by purchase; he owned about 2,000 acres when he died. In 1844, he deeded what had once been a chapel site on his property to the new Amaziah Church. Two of his daughters were married there in a double wedding the day after Christmas in that year. Two years later, the first grave was occupied by his daughter Lucinda Jane, who died of typhus.
In a11, more than 35 Boatners are buried in Amaziah cemetery, including John and Rachel, six of their children, and many of their grandchildren. Many other Boatners are buried at Cornerstone and Ebenezer Methodist Cemeteries in nearby communities.
John W. himself, however, and Amaziah Church were Baptist. In July, 1851, he represented his church at the Ministers and Deacons Meeting of the First District of the Chickasaw Association which convened in New Albany.
There “Bro. John Boatner” was re-elected moderator; he also rendered an essay on the assigned subject of ”The Duties of Parents to Their Children.” And for the next annual meeting, he was assigned the topic of “The Force of Tradition,” (by the Committee to Select Subjects for Essays and Persons to Write Them)
In that same year, John W. was a delegate from Tippah County to the “Convention of the State of Mississippi” in Jackson. Its purpose was to draft a state position paper on the slavery issue. He carried home in his saddlebag a broadside listing the delegates; this document is now in the possession of William B. Craig.
John W’s many children and grandchildren can be divided roughly into two groups – those who stayed put (some on land they inherited from him) and those who went to Texas.
One of the most interesting characteristics of these Boatners was their tendency to marry within a close circle. Boatner daughters married McCauley cousins; Boatners married Brownlees; Boatners married Bakers; Boatners married Wests. After a while, the Bakers, Brownlees and Wests, (some of whom were now part Boatner) married other Boatners. The pattern continued into Texas.
One exception to the pattern was Franklin Pierce Boatner, John W’s beloved grandson. In spite of a childhood made difficult by the devastation of the war, he apprenticed at 21 to an ex-confederate Army surgeon named Captain Montgomery, which was the customary way of learning medicine at that time. But Franklin also managed to study at the University of Medicine in Louisville in 1875 and 1876; and in 1891, he finally received his medical degree. He served as president of the Marshall County Medical Society and vice president of the Frisco Rail Road Surgeons Association.
Several of Franklin’s children achieved distinguished careers, notably Victor Vincent, who became president of the Great Northern Rail Road and head of civilian rail transportation for the Office of Defense Transportation during
World War II, and Edmund Burke Boatner, superintendent of the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Conn., who was honored by Gallaudet College in Washington with a doctorate for his contributions to the education of the deaf .
Burke Boatner (1903-1983), like others in his family, felt that he had received a strong legacy from his father, who, he wrote, “had one of the most inquiring minds that I have ever known. . . I am sure we had subscriptions to every magazine of any repute in the United States. We also received The World, which was a daily newspaper from New York. . . He kept up with medical advances but at the same time found time for his favorite hobby, astronomy.”
Burke Boatner’s childhood at the turn of the 20th century reflected an era now long past: “Our local transportation was all by horse, one way or another. How well I remember riding on ’01d Charlie’ with Sister Pearl (who was also his teacher) to a one room school at Macedonia Church about three mites from Potts Camp. She rode side saddle and astride on a blanket. She had about 15 pupils eager to learn – and no discipline problems.”
Of the descendants of George Boatner’s other sons and daughters, much less is known. His namesake remained in Tippah County, as have many of his descendants. The family of Jacob Boatner, who moved to Neshoba County by 1850, has proved difficult to trace, although an effort has been made here to suggest candidates for his household. Jacob’s descendants would seem to account for many of the Boatners presently residing in central and southern Mississippi. Nothing is known of the last son, Elias.
Of John’s two sisters, Jane Charlotte Hudson did not live to come to Mississippi; but her son William made his home with John Lou Boatner and James with Maria Pratt in Tippah County. The other sister, Lucinda, was a member of John W’s household until the death of her sister-in-law Rachel in 1871. She then lived with her great nephew, Claybourne Boatner.
The patriarch of this very large clan, John W. Boatner, was a doer and a leader, handicapped perhaps by a lack of formal education, but nevertheless confident of his ability to make a success of life and to take bold actions. His letter to his children, written in April 1857, to convey a record of their births, concluded with a moving message. While writing it, he must have been gathering up the past experiences and memories of his eventful life, which spanned seven decades and two frontiers.