For many years, family researchers seeking to trace Ludwig Boatner’s beginnings in colonial America have assumed that he was typical of the German immigrants of his day. But now, it seems likely that neither the time nor the place of his first known presence in South Carolina was typical.
When we reconstruct what we can of his life, we may perhaps conclude that Ludwig did not make chance or imitative decisions. Other qualities of character will become apparent in the telling of his story.
He must have been something of a loner. He seems to have placed no priority on proximity to other Germans, although traditionally, the ethnic groups in the back country were strongly bound together.
He was hardworking and ambitious; when the opportunity presented itself, he earned substantial sums of money as a ”waggoner.” Each time he moved, he enlarged his land holdings, taking on his largest acquisition – a tract on the Broad River – when he was approaching fifty. And he aimed for good land.
This objective usually placed him in proximity to some of the leading citizens in the area. In Edgefield County, Samuel Mayes (later a general in the War of 1812) and in Fairfield County, Colonel Aromanus Lyles were witnesses to his documents. Both were his near neighbors.
Although Ludwig evidently considered himself illiterate, his transactions were circumspect and executed with due regard for legal procedure. In his thirties, he retained prominent attorneys in Charleston to bring lawsuits for compensation of losses and damages. And after the Revolutionary War, he retained Richard Winn as his counsel in Fairfield County in his struggle to recover expenses and losses he incurred in supplying the colonial troops at Orangeburg.
Just as he was tenacious about getting justice for himself, he was careful to honor his commitments to others. In 1792, having sold his Fairfield property and moved back to the Edgefield farm, he returned within a month to make new arrangements to protect the buyer of one of his slaves who had run away. He was at that time about seventy years old.
Ludwig did not transmit to his children an emphasis on intellectual attainments. He probably underestimated his own native intelligence, and he passed on to them a legacy of illiteracy, which was shared by the quarter of a million South Carolinians who pressed southward in the beginning of the 19th century.
Ludwig Bottner’s descendants spread across that South – and after 1880, beyond it. For a while. most remained committed to rural occupations, and some achieved substantial farms and plantations. But by the third generation, there were other occupations and professions, and time has made the experiences of the later generations increasingly diverse.
Today, there are Boatners in every walk of life. But most of them profess to see in even their remotest kin certain qualities of temperament or character which they are intuitively positive are ”Boatner qualities.”
Perhaps they all began with Ludwig himself.