It is assumed that John Boatner was born prior to 1760. Some students of this family claim 1758 as his birth year.
The only of filial record of John Boatner’s existence is a census listing for John Bottaner in Sumter County in 1790. His household in that year consisted of three males under the age of 16, six females of unstated age (one obviously being his wife), and five slaves. At least one child (Louisa) presumably arrived after that date. (Almost all early Sumter County records have been destroyed, so little searching is possible
John’s wife was Elizabeth Gaulden of Sumter County (1765-1838), whose sister was married to a member of the prominent Richardson family, leaders in the 1810 migration from Sumter to the Mississippi Territory. The Gauldens settled in the High Hills section of Sumter County about 1758, having moved there from Virginia.
John Boatner is said to have died in 1796. This information was provided by his daughter-in-law, Sarah Jelks Boatner Freeman, who wrote in her old age to her grandson William Boatner Reily that her husband’s father had been “a farmer mechanic and a very nice gentleman.” (One of Jacob’s descendants claimed that Ludwig “showed his mechanical genius in rigging sails to his wagon to help to propel it.” Perhaps John had Inherited some of his father’s aptitude.)
Students of John’s line are not in agreement on the members of his household. The known children – taken from family records in Louisiana – are William Jared, born 1788, and Louisa, born c1795. They went with their mother to the Mississippi Territory in 1811, and they are the only two children named in her will.
The identity of John’s other children cannot be documented. Among the candidates proposed have been a John Jr. and daughters Mattie, Emmille, and Kate. No evidence has been uncovered to support this hypothesis (and the names resemble those of William Jared’s oldest children).
There are some clues in the census and other records, however, to suggest names for two other sons (besides William Jared), but again, there is no unanimity even among those who have considered this possibility.
In the 1800 census for Sumter County, there are two Jacob Boatner’s listed, both names identically Anglicized. One is surely Ludwig’s son Jacob, who married Elizabeth Gerald in 1799 and resided in Sumter County until 1810. The other Jacob Boatner, from the scant evidence available, would certainly seem to be a son of John. In 1800, he was between 16 and 26, which would give him a birth date between 1774 and 1784.
This Jacob Boatner’s household in the 1800 census was listed in proximity to the households of Reuben Long and Francis Richardson. John’s widow, Elizabeth Gaulden Boatner, though not listed in this census is known to have owned land on Long Branch of Black River adjoining Reuben Long.
It is not illogical to conjecture that Elizabeth Boatner’s farm was being manned by her son Jacob and possibly other sons while she was making her home elsewhere with her very small children.
Then in 1802, a Jacob Boatner bought one of the lots which had been newly laid out at the courthouse site a short distance to the east at the village of Sumter. It is certainly unlikely that the other Jacob, Ludwig’s son, would have purchased a town lot, for he was known to be a millwright. (See Jacob’s profile.)
In 1803, Elizabeth Boatner purchased additional land adjoining her farm. To the 150 acres which she already owned (John Boatner’s original farm?) she added another 150 acres, purchased for $500 from Reuben Long. (S.C. Archives, Sumter County Deeds, Vol. B, pp. 9-11, Roll 1.) This suggests that she had returned to the management of the farm and was again in residence.
What happened to the younger Jacob Boatner we do not know. He evidently did not occupy or develop the lot in the new village of Sumter. He may have remained to work the Boatner farm on Long Branch.
By 1810, this Jacob’ household was dissolved. Since he never more appears in the county records, we may conjecture that he died young. There is no proven identity for the three other members of his household, who were of the same generation as he. We do not even know if they were Boatners. But a case can be made that at least one of them may have been a brother and that the female member of the establishment may have been Jacob’s wife.
In the 1810 census of Newberry County, there is a Lewis Boatner (born c1784) who had married in 1806 a young Newberry widow. Near him, in the eastern part of the county, lived a young woman, presumably a widow, named Eliza (Poll)
Boatner. She had two children, names unknown.
If the young Jacob Boatner had died and the other Boatner households in Sumter County were breaking up, it is quite possible that the young widow followed her brother-in-law to his new home in Newberry County, where there were other Boatner families as well. *****(Lewis will be treated in this section as a possible son of John, but Eliza and her children will be relegated to the ranks of Unidentified Boatners owing to the paucity of subsequent information.)
The Lewis Boatner who first appears in Newberry County records in 1806 as the new husband of Sarah Root Suber has much to recommend him as a candidate for a member of John Boatner’s family, although this theory is not endorsed by some knowledgeable students of the line.
In some versions of the early family history, this Lewis has been mistaken for Ludwig himself. And in some stories, the biographical information on the two men is hopelessly tangled.
Helen Boatner Glasscock (1842-1930), one of Lewis’ granddaughters, believed him to be a son of Ludwig. She also believed that he was half-brother of John Boatner of Newberry. (See George’s line.) It seems impossible that either was the son of Ludwig, for they would both have been minors at the time of his death, much younger than Solomon and Samuel, who were his sole legatees.
No evidence exists to prove that Lewis was a son of George Boatner and older half-brother of John. But if not half-brothers, they were undoubtedly first cousins, and their lives and those of their children, were closely linked.
This Lewis Boatner lived in Newberry County for about 30 years after his marriage to Sarah Root Suber. His wife had at least one son by Jaspar Suber, her first husband. This son, Micajah Suber, remained in South Carolina, but he evidently had affectionate ties to the children of her second marriage.
Together, Lewis and Sarah had three children: Maria, born 1809, John Root, 1812, and William Lewis, 1814. The family lived in relative affluence; in the 1830 census, there were 22 slaves in the household.
About 1835, Lewis and his family departed for the new state of Alabama. His destination was near today’s Huntsville (in Marshall County), some distance from his cousin John’s Newberry contingent, which had preceded him by ten years and settled in Tuscaloosa County. The expanded family now included John Root’s wife, Eliza Taggert of Charleston, and Maria’s husband, Jesse Pratt.
One senses some arrangement between Lewis and his sons. By 1840, both young men had departed to join their Newberry relation, John Boatner, who had relocated in 1835 in northern Mississippi.
Lewis Boatner died about 1846 in Marshall County, Alabama, and very little can be gleaned about the decade that the family lived there. Another mystery is the identity of a young Boatner named Fielding (born c1816 in South Carolina according to the 1850 Alabama census) who remained in Marshall County after Lewis’ family departed. (When he died about 1858, Fielding left part of his estate to an aunt, Sarah Durrett, another link with the Durrett family to be explored.) Also remaining in Marshall County was an unidentified older woman living alone named Elizabeth. (See Unidentified Boatners.)
Lewis’ widow, daughter, and son-in-law followed the earlier path of his sons to northern Mississippi where they settled as neighbors of John Boatner, John Root, and William in Tippah County.
Sarah Root Suber Boatner died in 1855; she is buried with many other Boatners in Amaziah cemetery. A few years later, John Root moved his large family to Arkansas, and still later to Robertson County, Texas, where his offspring added considerably to the Boatner population of that state. Jesse and Maria Pratt remained in Tippah County.
William Lewis Boatner stayed in Tippah County less than a decade. Before 1850, he moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. There is some mystery surrounding William’s marriages. It has recently come to light that he had a Newberry bride, Eliza Lyles, by the time he reached Tippah County, Miss., in 1840. (The county tax list of 1845 credits him with a household of five members.)
William Boatner and Eliza Lyles were granted a divorce on July 27, 1847, in Marshall County, A1a. (which may indicate that that was where their marriage had taken place)?
In the 1850 Missouri census, William had an infant daughter, Josephine, born in that state. and a boy who was evidently his oldest son, Thomas, by his wife Eliza Lyles. His new wife was also named Eliza; it remains to be verified whether she is the same wife reported elsewhere as Josephine Morgan.
Eliza Lyles Boatner moved to Chickasaw County, Miss., to reside with her brother Jesse. It was the 1850 census of her husbandless household there that created a mystery for her descendants for so many years. She and her children remained in Mississippi (though Thomas’s children passed down dim recollections of a Missouri connection).
Meanwhile, recent evidence has credited William with still another wife – Mary Bridgeforth, whom he married in Cape Girardeau in May, 1856. (The following year, he married Louisa Gholson, and their line has been well traced.)
The persevering descendants of Eliza Lyles Boatner, who have long sought their place on the family tree, have evidently found it at last. But like the many other descendants of William Lewis and John Root Boatner, their father’s kinship with Ludwig’s son John remains an unproved if likely theory.
If Lewis Boatner of Newberry County was an older son of John Boatner, then perhaps both time and distance severed his ties with the remaining members of his family. (Elizabeth Boatner, John’s widow, and her youngest children departed from South Carolina more than twenty years before Lewis moved to Alabama.) That Lewis named his sons John and William is not necessarily firm evidence that he was a son of John; but by the same token, his exclusion from Elizabeth’s will is not necessarily evidence that he was not.
The known son of John Boatner is William Jared, whose descendants have proliferated for many generations in the state of Louisiana. William and his mother sold the family farm on Long Branch in January, 1811 – as co-conveyors, William having reached the age of 23. (S.C. Archives, Sumter County Deeds, Vol. CC, pp. 424-425, Roll 9.)
They traveled with Louisa in an unknown manner to join with Louisa in an unknown manner to join their Boatner relations Amite County in southwest Mississippi in that same year. Certainly, their action suggests that they remained close to Jacob Boatner during the fifteen years after the death of the head of their household. Gauldens, too, were early arrivals in southwest Mississippi, but William
Jared’s subsequent activities were additional evidence of his Boatner ties.
By September, 1811, William Jared had acquired his first land, 157 acres in Amite County. (William did not use a middle name on the 1811 deed in South Carolina or later in Louisiana. Some Mississippi and Louisiana records assign him the middle initial “J” or “I,” and a 19th century family Bible uses the middle name ”Jared” in both his birth and death listing. He also chose that name for one of his sons.)
During the War of 1812, William Jared was a sergeant in the Hinds Cavalry of the Mississippi Territory. He saw service at Pensacola and New Orleans. In March, 1814, while he was away, his sister married Membrance Williams. And in early May, his mother married William Hatfield.
Upon his return to civilian life, William resided for a time in Amite County. Reverend William Winans described in an entry in his diary in August, 1815 the young man’s unfortunate illness while he was a visitor at the home of J.G. Richardson. “Mr. W. Boatner was violently attacked with a cramp or colic in the stomach. We bled him, bathed his feet in warm water, and gave him a concoction of snake root and calamust, gave him a dose of camphor and laudanum, and rubbed his hands and stomach with camphor. It was, however, with considerable difficulty he was at last relieved.”
William made a full recovery, and he must have enjoyed a strong constitution indeed to survive the treatment. Now in his late twenties, he was evidently developing close relationships with the children of Elias, who were his first cousins and con- temporaries in age. Daniel, Elias’ oldest son, married Elizabeth Jelks in 1817; two years later, William, now 31, married her younger sister, Sarah. (Intermarriages of Boatners and Jelks occurred with frequency through several generations.)
The pioneering couple soon moved a few miles south to Kellertown, which is now the village of Norwood in East Feliciana Parish. Here in 1832, they completed the four-year project of building ”Mimosa Grove” at a cost of $8,000, using lumber sawed and hewn from trees growing on or near the site, and brick produced there also. This was, of course, common practice, as was that of undertaking a long range buying expedition for slaves. horses, carriages. and household furnishings.
William and a party of kinsman and friends took a lengthy trip in 1832 – to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi to Cincinnati, and thence 500 miles overland to Baltimore. In his surviving letters, we read of his buying “a pair of splendid Greys” for Sarah, “one of the finest house women in the state,” “a fine coach and harness,” and “a mixed lot of negroes of all sizes. . . .”
Though he obviously had prospered on the Feliciana frontier, William was fated to die young – only a year after finishing ”Mimosa Grove” – leaving Sarah a young widow with ten children. (By a second marriage, to William’ first cousin, Zachariah C. Freeman, Sarah had another two sons and four daughters.)
“Mimosa Grove” is still a Boatner home; and many descendants of William Jared and Sarah Ann Jelks remain in the area. Others, including the prominent and prolific Reily line, abound in Hew Orleans and around Baton Rouge and Monroe.
About William Jared Boatner’s sister Louisa, little is known. She and her husband Membrance sold their plantation on Comite Creek in 1823 to William Jared. By the time of his death in 1833, they had both pre-deceased him. There were four sons from this marriage, all Louisiana residents.
Any student of the descendants of John Boatner in Louisiana, or for that matter, of Elias and Jacob Boatner as well, would find his time profitably spent and his story enriched by tracing some of the other families who came from Sumter County – the Gauldens, Richardsons, Hatfields, and Geralds – to share the great adventure of the earliest Boatners.