In 1777, Claudius Boatman, intrepid pioneer, left the politically charged area of Warwick, New York, and with his family, settled into the Pennsylvania wilderness. The move would soon prove to be something like the proverbial “jumping from the frying pan into the fire.” Times were brutal during the Revolutionary War, especially in Northumberland county and especially along the branches of the Susquehanna.
This was a monumental move: 160 miles straight into the edges of the frontier, straight into hostile territory, while the Revolution raged. Today a three hour trip, in 1777 it would have taken weeks. Roads in Pennsylvania were basically nonexistent, horses rare and impractical. Indian trails provided the only foot travel and canoe, raft or keel boat was the main method of transportation. The Boatman’s most obvious route would have been overland to the Susquehanna then south on the river to their new home. For a journey this arduous, the family probably brought little beyond necessities.
The Boatman family had grown over the years, but many of the children were still quite young when the family arrived in their new home in the wilderness. Their approximate ages were: Claudius Boatman 49, Marie, his wife, between 41 and 45. Margaret 25, Fanny 22, Mary “Polly” 20, married to Comfort Wanzer with their daughter, Elizabeth, only two, Claudius Boatman 18, Cornelius 17 (a guess, if he was indeed, a son of Claudius; he would have been born prior to 1765,) Jane 16, Rebecca 11, James 9, and Sarah, the baby of the family, just seven. Settling in would certainly be quite an undertaking.
One can’t help but wonder what might possess our ancestor to relocate to the frontier, and while we’ll never know for certain it’s likely several factors came into play…
- Warwick was very close to the Hudson, a scene of many battles and much turmoil; the Boatman family may have considered the edges of the frontier to be a safer location, out of the current arena of the war.
- Land ownership was a primary factor for many moves – Claudius was on the tax rolls in Warwick, an indication he may have already owned land; perhaps this move gave him an opportunity to expand.
- Others settlers in the area had ties with Warwick; the Boatmans may have become aware of opportunity through them, perhaps traveled to the area with them, or perhaps had other family in the area.
Regardless, on March 1st of 1777, the Boatmans settled on the very outskirts of settlement, in the township of Mahoning. Eight miles north of Northumberland town, the Boatman’s land was on the west side of the Northeast branch of the Susquehanna, about a mile from the river, on a hill known as “Montier,” near a small branch of the Mahoning. i ii iii iv
The township of Mahoning, established in about 1775 as a part of Northumberland county, encompassed quite a large area; the Chillisquaque formed the northern border, close to Milton, Fishing creek, above current day Danville defined the border on the western edge, and it appears to have run from the West Branch of the Susquehanna to the Northeast Branch, and south, nearly to Sunbury. v
Mahoning township, today, is a part of the Danville area, in Montour county, but at the time of the Boatman’s arrival consisted of little more than a few scattered settlers and a trading post. vi As the area grew, Mahoning township was split, more than once. The Boatman land, by description, appears to be very close to Bald Top mountain, west of Danville, in what is now Point township, Northumberland county.
If Claudius hoped for a more peaceful life, those hopes were soon to be dashed; within days of their arrival, Pennsylvania organized the militia, calling for compulsory service of all able-bodied men between 18 and 53. vii
The Northumberland militia was organized into four battalions, in the First Battalion, Seventh Company were Captain, John Simpson; first lieutenant, Robert Curry; second lieutenant, John Ewart; ensigns: Thomas Gaskins, David Mead. Thomas Gaskins and Robert Curry are familiar names; both appear in the descriptions and maps on this page as neighbors of the Boatman family. viii
Philadelphia fell in September, Washington having been pushed back in the Battle of Brandywine. ix The English lay on one side of the state, the Indians, spurred on by a bounty for scalps and the chance of keeping their land under the English, attacked settlers up and down the frontiers. Claudius appears to have joined the Militia, no doubt soon after arrival, under Captain John Nelson, although little is known of his service other than the testimonial of Alexander Smith. x
The Boatman family would have hunted, trapped and fished their land and most likely farmed, as well. It appears that they left their land for periods of time, drawing into the more heavily protected areas during the time period of the Great Runaway. Most likely, they returned when times were more “peaceable” and to sow and harvest, and may have rebuilt, perhaps more than once.
The year 1781 “advanced hostilities” xi and Claudius joined Robinson’s Rangers. xii The Boatman family appears to have withdrawn into the Buffalo Valley area, around Derr’s landing, although it’s difficult to say if the Boatmans were sheltering there when Claudius joined Robinson’s Rangers, or if the family was there because Claudius joined. Nor is it clear exactly how long the family was in the Buffalo Valley area. More detail of Claudius and family is under Buffalo Valley and Pennsylvania Revolutionary Service; the information overlaps this same time period.
At the close of hostilities, November of 1783, Robinson’s Rangers left Wilkes-Barr, “penniless and poor.” xiii Claudius, on July 1st, 1784, entered an agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to buy his land, provided the land was a part of a purchase agreement with the Indians. He agreed to pay back interest to the original date of settlement, the first of March 1777, plus 10 pounds per 100 acres. xiv The “Smith Act” had entitled “the right of pre-emption” to those who had, during the war, “by their resolute stand and sufferings merited their land.” Almost of the inhabitants of the area, it is said, returned to their land, xv and the fact that Claudius made such a commitment seems to indicate he felt ties to his; likely the Boatmans did return, at least for awhile, after the war.
The family was not to live there long, however. In October of 1785, Claudius and Esther, and presumably the rest of his family, along with Comfort Wanzer and his family, filed for land on Pine Creek, in what is now Lycoming county. xvi In 1786, no doubt during the spring, they joined two of Claudius’ daughters, Fanny and Jane, married to brothers John and James English, respectively. xvii A return of survey (left – click to enlarge) generally indicates that the purchase price and fees had been paid on the land, but this survey on the Mahoning land wasn’t completed until the 15th of November 1792. xviii What happened to the land in the meantime isn’t yet known. At any rate, the move to Pine Creek was to be a new chapter for the Boatman family; a fresh start – although one that would prove not to be without peril of its own.
This post split from Buffalo Valley Oct 2013; my apologies as I correct and update footnotes which were lost in transition! Note: I am still in the process of verifying, to my satisfaction, the location of this property…
I’ve had a lot of fun researching Claudius, and am pleased to share everything I’ve learned, much of it due to other researchers before me – please feel free to use anything on this site – I do ask you to source it, though, so others may find it. And please, share what you know in the same spirit this has been shared – I welcome all corrections, comments and discussion. mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
i Pennsylvania Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952; Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives. Land Warrants. Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA, images 2764 & 2765.
ii Pennsylvania Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952; Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives. Land Warrants. Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA, images 1766 & 1767.
iii Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania State Archives, RG-17, Records of the Land Office, Copied Surveys 1681-1912, series 17.114, Survey book D-34, page 253
iv Otzinatchson, a History of the West Branch Valley, author John Franklin Meginness, publisher Williamsport Gazette and Bulletin Printing House, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1889, page 306
v History of Northumberland County Pennsylvania, Herbert C. Bell, Chicago, Illinois, Brown Runk & Co. Publishers, 1868, pages 150 & 151
vi Historical and biographical annals of Columbia and Montour counties, Pennsylvania, containing a concise history of the two counties and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families …” publishers J._H._Beers_&_co., Chicago, 1915
viii History of Northumberland County, edited by Herbert C. Bell. Published 1891 by Brown, Runk and Brown, Runk & Company in Chicago, Illinois, page 116
x National Archives, Publication Number: M804, Publication Title: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Publisher, NARA, National Archives Catalog ID 300022, National Archives Catalog Title: Cases of Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca 1800 – ca 19125, documenting the period ca 1775 – ca 1900, Record Group: 15, Short Description: Nara M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. State: Pennsylvania, Veteran’s Surname: Smith, Veteran Given Name: Alexander, Pensioner Surname: Smith, Pensioner Given Name: Rebecca, Service: Penn. Pension Number: W.2011
xi History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania (1892) Author: edited by John F. Meginness — History Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, Runk, page 181
xii Annals of Buffalo Valley, Pennsylvania, 1755-1855 (1877) Author: Linn, John Blair, 1831-1899 — History; Buffalo Creek Valley (Union County, Pa.) — Genealogy Publisher: Harrisburg, Pa. : L.S. Hart, page 204
xiii Incidents of border life, illustrative of the times and condition of the first settlements…, author Joseph Pritts, publisher J Pritts, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 1841 page 260
xiv Pennsylvania Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952; Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives. Land Warrants. Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA, images 1766 & 1767.
xv Otzinatchson, a History of the West Branch Valley, author John Franklin Meginness, publisher Williamsport Gazette and Bulletin Printing House, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1889, page 667
xvi History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania (1892) Author: edited by John F. Meginness Subject: Lycoming County (Pa.) — History Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, page 694
xvii Williamsport Sun Gazette, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Dr. Detwiller’s Able Advice, page 5
xviii Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania State Archives, RG-17, Records of the Land Office, Copied Surveys 1681-1912, series 17.114, Survey book D-34, page 253