There are two different family stories, with variations, as to how Claudius arrived in the Colonies and settled into the New York area:
- One indicates Claudius came through Canada, traveled across Lake Erie in small boat (some family states this was a “collapsible” boat,) and then into the Westchester area of New York, possibly during the French & Indian war (also known as the seven years war, from 1754 to 1763.) i
- The other claims that Claudius came to America, landing in the Long Island area, possibly West Hempstead, then migrated into the Westchester area.
It seems there’s little to no documentation to support either view, although there are whispers of old letters somewhere in the family detailing this history; copies would be much appreciated.
It’s often assumed Claudius came to America with the French army to fight in the French & Indian wars, defecting to the Crown and staying on in the British colonies. ii If Claudius did come through Canada with the French army, it may be reasonable to consider an earlier arrival date – he was in New York in 1755, but we don’t know when he left France, or under what circumstances.
Perhaps Claudius was in Canada with the French army during one of the earlier conflicts – or perhaps he not with the army at all at the time of his arrival in the Americas. He may have come during the several years lull between wars.
Another Boatman descendant, a cousin who has been instrumental in researching the Boatman family, Dolly Cairns, has reasoned that the French army at the time of the French Indian war was primarily Catholic. A Huguenot in Claudius’ time would not be allowed to serve in the army, at least openly. All Huguenots were banned from emigrating, and most certainly banned from settling in “New France” which Canada was called. iii One might assume a certain amount of subterfuge in Claudius’ arrival in the British colonies in America – and perhaps enough danger to precipitate a risky crossing in a small boat across the enormous Lake Erie?
It is very interesting that family legend gives such specific information, expressly stating that Claudius came across Lake Erie. It seems an odd way to come from Canada to New York, and one has to wonder how a small craft could safely navigate such a large body of water. Perhaps Claudius only had to cut across a small portion, or perhaps it was actually a different lake.
Tales passed down do sometimes become a bit garbled, but usually their is some truth to them. It seems very likely that Claudius entered into Pennsylvania from New York, first travelling overland to the Susquehanna, then by boat, to their home in Mahoning township. Perhaps some family, knowing he came by boat, and assuming he came from Canada, simply put two and two together and came up with the idea Claudius came by boat from Canada.
With no offense intended, our ancestor did not always make the easiest or safest decisions, nor did he live in the easiest or safest times…as we learn more about his life, it is perhaps a wonder that he lived to the ripe old age he did.
Claudius mentioned in a biographical sketch of Dr. Richard James Boatman of Mahaska, Iowa. iv The biographer, in expounding on the Boatman family and says, “…the Rev. J. A. Boatman of Fairfield, being a cousin of the doctor’s and a descendant of Claudius Boatman, a Frenchman who came to America during the Revolution and served under General La Fayette.” Family historians have been, for years, trying to tie “our” Boatmans to the “southern” Boatmans to no avail. Neither James Richard Boatman or the “cousin” Rev. J. A. Boatman are descendants of Claudius. Their ancestors settled into Canada, and later generations moved into the states. The author confused the family with Claudius’ son, the James Boatman’s family who lived nearby. It could be a hint, though, that Claudius may have had relatives in Canada who settled there long before Claudius left France.
Some believe Claudius was caught up in the Acadian expulsion (1755 to 1764) – the forced removal of thousands of Acadians from Novia Scotia, New Brunswick, the Prince Edward Islands and parts of Maine. v The Acadians were primarily Roman Catholic, and Claudius a Huguenot – the time period could be right, but was Claudius an Catholic, or pretending to be, only free to practice his own religion after arriving in the Colonies? There is very little documentation regarding Claudius’ religious views, but the speculation of the descendants that Claudius Boatman was Huguenot is repeated so often, it feels almost like “certainty,” and very well likely is. Claudius certainly was documented in New York as a member of the “English” Church. vi
If Claudius came in through what is now the United States, perhaps he settled in the English settlements of New York or New Jersey, as a large number of Huguenot refugees did. Since we find him in New York, in 1755, that location could be reasonable, as well. The Long Island area and West Hempstead are quite a distance from Westchester county, where Claudius is later found, but the areas did have early Huguenot churches, and a population of former refugees.
The first documented records of Claudius appear in Westchester County, New York – regardless of how Claudius got here, get here he did, and if Claudius had thoughts of settling into a nice peaceful existence with his family, it certainly was not going to be the case. Freedom he would have, but at a price.
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. mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at email@example.com
i Ancestry boards – discussion of Claudius Boatman; various descendants
iv Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa…, Volume 2 by Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh, Benjamin F. Gue. Des Moines, Conaway & Shaw Publishers, 1899
Pages 112 – 113
vi Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2010. Original data: Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2010