Claudius Boatman, if not immortalized by his deeds and actions in the early history of our nation, was immortalized by the poetic words of John Franklin Meginness: i
“But is it true?” we have to ask ourselves. The dates above give yet another birth and death year for Claudius Boatman, 1704 and 1802, respectively, in addition to several other conflicting records left by Claudius in his lifetime. The fact that Claudius is alive on the 1810 ii census immediately sheds doubt on the above statement – but there are other inaccuracies and some controversy about who, exactly, is buried at the site.
- According to the census, below, Claudius was back in Mifflin township before his death.
- Family lore indicates Claudius is buried on an English Island, where his marker stands today.
- The father of Rev. Benjamin Hamlin was James Hamlin, born 1794, and he is a grandson of Claudius.
Four dates of birth have been found for Claudius Boatman:
- 1704 – from Meginness, History of Lycoming, above, based on the age at death.
- 1706 – Claudius is listed as 104 on the 1810 Federal Census
- 1713 – Claudius gives age of 87 on the 1800 Tax Enumeration – see Pine Creek for this and the above record
- 1728 – from the Muster Roll, discussed under Westchester, New York , on which Claudius gives his age as 31
Several dates of death, as well, have been given:
- 1802 – Meginness’ account, perhaps based on the date Claudius’ son’s estate was transferred to a trustee.
- 1797 – A date attributed to Claudius Boatman, most likely the date of death for Claudius, Jr. as Claudius the Senior settled his estate.
- 1819 – The pension record of Nancy Boatman, who is discussed at some length under Pennsylvania Revolutionary Service and Family.
The 1728 birth date is the only date we know was given by Claudius, himself, and as a rule information given to an official from the subject carries more weight than information given by someone else; iii census information could be given by another family member. As we know Claudius was alive in 1810, the 1819 death date seems most likely to be the correct one.
The date of 1819 is the date given by Nancy Boatman in her pension papers and the date used by Lycoming County Genealogical Society. iv When Nancy Boatman filed for a pension in 1860, there would have been people in the community who knew of Claudius Boatman’s death date and burial. It stands to reason Nancy would give correct information in case it needed to be verified. While we may never know for certain without corroborating evidence, a birth date of 1728 and death date of 1819 seem most likely to be correct. Using those dates, we assume an age of about 91 at death, fairly consistent with the ages several of his children when they passed away.
The Meginness account of the burial site conflicts with other records regarding the location. I met with even more confusion in my research until a cousin, David Merkel, made me aware of a series of newspaper articles from the Lock Haven Express regarding the removal of Claudius’ headstone(s) first from English Island to the Waterville location, then back to the burial site on English Island.
A great controversy began in the ’70’s when a local citizen, P. Clark Glennon, sent a letter regarding construction being done on route 44 and his fear the graves of Claudius Boatman and others would be disturbed. He mentioned the D.A.R. had placed a marker there for Claudius Boatman in 1944. The letters were sent to Kenneth Larson, engineer, the Express office and Mrs. Perry Russell, genealogist of the Port Antes chapter of the D.A.R, Jersey Shore.
In a follow-up, the State Highway department assured that the grave of Claudius would not be disturbed, and went on to say “The district has been informed that the Claudius Boatman headstone was moved from Sugar Island some years ago and placed at its present location. Also that this headstone does not mark the actual gravesite…” Shortly after, the marker “went missing.” “It was rumored that two members of the D.A.R…who’s identities were not known to the highways people, were in full knowledge of the transfer of the Boatman grave marker to an island in Pine Creek – somewhere.”
Within a week, R. H. “Tim” Bonnell came forward and assured there was no mystery, gave some history (which we know was believed at the time but has since proven to be partially erroneous.) He mentions John English buried Claudius Boatman on Sugar Island, and stated John is buried there himself, as well as Thomas Ramsey. “All the early graves,” Bonnell said, “were first marked by hand shaped, wooden markers marked with the inscriptions imposed by hot irons. Those inscriptions were intimately known by many persons of the older generations…” Bonnell continued, “One Lycoming county historical writer published a completely erroneous account of the burial of Claudius Boatman, an account which was angrily denounced by people of the older generations…Eventually, conventional stone markers were placed on the graves of John English, Claudius Boatman and Thomas Ramsey on Sugar Island.” Bonnell went on to say the D.A.R. marker for the grave of Claudius Boatman was placed on Sugar Island after the close of WW2 until it was destroyed by two county officials. Those two officials were responsible for another marker placed near Route 44, which Bonnell stated was 1/3 mile from the grave.
The Sons of the American Revolution, Tiadaghton chapter lists Claudius Boatman’s grave in Bennett’s aka Brown Island Cemetery, although the dates given are questionable.v
“Find a Grave” states Claudius is buried at Lower English Center Cemetery. vi Although the cemetery on English Island is confusing because the burials are listed sometimes as “English” cemetery and and sometimes as “Boatman” cemetery, the find a grave listing has added more confusion. Rhoda English Ladd, historian and genealogist who worked extensively in the area read the cemetery and transcribed it.vii Claudius Boatman is not on list of some 23 names, although other Boatmans are.
“Lower English Centre Cemetery or Calahan Cemetery, Pike Township, Lycoming County, PA. This is in Lycoming County, 1/5 miles south of English Center, south on Route 287 from route 284, over the bridge, along English Run. The Wolfe Family, who built new homes there, had cleared the CEMETERY, but the owner of the property stopped them. Mrs. Wolfe took me there but advised that it was full of rattle snakes. Using a pole, I did get all that was visible. This listing originally appeared in Tioga County Cemetery Inscriptions. Vol. 3, It is reprinted by permission of Rhoda English Ladd and was retyped by Chris Hildebrand.” vii
Perhaps a local Lycoming reader will comment here and confirm if Lower English Center Cemetery/Calahan Cemetery are indeed the same cemetery as Boatman/English cemetery on the island. Perhaps Rhoda English Ladd transcribed the cemetery prior to the Claudius Boatman marker being placed back on the island.
The WPA, during the Depression, did fill out a burial card for Claudius: “Boatman, Claudius, served in Army, Cemetery Name: Brown’s Island, Cummings Twp., PA. Headstone: County.” viii
English Island was originally Sugar Island, named by John English after the sugar maples which grew there. It’s also been called Brown’s Island (there is another Brown’s Island in Pennsylvania, too) and Bennett Island. Claudius’ headstone application filed in 1951 indicates Brown Island. Note that the headstone indicates Robison instead of Robinson’s Rangers. ix
Many genealogists have wondered about the discrepancies in age and deaths known Claudius Boatman, speculating that not only was there a Claudius, Sr. and a Claudius, Jr. but also a third Claudius. Surely there would have been more duplicate records if there were, indeed, three. Often the 1810 census showing Claudius’ name with an age of 104,x combined with Meginness’ report (above) that Claudius died in 1802 leads genealogists to conclude that Claudius’ father was in the area, and appeared on the 1810 census after Claudius’ death. Genealogy and family history involves research and then the interpretation of the data, always with an open mind should new facts come to light, but it appears Claudius was born around 1728, died in 1819, and is buried on the island.
Note on Claudius Boatman’s FindaGrave site: As the Findagrave site for Claudius Boatman wasn’t held by a family member, I asked the originator if I might take it over. As one might imagine, writing a memorial for an ancestor who has so many facts of his life in question is not an easy job. How can one make a public record when the birth date, death date and even the wives and children are in question?
I left the death date that came with the record as the May 19th 1819 date, and wrote a brief note about Claudius’ life, and left this site on Claudius’ memorial for those who wish to know more. I’m asking all the cousins: What would YOU like to see on Claudius Boatman’s memorial?
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, thoughts and discussion. mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources and Links:
i History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Brown, page 694
ii 1810 Federal Census. Third Census of the United States, 1810. (NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls). Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Year: 1810; Census Place: Mifflin, Lycoming, Pennsylvania; Roll: 52; Page: 830; Image: 0193678; Family History Library Film: 00034. Ancestry.com. 1810 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
viii Pennsylvania Veteran Burial Cards, 1777-1799, Provo, Utah, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2012, WPA Project 19092, 18 Apr 1839
ix National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Applications for Headstones for U.S. military veterans, 1925-1941; National Archives Microfilm Publication: A1, 2110-C; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General; Record Group Number: 92.
x 1810 Federal Census. Third Census of the United States, 1810. (NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls). Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Year: 1810; Census Place: Mifflin, Lycoming, Pennsylvania; Roll: 52; Page: 830; Image: 0193678; Family History Library Film: 00034. Ancestry.com. 1810 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.