Death and Burial – 18 May 1819

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

History of Lycoming County, page 694

“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.

1810 Federal Census

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.

boatman cemetery

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.”

Claudius Boatman photo by David Merkel

Claudius Boatman photo by David Merkel

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

boat46

“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

boat73

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

boat72

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 lostroots59@gmail.com

____________________________________________________________________________

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.

iii What Every Genealogist Should Know, Pro Genealogists, an Ancestry Site

iv Lycoming County Genealogical Society, Boatman Burial

v Sons of American Revolution, Tiadaghton Chapter, Revolutionary Soldiers and Graves, 2011, Burials in Clinton and Lycoming County

vi Findagrave, listing for Claudius Boatman

vii Lower English or Calahan Cemetery, Pike Township, Lycoming County, Tri County Genealogy and History by Joyce Tice 

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.

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11 thoughts on “Death and Burial – 18 May 1819

  1. What I think is – I’m glad YOU wrote that article because I was equally puzzled! Too many cemetery names, for sure. And I thought that tombstone (the DAR one) was awfully well-preserved! Overall I think yours are the logical, most sensible assumptions. Will we ever know the Truth with a capital T? Not likely but that’s OK with me. Still a great collection of stories.

    • One thing I didn’t touch on, which Dolly Cairns (a spot on researcher of the Boatman family – perhaps the premier researcher of the Boatman family of our day; a modern day Helen Russell) mentioned to me is that there was a memorial, also, at one point, some type of a statue. I’ll try to add more information on that, at some point. I think it caused some of the question about exactly where the grave was.

      It’s been fun trying to put Claudius and his stories into an historical perspective! His family, too. While Esther doesn’t have the same ring as “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” I’m betting that Doc Quinn didn’t have anything on her!

    • In your last paragraph of this section you list the date of Claudius death as May 19, 1918 instead of May 19, 1819. I’m sure you transposed the numbers but if possible maybe you could correct this discrepancy. Thanks.
      I’m thinking that I’m a descendant of Claudius. My family is Arthur Mills Boatman, my Grand Dad was Walter Wolford Boatman, his daughter La dona Boatman is my Mom.

      • Hi Debbie, you sure are, and nice to hear from you! James Boatman married Anna Mills, and moved to Butler, Ohio, where their son Jeremiah Warwick (notice the Warwick, named after his ancestor on Mother’s side, not a reference to Warwick, New York) Boatman was born. He married Harriet Vail Marston and by 1860 moved to Douglas County, Illinois. One of their sons was Arthur Mills Boatman who married Elinda Cope in Macoupin County, Illinois in 1889. Their son Walter Wolford, your Grand Dad was born there.

        Thanks for pointing out the mistake on the date, it’s much appreciated.

  2. Very well done site – the link below is an article that I uploaded this year to Ancestry.com. It is from the Lock Haven Express in 1970 titled “Waterville man solves ‘myster’ of missing Boatman grave marker”.

    I can also confirm the location of the current grave site (I took the pictures of John English Sr and Claudius Boatman that are on this site). They are in fact on English Island aka Brown Island, Sugar Island, and Bennett Island. The island is south of Waterville on Pine Creek.

    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/15387521/person/257095383/story/2?pg=32817&pgpl=pid

    • How were you able to get to the island? My husband and I recently drove back and forth several times between Waterville and Ramsey to try to find Sugar Island and had no luck. We figured the only way to get there was by canoe. We were also told the island is privately owned so not sure that island exploration is allowed, but if the graves and headstones are there we would love to pay our respects and clean it up. Claudius is my 7 x’s GGFather.

  3. David, thanks for the compliment on the site! Please feel free to comment on anything here – all ideas, opinions, facts and even heresay is welcome – I hope this will be constantly evolving as information comes to light or is clarified!

    I’m very grateful to get confirmation from someone who has seen the actual graves – just as I was very grateful to actually see the photos – thanks for taking them and sharing them with everyone! I think part of the issue is that the cemetery names in years past were informal – some called the graves on English Island the Boatman cemetery, others the English cemetery. And of course, there is another English cemetery.

  4. The grave site is not really a cemetery per se. The island where the graves are located have been referred to as English, Brown, Sugar, and Bennett. All of these are pretty much synonymous with each other.

  5. David, I placed the actual article on my site here – thanks again! Found a few more, too! (Added in October 2013 – I ended up simply summing up the articles and adding them, above, when I restructured this site….)

  6. I just wanted to confirm that English/Brown/Bennett/Sugar Island is different than the Lower English Center/Callahan Cemetery. The Lower English Center Cemetery is located almost exactly one mile south of the suspension bridge at English Center and the English/Brown/Bennett/Sugar Island is located on the island just south of Waterville.

  7. I have a complete family history, pre-dating the Revolution, I’ll check to see if it lists birth and death dates on Claudius, whom would be my – probably 14th or 15th generation, great grandfather.

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