Shortly after the close of the Revolution, in October of 1785, Claudius Boatman filed for land in the Pine Creek area, in what was later to be McHenry township in Lycoming county. John F. Meginness, in his “History of Lycoming County” relates the settlement in Pine Creek of the Boatman family.i
In 1786, likely in the spring, the Boatman family (and presumably the Wanzers) made the move to their new home. The ravages of the Revolution had left everyone poor; the family would have had few belongings, but what they owned and any supplies they may have purchased would have been loaded in canoes and keel boats for their journey. The flat bottomed keel boats made by settlers may not have been as large or as fancy as the reproduction, below.
Prior to the development of roads and railway, the river was the main mode of transportation. Nearly all the early settlements began along a river, and the ones that grew the largest were often at a confluence. The settlers, like the Indians before them, navigated the waters., Rough footpaths existed, but would have hardly been practical for a move of this magnitude.
The distance, sixty miles by land, would have been made by travelling first down the North branch to Sunbury, then up the West Branch to Pine Creek. Once Pine Creek was reached, the difficulties would begin. Tome, in his book, “Pioneer Life” told of the arduous journey his family took as they navigated Pine Creek in 1791. Depending on the time of the year, boats, laden with belongings would need to be portaged, pushed and poled.ii
Why Claudius left his land near near Mahoning to travel deeper into the wilderness isn’t known, but it seems that Claudius, his daughters and sons in law wanted to live in close proximity. A move would allow an opportunity to do so, and thanks to the treaty of Fort Stanwix, which was amended in 1784, the area would have been bought into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.iii
When the Boatman family arrived in Pine Creek in 1786, the family probably consisted of Claudius, his wife, Esther, his son James and daughters Sarah and Rebecca.
Fanny and her husband settled in Pine Creek, at the close of the war, on one of the largest of a cluster of Islands, in what is now Cummings township. Meginness said, “The country was extremely wild at that time and it required some nerve to settle in what was in every respect a howling wilderness. The Seneca Indians, whose country was less than a hundred miles north, frequently came here to hunt and fish, and parties of them passed his cabin almost daily.” iv
Claudius’ daughter, Jane and husband James English have settled into the area about the same time. Margaret and her husband, John Morrison settled at Horseshoe Bottom, near Cedar Run, and the Wanzers, Claudius’ daughter Mary “Polly” and her husband, Comfort, settled a mile below Claudius on Dry Run. v vi
It’s uncertain if Claudius, Jr. ever lived at Pine Creek; it’s said he died of an Indian arrow to the back, and family accounts differ on when and how Claudius lost his son. Some feel it happened during the Revolution, others during the Lee Massacre, still others believe it may have happened in the Pine Creek area. Claudius Sr., appears to have settled the estate while in Pine Creek, and it’s believed Claudius Jr. may have left one or two small children.
Tome described the Pine Creek area, where the Boatman, Wanzer and English families lived, in great detail:vii “…We then cross to an island called Boatman’s Island, thence to what is called Boatman’s Bottom, about two miles long on the east side of the creek. In the center of this bottom, from the east comes in a little creek, four or five miles long. Three miles up this creek is a mountain where you find great number of bears dens, and places for the bears an panthers to live. Hunters often kill bears in their holes in the month of February, and sometimes panthers.
The creek heads in the border of a white Pine country called Hemlock Bottom. Then from Hemlock bottom, cross over to what is called English Bottom, about two and a half miles long; then cross to island called Comfort Wanderer’s Island, then cross to a bottom on the west side half a mile in length. Here puts in a large stream called the Trout Run. At the mouth of this run are perpendicular rock, from thirty to fifty and a hundred feet in height.”
Tome’s descriptions viii give us a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the early settlers. Historian Meginness seemed to have relished Tome’s book, relying on it for several narratives in his own books. One can hardly help wondering if these neighbors, below, were the Boatman, Wanzer or English families.
“At that time game, such as bears, elk, deer and wild turkeys were very plenty in that section of the country. I had two brothers old enough to hunt, but they had no gun except an old musket which my father had used while training. In the morning we would frequently find the deer feeding within twenty rods of the house. Sometimes, would see a drove of elk, fifteen or twenty in number, crossing the river. At other times we saw bears traveling back and forward. But we had no hunters among the six men, and no gun but the old musket, and that was out of order. On the 5th of December two of our nearest neighbors,(who lived twelve miles distant) came to see us, bringing two guns and two dogs, but no ammunition. There was no powder or lead in that part of the country except what my father had, and he supplied them what they needed. They then hunted about two days for my father to procure him a supply of wild meat.”
“When the water was unusually high there was great danger from rattlesnakes which lay among the rocks. Each family possessed a canoe, and when the water was not too low we traveled in them up and down the river. During the winter when the streams were frozen, we traveled in sleighs. The first season of our residence there the snakes were so numerous that we used to clear the yard and build fires around the house to keep them away. We were careful to have the house made very tight to prevent their entrance, and we closed the door early in the evening in summer, and did not open it until daylight in the morning for fear of them, they were so numerous. Before we commenced making fires around the house in the morning, we frequently found the snakes lying in the yard near the house”.
“On leaving the house we always put on a pair of woolen socks and leggins over our shoes to protect our legs from the snakes; this was a necessary precaution for many years. Burning the woods proved of some benefit to us, as the snakes would not come near a place where a fire had been, for some time, about the first of August they came in pairs, and should one be killed, the other would be found at the end of even three or four days near the dead one. Sometimes toward the end of August, thirty or forty could be seen at one time lying on and among the rocks.”
Claudius and family were true “frontiersmen” in every sense; some farming would have been done but trapping, hunting and fishing would have supplied the bulk of their food. While self reliant, they also would have provided aid and support to each other as needed. Esther was known as a physician and a nurse and no doubt provided much care to the settlers in the area. ix
Claudius’ land was valued in 1787, the result of a state taxation, at 12 pounds, x an amount fairly consistent with that of his sons in law; the Boatman family had a fairly modest holding. The area, though, was steadily growing in population, and not long after, Claudius and Esther made their own contribution to the burgeoning community. Son William, born in 1787 was said to have been the first white child born in the area.xi
Claudius was on the census with six in his household in 1790, 2 males over sixteen, one under, and three females, so it’s a bit unclear who was living with Claudius. xii The males were likely Claudius, James and William, but of the females, only Esther is certain. The others may have been Rebecca, although some believe she may have married earlier, and possibly the controversial Nancy.
In 1796, Claudius Boatman “withdrew to the spring opposite Jersey Mills.” xiv No doubt accompanied by Esther and William, about nine at the time, and Nancy (if she was actually a daughter of Claudius and Esther.) Just a bit south of Cammel and bordered, now, by Little Pine Park and the Tiadaghton State Forest, Claudius lived and farmed near there through at least 1810 and probably until close to his death, at the age of 91, in 1819. Little is known about the death of Claudius’ wife, Esther; the last certain record of her was in 1810, xv when she appeared on the census with Claudius as a female, over 45.
Claudius is said to have been buried on English Island, by his son in law, John English, which is a story all on it’s own. Where Esther is buried is unknown, although one would assume by Claudius’ side.
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
Sources and Links:
i History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown, page 694
ii Pioneer Life, 30 Years a Hunter, Scenes and Adventures, Author: Tome, Philip, Publisher: Buffalo, published for the Author, 1854, page 12 and throughout
iii The Fairplay Settlers of West Branch Valley, 1769 – 1784, a Study of Frontier Ethnography, by George D. Wolf. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania THE PENNSYLVANIA HISTORICAL AND MUSEUM COMMISSION, Harrisburg, 1969
iv History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown,page 684
v History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown,page 684
vi History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown,page 693 & 694
vii Pioneer Life, 30 Years a Hunter, Scenes and Adventures, Author: Tome, Philip, Publisher: Buffalo, published for the Author, 1854
viii Pioneer Life, 30 Years a Hunter, Scenes and Adventures, Author: Tome, Philip, Publisher: Buffalo, published for the Author, 1854
ix History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown, page 694
x The Tiadaughton Tale, A History of the Area and it’s People, Helen H. Russell, Compilation, Karen F. Baker, published 1975, page 167–
xi History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown, page 693
xii 1790 census Pennsylvania, Northumberland, Not Stated, First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C., Ancestry.com. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch
xiv History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania… (1892) edited by John F. Meginness Publisher: Chicago, Ill.: Brown,page 694
xv 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.