Gloude (Glode, Glaude) Bouteman, later known as Claudius Boatman, has been called a “near legendary” figure by family historians. With only a few mentions in local histories, we’re left to consolidate a smattering of information to cobble together a vision of this extraordinary man. Imagination and an understanding of the times helps to fill in the blanks where history has failed.
Born in France around 1728, Claudius was a Huguenot during the times of religious persecution. Abducted from his Mother around age seven and inducted into the French army, his early roots remain shrouded in mystery. Little is known about when or where he first stepped foot on American soil; legend indicates Claudius came through Long Island, New York or across Lake Erie in a small boat from Canada.
In 1755, Claudius was in New Rochelle, New York, married to Marie; they were members of the “English” (Protestant) Church. In New Rochelle, Claudius served in the Provincial Militia during the French & Indian War, a private, in 1759 under Captain Joshua Bloomer and in 1760 with “his Majestyes Seventh Company of Militia in the Upper Battalion in the County of West Chester.” His record gives a rare personal glimpse of our ancestor: Claudius earned his living as a cooper and was 5’9″ with light eyes and brown hair. The name Bouteman appears on a monument in New Rochelle as one of the Colonial settlers.
Claudius did not appear to be politically minded – there is no mention of the nomination for or the holding of any office. Consistently, he appears to have been a soldier, a landowner, a farmer and a family man. Of interest is that more than one daughter married men with whom Claudius served alongside in the Revolution, perhaps indicating he was was well liked and gregarious. Claudius had nine documented children and possibly two more; their births reflect the movements of the Boatman family from the relative safety of the New Rochelle area, through the state of New York and into the Pennsylvania wilderness.
- Margaret was said to be the oldest child of Claudius and Marie, born between 1752 and 1754, location unknown. Margaret married John Morrison, son of Samuel David Morrison and Mercy Mayse, early Pine Valley, Pennsylvania settlers, and was said to have three and possibly more children.
Born while the Boatman family lived in New Rochelle are the next four children of Claudius and Marie:
- Francoise (Fanny) was born about 1755, and later married John English, Sr., a noted Revolutionary soldier. They were among the first settlers in the Pine Creek area of Pennsylvania.
- Mary (Polly) Boatman, born in 1757, married Comfort Wanzer while the family lived in Warwick, New York. Comfort served with Claudius in the Orange county Militia and accompanied the Boatman family into Pennsylvania.
- Claudius Jr., said to be Claudius’ oldest son was born about 1759. It’s said he married Marie Reed, but little documentation remains, and most believe Marie Reed was the first wife of Claudius, Sr. Claudius Jr. served in Robinson’s Rangers, and is said to have died later from an Indian arrow to the back.
- Cornelius is said to have served in the Revolution, which would have likely made him about Claudius Jr.’s age or older, but little is known of him, and many doubt he was a son of Claudius and Marie, that his name in the Pennsylvania Archives was a typographical error.
Claudius would have been in his early thirties when the Boatman family made their way out of the New Rochelle area sometime between 1760 and 1765, no doubt seeking opportunity and land available in the outlying areas. The young family settled near Warwick, Orange county, New York, likely very close to the New Jersey border. Warwick, although settled for some time, was little more than a wilderness although improvements were steadily being made.
- Jane was born in this time period, about 1761, but whether the Boatman family was in still in New Rochelle or already in Warwick is uncertain. Jane later married James English, a Revolutionary soldier and a brother of John English who married Fanny.
In 1765, Claudius was baptized in newly formed “Old School Baptist Church,” in Warwick, an indication he felt a true commitment; while many attended, not all felt worthy of being baptised. The Baptist church appears to have been the only religious organization at the time, and Claudius’ membership may not be an indication of his religious views, but simply a reflection of his spiritual ones. Claudius and Marie appear to have lived in the Warwick area for ten to fifteen years, and several of their children were born there:
- Rebecca was born in about 1766, and later married Isaac Smee, a Revolutionary soldier from New Jersey. Rebecca was the victim of a scalping in Pennsylvania.
- James was likely born in New Jersey, probably very close to Warwick, in 1768. James married Anna Mills, the daughter of Col. James Mills, and later settled in Ohio.
- Sarah, said to have been the youngest of Claudius and Marie’s children, and was born around 1770. She later married John Morrison, son of George Morrison and Margaret Morrison, early settlers of Pine Creek. Too young to have been a Revolutionary soldier himself, John’s father was.
In Warwick, at the start of the Revolution, Claudius and his son in law, Comfort Wanzer served in Hathorn’s Militia under Captain Blain. Already a veteran soldier, Claudius’ skill must have been valued. Family legend oft repeats Claudius served with Washington; at best it seems Claudius may have “brushed shoulders” with the Commander-in-Chief. Pay records from Claudius’ unit reflect at least one march to Ramapo “tome,” where Washington was noted to have monitored the movement of British ships on the Hudson. Washington’s diary indicates visits to nearby areas, and Captain Hathorn’s diary documents visits from Washington.
In March of 1777, the Boatmans left their home in Warwick to settle in Mahoning Township in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. This was a move straight into the Pennsylvania wilderness, a move that would soon prove to be something like jumping from the proverbial pot into the fire. The move, itself, would have been one of monumental proportions for the times, a move of over 160 miles, through rough terrain, with small children in tow. The most obvious route would have been overland to the Susquehanna, then south by boat or raft down the river.
The Boatman family’s arrival by boat may, perhaps, have given seed to the idea that Claudius came from Canada by boat. If indeed, the tale passed through the family that Claudius arrived in Pennsylvania by boat (which was the main method of transportation at the time) and if, indeed, family believed that Claudius came from Canada, then it might have not been to much of a leap to assume that Claudius came from Canada by boat. Early genealogists seemed, for the most part, unaware of the Boatman family’s 22 plus years in New York prior to arrival in Pennsylvania.
The Boatman’s new home was on the very fringes of the frontier, perhaps beyond, with only a smattering of settlers in the area. Stretching between the branches of the Susquehanna, the township of Mahonning was no “town” at all, just a vast wilderness. During the Revolution, the Boatman family withdrew into the relative safety of the Buffalo Valley area of Pennsylvania, to the east. There it appears they lived at first near Port Trevorton along the Susquehanna, and later near Derrstown (present day Lewisburg) which was nothing more than an Indian trading post at the time.
During their time in the area, the family faced much danger from Indians, Loyalists and British troops. By June of 1778, Claudius and his son-in-law, Comfort Wanzer, appear as signers of a petition from the settlers along the Susquehanna above Muncy Hills; in an eloquent plea, the settlers asked the Executive Council for “succor” to help them make a “vigorous stand” after a series of brutal raids in the area by the local Indian population.
Resentments ran deep between the settlers and the native population – spurred on by the hope they might regain their land if the English came out on top, payment for scalps and support from the loyalists, the Buffalo Valley area was nearly burned to the ground more than once. Lives were lost as the settlers flew to the few strong holds in the area, nothing more than hastily reinforced homes, the skies lit behind them by fires from their homesteads and crops. By the end of the war, it is said that only two buildings remained in the area, one a brick home and the other a hastily reinforced house, both used as “forts.”
Claudius was a member of the Pennsylvania Militia, first under Captain John Nelson and later, around the age of 52, Claudius was recruited for Captain Thomas Robinson’s Militia, or “Robinson’s Rangers” as they were known. General Potter, a noted member of the community, wrote, referring to Robinson’s Rangers: “Many of the men are so naked from want of all kinds of clothing that they cannot do their duty. They have not a blanket among them all.”
There has been “Fireside” chat that Claudius served with George Washington, Lafayette and even Napoleon, a tale that, perhaps, grew with the telling; little is known of Claudius’ service in the years between 1777 and 1780, but the movements of Robinson’s Rangers seem to reflect no such connection. In 1860, a pension was filed in Claudius’ name by a Nancy Boatman, who claimed to have been an heir and daughter; several erroneous statements were included in the file, and although she claimed Claudius served under Lafayette, many doubt not only Nancy’s statements, but also doubt whether Nancy was even a daughter of Claudius.
Towards the close of the Revolution, tragedy struck the Boatman family, in one of the last forays of the Indians in the area. In August of 1782, several members of the family were at the John Lee household, near Limestone Run in Buffalo Valley, present day Winfield. Details in local histories vary or are contradictory – a group of 60 or so Indians attacked and Mrs. Boatman was killed, and possibly daughter, Rebecca, was involved. One report indicates a daughter killed and some accounts relate a daughter was partially scalped and survived.
This daughter was said to have been Rebecca, but information has since come to light that Rebecca was scalped in another incident, while out hunting with her brother, James. Claudius’ son, James Boatman, settled in Ohio; his family related in a local history that James and his siblings, including his sisters, were skilled hunters, and would often be “out hunting many miles from home and remain for weeks…they were often chased by Indians, having many narrow escapes.”
The story was told of Rebecca, “On one occasion, while he (James) and his sister were hunting, they were pursued by Indians and his sister was caught, scalped and left for dead. She escaped, recovered and afterwards married and lived to a good age, although without a forelock, which was artificially supplied.”
About 1783, Claudius married a second time to Esther, some say Callahan. Esther was known as a physician, and like most of the women in the area would have been self taught, and would have learned much of plants and herbs from the Indian women who visited the settler’s cabins. Riding a large, spotted horse, she ministered to the settlers in the area around Derr’s landing, and later in Pine Creek. Upon meeting her on the road, the question would often come, “Who is sick, Mrs. Boatman?” It’s said Esther’s only answer was, “Go on, go on,” as she plied her whip to the horse.
A descendant relates the tale that Esther’s horse was named Salem (Selim) after the famed horse of Donald MacDonald, who served under the Swamp Fox, General Francis Marion’s guerrillas in the Carolinas.
Robinson’s Rangers were Militia, but were recruited as a part of the Continental line, and such, Claudius was eligible for a land grant. The Boatmans officially filed for their land in Mahoning in 1784. Around this time, it’s said that Claudius Jr. was killed by an Indian arrow to the back, although tales related to this incident vary, some believing Claudius was killed earlier in Winfield during the Lee Massacre, others believing it happened during the Revolution.
The Boatman family wasn’t to stay long on their Mahoning land. In October of 1785, they filed for land in what is now McHenry township, in Lycoming county, and probably in the spring, in 1786, they relocated along Pine Creek, at the mouth of Callahan’s run. Claudius and Esther Boatman were one of the first settlers in the area, owning bottom land along the river as well as one of the islands near English and Wanzer Islands.
The Boatmans, it appears, joined daughter, Fanny, and her husband, John English, the earliest settlers of what is now nearby Cummins township. In 1784, the young English family settled on the largest of the cluster of Islands, 27 acres. It was said by local historian, John Meginness, that the area was a “howling wilderness” and that it must have taken some nerve to settle there as the Seneca Indians frequently came to hunt and fish and parties passed by their cabin on a daily basis.
Claudius’ household would have included himself, his wife, Esther, and son James, as well as daughters Rebecca and Sarah. Claudius’ daughter, Mary “Polly” and her husband, Comfort Wanzer, along with daughter, Elizabeth, settled about the same time on Pine Creek, near Dry Run, about a mile from the Boatman family. Margaret, who married John Morrison, settled at Horseshoe Bottom opposite Cedar Run, along Pine Creek. Claudius’ daughter, Jane and her husband, James English, settled on Pine Creek, as well. A sworn affidavit shows they married on the 5th of April, 1784, and they appear next to the Wanzers on the 1790 census, but it is uncertain where they spent the earliest years of their marriage.
It’s assumed that the Boatman’s trapped, fished and hunted their land, and farmed, as well. Esther, no doubt continued to minister to the ill and injured. At the age of of nearly 60, Claudius again became a father. Claudius and Esther’s son, William, born in 1787 in what is now McHenry township, was the first white child born in the area. He later married Nancy Agnes Cole, a daughter of John Cole and Elizabeth English, and the couple had nine children.
Nancy Boatman, who was mentioned earlier in regard to the pension application filed under Claudius’ name, is believed by some to be a daughter of Claudius and Esther, born either in Mahoning township or on Pine Creek. While no records seem to remain to give credence to Nancy’s claim as Claudius’ daughter, it’s unknown whether she was the daughter of Marie or of Nancy, and some believe that she was married to a man with the last name of Neville.
Life was continued to be full of both joys and hardships for Claudius. It’s said Claudius’ daughter, Margaret died around 1786, leaving several small children.
In 1796, Claudius, in the words of John Meginness, local historian, “Removed himself from the place he first settled to the spring opposite Jersey Mills.” When Claudius passed away in 1819, his son in law, John English is said to have buried Claudius on English Island. All told, Claudius had nine to eleven children, and roughly about 62 grandchildren. Today, there are Boatmans, in name and in spirit, scattered across the country, numbering into the thousands.
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 thoughts and discussion. mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
This summation of Claudius’ life is based on my interpretation of numerous records and citations found through out this site. It is of course, subject to revision when or if new (or perhaps I should say “old”) information comes to light. Perhaps your interpretation may be different.