William Henry Boatman

 

William Henry Boatman, son of Robert, was a curious fellow. He, evidently, was disliked by a few, liked by many and respected by all. He often kidded with his neighbors and they in return kidded with him. One of his favorite request of his neighbor involved his big hoarse “Red” of which he was very proud. “Boys,” he joked “when I die just chain me to Big Red there and let him drag me through the woods around here on this mountain.” They would laugh and say “No Bill,” “We’re going to bury you over there with your head stuck out of the ground so you can keep an eye on your tater house and that peck of gold.” More than “Big Red” he took pride in his success at potato farming. He had the habit, as did a lot of mountain people, of hiding his money in fruit jars for safe keeping. He had been known to drill holes into hued log walls with his auger and place coins in and seal with a wooden peg.

Many years later, after the death of his first wife, he married a second time an promptly dug from the chicken house floor, a fruit jar containing several gold and silver coins and presented to his new bride two-hundred dollars as a wedding gift. Years later youths playing near the chimney of one of the old homes discovered several silver dollars neatly hidden behind the chimney on the outside of the house.

William Henry Boatman b 6-10-1840 married Virginia Fowler, b 7-31-1836 d 2- 10-1916 daughter of Joseph Fowler, another early Lookout Mountain family. For years they longed for a son and with each birth a new baby girl was born, six daughters in all, Lucy Ann, Frances (Fannie), Georgia Ann, Martha, Virginia P. (Eddy), Mary. A son was born but lived for only two hours. They buried their son. The grieving mother was over heard thanking God for giving them their son to love, even if they were to be blessed with him for only two precious hours.

Although William and his family owned slaves and he often spoke out against slavery. During the War Between the States he refused to fight for the right to own slaves, as did other men of the mountain who shared his views. He and his good friend, Mr. Buffington, cleaned out a hog’s den under a huge boulder on the side of Lookout Mountain in Johnson Crook. They walled up one side with stone making it a fairly large, dry and comfortable living quarters. When the home guard passed through the area, William and Mr. Buffington would gather their goods and head out to their hideout, staying there until the home guard had passed the area. One day a knock on the door announced the presence of the home guard without any warning. William was obliged to Join the Confederate forces, he may have belonged to the 104th Georgia State Troops, (deactivated fall, 1861) fighting somewhere down in Georgia, but with his first furlough he was home again and refused to return to his regiment. Again the home guard came. This time he was at the table eating. Determined not to return, he bolted through the door and disappeared down the hollow. Three years passed before he was heard of again. His family had hoped for the best, but feared the worse. One day a stranger appeared at a community gathering. No one recognized him in the crowd until he called his wife “Puss.” It was her nickname. She was startled at the change, he had grown a mustache and beard and his hair had grayed almost white. He had fled to Indiana living out the war in safety and freedom. Virginia Fowler died and William buried her by the side of the road for all to see as they passed. He constructed his own casket and prepared a place beside her for himself. Unfortunately, with the construction of GA Hwy 136, traffic on the road ceased. Over the years the tiny cemetery has become hidden in pine thickets and is now a forgotten place.

Submitted by Kenneth Pennington and Ginger Pennington Scruggs, Rising Fawn, GA

William Henry Boatman

William Henry Boatman




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