Probably the most fascinating of the earliest settlers of Lookout Mountain were the Boatman family. A mysterious family moving to Lookout Mountain, in the 1840’s. The members of the family were often over heard talking of life on the river where Robert Boatman had owned some type boat, a riverboat or barge and traveled up and down the river, it was believed they were speaking of the Tennessee River. Robert, having lived and worked on the river, could have been the source of the name “Boat Man.” Not much is known of Robert Boatman except that he was married to Edith Swink and he and his family were the first to be buried in the old New Salem  Cemetery. They are the old stone and brick graves that are located there. 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 requests of his neighbor involved his big horse “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 ability 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 and 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 several youths playing near the chimney of one of the old homes discovered several silver dollars neatly hidden behind the chimney and the outside of the house.


William Boatman married Virginia Fowler, 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. 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.


William and his family now owned slaves and he often spoke out against slavery. During the war 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 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 eating. Determined not to return for the cause 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 Georgia Highway 143, traffic on the road ceased. Over the years the tiny cemetery has become hidden in pine thickets and is now a forgotten place.


Information given by Kenneth Pennington.(Used by permission HISTORY OF DADE COUNTY, GEORGIA, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, 1981)

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