Elijah Boardman, A Vintage Vignette

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Isham Fennell
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 24, 2007

Per the 1830 census, Elijah H. Boardman was born sometime between 1780 and 1790. In that census here his household included one male 0-5 years old, one female 0-5 years old, and a female 30-40. He was listed as the owner of 35 slaves. The 1840 census had only 5 slaves and no young males in the household. By 1850 he was not found in census records. From 1818 he owned land called the Boardman Mills Plantation, extending from the location of the Redstone Arsenal airfield westward almost to Anderson Road, east of Zierdt Road at Lady Ann Lake. Boardman’s neighbors included John Boardman, Nathaniel Terry, James Manning, Eldred Rawlins, Isaac Inman, Charles Betts, and John Looney. Boardman’s land was subsequently owned by Richard Holding and Richard Lipscomb. There are three cemeteries known to be on that land – the Lipscomb Cemetery and two unnamed cemeteries with no tombstones. The land was later owned by Madison’s Hertzler family. Dr. John Hertzler had a house in town and another on the farm.

Boardman had connections to Connecticut, where a number of families of that surname were found. In fact, a senior Elijah Boardman was Connecticut’s Senator in 1821 to 1823 -- the year of his death while in office. He was of the same political party as Huntsville’s John Williams Walker, who served in the Senate at the same time. Boardman mortgaged part of his land in the area in 1835 to John Pershouse of Manchester, England. Pershouse became a naturalized American citizen by 1841 when he died. The executor of his estate filed suit in Madison County court over payment of the mortgage, and Boardman’s land was sold in 1843 to settle the debt. The purchaser at the court sale was Seth Terry of Hartford, Connecticut. Terry was at the time Commissioner of the American Asylum of Hartford. He had been the agent involved in a mortgage that Boardman took on the same parcel after it had been mortgaged to Pershouse.

One potential clue to the arrangement is that 1850 Connecticut census records show 20-year-old Elijah G. Boardman as a “student” born in Ohio. It is known that the American Asylum was begun with an 1815 meeting in Hartford of 10 prominent men of Connecticut. Among these men were Nathaniel Terry (member of the U. S. Constitutional Convention) and Thomas Gallaudet, for whom Gallaudet University for the blind was named in Washington DC. The American Asylum was the first in America specifically chartered to educate the “deaf and dumb” (mute). It was supported in the 1800s by land acquisitions and donations to cover tuition for its students. It may well be that Madison County’s Boardman family included a deaf mute that was educated in Hartford by mortgaging part of the Boardman Mills Plantation.

The Nathaniel Terry connection is intriguing, as an 1818 – 1830 neighbor of Boardman in Madison County had that name. In fact, the local Nathaniel Terry moved to Limestone County and became President of the Alabama Senate, 1841-5, as well as being a candidate for governor of the state. However, the local Nathaniel is more closely connected to the several Nathaniel Terry’s of Virginia history in the 1724-1780 period. What is known is that the local Terry family was directly connected to the Darwin, Humphrey, Sneed, Douglass, and Strong families of Madison history. Where the Terry lines of Virginia and Connecticut connect is not yet known to this writer, but Elijah Boardman can be shown to have been involved with both.

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