Sunday, August 14, 2016

Our Portsmouth Bordens

We have more Bordens in our family than you can shake a stick at, from the first Borden who came to Boston in 1635 to the last male Borden, Civil War veteran Stephen  Bailey Borden (1838-1901).  Our beloved Aunt Nettie was Nettie Borden Studley and her hometown, Fall River, was studded with Bordens.

This is the story of only those Bordens born in Portsmouth.  We'll address the others later.  Here is a cheat sheet to keep them straight.  It doesn't help that families all named their kids after themselves, their parents, their grandparents, their siblings, and their best friend when they ran out of names.  In fact, family historians would rather see best friend namesakes than five Richards in a row.

Richard Borden (1595-1671) and his wife Joan Fowle  (1604-1688) were not spring chickens when they crossed the pond from Headcorn, Kent, England to Boston in 1635. He was 40 and she 31 years old.  One child had died in infancy; the other three came with their parents, including sons Thomas, 8, and Francis, 7, and daughter Mary, 3.  Three years in Boston and a dissenter in the Antinomian Controversy, Richard took his family to Portsmouth with the first group of settlers.   

Altogether, Richard and Joan had 11 children, eight boys and three girls, born between Joan’s ages of 22 and 48 years.  Son Matthew was the first child of English descent born on Aquidneck in May 1638.  Three sons, Francis, Samuel and Benjamin settled in New Jersey where the family had extensive land holdings. Richard and Joan’s illustrious offspring include Marilyn Monroe, Gail Borden of Borden Milk, Robert Laird Borden, prime minister of Canada during WWI; notorious offspring includes Lizzie Borden.

Richard was prominent in the governance of the Rhode Island Colony.  As a surveyor, he acquired substantial land in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.  He was one of the founders of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Portsmouth.  His will indicated he had a Negro man and woman and 3 Negro children.  Joan and Richard are buried in the Friends Churchyard in Portsmouth.

Generation Two

Two of Richard and Joan’s children are our grandparent ancestors:
  • Mary Borden (1632-1690), born in Cranbrook, Kent, England, fourth child of Richard and Joan.  She was three years old when the family arrived in Boston and 6 years old when they moved to the Portsmouth settlement.  As the oldest girl with seven younger siblings, Mary’s time was likely consumed with helping her mother.  She married John Cooke (1630-1691) at age 20 and had nine children of her own.  She lived her entire life in Portsmouth, died at age 58, and was unusually fortunate that none of her children preceded her in death.  She is buried in the John Cooke Lot in Portsmouth, a small burial ground in an open field on Glen Farm in Portsmouth, beside a stone wall on the south side of Glen Road, 0.3 mile east of East Main Road that was John's land.
  • John Borden (1640-1716), the 5th son of Richard and Joan, was born in Portsmouth in 1640. Two older brothers, Thomas and Francis, moved to New Jersey to look after the family land holdings when John was about 25, while John and his two year older brother, Matthew, stayed in Portsmouth and were considered pillars of the community.  On Christmas Day 1670 - he married 16 year old Mary Walker Earle (1654-1734), fourteen years his junior.  John inherited substantial land from his father who died the following year.  He continued to acquire property, publicly saying “if any man has land to sell at a fair price, I am ready to buy and have money ready at my house to pay for it.”  He bought Hog Island, for grazing cattle as well as lands at Bristol Ferry, Swansea, Tiverton, and Freetown.  He operated the ferry service between Portsmouth and the mainland in 1660 when only 20 years old.
John Borden (1640-1716)
John and Mary had nine children; all born in Portsmouth and all but one moved off the island:
  • Richard m. Innocent Cornell  settled in Fall River
  • Joseph m. Sarah Brownell  and moved to Fall River
  • John Jr. settled on his father’s land in Swansea, later part of Scuitate, and set up a forge to make wrought iron
  • Amey married Benjamin Chase and settled in Tiverton
  • Thomas remained in the family home in Portsmouth
  • Mary moved to her father's land holdings in Pennsylvania with her husband, progenitor of the Potts family in that area
  • Hope married into the Almy family in Tiverton 
  • William went into the ship building business in Newport and eventually moved to North Carolina where he had a shipyard and named the local river Newport 
  • Benjamin joined his uncles in New Jersey and Virginia where he accumulated thousands of acres.  He made two trips to England to recruit hundreds of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians to farm the land.
A close friend to King Philip of King Philip’s War, John was sent to negotiate in an effort to head off the impending Indian war.

John was a devout Quaker and involved in erecting the Friends Meetinghouses in Newport and Portsmouth.  No slaves were mentioned in his will.  Both John and Mary lived well into their 70’s and were buried in the Portsmouth Friends Churchyard.

Portsmouth Friends Churchyard behind the Meeting house
Generation Three

Two of John and Mary’s children are our Fall River and Freetown grandparent ancestors :
  • Richard Borden (1671-1732), born, raised and married in Portsmouth at age 21 to Innocent Cornell (1673-1720), first located his home after marriage on a 14 acre family farmstead in what is now Fall River, sold timber for ship masts in Newport and became an original proprietor in Tiverton, RI.  He and his brother, Joseph, bought a mill lot in Fall River from Benjamin Church of our Little Compton Church family.  Joseph soon became mortally ill and turned over his share to RichardAt the time of Richard’s death at age 60, he was the largest landowner in Fall River.  
Richard and Innocent had seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls.  Their second son, Thomas (1697-1740), born in Tiverton, married Mary Gifford, to continue our family line in Fall River.  Thomas' son, Richard, was a legend in Fall River for his defiance of the British during the American Revolution.  Richard and Innocent's third son, Joseph Fuller, was killed instantly in a tragic accident at the mill at age 34.  Richard and Innocent are buried at the Portsmouth Friends Churchyard.
  • Joseph Borden (1680-1715), born and raised in Portsmouth, married Sarah Brownell (1681-1715) - he age 22 and she 21 - and settled on family land in Swansea between the birth of their third child in 1709 and fourth in 1712.  Their deaths at a young age within 5 months of each other in 1715 suggest the possibility of tuberculosis or other chronic infectious disease.  Or, perhaps Sarah was despondent from Joseph’s death and killed herself, the kind of thing that would not be mentioned in history.  They left 4 young children in the care of her sister and a complaint was filed in 1750 that the aunt did not give them their due inheritance.
Generation Four

William Borden (1707-1756), son of Joseph and Sarah Brownell, was born in Portsmouth but moved with his family to Swansea, MA, by age 4 and to Freetown by age 8 where his parents died within 5 months of each other that year.  William, his wife and 15 immediate relatives were removed from the family burial ground on Central Street, Fall River, likely the farmstead at the time, to Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River.

Home on original Borden Portsmouth farmstead, built in mid-1800's, on National Register of Historic Places.  Photo by John Phelan.
And so, all but one of John Borden’s progeny left the island by 1712, including our grandparent ancestors.  Only Thomas from our line remained in the family home on the farmstead.

Richard Borden (1671-1732) and Innocent Cornell are our 8th great grandparents.

Historical and Genealogical Record of the Descendants, as far as known, of Richard and Joan Borden, who settled in Portsmouth Rhode Island, May 1638, Weld.

No comments: