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John Pettit Borden

First Land Commissioner
Last San Jacinto Officer Buried Here


The last surviving commissioned officer of the veterans of San Jacinto, John P. Borden, is buried in a WeImar cemetery, Borden was also the first commissioner of the General Land Office. He and his second wife are buried, in the Oddfellows section of the Oddfellows-Masonic Cemetery.

John Pettit Borden was born December 30, 1812 in Norwich, New York, the son of Philadelphia Wheeler and Gail Borden, Sr. He moved to Texas in 1829 and in 1832 was granted 1100 acres of land in Stephen F. Austin's second colony in present Wharton County.

Borden's schooling in San Antonio in 1834 and 1835 resulted in his proficiency as a translator because of his knowledge of Spanish. He was also trained as a surveyor.

Joining George M. Collingsworth's company on October 7, 1835, Borden participated in the capture of Goliad on October 9. He was transferred to Phillip Dimitt's Company and was discharged January 11, 1836. He reenlisted February 29, became a first lieutenant in Mosley Baker's company, and participated in the campaign which culminated in the Battle of San Jacinto. His final discharge from the Army was on September 30, 1836.

In 1836 John and his brother Gail (inventor of the condensed milk process) laid out the city of Houston.

In 1837 Borden, at the age of 24, was named by President Sam Houston as the first commissioner of the General Land Office.

During the Texas Revolution in 1836, the Republic of Texas archives had been moved from one location to another to avoid capture by the Mexicans. In 1839, during the presidential administration of Mirabeau B. Lamar, the town of Austin became the capital after great opposition. (The strongest dissenter was Sam Houston, who was then in Congress.) In the removal of archival property from Houston to Austin, John Borden, as commissioner of the General Land Office, handled the transfer. His official record shows that he had 50 wagons doe the hauling starting August 28, 1839, at a cost of $6,215. By October 14, 1839 his office and all other offices were ready for business.

In 1841 Borden move to Richmond to practice law. In 1842 he was a member of the Somervell Expedition, but did not continue to Mier.

Borden's first wife, whom he married in June 1837, died May 10, 1838. In 1843 he married Mary Susan Hatch, with whom he had nine children.

In 1846 Borden was elected Judge of Fort Bend County. He later relocated to Galveston, from where he moved in March 1855 to McGloins Bluff in San Patricio County. There he raised stock until the end of the Civil War.

Deed records show that on May 17, 1871, John and his brother Gail Borden bought land at Harvey's Creek in Colorado County from their friend Thomas N. Insall. There they established the town of Borden.

Gail Borden had a meat-packing plant in Borden, but not one of his condensed milk plants.

Borden and his wife were active members of the Methodist Church. Among his other activities was membership in the Texas Veterans Association. That he was a member in good standing of the Oddfellows is evidenced by the fact that the Lodge permanently endowed his burial lot.

John Borden lived in the town of Borden until his death in 1891. His wife died in 1893.

The late Frank Insall of Bay City (uncle of Henry Insall Mozisek and Jack Montgomery) had recalled that as a small child he called John Borden "Uncle Johnny." Borden and Weimar old-timers told him, he said, of their great affection for Johnny Borden.

Weimar Mercury, November 21, 1985, page 14

Also see the Louis W. Kemp article at the San Jacinto Museum of History Biographies site.

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