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THE BORDEN MYTH.
Ever since I was a boy I have heard the story of the condensed milk plant at Borden, erected by Gail Borden of condensed milk fame.
A story, no matter how little fact it may contain, eventually becomes accepted as fact by millions of people. Seeing a statement in last weeks Mercury that Mr. Borden at one time had a milk condensing plant at Borden, I feel that someone ought to write the truth in reply. As I helped to tear down the old canning factory at Borden, I know something of its history. I have slept in that old building many nights.
Concerning the early life of Mr. Gail Borden I have looked into the biographical sketches of a number of encyclopedias in vain. What I write is from memory of those who knew himMr. L. B. Harvey, who ran the hotel for the old packing plant; Mr. J. P. Borden. his brother, and a number of sketches by the late Dr. S. O. Young.
If people only thought a moment they would see how utterly visionary a milk condensing plant would have been in Texas in 1863 to 1871. At that time there was not any blooded dairy cattle in Texas, and surely no one to milk them. All of Colorado county was full of longhorns, and their owners had milk only once in awhile.
To run a plant of the kind Mr. Borden had required milk on contract, and Mr. Harvey told me they had tasters who tested the milk to be sure they had none that had any possible chance of contamination. A long, illustrated write-up of this plant, showing its spotless equipment, was in the Review of Reviews in July or August, 1907. The cows which produce the milk for this plant are tested to see that they are free of disease. at regular intervals.
Mr. Borden was an interesting character, according to Dr. Young. He described a sail wagon he once designed to help travel the windy plains of west Texas. He tried it out on Galveston Beach. where the wind by some sort of joke blew it into the gulf. At that time he was collector of the port of Galveston.
According to another story he invented the process while getting ready to go to California during the gold rush.
According to best information I can secure he made his money supplying condensed milk to the Federal armies during the war. These two accounts seem the most reasonable. The condensing plants were located at Elgin, Ill. and New York City.
The meat packing plant at Borden put up pemmican(?) (dried beef) and beef extract. My father bought the Borden plant in 1889, and at the time the factory building of rock, about 40x80, and the boilers, were still there. My father sold these to a lumber man in Logansport., La. The smokestack of large stones was about 70 feet high. We tore it down and with the rock from the packing house and stack built the old rock building back of Mr. Herder's store, in 1889, for Mr. Lang, the furniture dealer.
At the time we bought this place the old desk of walnut, with hundreds of records, was in the office. The desk I had in my room at Weimar, but when my father sold the place they left it in the house, and although I made every effort to locate it in 1891. I could not do so.
I was told this plant cost Mr. Borden $206,000. and was operated about four or five years--from 1868 to '72 or '73. My father knew Mr. Borden and told me that he gave the old G. H. & S. A. an engine which was called "Gail Borden." This plant, like the Columbus Meat & Ice Company, was doomed to failure like many other industries established at that time.
We bought the land with buildings, barns, rent houses and tall pine fences for $2200, there being 444 acres in the tract.
None of the Borden family was ever buried at Borden. Mr. John P. Borden was buried there in November, 1891, and several members of his family, but they were exhumed and moved to Weimar in 1893 or 1894. Mr. J. P. Borden was a brother of Gail. and was land commissioner under the Republic of Texas. and I believe was a veteran of the war of 1836.
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