Benjamin Borden (1675–1743)

Benjamin Borden, a land speculator, played a key role in establishing some of Virginia's early settlements west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The New Jersey native had moved to the Shenandoah Valley by April 1734 and began receiving patents for large landholdings in the Valley of Virginia. Borden promoted settlement, notably attracting newcomers from the north of Ireland to his properties. He also held minor civic positions in Orange and later Frederick Counties. MORE...

 

Borden was born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the son of Benjamin Borden and Abigail Grover Borden. Little is known about his early life, but in April 1726 his name appeared on a deed as an inhabitant of Freehold, New Jersey, where he was probably acting as a land agent and speculator. Borden married a cousin, Zeruiah Winter, and they had at least three sons and seven daughters.

By April 1734 Borden had taken up residence in Virginia in the northern, or lower, portion of the Shenandoah Valley. On October 3, 1734, Borden received a patent for 3,143 acres in an area of what is now Clarke County that came to be called Borden's Great Spring Tract. He raised tobacco and lived there until his death. In addition to acquiring other tracts in the lower Valley near Apple Pie Ridge, Bullskin Run, and Smith's Creek, Borden received 100,000 acres along the branches of the James River in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley in May 1735 from the governor's Council. According to an apocryphal story, he obtained this large grant by winning the favor of Lieutenant Governor William Gooch through the gift of a buffalo calf. For the next four years Borden gave much of his attention to fulfilling the settlement requirement for the grant of one family for every 1,000 acres. On November 6, 1739, he solidified his claim to this land by receiving a patent for 92,100 acres of what by then was called the Borden Tract.

Borden was among the most important of those land promoters, also including William Beverley, Jost Hite, and Alexander Ross, whose activities helped populate Virginia's first frontier settlements west of the Blue Ridge. By actively recruiting among recent emigrants from the north of Ireland, Borden furthered the emergence of an ethnically and religiously pluralistic society in the region. After his death the duty of settling the Borden Tract fell to his namesake son, who also served as a militia captain and justice of the peace in Augusta County. Legal disputes over surveys and deeds on the Borden lands were not fully resolved until 1885. Other complaints about large land grants also arose. In 1786 residents of Rockbridge County in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley protested to the General Assembly that the large colonial grants represented "hard and oppressive" monopolies characteristic of monarchies, "where the natural rights of men are so much abused." They complained that the speculators had avoided paying taxes on their land and had sold the actual settlers small tracts at excessive prices. The petitioners requested the legislators to resurvey the tract and dispose of ungranted land at reasonable prices. Borden's reputation had become that of a beneficiary of privilege rather than an entrepreneur opening to ordinary immigrants the possibility of landownership.

Borden was appointed a justice of the peace for the area northwest of the Blue Ridge in April 1734 and was a member of the Orange County Court in January 1735. His name appeared second in seniority in the list of the first justices of the peace for Frederick County in October 1743, but he did not serve in this capacity. Benjamin Borden wrote his will on April 3, 1742, and died probably about the time that the new county's court began to function in November 1743. His will was proved before the justices of the Frederick County Court on December 9, 1743.

Time Line

  • April 6, 1675 - Benjamin Borden is born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the son of Benjamin Borden and Abigail Grover Borden.
  • 1726 - Benjamin Borden appears on a deed as an inhabitant of Freehold, New Jersey.
  • April 1734 - By this time, Benjamin Borden has taken up residence in Virginia in the northern, or lower, portion of the Shenandoah Valley. This month he is appointed a justice of the peace for the area northwest of the Blue Ridge.
  • October 3, 1735 - Benjamin Borden receives a patent for 3,143 acres in an area of what is now Clarke County. The area comes to be called Borden's Great Spring Tract.
  • January 1735 - Benjamin Borden is a member of the Orange County Court.
  • May 1735 - Benjamin Borden receives 100,000 acres along the branches of the James River in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley from the governor's Council.
  • November 6, 1739 - Benjamin Borden solidifies his claim to land in the Shenandoah Valley by receiving a patent for 92,100 acres of what was by this time called the Borden Tract.
  • April 3, 1742 - Benjamin Borden writes his will on this date.
  • November 1743 - Benjamin Borden most likely dies around this time.

References

Further Reading
Couper, William. History of the Shenandoah Valley. New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1952.
Hofstra, Warren R. "Borden, Benjamin." In Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 95–96. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
Mitchell, Robert D. Commercialism and Frontier: Perspectives on the Early Shenandoah Valley. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Hofstra, W., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Benjamin Borden (1675–1743). (2016, November 10). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Borden_Benjamin_1675-1743.

  • MLA Citation:

    Hofstra, Warren and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Benjamin Borden (1675–1743)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 10 Nov. 2016. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: May 2, 2013 | Last modified: November 10, 2016


Contributed by Warren Hofstra and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Warren Hofstra is the Stewart Bell Professor of History at Shenandoah University, where he also directs the Community History Project of the university. He has written or edited several books on various aspects of American regional history, most recently Ulster to America: The Scots-Irish Migration Experience, 1680–1830 (University of Tennessee Press, 2011).