By Casey Schumacher, Texas Collection graduate assistant and museum studies graduate student
The Borden family collection at The Texas Collection has nothing to say about Lizzie Borden, the infamous Massachusetts ax-slinger. Believe me, I checked. However, in 1908, another notable Lizzie Borden, daughter of John P. Borden, wrote a brief history of her family’s deep Texan roots. Together, Lizzie’s father, her uncles, and her brothers helped create a family legacy that played a key role in establishing the Republic of Texas.
Gail Borden Sr. had four sons who were all very proud, upstanding Texans. The family owned extensive property in Austin and San Patricio County, some of which we can see in the land plots and deeds included in the collection. All four sons were landowners and prominent businessmen in south Texas, but their devotion to the Republic had a ripple effect across the state and into the ports of Galveston.
Gail Jr., the oldest of the four brothers, partnered with his closest brother Thomas and a family friend to establish Texas’ first newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Register in San Felipe de Austin in 1835. Circulation increased rapidly and within a year, they had 700 subscribers. After encroaching Mexicans threw their press into Buffalo Bayou, Gail traveled to Cincinnati to purchase a new press. The next issue, dated August 2, 1836, included a reprint of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Even after the Borden brothers left the printing company, the newspaper continued to publish important documents that organized the Republic of Texas.
The Borden family didn’t just write about their Texas pride, however. In 1836, Gail Jr. presented Captain Moseley Baker with a flag he helped design for San Felipe. After leaving the newspaper, he went on to prepare the first topographical map of Texas. Soon after, he became the first collector of the port of Galveston and eventually founded the Borden Company.
At the same time Gail Jr. presented the flag at San Felipe, his younger brother John, Lizzie’s father, was a First Lieutenant under Captain Baker. John fought in the Battle of San Jacinto when he was 24 years old, and he was later appointed by Sam Houston as Commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas. Both of John’s sons would also leave home to fight for the Republic. The oldest son, Thaddeus, joined the Confederate Army at age 17 and was killed. John’s second son Sidney joined the Confederate Army at age 19 and eventually returned to establish the river port at Sharpsburg.
In her family history, Lizzie tells her nieces and nephews about each of her uncles and their dedication to the Republic of Texas. Naturally, she favors her father’s accomplishments and pays special homage to her brothers, Thaddeus and Sidney. She closes with a story of her and Sidney’s trip to the Philadelphia Centennial. Needless to say, the Bordens were a very close-knit and proud Texas family. The Borden family collection sheds some light on their influence in the Austin County and San Patricio County areas, as well as their dedication to the Republic of Texas.
Barbara Lane, “Sidney Gail Borden,” Find A Grave, Aug 6, 2006.
Joe B. Frantz, “Borden, Gail Jr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 16, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 28, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Leonard Kubiak, “San Felipe de Austin,” Fort Tumbleweed. 2007.
University of North Texas Libraries, “Telegraph and Texas Register,” The Portal to Texas History, December 14, 2014.