Editor's note: The following is the second in a series of posts in Todd Sciore's All in the family feature from the June monthly issue of Coin World.
Depending on where one’s sympathies lay during the revolution, Bordentown, N.J., was either a locus of American patriotism or a town full of malcontents that played host to the likes of Francis Hopkinson, Col. Joseph Kirkbride and Common Sense author Thomas Paine.
The area was first settled by an English Quaker named Thomas Farnsworth and was initially known as Farnsworth’s Landing; however, by 1719 Joseph Borden (1687 to 1765) settled the area and effectively became the town’s new namesake. With its location along the Delaware River and its proximity to both Philadelphia and New York, “Borden’s Town” developed into a valuable trading hub during Colonial times, allowing the entrepreneurial Borden family to amass a fair amount of wealth transporting both mail and people across New Jersey. They successfully operated a “packet line” and “stage boat” service across the Delaware River from Philadelphia to Bordentown, with a stage coach service from Bordentown to Perth Amboy, N.J. (an early deportation point for travel to nearby New York).
By 1776 Bordentown had a well-deserved reputation of disloyalty to the crown — a fact not lost on British and Hessian troops stationed in and around the area between 1777 and 1778.
Col. Joseph Borden
Col. Joseph Borden (1719 to 1791) was a successful patriot who assumed the family business from his father and astutely oversaw its continuation, making the colonel a very influential businessman in New Jersey. His stature within the community allowed him to become involved in civic matters, and over the course of his life he held a number of designations.
In 1749, he was appointed as a justice of the peace, and was appointed as a judge in both 1757 and 1767. In 1761, he was elected to the Assembly as one of the two members representing Burlington County, and he served until 1769. In 1765, at the age of 46, he was selected as one of three individuals to represent New Jersey in the Stamp Act Congress in New York (the other two representatives were Hendrick Fisher, a wealthy farmer, and Robert Ogden, the then speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, whose son Matthais would play a role in the minting of the infamous “New Jersey coppers”). The highly controversial Stamp Act was to take effect Nov. 1, 1765, and the colonists were vocal in their protest of the pending “taxation without representation.”
Borden and Fisher both endorsed the appeal for the king to repeal the Act. Borden was chosen to partake in the July 2, 1774, first Provincial Congress in New Brunswick, N.J., and again as a member of the Provincial Congress in Trenton during May, June, and August of 1775. In early 1776 he was commissioned a colonel of a militia regiment in New Jersey, but he resigned in September of the same year to accept the appointment of quartermaster, for which he was most likely better suited.
Other civic duties included his appointment as a common pleas judge in both 1776 and 1781.