Benjamin Fowle Borden, Gent.

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Benjamin Fowle Borden, Gent.

Also Known As: "Benjamin Fowle Borden lll", "the junior Benjamin Burden"
Birthdate: (38)
Birthplace: Frederick, Virginia
Death: Died in Augusta, Virginia
Cause of death: Smallpox
Place of Burial: Saumsville, Shenandoah, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Benjamin Fowle Borden, II and Zeruiah (Winter) Borden (1680-c.1752)
Husband of Magdalena Woods and Mary Magdalena Bowyer
Father of Elizabeth Borden; Martha Woods Harvey and Hannah Borden
Brother of Mercy MacKay; Rebecca Borden; Abigail Borden; John Borden, Sr; Deborah Borden and 9 others

Occupation: Land speculator
Managed by: Nancy Presley
Last Updated:

About Benjamin Fowle Borden, Gent.

Benjamin Borden

  • Birth:  1709 - Frederick County, Virginia
  • Death:  April 1753 - Augusta (now Rockbridge) County, Virginia (smallpox)
  • Parents: Benjamin Borden, Zeruiah Winter of Frederick Co, Virginia
  • Married: Magdalena Woods, widow of John McDowell; children: Martha, Hannah, Elizabeth


"Benjamin Borden, a native of New Jersey, and agent of Lord Fairfax in the lower Valley, obtained from Governor Gooch a patent dated October 3, 1734, for a tract of land in Frederick county, which was called "Borden's Manor." At the same time he was promised 100,000 acres on the waters of James River, west of the Blue Ridge, as soon as he should locate a hundred settlers on the tract. Borden's tract was South of Beverley's Manor, and in the present county of Rockbridge."

Benjamin Borden, Jr., resided after his marriage at Fairfield, north of Lexington, Virginia. He was a justice, and captain of Augusta County militia and Owned 500,000 acres of land in Virginia.  


Page 1.--30th March. 1753. Benjamin Borden's will, Gent. Stepsons, Saml. McDowell and James McDowell. Stepdaughter, Sarah McDowell. Wife. Magdalen. Negro wench named Moll. Daughter, Martha; daughter, Hannah. Executors, John Lyie. Archibald Alexander, and wife, Magdalen. Father. Benj. Borden. Brothers. Brother, Joseph. Teste: Roger Keys, John Keys, Jacob Gray. Proved, 21st November, 1753, by all witnesses. John Lyle refuses to execute, others qualify, with sureties John Lyle. Andrew Hays, Thos. Paxton.

"I _?_  and empower my executors to sell and also one Negro wench named Moll over and above and if said Negro wench have no children I order that my wife have the first Negro child ... ". Other Negroes, unnamed, to daughters Hannah & Martha.

Borden Grant in Rockbridge County

With so many Scotch-Irish pioneers moving up the Valley, other land speculators kept one step ahead of them.  In 1739 Benjamin Borden, a New Jersey Quaker, received a grant beginning at the southern boundary of Beverley Manor.  Borden was promised 1,000 acres for every settler he located, amounting in all to 92,000 acres.  John McDowell, a surveyor, helped Borden locate his tract and was rewarded with a large acreage.  The Borden tract later became Rockbridge County.


The widow, Magdalena McDowell, and the junior Benjamin Burden had one surviving daughter, Martha, who married Benjamin Hawkins--a name noted in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and all the way to Texas, for the oddity of some, and the gallantry of all of its members. (Source: Historic Families of Kentucky by Thomas Marshall Green. Published by Robert Clarke & Co. Cincinnati, 1889). Martha (Borden) Hawkins married Robert Harvey 2nd.

Magdelene (Woods) McDowell sells herself into servitude. She signs a contract as an indentured servant. Historians speculate that this is a mere technicality as her husband died without a will and time was needed to settle the estate. I do not know the details as I am not an expert on Colonial Virginia law of 1743. However, one can not rule out the possibility that Magdelene was destitute, which was the normal reason for a person becoming an indentured servant.

Let us leave Magdelene with all of her troubles and return to Benjamin Borden and see how he is doing with his troubles. He gets his famous land grant in 1737, stays on the land for 2 years ,“or more,” and got his “requisite” 100 settlers. (or families? Apparently, this time on the land and number of settlers was a legal requirement to secure his grant.) I am not good at math, but I can count to 100. If 34 riflemen fought at Balcony Falls, and they composed the entire settlement of the grant, Rockbridge County, if you deduct the very old and the very young and unmarried, that leaves just enough men to have families to make up the 100 required settlers, just barely.

This information is an accurate appraisable of the Borden Grant at the time as the story come from Captain McDowel’s own son, told more than 50 years after the battle.

Borden then leaves the land around 1734, and gives the job of running the place to Captain John McDowell. He sends his son, Benjamin Borden Jr., to help administer in his steed. The son lives with John and Magdelene. He then returns to New Jersey where the Borden family lives.

Captain John McDowell is then slain by the Indians in 1742, leaving the tract without an able administrator. A year later, Benjamin Borden himself dies. Benjamin Borden Jr. returns to take over the grant. The McDowell’s know Benjamin Boren Jr. quite well and are singularly, and collectively, unimpressed. Magdelene considers him “quite illiterate.” Then she marries him.

Perhaps Benjamin Borden Jr. could not converse easily on the classics like Amos “Bud” Hanks, but he was no fool. He would build the grant into a mighty empire, which would make Magdelene extremely wealthy. The day would come when Magdelene would be the richest woman west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The son realizes that he has cornered the market. The grant lies on the extreme frontier of a little bit of civilization. Either you buy your land from him or you go on to the “unknown wilderness” with all of its potential troubles.

Magdelene (Woods) McDowell has at least 2 more children by her marriage to Borden. Her first husband did not live long. Her second husband did not live long. Tragically, in 1754, both her husband and one of their daughters would die of smallpox. The death of her daughter would leave her heartbroken. The death of her second husband would... leave her non-destitute the extreme.

Who comes to the Borden Grant to settle and make Magdelene so wealthy? You remember the ladder of immigrants from the slaves at the bottom to the disinherited aristocrats at the top? Forget that pecking order. These immigrants were true for the rest of Virginia but not our grant.

The son brings in the Irish. (According to the terminology of the times, Irish meant the Scotch-Irish. I will refresh your memory on this important distinction from time to time.) The land was originally known as the Borden Grant, or the Borden tract. Now it is simply called the Irish tract. The Irish come from Pennsylvania, elsewhere, and the sea. It is the clan system all over again.



  1. [S91] Genealogies of Virginia Families, Vol. 1, (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982), 401 (Reliability: 3).
  2. American South, Notable Families. Author:[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, Publication: 2000., Original data: Armstrong, Zella. Notable Southern Families. Vol. I-III. Chatanooga, TN, USA: Lookout Publishing Co., 1918. Repository: Note: [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Media: Book, Volume I -II, p.210 "Benjamin Borden died November_ _ ('Oct 9, 1743), poseessed of 130,000 acres of land in Virginia & New Jersey. He was survived by his wife, Jerusah, who soon returned to NJ to reside and by ten children, as follows: Benjamin, who married Mrs. Magdalene (Woods) McDowell (they had only on child who grew to maturity, a daughter, 'Martha who married first Benjamin Hawkins, and had four children. . ."
  3. Chapter IV, The Borden Land Grant, p. 28 "In 1742, Benjamin Borden, Jr., visited the Tract, spending time at the home of John McDowell. When he came back, the followin year, his father and John McDowell were dead. . .married Mrs. McDowell a bout 1744. . .lived at Thorn Hill, afterward the Bowyer estate, which lies on Woods Creek two miles southwest of Lexington. . .wife's maiden name was magdalena Woods, a sister to Richard Woods, who se ttled in . . .1738. Here in April 1753 the younger Borden died of smallpox. . .disease was epidemic that sprind, and Borden was first person at his home to contract it. His three daughters, his brother Joseph, the children of John McDowell, and several negroes also fell ill, and one or two of his children died. Martha Borden a girl of about eight years, had a slow and tedious convalescence. Ab out 1779 she married Robert Havey. Mrs. Greenlee. . .probably immune, nursed the patients at the Borden home."
  4. A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia. By Oren Frederic Morton. Pages 21-32 "The Borden Land Grant"
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Benjamin Fowle Borden, Gent.'s Timeline

Frederick, Virginia
Age 28
Frederick County, Virginia, United States
January 15, 1746
Age 31
Rockbridge County, Virginia, United States
April 1753
Age 38
Augusta, Virginia
Age 38
Augusta, Virginia
Age 38
Saumsville, Shenandoah, Virginia, United States