Texana Thursday: 3 Things You Didn’t Know about Gail Borden Jr.

Gail Borden played a key role in early Houston and Texas history (public domain photo)

People know Borden Milk, headquartered in Dallas, as among the top brands in its industry. The company came about thanks to the vision of its founder, Gail Borden Jr.

Borden was born in New York and grew up in Indiana. He moved to Texas before the Texas Revolution and became a surveyor for Stephen F. Austin’s colony before pursuing other business interests.

Company lore has it that in 1851 Borden was on a ship and saw some children die after drinking contaminated milk. Borden became interested in preserving milk, and began experimenting with ways to do so. In 1856, Borden received American and British patents for condensing milk in a vacuum.

He and a business partner, Jereimah Milbank, opened a factory in Connecticut, and while that plant was eventually closed, they opened others in New York and Illinois. The demand for condensed milk grew during the Civil War, and Borden’s business success was assured.

Elsie, the company’s famous mascot, was introduced in 1936.

But there’s more to Gail Borden than just milk. He had an interesting and diversified career.

1. He started an influential newspaper.

Borden came to Texas in 1829. By 1835, he decided to start a newspaper. In October, the Telegraph and Texas Register printed its first edition.

Borden published the newspaper with his younger brother Thomas, and Joseph Baker. Thomas Borden was an early settler, soldier, and inventor. Baker left the newspaper in 1836 to fight in the Texas Revolution. Later he became a judge in Austin. Borden sold his interest in the newspaper in 1837.

The Telegraph and Texas Register was perhaps the most influential newspaper during the Republic of Texas days. The newspaper closed in 1877, 12 years after the end of the Civil War.

2. He helped create the original map for the City of Houston.

Borden was one of three men responsible for the original layout of the city. Thomas Borden and Moses Laphan, who fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, were the other two.

Houston had 62 numbered blocks, most of them 250 square feet, located near a shallow bend on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou opposite its confluence with White Oak Bayou.

3. Borden, Texas, is named in his honor.

Borden is an unincorporated community in Colorado County. It is located 83 miles west of Houston and 115 miles east of San Antonio north of Interstate 10.

It wasn’t always named Borden, however. Before the Civil War, the community was known as Harvey’s Creek Settlement. When Borden returned to Texas after the war, he settled in the community and built houses for himself, his sons, and his brother. He built a meat packing plant there, though that venture ultimately failed.

He renamed the community Bordenville. He died there in 1874 and was buried in New York.