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History of Bordentown City
BORDENTOWN THEN & NOW Gilder House

The area was settled in 1682 when Thomas Farnsworth, an English Quaker, moved up river from Burlington to make a new home for his family on a windswept bluff overlooking a broad bend in the Delaware River. Farnsworth Landing then became the center of trade for the region. Joseph Borden, for whom the town is named, arrived here in 1717. By May 1740 he had a line of stage coaches and boats traveling between New York and Philadelphia. With patriots Francis Hopkinson (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), Colonel Kirkbride, Colonel Hoagland, and Thomas Paine in residence, the area became a hotbed of revolutionary fervor. The town was occupied by the Hessians in 1776 and pillaged and burned by the British in May and June of 1778.

Other famous residents included Joseph Bonaparte, ex-king of Spain and Naples and brother of Napoleon, and Clara Barton, who to 1843 started the first free public school in New Jersey in the original schoolhouse which still stands near the center of town. Ms Barton later founded the American Red Cross.

Although the town hosts a rich history, it is also a modern community with much to offer residents and visitors alike. Situated at the northern tip of Burlington County and bordering Hamilton Township, it is located at the crossroads of the American Revolution and today's modern highways. Serviced by the New Jersey Turnpike, Routes 130 and 206, and Interstates 295 and 195, Bordentown enjoys easy access to the cultural and commercial advantages of Princeton, Trenton, New York, and Philadelphia.

The revitalized business district of this "little city with a lot of charm" offers visitors a pleasant diversion The town's beautiful and historically significant architecture houses many interesting shops and restaurants, as well as a friendly and Caring community.

We welcome your visit to charming Historic Bordentown City!

» Take the Self-Guided Tour

 

Thomas Paine

Portrait of Thomas Paine THE PEN OF THOMAS PAINE was as important to the American Revolution as the sword of George Washington. He referred to himself as a 'Citizen of the World', wanting to make good changes for the common man all over, but he loved and considered Bordentown his home. This is the only place in the world that he purchased property and a little house on Church Street.

He was a close and highly regarded friend of Col. Kirkbride. His 'Common Sense' , 'Age of Reason' and 'Rights of Man' were best sellers of the day. Governments were being shaped by his writings. These books have been in continuous publication and are still widely read.

Yet, even while he was helping France to achieve a better government during their revolution, he wrote 'I had rather see my horse Button in his own stable or eating the grass of Bordentown.....than see all the pomp and show of Europe"..

 

“John Bull”

'The John Bull' Col. Robert Stevens was among the first to urge construction of a steam railway system in New Jersey to replace the stagecoach lines. He went to England to negotiate the purchase of a steam locomotive which was shipped to Philadelphia, placed on a sloop and sent up the Delaware to be assembled in Bordentown by Isaac Dripps. The locomotive became known as the 'John Bull'.

For the first ride on the rails laid between White Hill and Bordentown, Isaac Dripps was the engineer, Benjamin Wiggins was the fireman and Col. Stevens was the conductor. Trenton's officials and notables came down for a free ride. Madame Murat, wife of Prince Murat of the Bonaparte household was the first woman to ride on the 'iron horse' that day.

'The John Bull' Locomotives and passenger coaches were built in shops that sprung up along the river. Repair shops came next. Before long there were nine large buildings on three acres of ground and small tenant houses lined the hill. A thriving industry had begun and lasted until 1870 when the Pennsylvania Railroad leased the rail line and moved the shops out of the area.

The late Ed Sholl and his wife Mildred bought the house on Willow Street built by the last engineer of the 'John Bull', Benjamin F. Jobes. Ed's father was an engineer and his grandfather a fireman on the 'John Bull'.

The 1/16th replica of the 'John Bull' built by Ed Sholl stands in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D. C.

 

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