Borden, Thomas Henry (1804–1877)

By: Joe B. Frantz

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 17, 2020

Thomas Henry Borden, early settler, soldier, and inventor, son of Gail and Philadelphia (Wheeler) Borden, Sr., was born in Norwich, New York, on January 28, 1804. After a boyhood in New York, Kentucky, and Indiana, he joined Stephen F. Austin's colony in Texas in 1824 as one of the Old Three Hundred. In 1830 he was Austin's official surveyor, a post he later resigned in favor of his brother, Gail Borden, Jr. In 1833 T. H. Borden was farming near Tenoxtitlán, but by 1835 he had moved to Fort Bend.

During November and December 1835 he participated with the Texas army in the Grass Fight and the siege of Bexar under Benjamin R. Milam. In October 1835 he helped Gail Borden and Joseph Baker found the Telegraph and Texas Register. He remained with that paper until March 14, 1837, when he sold his interest to Dr. Francis Moore, Jr. In October 1836 Borden helped lay out the city of Houston, and the following year he entered the real estate business in Columbia, sometimes in partnership with Erastus (Deaf) Smith and sometimes with Robert D. Johnson. He was active in founding the town of Richmond, and as late as 1873 still owned much land in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.

In 1840 Borden was living in Galveston, engaged principally in surveying and butchering. He constructed the first windmill on Galveston Island and ran it in combination with the first local gristmill. At his home the first Baptist church in Galveston was organized, on January 30, 1840. Like his brother Gail he had a gift for invention; he is sometimes credited with inventing the terraqueous machine often attributed to his brother. In Galveston he invented a steam gauge, or manometer, for use on river steamboats. In 1849 he moved to New Orleans, where he had an excellent business. According to tradition, he did not believe in the principle of patents; so other gauge manufacturers patented his product and eliminated him from competition.

On June 4, 1829, Borden married Demis Woodword, who bore him two sons before her death in Houston on September 16, 1836. He married Louisa R. Graves of New York in 1838. Loss of his steam-gauge business, Civil War losses, and the protracted illness of his wife reduced Borden to comparative poverty in the late 1860s and necessitated his moving back to Galveston, where he died on March 16, 1877.

Joe B. Frantz, Gail Borden: Dairyman to a Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951). Galveston Daily News, March 17, 1877. Hattie Borden Weld, Historical and Genealogical Record of the Borden Family (Los Angeles, 1899?).

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas
  • Texas Revolution

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Joe B. Frantz, “Borden, Thomas Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 17, 2020

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