Borland, Margaret Heffernan (1824–1873)

By: James C. McNutt

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: April 20, 2017

Margaret Borland, Victoria rancher, daughter of John and Julia Heffernan, was born in Ireland on April 3, 1824. The Heffernans were among the Irish colonists who arrived in Texas in 1829 with John McMullen and James McGloin and settled at San Patricio. Margaret's elder sister, Mary, was also born in Ireland; two younger brothers, John and James, were born in San Patricio. Margaret was thrice married and widowed. Her first husband, Harrison Dunbar, was killed in a private argument in Victoria soon after she bore their only child, a daughter. Margaret Dunbar married Milton Hardy several years later; Hardy died of cholera in 1855, leaving two more children with Margaret. Mrs. Hardy married Alexander Borland about 1858, a marriage that produced four children. Borland died in 1867; several of Margaret's children and grandchildren died the same year in a yellow fever epidemic. She had assisted Borland in his cattle business and, after his death, assumed full responsibility for the estate. Though she left the physical labor to her hired hands, she bought and sold livestock. By 1873 she owned a herd of more than 10,000 cattle. She was said to be the only woman known to have led a cattle drive. She left her Victoria home in the spring of 1873 with two sons, both under fifteen, a seven-year-old daughter, an even younger granddaughter, a group of trail hands, and about 2,500 cattle. But after successfully reaching Wichita, Kansas, she died, on July 5, 1873, of an illness variously described as "trail fever" and "congestion of the brain." Her body was returned to Texas and buried in Victoria Cemetery.

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Margaret Borland Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Sue Flanagan, Trailing the Longhorns (Austin: Madrona, 1974). C. Richard King, "Margaret Borland," Texana 10 (1972). Victor Marion Rose, History of Victoria (Laredo, 1883; rpt., Victoria, Texas: Book Mart, 1961).

  • Peoples
  • Irish
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Trail Drivers and Riders
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Southeast Texas

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

James C. McNutt, “Borland, Margaret Heffernan,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022,

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November 1, 1994
April 20, 2017

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