History of Bordentown

Burlington County, New Jersey


1682 – English Quaker Thomas Farnsworth moved up river from Burlington to settle in the area. He built his home on a bluff overlooking a broad bend in the Delaware River.

by 1700  --  Farnsworth Landing became the center of trade for the region.

1717 – Joseph Borden arrived in the area. He bought the old Farnsworth property from Thomas Foulks (who held had held it for only four years). 

1740 – Joseph Borden had a line of stage coaches and boats traveling between New York and Philadelphia.

1751  --  Francis Hopkinson House built on the southeast corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Park Street.

1769 – the death of the husband of Patience Wright (later America's first native-born sculptor). To make a living she molded faces out of putty, bread dough, and wax, making portraits in tinted wax.

1770s & 1780s  --  some of the buildings in the downtown included Hoagland's Tavern (owned by Col. Oakey Hoagland); the Francis Hopkinson House; the home of Col. Joseph Borden; and the Patience Wright House. 

By 1772 – Patience Wright she traveled to London where became a sensation, bolstered by her more crass American behavior and speech.

1773 – Francis Hopkinson, married to Ann Borden, daughter of Col. Joseph Borden, began practicing law in Bordentown.

1774 (November) – Thomas Paine left his native England and settled in Philadelphia.

1775-1782 – Revolutionary War.  Bordentown was a hotbed of revolutionary fervor with men such as Francis Hopkinson (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), Colonel Kirkbride, Colonel Hoagland, and Thomas Paine. And Patience Wright lived across the street from Francis Hopkinson. The son of Patience became a friend of Washington, painted his portrait, and designed some of the first American coins.

1776 - still in England, Patience Wright fell from British favor because of her support for the American Revolution. It is also said that she provided information helpful to the American side.

1776 (July 5) – as a New Jersey representative to the Continental Congress, Hopkinson was one of the State's signers of the Declaration of Independence.

1776 – in retaliation for Bordentown’s support of the war, Hessian soldiers under Count Carl Von Donop occupied the town.

between 1777 and 1778 – Thomas Paine lived in Bordentown. He was a close and highly regarded friend of Col. Kirkbride, who lived there. Kirkbride’s first house, Bellevue (in Bucks County, PA), was burned down by the British. Colonel Kirkbride had moved to Bordentown, N. J., and lived at Hill Top, now part of a female college. Colonel Kirkbride built his mansion New Bellevue high up on that portion of Main Street called "Hill-Top." The New Bellevue was much grander than the original Bellevue across the Delaware River.

Paine put most of his savings in a little house (on two tenths of an acre) so as to be near his Col. Kirkbride. Both men were Quakers, together they had helped frame the democratic Constitution of Pennsylvania (1776), had fought side by side, and both had scientific tastes. Paine came to consider Bordentown his home. Bordentown was the only place where he purchased property (a little house on Church Street).

1778 (May and June) – the British pillaged and burned Bordentown. The Hopkinson House was spared. It is said that the British had set fire to the house but that the officer in charge, Capt. James Ewald, was impressed by the house library that he told his men to extinguish the firebrands.

1778 (November) – Francis Hopkinson published Seven Songs, the best of his lyric poetry.

1778  --  Academy for Boys School run by Burgess Allison. 

1783 (fall) – Paine stayed at Kirkbride’s New Bellevue, while watching the near completion of a little home of his own. He received a letter from General Washington, then at Rocky Hill, that told Paine of the coming of recognition for all his efforts in behalf of his nation.

1785-1786 – Paine settled in a small house in Bordentown. Many famous people journeyed to Kirkbride's to visit Paine in these years: Benjamin Franklin, Gouverneur Morris, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Tench Francis, Robert Morris, Rev. Dr. Logan, and many others. Paine worked on a plan for an iron bridge.

1787 – Paine went to Paris, then London, in search of backing for his iron bridge..

1790 – Paine was in Paris again, then returned to London.

1791 – death of Francis Hopkinson. The Hopkinson House went to son Joseph Hopkinson of Philadelphia, best known as the author of Hail Columbia.

1793 – Paine back in France where he was arrested, falsely accused by Gouverneur Morris of political machinations against France. He continued his work on The Age of Reason.

While in prison, 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".

1794 – Paine set free.

1802 – Paine returns to America.

early 1803 – Thomas Paine again lived in Bordentown. After his publication of  The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine was seen as a heretic and he became very unpopular. One of the few people in Bordentown who would have anything to do with him was Colonel Kirkbride. His hospitality was punished by the vituperation of his fellow Bordentowners. It has been said that Kirkbride’s sudden great unpopularity hastened an illness that lead to his death.

1804 – Paine decided to live in New Rochelle, Westchester County; 1805-1806 he lived in New York City.

1809 – death of Thomas Paine.

1812-1815 – War of 1812; Commodore Stewart of Bordentown became an admiral with the title of Old Ironsides. He was the captain of the USS Constitution.  Stewart lived at beautiful Montpellier, up on the bluffs. (It was later used as an industrial school for colored children.) His daughter Delia married Irishman John Parnell and their son Charles Stewart Parnell became the leading hope of Irish independence from Britain.

1816 – Napoleon's older brother was Joseph Bonaparte (1771-1845). Joseph had held a series of diplomatic and administrative posts under Napoleon. When Napoleon fell from power, so did Joseph. The Bonapartes were banished from France, their property confiscated, and their civil rights taken away. Napoleon Bonaparte was sent into exile on the island of Elba.

1816-1839 – Joseph was known locally as Count de Survilliers during this period. After the Battle of Waterloo Joseph and his family left Spain under an assumed name and found a safe haven in Switzerland. But since many countries of Europe were harassing him, he decided to escape to the United States. Joseph disguised himself as an ordinary passenger, accompanied by his male secretary and a suitcase of jewels. Joseph's wife, Queen Julie, remained in Belgium obeying her doctor’s orders not to travel. (Joseph did not see her for 25 years.) After arriving in New York, he traveled to Philadelphia.

early 1817 – Joseph settled in New Jersey under the name of Count de Survilliers. Americans tended to call him Mr. Bonaparte. Joseph purchased over 1,000 acres of land near Bordentown, on the Delaware River. The estate was known as "Point Breeze," but was popularly called "Bonaparte's Park."

Bonaparte created a country estate in the English picturesque style with a brick and wood mansion on a bluff overlooking the lake he created. The lake was near the mouth of Crosswicks Creek and about 200 yards wide and half a mile long. The wood mansion was connected to the creek's bank by an underground passage.

Joseph also built a house down the lake for his daughter, Zenaide, and her husband, Prince Charles Lucien (son of Lucien Bonaparte). The houses were connected by a covered passageway. In addition he built a house near the Park Street entrance for his trusted secretary where a gate lodge is usually located.

Today the only vestiges of the Bonaparte estate is the tunnel to the river (broken through in several places) and the secretary's house.

Many famous Europeans came to New Jersey to visit Joseph.

The trusted secretary traveled to the once Swiss hideaway, recovered the remaining jewels from their hiding place, and brought Joseph’s two daughters, Zenaide and Charlotte, back to Bordentown.

Some of the famous American who visited Joseph were John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. French-speaking Stephen (Etienne) Girard designed for the ex-King an elaborate river-boat for traveling back and forth to Bordentown.

1820 – work on the Point Breeze mansion completed. Shortly afterward, a fire partly destroyed the home. A new house was erected on the site of the former stable east of the lake. He had a daughter by his mistress, Annette Savage.

1831  -- young mechanic Isaac Dripps of Bordentown assembled (without blue prints or instructions) the locomotive John Bull. It was built by Stephenson and Company, in England, and was imported by the Camden and Amboy Railroad.  It was one of the first successful locomotives in the United States.

1832 – Joseph, now the Bonapartist pretender, moved to London to be closer to France. He briefly returned to the United States.

1832  --  Levi Davis acquired the old Academy for Boys School building and opened it as a school.

1837  --  professor Arsene Napoleon Girault purchased land from friend Joseph Bonaparte and founded the Spring Villa Female Seminary. 

1837  --  first building of Christ Episcopal Church. 

1839 – Bonaparte’s final journey took him to Florence to see his family. His health was so bad that he could not return to the United States.

1842  -- end of the operation of the Spring Villa Female Seminary under Girault. 

1844 – In Florence, Italy Joseph Bonaparte died at the age of 76.

1847 – Joseph's grandson, Joseph, disposed of the Point Breeze estate.

1850 – Henry Beckett, the British consul in Philadelphia, purchased Point Breeze. He demolished the Bonaparte house to put up an Italianate villa.

1850 – Clara Barton (1821-1912) went to teach at Bordentown in a private school. Many children could not afford to pay for the schooling, so Barton offered to teach without salary if payment were waived. (She increased attendance from 6 to 600). When the local officials chose a male principal over here, she turned in her letter of resignation.

1851  --  Rev. John H. Brakely opened the Bordentown Female College.

1851  --  the Bordentown Banking Company organized. 

1853  --  School No. I built on Crosswicks Street and lasted for some 100 years.

1854 – Clara Barton moved to Washington, D.C. and became the first woman clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

1861-1865 – Civil War.  "General" Mott lived in Bordentown.  Col. Joseph W. Allen became Bordentown's first death in the war when he drowned off Hatteras Inlet while returning to his ship. 

1861 – following the Baltimore Riots, the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment streamed into Washington. Clara Barton started relief work for the Union soldiers.

post 1861 (July 21-22) – when Clara Barton learned that many troops suffered terribly for lack of medical supplies in the First Battle of Bull Run, she started collecting donations and distributing supplies.

1861-1892  --  the First Baptist Church of Bordentown at Prince and Church Streets. 

1862 – U.S. Surgeon General William A. Hammond issued Clara Barton a pass to ride with army ambulances. She started delivering aid to soldiers regardless of the color of their uniform.

1864 – Clara Barton formally appointed Superintendent of Nurses of the Army of the James under the command of Major General Benjamin F. Butler.

1867  --  a city government of nine councilmen formed. 

1868  --  first mayor, Dr. Leo H. DeLange. 

1870  --  cornerstone set at the new St. Mary's Church on Crosswicks Street.

c. 1878 photo  -- shows the  J. P. Campbell grocery store

1879  -- dedication of the new Christ Episcopal Church. 

1881 – Clara Barton helped found an American branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

1881  --  Rev. William Bowen purchased the old Spring Villa Female Seminary building and reopened it as the Bordentown Military Institute. 

1882 – Clara Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross.

1885  --  Col. Thomas H. Landon took over the running of the Bordentown Military Institute.

1885  --  start of a boarding and day school for young ladies, the St. Joseph's Motherhouse and Academy. 

1886  --  African-American Rev. W. A. Rice established a private school, the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth,  in a two-story house on West Street; later moved to Walnut Street.

1900  --  death of painter Susan C. Waters (born 1823).  She lived with her husband on Mary Street.  She was especially known for her pastoral paintings.

early 1900s  --  one could drive a car on the frozen Delaware River. 

early 1900s  --  the Mount Moriah Lodge No. 28, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, on Farnsworth Avenue, was host to Chautauqua groups performances of lectures, musical programs, and magic shows.

early 1900s  --  the Bordentown Grill was a very popular diner; located at the intersection of Routes 130 and 206. 

1901  --  inventor George W. Swift Jr. moved to Bordentown.  He founded the Swift Mansion Machine Shops. 

1904 – Clara Barton retired and lived at her home in Glen Echo outside of Washington, D.C.

1909  -- the religious order, Poor Clares, established a monastery in the former Motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy on Crosswicks Street.  (The order has since moved.)

1912 – death of Clara Barton.

1913-1917  --  mayor Dr. James Gilbert brought the trolley line to Bordentown. 

1915  --  Joseph Josephson founded the Jersey Maid Dairy on Carpenter Street; later moved to Park Street (across the street from the former Bonaparte estate).

1923  --  corner stone laid for the new Shiloh Baptist Church on East Burlington Street..

1924  --  a movie about Bordentwon filmed.  It starred Louise Landon and Peggy Rahilly. 

1924 – Harris Hammon purchased the Henry Beckett estate at Point Breeze and remodeled the house in English Georgian Revival style.

1925  --  Boy Scouts organized. 

1929-1944  --  Rev. Edward J. Whalen was the pastor of St. Mary's. 

1932  --  the trolley tracks removed.

1935  --  Union Baptist Church built.

1935  -- the Gilder family donated the Gilder House to the city. 

1936  --  Hilltop Park renamed William R. Flynn Memorial Park to honor a man devoted to his civic duties.  (The newer park was the first Burlington County Works Progress Administration project completed.

1937  --  the Bordentown Yacht Club formed. 

1939  --  dedication of the new United States Post Office on Walnut Street; ceremony attended by Mayor William C. Warrack. 

1940  --  the city opened the Gilder House to the public. 

1941 – the Divine Word Mission purchased the old Bonaparte property.

1945  --  Mildred Sprouls became the first woman mail carrier. 

1947 – the Divine Word Mission operated a seminary at Point Breeze.

1954  - School No. 1 building torn down; replaced by the new Clara Barton Elementary School.

1955  --  a hurricane flooded many low areas in and around Bordentown. 

1957  --  the Lehigh Valley Dairies bought the Jersey Maid Dairy plant. 

1957  --  internationally-known local painter Edward R. Burke Sr. (1899-1958) presented his portrait of Clara Barton to the new Clara Barton Elementary School. 

1960  --  artist Juanita Crosby had a one-woman show in Trenton where she had a picture taken while she showing her rendition of John F. Kennedy. 

1963 – the Divine Word Mission seminary erected three modern school buildings near the Point Breeze mansion.

1964  --  Dr. Lynden E. MacDermid honored at a testimonial dinner for his 50 years of practice.

1983 – the Point Breeze mansion burned.

1997 (June 7) – the unveiling of only the third public monument to Thomas Paine in the United States.


Flat Rock: Joseph Bonaparte at Point Breeze. http://flatrock.org.nz/topics/new_jersey/new_jerseys_ex_king.htm.

Clara Barton. http://www.edwardsly.com/bartonc.htm

A Web of English History. The Age of George III. Thomas Paine (1737-1809). http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/terrace/adw03/c-eight/people/paine.htm

Arlene S. Bice.  2002.  Images of America: Bordentown. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.