TexasEscapes.com  
HOME : : NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : BUILDINGS : : IMAGES : : ARCHIVE : : SITE MAP
PEOPLE : : PLACES : : THINGS : : HOTELS : : VACATION PACKAGES
TEXAS TOWNS
Texas Escapes
Online Magazine
Texas | Columns | "Wandering"

Gail Borden - II

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton

"Who's your favorite Texas hero?"

Whenever I'm asked that question, I may say Sam Houston or Lorenzo de Zavala or Nicholas Labadie or

Fact is, I can't make up my mind. It really depends on whom I'm reading about at the time. Ask me now, and I'd say Gail Borden, the subject of my most recent column. I've continued to read about the inventor of condensed milk so I have more to report.

For starters, did you know he and accused murderess Lizzie Borden were cousins?

That hardly makes him a hero, and it's totally irrelevant in Texas history. Nevertheless, I just couldn't wait to share that bit of family gossip (good Borden/bad Borden) that I learned only a day or so ago.

OK, let's get down to Texas business here.

Did you know Borden rode his pet bull around town in Galveston?

Can't you see the locals shrugging, eyes rolling, when they saw Borden approaching on his bull. "Move over, give Gail some room."

Visitors and newcomers to Galveston may have had a different reaction, not accustomed to such a sight. They may have fled to the nearest building and locked the door.

While Gail Borden had the reputation of the town eccentric, he also was a mission-minded, spiritual man who helped the poor and befriended the blacks.

Meet Borden the Baptist.

Galveston's First Baptist Church was organized at a meeting in 1840 in the home of Gail's brother, Thomas. Soon afterward, Gail and his wife, Penelope, were reported to be the first Anglo-Americans baptized in the Gulf of Mexico west of the Mississippi.

He served as a deacon, Sunday school missionary and trustee of the Texas Baptist Education Society, the organization that founded Baylor University. He also was an officer in the local temperance society and fought to rid Galveston of gambling.

In his early years as an inventor, Borden came up with a scheme to make jelly from the horns and hooves of oxen. It never caught on.

As mentioned in the previous column, his amphibious schooner sank. He also invented a movable bath house for the ladies at the beach, and that never made much of a splash.

Devastated when his wife died in a yellow fever epidemic in 1844, Borden sought to fight the summer-time disease with a refrigeration project. He eventually abandoned that invention, though, to concentrate on the meat biscuit.

In addition to a gold medal in London, the meat biscuit won a prize in the first state fair held in Texas in Corpus Christi. It probably didn't hurt that his business partner, Ashbel Smith, served as superintendent of the state fair and on the jury at the London Exhibition. (Just sayin'.)

In spite of the prizes, though, the meat biscuit was a big commercial flop.

Borden always wanted to help people. He got the idea for the meat biscuit, for example, after hearing about 36 people in the Donner Expedition starving to death in a snow storm en route to California.

His idea for condensed milk came during his voyage home from London. When two cows on the ship got sick, babies on board didn't have enough milk. He heard them crying and wanted desperately to help.

And he did. His invention of condensed milk provided the assurance of safe milk that could be stored and go the distance. The invention also made him rich and famous and served as the basis of the Borden Co., known throughout the world.

The inscription on Borden's gravestone says it all: "I tried and failed - I tried again and again and succeeded."



Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist, October 1, 2014 column
See Gail Borden by Wanda Orton
More "Wandering"
columns
Related Topics:
People | Food | Columns | Texas Towns | Texas |

Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.
Custom Search
TEXAS ESCAPES CONTENTS
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | HOTELS | SEARCH SITE
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | FORTS | MAPS

Texas Attractions
TEXAS FEATURES
People | Ghosts | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Texas Centennial | Black History | Art | Music | Animals | Books | Food
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Rooms with a Past | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Stores | Banks | Drive-by Architecture | Signs | Ghost Signs | Old Neon | Murals | Then & Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes. All Rights Reserved