Thomas Farnsworth, an EnglishQuaker, was credited with being the first European settler in the Bordentown area in 1682, when he moved his family up river from Burlington. He made a new home on the windswept bluff overlooking the broad bend in the Delaware River. The Farnsworth's cabin was situated near the northwest corner of Park Street and Prince Street, perhaps where an 1883 frame house now stands. "Farnsworth Landing" soon became the center of trade for the region. Farnsworth is also the namesake of one of Bordentown's main street, Farnsworth Avenue.
Joseph Borden, for whom the town is named, arrived in 1717, and by May 1740 founded a transportation system to carry people and freight between New York City and Philadelphia. This exploited Bordentown's natural location as the point on the Delaware River that provided the shortest overland route to Perth Amboy, from which cargo and people could be ferried to New York City.
Clara Barton School
By 1776, Bordentown was full of patriots. Patience Lovell Wright, America's first female sculptor, was creating wax busts in King George's court in England. Later, however, Bordentown became a rabble-rousing hotbed. In addition to Joseph Borden's son (also named Joseph Borden), who became a colonel during the war, patriots Francis Hopkinson (a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence), Colonel Kirkbride, Colonel Oakey Hoagland and Thomas Paine resided in the area. Due to their well-published activity in Bordentown, the British retaliated. Hessians occupied the town in 1776, and the British pillaged and razed the town during May and June 1778.
Other notable residents included Clara Barton who in 1852 started the first free public school in New Jersey and later founded the American Red Cross. A recreation of her schoolhouse stands at the corner of Crosswicks and Burlington streets.
Former Bonaparte mansion, after its remodeling
Original entrance of Bonaparte tunnel entrance
Several years after the banishing of his family from France in 1816, arriving under vigilant disguise as the Count de Survilliers, Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Naples and Spain and brother to Napoleon I of France, established his residence in Bordentown. He lived there for 17 years, entertaining guests of great fame such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and the future 6th U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. The residents of Bordentown nicknamed the Count, "The Good Mr. Bonaparte" (Good to distinguish him from his younger brother). He built a lake near the mouth of Crosswicks Creek that was about 200 yards wide and half a mile long. On the bluff above it he built a new home, "Point Breeze". The current Divine Word Mission occupies its former site along Park Street.
Today only vestiges of the Bonaparte estate remain. Much of it is actually the remains of a building remodeled in English Georgian Revival style in 1924 for Harris Hammon, who purchased the estate at Point Breeze as built in 1850 by Henry Becket, a British consul in Philadelphia. In addition to the rubble of this mansion and some hedges of its elaborate gardens, only the original tunnel to the river (broken through in several places) and the house of Bonaparte's secretary remain. Many descendants of Joachim Murat, King of Naples, also were born or lived in Bordentown, having followed their uncle Joseph there. After the Bonaparte dynasty was restored by Napoleon III, they moved back to France and were recognized as princes.
In August 1831, master mechanic Isaac Dripps of Bordentown re-assembled (without blueprints or instructions) the locomotive John Bull (originally called "The Stevens") in just 10 days. It was built by Robert Stephenson and Company, in England, and was imported into Philadelphia by the Camden and Amboy Railroad. The next year it started limited service, and the year after that regular service, to become one of the first successful locomotives in the United States. The John Bull is preserved at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
In 1866, Susan Waters moved into what is now one of the larger properties on Mary Street. This was a base from which she taught and produced over 50 of her works, many of which are painting of animals in natural settings and pastoral scenes. She was also an early photographer. In 1876 she was asked to exhibit several of her works at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
In 1881, Rev. William Bowen purchased the old Spring Villa Female Seminary building (built on land purchased from the Bonapartes in 1837) and reopened it as the Bordentown Military Institute. In 1886, African-American Rev. Walter A. Rice established a private school for African-American children, the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth, in a two-story house at 60 West Street, which later moved to Walnut Street on the banks of the Delaware, and became a public school in 1894 under Jim Crow laws. The school, which was known as the Bordentown School, came to have a 400-acre (1.6 km2), 30-building campus with two farms, a vocational/ technical orientation, and a college preparatory program.
In 1909, the religious order Poor Clares established a convent in the former Motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy on Crosswicks Street. The building still stands and is used as an assisted living home for non-ambulatory elderly, called The Clare Estate. The Order of Poor Clares moved to a new facility outside Bordentown City.
The city has become a destination for weekend dining as well as for the casual perusal of its book stores, historical sites and art galleries. The active downtown business association sponsors an annual Iris Festival & Art Show in early May, an annual Street Fair in mid- to late May, and an annual Cranberry Festival in early October. The Bordentown Historical Society sponsors other events, such as the Holiday House Tour and Peach Social.
There were 1,859 households of which 21.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.4% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% were non-families. 41.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the city, 18.4% of the population were under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 29.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.3 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.1 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $66,557 (with a margin of error of +/- $9,567) and the median family income was $90,165 (+/- $11,644). Males had a median income of $52,652 (+/- $10,201) versus $48,906 (+/- $9,108) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $36,814 (+/- $3,714). About 1.7% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.0% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.
There were 1,757 households out of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.7% were non-families. 35.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city the population was spread out with 20.9% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 34.2% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,279, and the median income for a family was $59,872. Males had a median income of $39,909 versus $31,780 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,882. About 4.0% of families and 6.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.8% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.
Bordentown has been governed under the Walsh Act since 1913, with a government consisting of three commissioners, one of whom is selected to serve as Mayor. Members are elected to four-year concurrent terms in office in non-partisan elections held in May.
The Bordentown City Environmental Commission (BCEC) is a volunteer group of Bordentown City residents. The Commission is an official body, and its chair answers to the Mayor. The BCEC advises local officials and the Planning Board regarding environmental issues and is a watchdog for environmental problems and opportunities. It is designed to inform elected officials and the public, serve on committees, research issues, develop educational programs and advocate for sound environmental policies. Local issues include preservation of open space, promoting walking and bicycling trails and the River Line, protection of wetlands and water quality, recycling and energy conservation, and environmental education.
The BCEC's most current efforts have focuses upon a bicycle and pedestrian circulation study, the City's open space plan, and the development of a set of local greenways (Thorntown and Black Creek).
The city had a total of 12.73 miles (20.49 km) of roadways, of which 10.09 miles (16.24 km) are maintained by the municipality, 2.25 miles (3.62 km) by Burlington County and 0.39 miles (0.63 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Downtown Bordentown has many book and antique stores lining its streets, with Italian and American restaurants. The restaurants are primarily Italian, but there are also restaurants and diners that specialize in American food, Chinese food, and more recently Japanese and Latin-American food.
Bordentown City's one square mile is home to at least 10 houses of worship, including: American Presbyterian Church, B’nai Abraham Synagogue, Christ Episcopal Church, Ebenezer Full Gospel Community Church, First Baptist Church of Bordentown, First Presbyterian Church, Mount Zion AME Church, Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Trinity United Methodist Church, and Union Baptist Church.
This statue was erected on Prince Street to commemorate the fact that Thomas Paine hails from Bordentown.
^Staff. "Welcome to Bordentown City", Courier-Post, July 28, 2007. Accessed June 13, 2012. "According to the Bordentown Historical Society, it was one of the first free public schools in New Jersey. According to past Courier-Post reports, an English Quaker named Thomas Farnsworth settled the area in 1682 and created an active trading center called Farnsworth's Landing."
^Kilby, David. "Divine Word Father Detig reflects on his 50 years as missionary ", The Monitor, July 24, 2013. Accessed October 23, 2013. "When walking through the peaceful grounds of the Divine Word Residence, Bordentown, it’s easy to forget that those 100 acres overlooking the Delaware River provide a home for missionaries like Father Joseph Detig, who has spread the Gospel around the world and endured many of the trials that come with doing so."
^Stadnyk, Mary. "Grace of Perseverance; For 100 years, diocese has been blessed with the Poor Clare Sisters", The Monitor, December 10, 2009. Accessed October 23, 2013. "Having heard of the Poor Clares in Boston, Bishop McFaul contacted Mother Charitas, the abbess, and asked her to send sisters to Bordentown. Mother Charitas, who became the Bordentown’s community’s first abbess, was delighted with the request for it had been her wish to spread the Franciscan Order of St. Clare to other areas of the United States. On Aug. 12, 1909, the first five Sisters of St. Clare arrived in Bordentown."
^O'Sullivan, Jeannie. "Bordentown Historical Society plans a peachy time", Burlington County Times, August 4, 2011. Accessed July 8, 2013. "The Bordentown Historical Society’s annual peach social will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at 302 Farnsworth Ave. Admission is $5.... It is one of the signature annual events hosted by the historical society, which also sponsors a holiday home tour and ghost walk."
^ abO'Sullivan, Jeannie. "Trio wins seats on Bordentown City Commission", Burlington County Times, May 15, 2013. Accessed October 23, 2013. "Two incumbents and a longtime politician won four-year terms on the nonpartisan City Commission on Tuesday. Mayor James Lynch and Commissioner Zigmont Targonski won their re-election bids with 313 and 208 votes respectively. Joseph Malone, a former commissioner who served as a 30th District assemblyman from 1993 to 2012, received 337 votes."
^Nutt, Amy Ellis (October 31, 2013). "Booker is officially a U.S. senator after being sworn in". NJ.com/Associated Press. Accessed October 31, 2013. "Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in as a Democratic senator from New Jersey today, taking the oath of office, exchanging hugs with Vice President Joe Biden and acknowledging the applause of friends and family members seated in the visitor's gallery that rings the chamber.... Booker, 44, was elected to fill out the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this year."
^Zimmaro, Mark. "New Hanover School to decide on middle school proposal", Burlington County Times, March 11, 2011. Accessed November 21, 2013. "NEW HANOVER — The township’s school district will decide on Wednesday whether to enter an agreement with the Bordentown Regional School District for a send-receive agreement for middle school children. The district which serves New Hanover and Wrightstown, already sends its high school students to Bordentown Regional High School and district officials are trying to determine whether sending sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to Bordentown Regional Middle School would be a feasible idea."
^Gamble, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, United States Navy. Accessed November 21, 2013. "Lt. Peter Gamble, was born in Bordentown, N.J.; appointed midshipman 16 January 1809; served on Macdonough's flagship Saratoga in the Battle of Lake Champlain, being killed in action while in the act of sighting his gun 11 September 1814. Macdonough deplored his loss and commended his gallantry in action."
^ abFerretti, Fred. "ABOUT NEW JERSEY It's Bordentown vs. the State Bureaucracy", The New York Times, February 18, 1979. Accessed June 6, 2011. "THE state, it appears, is still out to get Bordentown. But little does it realize that the place where Thomas Paine was during much of the Revolutionary War; where Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, lived; where Clara Barton began her first public school; where the first steam locomotive was tested and where Napoleon's brother lived will not be had that easily."
^Bohlin, Virginia. "Their talents demanded a canvas", The Boston Globe, February 28, 2010. Accessed June 6, 2011. "Finally in 1866 after years of temporary residences the Waterses settled in Bordentown N.J. where she opened a studio and began painting landscapes."
^Staff. "She Modeled Portraits In Wax", The Christian Science Monitor, November 15, 1945. Accessed June 6, 2011. "ONE OF the most eccentric and interesting characters in early American art was Patience Lovell, born in 1725 at Bordentown, New Jersey. She acquired a wide reputation for clever portraits modeled in wax. Several examples of her work in this perishable medium have survived. She married in 1748 Joseph Wright, and it is as Patience Wright that she is generally known."
^Levinsky, David. "Zeitz Appointment", Burlington County Times, December 17, 2008. Accessed October 23, 2013. "One-time congressional hopeful Josh Zeitz of Bordentown City is working in Trenton rather than Washington.Zeitz, 34, a history professor who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Chris Smith for the incumbent's 4th Congressional District seat in this year's election, was formally appointed as senior policy adviser to Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Monday."