Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Beale Bordley (1726/27-1804)
MSA SC 3520-112


BORN, on February 11, 1726/27, in Annapolis,  Anne Arundel County; youngest son.
NATIVE: second generation. RESIDED: in Joppa Town, Baltimore County, in the 1750s; Baltimore Town, 1766; 'The Vineyards," Wye Island, Queen Anne's County, 1770; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1791 until death.
FAMILY BACKGROUND. FATHER Thomas Bordley (ca. 1683-1726). STEPFATHER: Edmund Jennings (?-1756). MOTHER: Ariana  (1690-1741), widow of James Frisby (1684-1719); daughter of Matthias Vanderheyden (?-1729). HALF UNCLE. Henry Ward (?-1734). AUNTS: Francina Vanderheyden, who married second, Charles Hynson (1692-1748); Augustina Vanderheyden (?-1775), who married James Harris (1682-1743).  BROTHERS: Thomas (ca. 1724-1748); Matthias (1725-1756). HALF BROTHERS, PATERNAL:  Stephen Bordley (ca. 1710-1764); William (1714-1762); John (?-1718); and John (1721-1761).  HALF BROTHERS, MATERNAL: Peter Jennings  (1729-by 1737); Edmund Jennings (1731-1819); and (first name unknown) Jennings (?-by 1737). HALF SISTERS, PATERNAL: Elizabeth (1716/ 17-1789); Margaret (1719-by 1726/27); and Mary  (1722-1722). HALF SISTERS, MATERNAL: Sarah Frisby (1714-1782); Ariana Margaret Frisby (1717-?), who married William Harris (1704-1748); Francesca Augustina Frisby (1719-1766); and Ariana Jennings (1730-?). FIRST COUSIN: Matthias Harris (1718-1773). ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: his father's first wife was Rachel Beard (?-1722). MARRIED first, in 1751 Margaret (?-1773), daughter of Samuel Chew (ca. 1704-1736/37) and wife Henrietta Maria Lloyd (?-1765); stepdaugter of Daniel Dulany (1685-1753); granddaughter of Philemon Lloyd (ca. 1674-1732/33). Her brothers were Samuel Chew (by 1734-1786); Bennett (?-1793), who married Anna Maria, daughter of Edward Tilghman (1713-1786); and Philemon Lloyd (?-1770). Her stepbrothers were Daniel Dulany,  Jr. (1722-1797); Walter Dulany (?'-1773). Her sisters were Henrietta Maria (1731-1762), who married Edward Dorsey (1718-1760); Ann Mary (?-1774), who married William Paca (1740-1799).  Her stepsister was Margaret Dulany, who married first, Alexander Hamilton (1712-1756), and second, William Murdoch (?-1769). Her niece was Henrietta Maria Chew (1759-1847), who married Benjamin Galloway (1752-1831). MARRIED second, on October 8, 1776, Sarah Fishbourne, widow of John Mifflin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. CHILDREN. SONS: Matthias, of Wye Island, Queen Anne's County; John, of Kent County, a farmer. STEPSON John F. Mifflin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. DAUGHTERS Henrietta Maria, who married John Ross, of Bladensburg, Prince George's County; Elizabeth, who married James  Gibson, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
PRIVATE  CAREER. EDUCATION: had approximately two years of schooling under Rev. Charles Peale in  Chestertown, Kent County; studied law under his half brother Stephen Bordley (ca. 1710-1764) in Annapolis from 1744 to 1749.
SOCIAL STATUS AND ACTIVITIES Esq. at death; member of the Tuesday Club in Annapolis in the 1750s; elected to the American Philosophical Society, 1783; founded the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1785. ADDITIONAL COMMENTS When Bordley was ten yearsold his mother Ariana departed for England with her third husband Edmund Jennings (?-1756), leaving Bordley in the care of his uncle Charles Hynson (1692-1748) and his wife Francina Vanderheyden. Bordley read extensively in the natural sciences and philosophy, and enjoyed mathematics and landscape painting in his leisure time. He published many books and pamphlets, among which were A Summary View of Courses of Crops in the Husbandry of England and Maryland (Philadelphia, 1784), Yellow Fever (Philadelphia, 1793), Money, Coins, Weights and Measures (1789), National Credit and Character (1790), and Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs (Philadelphia, 1799; 2nd ed., Philadelphia, 1801). He also wrote on diet, conservation, lead poisoning, and was an experimental agriculturalist, amateur mathematician, and animal breeder. He ran a self-sufficient farm with livestock, brick kilns, a brewhouse, and a windmill. He produced his own salt, gunpowder, and fabric.
OCCUPATIONAL PROFILE lawyer, 1750 until approximately 1770, admitted to the following courts: Cecil County by March 1757, also Harford and Baltimore counties. Merchant, 1751; planter and agronomist from approximately 1770, when his first wife inherited Wye Island, Queen Anne's County; officeholder, 1753-1775. PUBLIC CAREER. LEGISLATIVE SERVICE Upper House, 1768-1770, 1771, 1773-1774. OTHER PROVINCIAL STATE OFFICES judge, Provincial Court, 1766-1776 (quorum, 1766 and 1773); judge, Admiralty Court, 1767-1776; judge, Assize Court, Western Shore, 1767-1768; judge, Assize Court, Eastern Shore, appointed 1768; commissioner to run a boundary line between Maryland and Delaware, appointed 1768; Council, 1768-at least 1774 (appointed and qualified on May 24, 1768); 1st Council of Safety, Eastern Shore, 1775 (declined); judge, General Court, appointed 1777.  LOCAL OFFICES: clerk, Baltimore County, 1753-1775 (resigned); commissioner, Baltimore Town, in office 1768. OUT OF STATE SERVICE: appointed by President Washington as a commissioner to receive subscriptions to the Bank of the United States, 1791.
STANDS ON PUBLIC/PRIVATE ISSUES: opposed jailing debtors; against intemperance; condemned slavery on three points: first, because it was contrary to Lockeian principles of equality; second, because it was often accompanied by a "scandalous lack of decency"; and third, because it was not good for agriculture because a farmer became a "slave to his slaves." Bordley manumitted many of his own slaves or bound them out as apprentices. After he declined to serve on the Council of Safety on August 29, 1775, he said that "The few who realy [sic] know my Sentiments, my Principles, Feelings will not doubt of my Fidelity to the interests of my country; and that, as an in dividual, in such sorts as is within the reach of my talents every power will be exerted to that end." Although he retired from politics, he continued to support the Revolution.
WEALTH DURING LIFETIME. PERSONAL PROPERTY: assessed value £6,044.6.8, including 162 slaves and 314 oz. plate, Queen Anne's, Talbot, and Kent counties, 1783; 128 slaves, Queen Anne's County, 1790. LAND AT FIRST ELECTION 8,498 acres in Baltimore, Frederick, Kent, and Anne Arundel counties (inherited at least 1,874 acres from his father, and at least 4,463 acres from his brothers). SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN LAND BETWEEN FIRST ELECTION AND DEATH: acquired at least 1,400 acres of land that his wife had inherited from her brother in Queen Anne's County through his first marriage, 1 770; owned a total of at least 8,497 acres in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, and Queen Anne's counties, plus 5 lots in Annapolis, 1783; there is evidence that Bordley gave large portions of his estate to his sons John and Matthias between 1783 and his death. Between 1783 and his death he also signed several "deeds of intent to sell" for large tracts in Harford and Montgomery counties and instructed that these deeds be con firmed by his executors. WEALTH AT DEATH. DIED: on January 26, 1804, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. LAND: acreage could not be determined, but Bordley owned at least 1,500 acres in Maryland, plus lands on Bear Creek and in Chester County, Pennsylvania, lots in Baltimore City and Annapolis, and a stable and house on Union Street, Phila delphia, Pennsylvania.

Source:  Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, Vol. 1. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 145-6.

Return to Introductory Page

This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.

Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!

[ Archives' Home Page  ||  All About Maryland  ||  Maryland Manual On-Line  ||  Reference & Research
||  Search the Archives   ||  Education & Outreach  ||  Archives of Maryland Online ]

Governor     General Assembly    Judiciary     Maryland.Gov

© Copyright Friday, 24-Oct-2003 20:11:06 EDT Maryland State Archives