The subject of this sketch, the late Judge Borton, was one of Clyde's most distinguished citizens. He not only reached the top round of the ladder as a practitioner in the state, but also in the Federal courts. Judge Borton was one of the "headlights" of the Democratic party. He represented the Eighty-first district in 1882-3, was a candidate for secretary of state in 1878, was attorney for the Missouri Pacific Railway and held minor offices, as mayor of the town, etc. He was a popular public official and ranked among the best legal authority of the state. Aside from being a man of ability and natural genius, he was possessed of an inexhaustible fund of humor and as big-hearted as he was genial. He was first and foremost in every movement for the best interests of Clyde, and through his associations with the outside world the town became widely known. Through his untiring efforts much credit is due for the bringing of the railroad into Cloud county. In company with his wife's brother, James Law, who is a musician, he would visit the country districts and hold mass meetings, make speeches, etc. He was not only a learned and eloquent man, but popular with all classes of people.
Judge Borton was born in Fairview, Guernsey county, Ohio, September 1, 1831, and died March 14, 1889, at the age of fifty-seven years. His death was one of the most sorrowful events that ever took place in Clyde. Judge Borton was the fifth of nine children, six brothers and three sisters, viz: Reuben, Edward, William, Martha, J. Wesley Baker (see sketch), Louisa and Vashti Caroline. Of the entire family only the two last named are living, both residents of California. The Bortons were all men of broad and progressive ideas, large experiences with the world and an inherent knowledge of human nature.
Judge Borton's grandparents, Benjamin and Charity (Rogers) Borton, were born in Eversham township, Burlington county, West Jersey, eleven miles from the city of Philadelphia. His parents were James and Maria (Wilson) Borton, who settled in Ohio, where they reared their family of children. They were of Quaker origin. Reuben Borton, a prominent man in milling and manufacturing, died at his home in Marion, Illinois, in 1889. Edward and William died in Ohio. The youngest brother, J. Wesley Borton, was massacred by the Indians in California, May 3, 1864. He was one of a prospecting party who had pursued a band of Indians to recover their horses stolen by the savages, but gave up the chase and returned to camp, unpacked, unsaddled and lariated their horses about twenty yards distant and stretched themselves upon the ground. A few moments later they were startled by a deadly volley of about fifty shots poured in from all directions. Most of the party sprang to their feet, but J.W. Borton, who was lying at full length upon the ground did not arise; he had received a bullet through the chest. Four of the party were killed outright and another dangerously wounded. The others fled for their lives, as to linger would be certain death, and their comrades were already fated. When Mr. Borton's body was found, a great New Foundland dog, true to the instincts of this noble animal, was stretched by his master's side as if calmly resolved to share his fate.
Judge Borton was married to Miss Matilda Law, April 30, 1854. She survives him and lives on the farm along with her brother, Joseph Law, and her aged mother, who was Sarah Watkins before her marriage, and as a girl was known as "Sallie" Watkins. This interesting, vivacious and well preserved old lady, with a face as round and plump as many women fifty years her junior, and eyes that are bright as those in many youthful faces, is living with her daughter at the age of eighty-eight years, having been born March 15, 1814. "Sallie" Law was married to James Law in 1829. He was fourteen years her senior, and consequently was born in 1800. His father was Mathew Law and came to America under the English flag as a British captain. He was captured and surrendered by Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown in 1781. He was born in England but was reared in Ireland, and was a shipbuilder by occupation. He never returned to England, but married an American woman and reared a family of nine children. Mr. and Mrs. Law reared to maturity ten of the eleven children born to them. The second youngest are twins. Joseph, who manages the farm for Mrs. Borton - his sister died unmarried at the age of thirty years. Another son, James W. Law, Jr. (see sketch), owns an adjoining farm. The daughters are Nancy Ellen, wife of S. Stiverson, of Clarinda, Iowa. Laura A., wife of David May, of Kansas City. Mrs. Doctor Ransopher and Mrs. L.W. Borton, the latter two well known to all the old settlers of Elk township. James Law, Sr., died December 7. 1878.
Judge Borton was admitted to the legal profession in 1855, and practiced law successfully in the courts of Ohio until 1859, when he became interested in the alluring prospects for gold found in the Rockies, and he left his old home and located near the world famous Pikes Peak. During his ten years of residence there, his career was marked and he was prominent in legal circles and in politics. He was elected attorney of Gilpin county, but he decided to locate in Kansas, believing in the state's future greatness he cast his lot here and no man worked more faithfully than he. It was said of him, he refused upon one occasion to buy a map of heaven because Clyde was not inscribed there.
It has been conceded that Judge Borton was the only individual who was ever rewarded by a spontaneous laugh from Jay Gould, the late great railroad magnate. Being a man of much local influence, he was invited by Jay Gould, who was touring the country in his special car, to join him in his journey through Republican valley and consulted the judge regarding some new railroad projects. There was in the party besides Mr. Gould, S.H.H. Clark, B.P. Waggener, Doctor Munn, W.W. Fagan, George J. Gould and other officials of the road. After the business transactions were disposed of, Judge Borton was invited to make the entire trip with them. From railroads the conversation drifted to other topics. Mr. Gould took no part in the subjects under discussion, or touched upon; finally the conversation changed to humorous narratives and during this test Jay Gould sat unmoved as a sphinx, until Judge Borton related for the first time his original and famous story about the cheerful sod house settler who became so sore pressed by poverty that he resolved to abandon all attempts at living like a human being and get a buffalo hide and tail and run wild.
The recital of this thoroughly original and remarkable anecdote was irresistable and Mr. Gould's risibilities could not be suppressed upon this occasion and he fairly exploded with laughter. This was the first instance known to Gould's friends of his ever having taken interest in anything not pertaining to business, and through this incident Judge Borton gained the noteoriety of being the only man who ever produced from the great railway king an audible laugh. The judge was pleased over his victory, and after this event was frequently the guest of Jay Gould, often traveling with him when passing through northwestern Kansas.
The following is a true story, illustrating the tact and humor of Judge Borton: The judge and three comrades were touring the country districts in the interests of a railroad project during the early 'seventies. As the night was dark and Clyde several miles distant, the company of promoters secured lodging in the diminutive home of a settler whose one room was partitioned with blankets, as was the prevailing custom in the new western country. All went well with the guests of the farm house, who arose the next morning with renewed vitality to pursue their intentions. In glancing his eyes over the breakfast table, Fred Herman, who was one of the party, discovered that the ham and eggs were swimming in grease, a diet his dyspeptic constitution could not indulge in with any degree of comfort or happiness, hence in kindly, persuasive accents he requested the hostess to prepare for him some dry toast and a poached egg. The woman looked about in a bewildered manner, and a moment later disappeared from the room. Returning presently she hesitatingly remarked to Mr. Herman: "I cannot find one of them kind on the place." In all instant the quick intuition of Judge Borton was brought to bear upon the case and, with the tact that made him famous, the judge, approaching the disconcerted landlady, said in rather confidential tones: "Just take a frying-pan, pour into it some hot water, break an ordinary hen's egg into it, and when cooked you can't tell it from the other kind." Their hostess is still a resident of Kansas, and not so far distant, but this article may be read by she who doubtless learned ere this, that "poached" eggs are a form of cooking rather than the product of a certain species of fowl.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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