Bordwell was one of several brothers who came from western Massachusetts
into eastern New York and thence into what would someday be Yates County.
This was of course a popular migration route, and was followed by many of
their neighbors and relatives.
Jonathan's father was
Enoch Bordwell, (1748-1789) and his mother Abigail Wells Bordwell. The couple
had 10 children, at least three of whom came to Potter in the first decade
of the 19th century.
Enoch Bordwell Jr.
was born at Shelburne, Mass., in 1775, the third child and third son of
his parents. He died in Potter in 1838. He and his wife were the first Bordwells
in Potter, arriving in 1804. They had eight children. One of their sons,
Stoddard Bordwell, had a son Robert R.C. Bordwell who practiced medicine
in Penn Yan, living at 173 Main Street, a brick house which he probably built himself in 1868.
Robert's grandfather Enoch was a skilled carpenter and builder himself, with the old Court House in Canandaigua
and the first Court House in Penn Yan to his credit.
His brother Consider
Bordwell was also born at Shelburne, in 1784, the eighth child and sixth
son of Enoch Sr. and Abigail; and died in Potter in 1850. His wife was Calista Dyer, whom he married
in 1809. They had eight children,
most of whom married into other Potter families and died there, with many
descendants. Consider Bordwell arrived about 1806, after Enoch Jr. had made
a settlement. Their brother Jonathan came with this second party, and in
October 1806 he was selling land in Nettle Valley to John Griffin
and John Riggs, the town's first storekeepers. His deed of purchase was
evidently never recorded.
Within a short time,
certainly before the summer of 1810, Jonathan moved to the as-yet-unnamed hamlet
of Penn Yan. The census of that year shows him with a wife and two sons,
with a residence between Gideon Allen and Rebecca Wagener, which would have put him somewhere
on Main Street. He was a tanner and shoemaker. His tannery was where George
Benham's was later located, on the bank of Jacob's Brook behind what is
now 163 Main Street. He pursued his business as a partner of Miles Benham's, who lived at 165 Main and evidently had a shop in the same building.
In 1811 he sold the
rest of his land in Potter (then still part of Middlesex) to John Griffin;
he and his wife Mary, who was always called Polly, were then residents of
Benton (the part later split off as Milo, in the northwest corner of that
town where the village of Penn Yan would a few years later be laid out).
He owned other lands
in Penn Yan besides the 14 acres he bought from Abraham Wagener in 1819,
but that one seems to be the only deed he ever recorded. He has no entry
on the Benton tax roll for 1813, but in 1816 he is shown with a house and
27 acres, worth $1008. He was one of the more prosperous landowners in the
After Milo was formed
in 1818, Jonathan was of course recorded on tax rolls in that town. The
1818 and 1819 rolls are extant, and he still owned a valuable property.
On the 1820 census his household is shown between Miles Benham (165 Main Street) and Andrew
Oliver (204 Main Street), and contains three boys and young men, and four girls, besides himself
and his wife. This is the year a judgment was found against him and his
property had to be sold to pay the debt. He is not listed as a freeholder
on the 1821 tax roll.
He left Penn Yan about
this time, for Chautauqua County and died there leaving four children. His
influence on Penn Yan was brief, but seems to have been profound. For many
years afterward old peoples' memories of Penn Yan included the sight of
his extensive orchard in bloom along Main Street. His house was at the lower
end of his 14-acre property, near the tannery. The business used water from
a pond formed by a dam on Jacob's Brook that extended all the way up nearly
to Clinton Street. This
was a favorite ice-skating venue in the winter, and remarked on as such
for decades, into the 20th century when the dam was finally removed, though it ceased to hold the water back much earlier.
Bordwell was in partnership
for at least some of his time in Penn Yan with Miles Benham, who finally
acquired his 14-acre property and subdivided it to individuals. They probably
built together the brick building at 165 Main Street that served as their
shop, as Benham's residence and that of his brother George, as a tavern
which may have housed the first meetings of the Yates County Board of Supervisors,
and still stands on Main Street as one of the very few remaining structures
from those early hopeful days.