LYMAN D. BORDWELL, Vinton, is indeed one of the pioneers of Benton County, making his first claim in 1842, upon section 24, township 84 north, range 9 west, of the fifth principal meridian, now comprising the township of Canton. At that time the country was the home of the wily redmen, many of whom remained here for years after, or occasionally visited the country. But few whites had penetrated the country so far west, and but very few had the courage to plant their stakes, erect their cabins, and claim for themselves a home in this beautiful land. But Mr. Bordwell had been used to the ways of the redmen, and, having an eye for the beautiful, determined to here make for himself a home. That his choice was a wise one all will now admit.
Lyman D. Bordwell was born in that portion of Ontario now known as Livingston County, N. Y., Jan. 28, 1808. His father, Waistell Bordwell, was a native of Massachusetts, but of English descent, while his mother was a native of Connecticut. At the time of Lyman's birth, and for many years after, the Indians were all around him. Indian boys during his boyhood and youth being his constant playmates. During this time, however, an almost inseparable companion was one who subsequently became famous, and who lost his life in the battle of the Wilderness during the Rebellion, Gen. Samuel J. Wadsworth. The two grew up together until the age of nineteen, when Wadsworth entered Yale College, and Lyman, some two years after, became a stage-driver, which occupation he followed for seven years. As might be readily inferred, the educational advantages enjoyed were very meager. When about twelve years of age he had a few weeks' schooling, and again, after he had passed his nineteenth year, he had the services of a private tutor for a short time.
On the 1st day of January, 1835, he was united in marriage with Maria Turner, a native of Allegany County, N. Y. Their wedded life lasted but a little over thirteen months, Mrs. Bordwell dying Feb. 14, 1836, leaving one child, Joseph, who grew to manhood, served his country faithfully in the great Rebellion, and died at the Soldiers' Home in 1880. Mr. Bordwell, being left with an infant son, wisely concluding that it was better to have one to whom he could safely give the charge of his child, led to the marriage altar Elizabeth Clark, of Geneseo, N. Y., the ceremony taking place June 30, 1836.
Early in 1839 Mr. Bordwell bid farewell to his wife and little ones, another boy having been born (Charles E., subsequently killed in the battle of the Wilderness), and left for Michigan Territory, to seek a home in that new country. During his absence a daughter was born to him — Sarah Jane — and his wife died. At that time there were no railroads in the West and no telegraphs, and it was weeks before Mr. Bordwell was apprised of the death of his wife. In the meantime the children were taken by relatives, a brother taking the infant daughter. Realizing that he could do but little for his children, and knowing that good homes were provided for them. Mr. Bordwell did not return East, but, as already stated, came to what is now Benton County in 1842. His daughter was reared by his brother as his own, learning to call him father, and led to believe that Lyman was her uncle. Strange as it may seem, Mr. Bordwell never saw that daughter until the l2th day of October, 1884, at which time he visited her at her home in Kansas, where she had removed. At this time she had been the mother of twelve children and the grandmother of six. She had been left in ignorance of the relation she bore to father and uncle until a few weeks previous. Truly "truth is stranger than fiction."
After staking his claim upon section 24, Canton Township, Mr. Bordwell erected a cabin and began the improvement of his land. After keeping "bachelor's hall" for about one year, July 13, 1843, he married Sarah Ann Kinsing, a native of Pennsylvania. By this union eight children were born — Lucinda, William, Eliza Jane, Mary Ann, Caroline, James H., Amanda and Emma, all of whom are yet living. After living together some forty years, death separated them, Mrs. Bordwell dying May 14, 1883. Mr. Bordwell was again married, April 21, 1884, chosing for a companion Sarah Woodard. The two now reside in the city of Vinton.
Politically Mr. Bordwell was originally a Democrat, casting his first vote for Andrew Jackson. He subsequently affiliated for a time with the Whigs, but in 1856 voted for Millard Fillmore, the candidate for President of the American party. In 1860 he favored the election of Stephen A. Douglas, being a great admirer of the "Little Giant." Since the war he has acted with the Republicans. He has held several local offices, such as Justice of the Peace, Constable, Deputy Sheriff, etc. As a Justice he served before and after the admission of the State. Religiously, he has never connected himself with any church, but takes the Golden Rule as the guide of his life.During the forty-four years that Mr. Bordwell has resided in Benton County great changes have been wrought. Pen can scarcely describe them; the younger generation cannot realize them. It is to such men as Lyman D. Bordwell that credit is chiefly due for all that we now enjoy.
Source Citation: "1887 Benton County, Iowa Biographies" [database online] Benton County IAGenWeb Project. <http://iagenweb.org/benton/>
Original data: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa." Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887, p. 330-331.
Transcribed by: Sue Soden. Submitted to the Benton County IAGenWeb Project on February 13th, 2009. Copyright © 2009 The IAGenWeb Project.