Once again Fall River is about to tear down a fine old building to make room for a parking lot. The Morgan Street School, known as the N.B. Borden School more recently, was sold for a pitiful sum. Last used in 2007 as a grammar school, there had been plans for the redundant building to be converted into a community center. The layout inside would have been ideal for a city museum. Timetoast.com ran this article on its timeline about the sale of redundant schools in the city: ”
In February 2012, the city council delays sale on Belisle; awards bids for Osborn to SB&A Realty Group, Fall River, for $3,111 for professional building, and for N.B. Borden to TA Restaurant Inc., Fall River, for $5,000 for parking and possibly apartments. Council President Linda Pereira removes Pat Casey from RE Committee related to Belisle School controversy.
For more information on Lizzie at the school visit the W&W link below.
A much-anticipated series debuted today in the Sunday Providence Journal. ” Projo” writer Paul Davis certainly did his homework for this six-part article which runs all week and features some new, never-before-published information. The writing is crisp, accurate and thought-provoking and highlights trial coverage from 1893 Providence Journals. Lizziephiles will be over the moon with the expansive coverage. If you cannot obtain a hard copy of the paper, read all about it at the newspaper online link.
A short trailer was put up on Saturday night to heighten anticipation.
A promotional online video is also on the Projo site and Youtube which features Warps and Wefts writer, Shelley Dziedzic who made a tour with Journal reporter Paul Davis in May. The tour encompassed all things “Lizzie” in and around Fall River and a jaunt to the New Bedford courthouse to visit the scene where the 1893 trial unfolded.
One has to wonder if Eli Bence consulted his half-brother Peter Gaskell Bence in the matter of giving evidence to the Fall River Police Department regarding the attempt by the woman he identified as Lizzie to purchase prussic acid on August 3rd. Peter Bence had received a political appointment to the Fall River Police Department in 1878 and served as a patrolman until 1880. He is pictured above in his policeman’s uniform.
The Bences were a large and close-knit family. In 1892 Peter Bence, a widower, was preparing to marry again to Emma Macomber on August 25th. His first wife, Sarah Jane Ball Bence had died in childbirth at their home at 117 Bay Street in 1890. The house is still standing. The topic of the Borden case, Eli’s evidence, and trial must surely have been a hot topic of discussion within those walls. In 1893 Peter and his new wife moved into 56 Palmer Street, a duplex owned by the Harringtons, where they lived until after his second wife passed away. Peter died in 1919 in Newport where he had been spending his last days with his son.
After leaving the police force, Bence tried his hand at mill work as a weaver, many years as a carpenter and finally in later life, a janitor at the Mount Hope Elementary School. Carpentry was his first love and he did decorative interior woodworking at the B.M.C. Durfee High School and the Granite Block downtown. Boat building was a hobby.
Peter Bence, born in 1849, and his sister Ellen were born in Heaton Norris, Lancashire, England. Ellen died as an infant and Peter immigrated with his father William and stepmother Sarah in 1854. The family were living in Braintree when Eli Bence was born.
Peter and his wives are buried in the family plot in Oak Grove Cemetery, next to his parents. He does not have a marker.
*Photo above and some data courtesy of Ancestry.com and the Bence family descendants
As mentioned in an earlier article on Warps and Wefts, http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/mutton-eaters-february-article/, Eli Bence and his testimony about Lizzie Borden coming into the pharmacy where he was a counter clerk on the day before the murders was bombshell testimony. Although allowed through the Preliminary, Bence’s important revelations did not make it into the 1893 trial, being ruled as “too far remote in time” from the actual killings. No prussic acid was found in the bodies of either Borden, not surprising as the lady who inquired for the deadly poison could not obtain it without a prescription. Perhaps Bence’s and the testimony of the dress burning incident by Alice Russell might have turned the tide for Lizzie, had either been allowed.
Bence moved to New Bedford and set up his own drug store by 1894, then after the death of his wife, remarried a Fairhaven girl, Annie Coggshell Maxfield, whose father ran a successful plumbing concern on Bridge St. Bence eventually moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts with son Roy by his first wife Sarah Hayhurst, and his son Maxfield by his second wife Annie. They also had a little girl Priscilla who died very young. Bence died at his Pittsfield home after suffering a stroke while riding in a car returning from the Berkshires with his son and daughter in law and wife on May 4, 1915. He is buried in Fairhaven by the side of his wife Annie and their daughter Priscilla.
The only photograph we have seen of Bence until now has been of the earnest, 27 year old who tried to give his testimony at Lizzie’s trial.
Bence’s parents, William and Sarah are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River.
The Fall River Historical Society special August-4-Sept 30 exhibit will display, for the first time, the post mortem photographs of Abby and Andrew Borden. Other rare and never-displayed items from the trial and trial lawyers will be on exhibit.
For those who cannot get enough of the Borden Case, this will be a four-star weekend featuring the annual dramatization at the house on Second Street ( tickets on sale now at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast) and a VERY special exhibit which opens on August 4th and runs through September 30th at the Fall River Historical Society. For Letterboxers, a special letterbox will be hidden in Fall River to mark the 120th anniversary of the historic crime. Atlasquest.com will have the clue, so bring your stamp and notepad, an inkpad is provided in the box. To see the clue type Fall River, MA in the locator box at the Atlasquest.com site. Got Lizzie? And how!
The house on Second Street had a special weekend guest when horror-thriller actress Brinke Stevens was in town for a premiere of her latest film at Durfee High. Brinke is working on a new Borden-related film project where she will play Abby Borden. Today she visited her “namesake” at Oak Grove and had a whirlwind tour of all Borden sites and sights in the city including Maplecroft, the Fall River Historical Society and the Gray-Whitehead Fourth Street house. She went back to California tonight with plenty of reading material, leaving lots of new friends back in Fall River.
With LeeAnn back at the house
Once a year the only dedicated amateur Bordenian thespian troupe gathers to put on their dramatization of events at the Borden house on August 4th. There will be a new Lizzie this year and a few other new faces. The amateur performers come together from all over the country only once a year on the 4th for this event. The group was founded in 1993 and the cast has increased every year with this year’s cast featuring 16 character roles. Tickets may be reserved by calling the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum at 508-675-7333. Major credit cards accepted. Tickets can be reserved for you in the giftshop for pick-up on the day of the event or purchased during giftshop hours. Don’t be disappointed-tickets sell out fast!
Abby Borden- Shelley Dziedzic
Andrew Borden- Don Sykes
Lizzie Borden- Carol Ann Simone
Emma Borden- Barbara Morrissey
Uncle John Morse- Joe Radza
Bridget Sullivan- Suzann Rogers
Marshal Hilliard- Ray Mitchell
Officer Phil Harrington- Mark Lomastro
Dr. Bowen- Jack Sheridan
Mrs. Phebe Bowen- Ellen Borden
Addie Churchill- JoAnne Giovino
Dr. Dolan- Michael Shogi
Miss Manning- Eliza Marks
Nellie Bly, Intrepid Globe-Spanning Reporter- Katrina Shogi
Undertaker Winward- Jerry Pacheco
Alice Russell- Kristin Pepe
One very good reason the Borden case has made such a long-lasting impression in the public consciousness for so many decades must surely be the unforgettable crime scene photos of Abby and Andrew Borden. For these we have James A. Walsh to thank for forever capturing the brutal wounds inflicted upon the elderly couple.. Even in black and white, the victims and the grisly scenarios which unfolded that day in 1892 still fascinate and horrify today.
James Walsh was a portrait photographer- one of many with shops on North and South Main Street in the 1890s. It was fashionable to have photographs taken of all family members, individual portraits, groups, youngsters and even infants. Post mortem photographs were also commonly done to preserve one last glimpse of a precious family member recently- departed.
It is unknown just who on the police force decided the Borden homicides were important enough to be carefully photographed but Mr. Walsh and his camera were sent for on the afternoon of August 4th. His home was on nearby Rodman Street and the studio was at 66 South Main, neither very far from the Borden residence on Second Street. The police departments in most cities did not include a crime scene photographer on their payroll. It is doubtful Mr. Walsh could ever imagine that so many years later, those memorable photos would still be carefully studied by so many interested in the case.
The prints online of the crime scenes, interiors and exteriors of #92 Second Street do not do justice to the original prints held in the Fall River Historical Society archives where the details are much clearer and sharper. Unfortunately, by the time Mr. Walsh arrived late in the afternoon, the bodies of both victims had been examined and moved and so the positions seen in the photographs were not exactly as they were following the attacks. Mrs. Borden had been turned over and back at least once, and Mr. Borden’s pockets had been gone through to see if burglary had been a motive. It is even likely that he was arranged in a more decorous manner on the sofa for the photo, befitting his stature in the city. His arm is clearly propped up with a pillow and it is likely his slip-on Congress boots were put back on his feet. It is hard to imagine police forensic work today without the all-important crime scene photos. During the Jack the Ripper investigation, one policeman suggested photographing the victim’s eyes as the last thing seen would still be imprinted on the retina! Those photos have also immortalized the Ripper case.
Cartes de visites (CDVs) or cabinet photos by Walsh are fairly common on Ebay in the 4-5 dollar range and are fun to collect. Often the back of the card is as interesting as the front; Walsh’s were very elegant. Who knows- more photos of the Borden family might still be out there! (scans below W&W archive with thanks to Joseph Soares)
The article on Mrs. Lawdwick (Ladowick, Ladwick, Lodowick. etc.) Borden is still a much-visited link on Warps and Wefts. http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/the-four-wives-of-lawdwick-borden/
The tragic tale of Mrs. Eliza Darling Borden, (Lizzie’s great-uncle’s second wife who had died by the time Lizzie was born) throwing her three children in the cellar cistern, then stepping behind the chimney and slitting her throat is one which captures attention. The incident in 1848, and the mention of it at Lizzie’s trial keeps the curiosity alive about that house. The graves of the two little ones who died, and their troubled mother, are visited more often now at Oak Grove Cemetery. They are directly across the road from the Southard Miller and Dr. Bowen’s plots.
A few weeks ago, the Muttoneaters, at their annual gathering, were invited to see the old cellar where the tragedies took place. The staircase is steep, and probably original.
Today it is used as a family room and traces of the original layout are hard to find. The eastern room is now a small laundry with washer and dryer. The main room which is accessed at the bottom of the steep stairs has a fireplace, the infamous chimney now covered by a brick wall to the ceiling. One unusual feature is the floor -to-ceiling woodworking which is surprising and beautifully rendered into small shelves, cabinets and little drawers. The owners, aware that Dr. Kelly once lived here, thought perhaps the doctor’s home surgery or consulting room may have been located here, the numerous storage spaces used for instruments and medical equipment. Dr. Kelly raised a happy family of three children here, and now the room is again filled with laughter and children- all vestiges of that dreadful day in 1848 gone.
Under a nearly-full moon and windy night, the guests from the Lizzie Borden B&B Museum visited Lizzie’s grave on the 85th anniversary of her death at Maplecroft. A marigold had been planted along with a vase of cut flowers, several small pebbles and a geranium were at the headstone.
Along Plymouth Avenue, Sonic Nova and Millbillyart.com have painted median flower boxes, including one decorated with a familiar lady.
This past weekend the cordial society of armchair sleuths returned to #92 Second Street for the annual flocking of the Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) for a jam-packed tour of many Borden-related sites around the area. Friday morning the group of 16 visited the Fall River Historical Society to bestow the yearly awards upon the recent publication by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, Parallel Lives. The flock enjoyed a coffee hour, tour and photo session in the beautiful Victorian garden before heading off to Fairhaven for a picnic at Fort Phoenix and a city tour given by Chris Richards who was dressed to impress!
Chris fired off a vintage rifle, explained how teeth were extracted, limbs were amputated and the life and activities of a wartime barber-dentist-surgeon, a role he re-enacts in costume with a local history group at Fort Phoenix annually. Afterward the Muttoneaters toured city hall and learned about Mark Twain’s dedication speech given on the stage there, visited the locales of the homes in which Helen Brownell stayed (Emma Borden’s alibi), and visited the beautiful Millicent Library where a letterbox was found in a very special place inside. (see Atlasquest.com for clues!) The group then returned to Fall River for a pizza party and presentations on the Villisca murders of 1912 and discussions on Andrew Jennings, one of the attorneys for Lizzie whose journals they saw at the historical society earlier.
Saturday was a busy day which began with a trip to Oak Grove Cemetery to see the room in which the Bordens were autopsied on August 11, 1892, and to inspect the interior of the holding tomb used to house the coffins of the Bordens both before and after the heads were removed by Dr. Dolan.
The morning concluded with a very special visit to Maplecroft and a great tour by Mr. Bob Dube who conducted the group through every room of the three-storied home and explained what was original to Lizzie’s tenure there. This was a very special and much-appreciated opportunity as the house is currently for sale with the future owner still unknown.
After lunch the Muttoneaters visited the Animal Rescue League of Fall River, an annual stop, to bring dog and cat treats and a special 1927 newspaper detailing Lizzie and Emma Borden’s donation to this worthy cause, bequeathed in their wills.
The afternoon brought a real surprise when the group was invited to visit the cellar of the Lodowick Borden (also known as Dr. Kelly’s) home next door to the Borden house on Second Street to view the chimney and cellar where in 1848 Eliza Darling Borden threw three of her children in a cistern and then committed suicide behind the chimney. Beautiful cabinetry with little drawers and cupboards were added much later when the Kellys moved to the house in 1891 and are still intact. The room was most likely used then as Dr. Kelly’s home office.
Saturday evening concluded with a visit from the “Women’s Christian Temperence Union” with Muttoneaters dressed as Mrs. Brayton, Carrie Nation and Mother Willard, followed by a Sunday-style chicken Gospel bird dinner and many hours of animated conversation about the famous Borden case. As always, nobody wanted to leave on Sunday morning and the planning begins again for next year’s adventures.
When the phone rang at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast several months ago, the voice at the end of the line wishing to book a room was none other than the great niece of John and Bridget Sullivan. For years, the only photo known of the Borden’s Irish maid was the one taken at an unknown date shown below. The relative will be a guest, in Bridget’s room of course, this summer and will be giving an interview to Borden house co-owner, Lee Ann Wilber. There are plenty of questions to ask! Employees at the house have been excited about the photos and news for many weeks and have a list prepared. Will we now find out just where Bridget was from 1893 until she showed up in Montana in 1896? The story will be featured in the newspaper tomorrow but has a live interview at the link below with Lee Ann and reporter Deb Allard recorded early today. http://www.heraldnews.com/multimedia/video/x826304472/New-photos-of-Lizzie-Borden-maid
For most visitors to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast house museum, the interest is in two deaths primarily- Abby and Andrew Borden. Psychics who perform seances in nearly every room in the house have picked up various presences and often ask about other possible deaths in the house over the years. Considering the era, and the general occurence of being born, dying, and being waked in one’s home, the probability of other people dying a natural death in the Borden house is high. After the Borden sisters moved out in September of 1893, the house functioned as a rooming establishment, and then in 1918 was sold and changed hands and families over the years.
Built in 1845 by Southard Miller for woolen mill carding room supervisor, Charles Trafton, the house was built on land once owned by Lizzie’s great uncle Lawdwick (or Lodowick) Borden. In the 1850 census Charles Trafron is 45 and living with his wife Hannah, aged 32 and Rhoda White at the house. Unfortunately we do not know exactly the date the couple move into the house nor when their infant son was born and died.
Hannah Trafton died a tragic death from tuberculosis, which at the time was called consumption, a disease which affected young to middle aged adults primarily. Her date of death was January 11, 1851 so the couple had not lived long at the new house on Second Street.
Identifying and understanding the contagious nature of the tuberculosis bacillus, the building of sanitoria, and medications for the disease came several decades after Hannah Trafton’s death. The disease, sometimes called “wasting away” disease caused prolonged coughing, spitting up of blood, and a gradual heartrending decline of the affected victim. The quality of the air and water were suspected causes and the treatment consisted of fresh air and making the victim as comfortable as possible as they grew ever weaker and paler. In 1851 Fall River, it is probable that Hannah Trafton did die in her bed on Second Street. The Traftons inhabited the first floor, and what is now the dining room would have been in 1851, two small bedrooms. It is also very likely that their infant son Charles Jr. died at the house.
The words “Town Lot” on the death certificate refer to the Old North burial ground on North Main at the corner of Brightman, the city lot before Oak Grove Cemetery opened in 1855. Charles Trafton remarried as appears in the 1870 census with his second wife Susan. They had no children. After Charles’ retirement, the Bordens arrive on the scene in 1872, and the Traftons moved to Somerset where Charles died on Feb. 23, 1878. Susan remarried Frank DeCaro, an Italian barber. Frank returned to Italy after her death. As was the frequently- seen custom, Charles is buried between his two wives.
Although not as horrific as the murders of the two Bordens, Hannah Trafton’s sad demise and that of her child is tragic. How many other deaths at #92 can only be imagined. The dining room, which saw the preparation of Abby and Andrew’s bodies, the removal of Mrs. Borden’s stomach, and was the bedroom for owner, Mrs. Josephine McGinn in her final days, was a place which had witnessed much sadness and horror. There should be enough hauntings for almost any psychic.
So much has been happening in the Borden sphere of late that you need a program to keep up. Not all has been happy news, but most has been cause for celebration.
1. The Central Congregational Church: Things are looking grim for Lizzie’s old church on Rock Street with hopes high yet for a reprieve once again. http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x962233671/Fall-Rivers-former-Central-Congregational-faces-wrecking-ball
2. HBO Mini Series The much-anticipated four-hour series starring Chloe Sevigny and backed by Tom Hanks’ Playtone Productions is still simmering on the back burner. Hopefully when Miss Sevigny wraps her latest project, this fresh take on the Borden saga will get cookin’!
3. Donation of Andrew Jennings’ private notes and journal to the Fall River Historical Society was the exciting news this past weekend as the famous “hip bath collection” yielded one more treasure which was turned over to the historical society. http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x1785609188/Handwritten-journals-from-Lizzie-Borden-lawyer-donated-to-FRHS
4. Parallel Lives is recognized at New England Book Fair http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x570348962/Parallel-Lives-book-on-Lizzie-Borden-wins-honorable-mention
5. Coming Soon! Fall River Revisited by Stefani Koorey. Preorder now at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0738576840/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk
6. The Dead Files visit in January to the Borden house should be airing March 16th at 10 p.m. on the Travel Channel. Check the website for schedule and more on hosts, Amy and Steve. http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/the-dead-files
If the publication of Parallel Lives was not enough excitement, the news of the donation of Andrew Jennings’ personal papers, notes, and newspaper clippings to the Fall River Historical Society was published in the Fall River Herald News today. The Borden community was anxiously awaiting the news of ” a significant development” after being alerted late last week to the fact that something exciting was about to break.
Some very illuminating comments and information will no doubt be forthcoming from this new treasure trove.
Now, if we could only get the Hilliard papers published and the Robinson cache uncovered!
The Borden Monument
By Shelley Dziedzic (all rights reserved, February 2012)
Click on the photo of the worksheet above to use enlargement ZOOM tool
Not surprisingly the Borden plot is the most visited site in Oak Grove Cemetery. On the day of the funeral of Abby and Andrew Borden, only grass and many trees surrounded the open graves lined with pine branches. Of course the Bordens were not buried on the date of their joint funeral, August 6, 1892, but instead lingered in a holding tomb at the cemetery awaiting a full autopsy on August 11th and burial at last on August 17th. It would not be until January 1895 that the stately Westerly blue granite monument would be set in place, along with the rectangular headstones bearing the initials of the victims.
With Fall River being famous for granite, especially rose granite, one wonders why Emma and Lizzie Borden did not shop for a fitting monument in their own home town. The fact was that Smith’s Granite Company of Westerly, Rhode Island was the most prestigious monument supplier of its day, with offices in many major American cities. Providence would have been the nearest branch to Fall River. Smith’s could claim orders from all of the finest old families as well as being in demand to supply important statues and civic monuments and memorial stones across the country. Emma and Lizzie chose the very best to mark the site of their eternal rest.
The stone was ordered on July 2, 1894, almost two years from the date of the burial of Abby and Andrew Borden. The stone is nine feet in height and is divided into five separate segments. The cost of the labor and materials is carefully noted in the order book, and the date of each stage of the work is listed when completed at the top of the page by stone numbers 1-5. The stone was crated and shipped by rail on January 4, 1895. The base is Stone #1, #2 is the section containing A.J. Borden in raised and polished letters, #3 is the panel stone where names and dates are inscribed, #4 is the most intricately carved by master carver, Mr. L. Galli who was paid $230.79 and #5 is the cap stone. At the bottom of the page appears the order for the small headstones. There are four of them with the lettering and polishing done by William Drew and J.F. Murphy. The four are AJB,(Andrew Jackson Borden) ADB, (Abby Durfee Borden) SAB (Sarah Anthony Borden) and the full name Alice, the sister who died very young. No doubt the matching headstones of Lizzie and Emma were added at a much later date, and also the inscription on the panel of the main marker added in 1927 or later.
It is interesting to note on this order sheet that the panel engraving had to be done twice due to an error. Many have remarked that there is an “S” added to Lizzie’s name and wondered if this was an order left by Lizzie to be completed after her death or merely an error on the part of the carver, who may have thought Andrews was a surname and that Andrew was an unlikely middle name for a woman. Lizzie had, herself, opted to change her name unofficially to Lizbeth, but is not known to have added an “S” to her middle name of Andrew.
It is unknown exactly when the names of Emma and Lizzie, and their dates of birth and death were added to the panel, or whether either sister ever actually saw the panel with their names on it. It is not uncommon to have names and dates of birth engraved on a stone while the person is still alive, with the death date added after the fact. This may or may not have been done at the time of the creation of this monument. As particular as Lizzie was known to be, it would be easy to make the case that she never saw the panel in life to catch the error.
Newspapers printed that on the day of the stone’s installation, Lizzie and Emma went out to inspect the work. It was reported that Lizzie only gave a cursory glance and then went back to her carriage. Emma is said to have made a careful inspection. The cost today of the stock and labor for this monument would be many times the figure on this work order.
A list of artisans who worked on the Borden monument:
Pat Holliday, Jas. Brown, Mike Burke, Jas. Dower, Tom Holliday, George Rae, P. Craddick, F. Polletti, J.D. Craddick, Joe Frasier, L. Galli, Dan Kelleher, James Blake, Ira Norman, George Dunn, William Frances, Frank Roads, John Moore, J.F. Murphy and William Drew.
- Alexander Lawson, a Scottish-born stone carver from Aberdeen, who immigrated in the great Scottish wave which came to America lived and worked in Westerly, Rhode Island before moving to Fall River to open his own granite works and monument business on Prospect Street, just outside the gates of Oak Grove Cemetery. The family lived on Robeson Street for many years, and the business was inherited by Frederick Lawson, Alexander’s son and prospered for many years. Alexander Lawson is credited with the carving of the 1873 arch at Oak Grove.
The diagram and details for this article were furnished by the Smith-Babcock House Museum on Granite Street in Westerly, R.I. The diagram is reproduced with permission. Additional information on Smith’s and the granite industry in Westerly may be found in the excellent publication, Built From Stone: The Westerly Granite Story by Linda Smith Chafee, John B. Coduri, and Dr. Ellen L. Madison. Copies may be purchased at Other Tiger Bookstore on High Street in Westerly or at this link http://www.builtfromstone.com/
Visit the Smith-Babcock House Museum, which is the premier repository of archived materials relating to the granite industry in Westerly. http://www.babcock-smithhouse.com/