Sometimes it’s hard to think of Lizzie Borden as just another little girl, innocent, unknown, just a school girl with her whole life ahead of her. Here she is posing happily, with no clue what the future would bring, and never giving a thought to being remembered a century later.
While some are happy that the house on Second Street will continue to operate as it has done since it opened for day tours and as a B&B, others are worried that the new owner will boost the popular paranormal focus on the historic home and leave history in the dust.
With the craze for the paranormal and supernatural over the past decade, just about every paranormal television program has made a stop at the Borden house in search of Lizzie or the ghosts of Abby and Andrew hoping to get the inside scoop on whodunnit. Seances, paranormal teams, ghost cams, and other ghost hunting equipment are nothing new to the house where two grisly murders took place. Although the B&B did not begin with this sort of focus back in 1996, over the years it has become a destination for otherworldly pursuits. Can history and ghosts live comfortably side by side? Both day and evening tour guides give the historical background on the murder case as they escort the curious through the 1845 home. What happens after dark is up to the overnight guests as many enjoy bringing their equipment and staying up all night to see what or who may show up! Borden case historians and case purists are standing by to see how it all will work out. One thing is for sure- interest in Lizzie Borden and the enduring mystery of what happened on August 4, 1892 will be around for a long, long time.
Old Fall River made much of this special day. There was a very large Irish community in the city and Lizzie’s neighbor, Dr. Michael Kelly was the organizer of the annual St. Paddy’s Day parade. It is said that every Irish politician passing through the city soon found his feet under the table of Caroline and Michael Kelly .
Many would like to spend an hour or so interviewing Alice Russell, former neighbor and friend of Lizzie and Emma. Alice had to work to support herself and her widowed mother. It was a very different life from that which Lizzie lived. For about a decade Alice and her mother had rooms in the house next door which would become the Kelly house. The Kellys moved in sometime in 1891, bought the entire house for home and patient calls, and Alice moved down to Borden St. Alice was closer to Emma’s age than Lizzie’s and had opportunity to know the family well. Alice was the first person Lizzie thought to send for when the body of her father was found. Alice was the person asked to stay for a few days during the funeral planning. Alice saw Lizzie burn a dress the morning after the funerals. Alice was the one to whom Lizzie confided that Andrew had an enemy and “something is hanging over me- something might happen”. Alice’s testimony about the dress would bring down an indictment in December 1892. Alice is a big player in the Borden case. Sadly we have one known photo of her as an elderly lady at the Adams House retirement home. It is not a very good photo and was used first on the cover of the Lizzie Borden Quarterly and more recently in PARALLEL LIVES with a wider shot of the room at Adams House. This portion of the photograph was carefully restored by HGF Grafix before putting into the animation software and gives some idea of what Alice looked like in old age. She wears glasses and the image is not perfect but we get an idea. Oh, the questions we could ask her!
Thanks to the magic of AI animation from My Heritage, personalities from the Borden case can now come to life. Colorization and animation add so much to a still black and white photograph. See many more animations at our Facebook address. Click on the link above to see Lizzie’s old friend, Augusta Poole Tripp. Augusta had a visit at her home in Westport from Lizzie on July 26th, about a week before the murders.
Surprising news broke tonight of the listing for sale of the popular bed & breakfast, open as a business for day tours and overnights since 1996. The listing details will be posted tomorrow morning with Century 21 as real estate agency. Visit the link below for more information.
Colorization can sometimes add another whole dimension to vintage black and white photos. We’ve done this one of the crime scene which makes you feel that this could be today and you are in the room. That may be the sheet used to cover Andrew to the right, just over the top of the rocking chair. There is a small table there with books and a straw boater hat on it- looks like the sheet is tossed on top the table in this photo. Mr. James Walsh, a local portrait photographer, hired by the police department, began photographing the crime scene around 3:30 in the afternoon. You will note the presence of a man standing far to the right, by the kitchen door. That man is likely a policeman, there are several possible candidates for who he might be.
You may recall that the Borden neighbor to the north, Addie Churchill, on the morning of the murder had just returned from a trip to Hudner’s meat market on South Main St. She would observe Bridget running up and down the driveway and the flurry of excitement near the Borden side door from her kitchen window. Addie called out to Lizzie who replied, “Do come over Mrs. Churchill, someone has killed Father.” The rest we know, but who were the Hudners? They were of Irish descent and had done well in the city of Fall River, by 1892, owning a chain of fine meat and provision markets in the city. Here is an excerpt about the Hudners. A small sign saying “Hudner” can still be found on the building on Old Second Street.
There are so many questions and things to ponder when considering the Borden case in its entirety, but let’s just think about August 4th until just a few days prior to the Inquest. Inquiring minds want to know:
- Lizzie was alone in the house at the time of Abby’s murder and saw no other person coming in or going out of the house although she was in the kitchen by the side door most of the time. Bridget was outside washing windows. There are witnesses who saw her washing them.
- Bridget came in to fetch supplies and says the screen door was open and did not say she saw Lizzie in the kitchen. Where was Lizzie?
- Bridget will say that Lizzie laughed softly from the top of the stairs when she let Mr. Borden in the front door. Bridget will forget all about that 10 months later.
- Lizzie sees her father when he comes home around 10:45, and tells him Abby had a note and was gone out which stops him from looking for her. No note is ever found or the writer of the note. Lizzie suggests Bridget might want to go up to North Main St. to a dress goods sale. Bridget declines and goes up to the third floor to lie down. Lizzie is again alone downstairs with Andrew.
- Lizzie has admitted to the girls in Marion that she has a sharp hatchet she will bring with her Monday on her fishing trip. Her job will be chopping kindling for the stove.
- Lizzie claims to be in the hayloft at the time Andrew is murdered. She has to be out of the house. There is a dead body on the second floor, the dead body of Andrew on the first floor and Bridget is on the third floor napping with both other rooms locked up there. Lizzie gives different reasons for being in the loft and the length of time she says she is up there does not fit the timeline.
- Lizzie is in control of the alarm-sounding. Bridget is sent out of the house to fetch help, Lizzie never makes a move to get out of the house where a killer could be lurking. She has time to hide a weapon and tidy up before Mrs. Churchill makes a brief appearance and hurries off to get help.
- Lizzie goes upstairs after the body of Abby is found and changes into a pink and white striped wrapper and spends the day upstairs, frequently left alone. She will make two trips to the cellar that night. One is with Alice Russell, a friend staying in the house to help, who tags along, the other right after Alice goes to her room and she can return to the cellar alone.
- On August 6th she is told by the mayor that she is a suspect, late in the day after the funerals. On the morning of August 7th, alone in the kitchen for the moment, she tears up and burns a dress in the stove but is discovered by Alice Russell who walks in and Emma who steps out of the sink room to see what is happening. Where had that dress been the day of the search?
- Officer Medley, Edson, Desmond and others go back to the Borden house at 10 a.m. Monday, August 8th to resume looking in the cellar. Medley finds a handless hatchet with a short stub of freshly broken handle . It appears to have been recently washed and is coated with dust. Nobody saw this on the main search of the house Saturday.
You have to admire the energy and endurance of those Victorian ladies. Even in the sweltering heat of a July afternoon, corseted and wearing layers of clothing, they managed to look crisp and elegant. What’s more is that they managed also to have some fun while looking so well turned out.
It would be hard to believe that a person contemplating cold-blooded murder could have, a week before the crimes, presented such a fun-loving and carefree demeanor. It was common to get out of the big cities in the heat of summer while the men stayed behind laboring and making more money. Abby Borden herself had planned a little Swansea vacation with a lady friend to the Borden farm on Gardner’s Neck Road. If you have ever been, there is always a delightful breeze , good fishing, and beautiful scenery to be enjoyed. Abby’s companion had to cancel and so she contemplated a sojourn with a relative in nearby Warren instead.
Lizzie and Emma also decided to escape the city heat and take the train to New Bedford on July 21st. It must have been a great escape from the daily routine at #92 Second Street. Emma hurried off to Fairhaven to enjoy the cool breezes of Fort Phoenix with its bandstand and shoreline attractions and a long visit to the Brownells on Green St. while Lizzie trotted off to see the Pooles, mother and daughter, at a boarding house on Madison Street. Lizzie had thoughts of diversion in her mind: pleasurable shopping jaunts, chatting with the Pooles who had known Lizzie since girlhood, and thoughts of Marion nearby with its enchantments of fishing piers, beautiful homes, boating and fishing and good friends .
With all of this in mind, you can make a good case that this seems unlikely behavior for a would-be-murderess. Lizzie had a little shopping excursion on July 23rd, perusing dress fabrics and patterns and enjoying the shops of New Bedford. On July 25th a most amiable opportunity for a day trip to Marion presented itself. Lizzie was in the very distinguished company of Rev. Buck’s daughter Alice, Anna and Mary Holmes, Mabel and Louise Remington, Isabelle Fraser, Louise Handy, Annie Bush, Elizabeth Johnson, Mrs. James and Miss Edith Jackson, and Jennie Stowell.
(Converse Point, formerly Blakes Point)
Marion was a little “Newport North”with moorings for yachts, celebrities and artists, politicians and lawyers, doctors and the upper crust of society longing to get away from the heat and crowded cities. Charming cottages and stately waterfront homes dotted the shoreline. Tree-lined streets, a chapel, art studios, delightful quaint eateries and a music hall provided entertainment for the lucky residents and distinguished guests.
Lizzie’s lady friends were busily playing house at Dr. Handy’s cottage and relaxing, Bohemian- style with back hair down and corsets loosened . Lizzie was to join the band of merrymakers on August 8th for jolly hours at the fishing hole and some slapdash housekeeping and high jinx with “the girls”. Each lady had a little job to do which made the domestic chores seem so much more fun. It is said that Lizzie was to tend to chopping kindling for the cook stove and that when told the kitchen kindling hatchet was a “dull thing” remarked that she had a sharp one she would bring that would be just the ticket.
On the 25th of July, Lizzie left the Pooles and was at Blakes Point, which is now Converse Point, for a day trip. Over time, the name has changed to whoever lives on the point at the moment. A very snappy yacht was at the moorings, the MABEL F. SWIFT. She was a trim Fall River craft owned by Charles W. Anthony, and a familiar sight to the Newport Yachting community on regatta days. The Honorable Simeon Borden, the Honorable James Jackson, Holder W. Durfee, William Winslow, and R.W. Bassett were the gentleman aboard. Friends, fun and sun in the bloom of summer were the order of the day.
The next day, Tuesday, July 26th, Lizzie would travel by carriage with Mrs. Poole and her daughter Carrie out to Westport to visit her old childhood friend Augusta Poole who had married and lived in a Victorian farmhouse with husband, Cyrus Tripp. It was a bit of a journey out to the house by carriage and Lizzie spent most of the late morning and afternoon there visiting Augusta. The band of three ladies then departed for New Bedford where Lizzie parted company with the Pooles after a busy few days, taking the train to return home to Fall River.
It was probably a reluctant but dutiful Lizzie who decided to forsake the fun and friends to return home to obligations and household drudgery. Mrs. Borden would want to be going to the farm for a break, and someone needed to be at home to look after Mr. Borden, oversee his meals and well-being. There were minutes to take at one of her many charitable organization meetings and Lizzie was conscientious. But there was the happy prospect of returning soon to the cottage of Dr. Benjamin Handy and the vacationing ladies on a spree with fishing at the pier to come. Dr. Handy was born in Marion and was a surgeon and physician. Later on, Dr. Handy would report a “wild-eyed” man in front of the Borden house on Second St. around 10:30 on the day of the murders. His Marion cottage was much-desired by friends and family as a “getaway” in the summer months.
Thus was the story of Lizzie’s week leading up to the murders. On Tuesday night the Bordens would partake of swordfish steak for supper. The family was ill Tuesday night into the next day. Mrs. Borden was in no state of health to go visiting anyone and on Wednesday morning she crossed the street to see Dr. Bowen and pronounced she was probably poisoned and Mr. Borden was taken sick too. Later on, Dr. Bowen, much-concerned about his neighbors, crossed the street to call on the sickly Bordens only to be rebuffed by Andrew Borden for the house call and its possible expense. Lizzie, perhaps out of embarrassment at her father’s rude behavior, went promptly upstairs and Dr. Bowen went away. Abby suspected there was something wrong with the family store-bought bread as once she heard of someone being taken ill from spoiled cream cakes. Lizzie claimed to be ill herself that Wednesday, never leaving the house and resting in her room. Soon Uncle John would arrive, enjoy a late lunch at the Borden table, rent a carriage and go over the river to Swansea. The scene was set for the horrors to come the next day. Did Lizzie go to Smith’s pharmacy to try to procure Prussic acid from Mr. Bence that day? What was behind Lizzie’s proclamation to Alice Russell that Wednesday evening around 7 p.m. about “something is hanging over me. I am sleeping with one eye open”. What happened to that carefree young woman on vacation in Marion just a few days before? Those are the questions that haunt us. Still.
*References used in this article: Lizzie Borden Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Al-Zach Press, 1999.
Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River, Michael Martins & Dennis Binette, Fall River Historical Society, 2010.
Photo credits: The Sippican Historical Society, Marion MA., Historic New England, Shelley M. Dziedzic (all rights reserved).
Lizzie and Emma had left Fall River on a hot summer’s vacation to visit friends in New Bedford and Fairhaven on July 21st. The sisters split up in New Bedford as Emma went across the bridge to Fairhaven to stay for an extended visit with Helen Brownell and her widowed mother on Green Street. Lizzie stayed in New Bedford and called upon Mrs. Poole and her invalid daughter, Carrie Poole. Lizzie had been close chums with Carrie’s sister, Augusta- now Mrs. Cyrus Tripp. The Pooles lived in a rooming house at 20 Madison Street in the city, not too far from the commercial section.
On July 23rd, Lizzie went on a short shopping expedition alone to the shops not far from the boarding house on Madison Street. There she purchased some cheap day dress fabric and pattern to be made up by her seamstress back in Fall River. She did not shop very long, then returned to the Pooles.
In her inquest statement, Lizzie is asked about the last time she was away from home. Interestingly, she overestimates how long ago her trip to the Pooles was:
Q. When was the last time when you have been away for more than a night or two before this affair?
A. I don’t think I have been away to stay more than a night or two since I came from abroad, except about three or four weeks ago I was in New Bedford for three or four days.
Q. Where at New Bedford?
A. At 20 Madison Street
Lizzie was asked about the dress goods and pattern she bought on the 23rd.
“Q. Did you buy a dress pattern in New Bedford?
A. A dress pattern?
A. I think I did.
Q. Where is it?
A. It is at home.
A. Where at home?
A. It is in a trunk.
Q. In your room?
A. No, sir; in the attic.
Q. Not made up?
A. O, no, sir.
Q. Where did you buy it?
A. I don’t know the name of the store.
Q. On the principal street there?
A. I think it was on the street that Hutchinson’s book store is on. I am not positive.
Q. What kind of a one was it, please?
A. It was a pink stripe and a white stripe, and a blue stripe corded gingham.”
The police made a bad show of things when they revealed on the stand that there was confusion about who searched the attic trunk, when, etc. and not recalling finding a dress pattern and cloth goods. In other words, it was a very unprofessional evidence-gathering effort which cast an unflattering light on the men in blue. It was thought Officer Medley led the first attic search, then Assistant Marshal Fleet. Marshal Hilliard and Officer Desmond were also up in the attic as part of the search which was woefully uncoordinated. The missing articles were finally produced very late in the process. Knowlton was satisfied with his examination of the materials but a lingering doubt continued as to whether or not a substitution could have been made. It was not the first time the police had botched something concerning the search of the Borden house.
Much was made about this dress yard goods and pattern. Did Lizzie somehow have the dress made up, worn it during the double homicides, burn it and then her defense arrange to have duplicate fabric “found” later? A local newspaper speculated on this scenario.
From the Evening Standard, Fall River, Sept. 3, 1892 – Was It Possible For Defense to Have Duplicated the Goods? “The day after the Borden murder City Marshal Hilliard put two New Bedford officers at work in that city with orders to trace Lizzie Borden’s actions during the two weeks previous. They found that she had purchased a dress pattern of cheap material in a dry goods store in that city, and it was to this pattern that reference was made at the trial. Some importance was attached to the matter at the time of the discovery of the purchase. The police failed to find the dress pattern or any dress of it in their search at the Borden house. They made demand on the members of the family to produce the piece of goods or the made-up dress. If they could not do this the police wanted to know what had become of it. The family refused to move in the matter and the police at New Bedford searched the store to get a sample of the goods bought by Lizzie.
The last day of the trial the defense surrendered the piece of dress goods which Lizzie had purchased and it was still intact. The question has arisen in the minds of some people who believe as the prosecution does whether or not it was possible for the friends of the prisoner to have duplicated the dress pattern and surrendered the last purchased instead of the first, and that the first one might have been made-up and used by Lizzie Borden at the time of the murder and afterwards destroyed or put out of the way.”
It is, at the least, a very curious business. Lizzie, on the day of the murders, rested in her room dressed in a pink and white striped wrapper. Coincidence- or something else?
It was a perfect weekend to journey out to Tyngsborough to get a glimpse of what was left of the charm Nance O’Neil found at her farm. The town, which is nestled between the Merrimack River and Flint Pond is a sleepy little place, filled with quiet backroads and rustic appeal, meadows and wildlife. Nothing remains of Nance’s stately manse, called various names over time but Brinley Farm or Brinley Manse when Nance was there. She took up summer residency in May, 1904 but the name of Benjamin Levy was also on the deed. Between her manager, McKee Rankin’s mismanagement of Nance’s finances and Nance’s spendthrift ways, she declared bankruptcy by May 1906 and sold the property in 1907 to the Sisters of Notre Dame. The nuns erected a school on the property of 220 acres, still there today. The mansion burned to the ground in 1977 when it was owned by the Marist Catholic Brothers. It is said that a couple small outbuildings from the farm still exist from Nance’s time. Here are some views from the property and some town buildings still around that Lizzie and Nance would recognize.
Beginning on January 1st, W&W will begin featuring fascinating short clippings from the Fall River papers and other newspapers from 1892 through the present which concern Lizzie herself or the endless parade of personalities involved in the case. They will remain accessible here in a sort of clippings archive. There is much to be learned from these small snippets in print!
Fall River Globe, June 1892
Just in time for Christmas, Lizzie gets a new frock. This will fit your Lizzie paper doll. Be sure to print in color at 100% on matte photo paper or 28 pound copy paper for best results, portrait paper layout. I am sure you recognize the dress as do visitors to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum! Click on the following link to download a high resolution PDF file of the dress here > christmas-dress
Lizzie’s Old School Chum, Augusta Poole (Mrs. Cyrus Tripp)
Shelley M. Dziedzic, October 2019 (all rights reserved)
During the hot summer week of July 13, 1891, Mrs. Borden decided to spend the week at the Borden farm over the river in Swansea which always seemed to have a breeze on the warmest of days. With Mrs. Borden out of the house, Lizzie and Emma invited Lizzie’s old school chum, Augusta Poole, whom she had known since 1875 to spend the week with them at the house on Second Street. Bridget was there to cook for the young ladies and privacy was assured. Miss Poole was about to be married to Cyrus Tripp of Westport and one can only imagine the “girls” giggling and chattering about the upcoming nuptials, married life, the wedding, setting up house in Westport and all the things ladies of that era enjoyed discussing. It’s fun to imagine this side of Emma and Lizzie, perhaps sitting up in the guest room with Augusta in their night gowns having a good gossip. One year later something terribly different and horrifying would transpire in that same room.
The girls drifted apart over that year as Augusta, now Mrs. Cyrus Tripp, settled down to housekeeping in the Tripp homestead on Old County Road in Westport where her new husband was a sign, carriage and house painter. His father, Preserved Tripp, had built the house in the eclectic Victorian style in 1874. The house and barn are still standing today. Cyrus Tripp had been married before to the daughter of George H. Gifford.
The Cyrus W. Tripp house on Old County Road
On July 21, 1892, Emma and Lizzie packed their traveling bags for an adventure and some fun away from the Second St. home. Emma parted company from Lizzie in New Bedford and continued on to nearby Fairhaven to stay with Helen Brownell and her widowed mother on Green Street. Lizzie split off to #20 Madison Street, which was a boarding house, to stay with Augusta’s mother and invalid sister, Carrie Poole. During her stay with the Pooles, Lizzie went out with the family except for one morning, Saturday, July 23rdwhen Lizzie ventured out downtown to do some shopping all alone. She was out for about an hour and a half and returned with a parcel of cheap yard goods to be made up into a house dress.
On Tuesday, July 26th, Mrs. Poole, Carrie Poole and Lizzie traveled out to Westport to visit Augusta at the Tripp farm. The group enjoyed a happy visit together and Lizzie left in time, with Mrs. Poole and Carrie to catch a connecting train back to Fall River. Later, Officer Medley of the Fall River Police Department would interview Augusta Tripp about the visit.
On August 8, 1892, Augusta Poole Tripp would give her interview to Officer Medley remarking, ““Lizzie told me she thought her stepmother was deceitful, being one thing to her face, and another to her back.” Mrs. Tripp further went on to say that Lizzie said that her stepmother claimed of having no influence over Mr. Borden, but Lizzie believed that Abby did or Mr. Borden would have never given Abby’s half-sister a large sum of money; Lizzie and her sister Emma did not know if they would get anything if Father should die. “ This conversation had been brought up on several occasions with the exception of the July 26, 1892, visit.
More information about the Borden house family dynamics came out at the inquest as Augusta expanded her recollections: “Testimony of Augusta D. Tripp My name is Augusta D. Tripp, and in 1875, when I was a little girl, I began to frequent the Borden home. Lizzie and I were schoolmates, but throughout the years, I had never really become acquainted with Mrs. Borden.
By the summer of 1891, I had visited and slept over the Borden’s house during the week of Monday, July 13 thru Saturday, July 18. Now during the course of that week, Emma, Lizzie and Bridget Sullivan who they referred to as Maggie stayed with me. Mrs. Borden at that time was in Swanzey, and I did not see their Uncle Morse at the house. By the spring of 1892, I had spoken with Emma and Lizzie for about an hour; but since then, I became married and moved out of the city with having less contact with both girls.
When Emma, Lizzie, and Abby were together in the same room, Lizzie would speak to Abby more than Emma. I did notice that the relationship between them was not agreeable, but they always ate together at the dining room table. Throughout the years though, I had never heard Mrs. Borden say anything about the girls. Well! I do remember some years ago when Lizzie had made a couple of remarks to me regarding her stepmother, Abby. First of all, Lizzie never liked someone who was a two-faced liar, and secondly, she assumed that I was convinced by her into believing that she had sustained a higher level of influence over her own father, influence that her stepmother, Abby, did not possess. Even though, at one time, her stepmother had convinced Mr. Borden into purchasing property for Abby’s stepsister, Mrs. Bertie Whitehead; Lizzie’s feelings, I believe, remained the same.
When I think about the remarks that Lizzie had stated, it is my opinion, those remarks were targeted toward Mrs. Borden only, which has led me to believe that Lizzie was not overly fond about her stepmother, revealing an appearance of an unfriendly nature toward her. Now, if you do not mind, I just want to say a little something about what I had heard from my invalid sister and, of course, what I stated to Officer Medley when he had questioned me. When I do speak of Officer Medley’s interview, I can only say that I did answer several of his questions, but I do not remember all that was said or the answers that I had given him at that time. I know that I did tell him that I would try to the best of my ability to recollect such past events that I thought would never resurface again. It was with much difficulty for me to search my memory and to try to recall these events that I believed to be nothing more than just talk among us women.
As for my invalid sister who is a feeble woman, Miss Carrie M. Poole of Madison Street in New Bedford , she had made a statement regarding Lizzie as saying something in the order of what may happen to her father’s estate if he were to die. Now, I cannot say for sure if Miss Poole actually heard that remark from Lizzie, it is only something that I am assuming was said. “
The portrait of Augusta Tripp was taken at Jamieson Studios at 173 Tremont St.in Boston and was sent Christmas 1913 to someone who had been in her Sunday School class. The back of the photograph gives this date and the inscription “Mrs. Cyrus W. Tripp, my Sunday School Teacher”. It is in the online photo collection of the Westport Historical Society and may be seen at this link in higher resolution.
Thanks and appreciation go to the Westport Public Library and the Westport Historical Society for their assistance in research materials for this article.
One has to wonder if Lizzie and Augusta kept up their friendship after Lizzie was acquitted. Augusta was a very elegant and distinguished-looking lady in 1913.
The Tripp headstone, Linden Cemetery, Westport, Massachusetts
By Jo Anne Giovino with photography and research by Barbara Morrissey and Kristin Pepe *(All rights reserved, August 2019)
Although it was a dark and stormy night, the Intrepid Trio, Jo Anne Giovino, Kristin Pepe and Barbara Morrissey was dauntless in their pursuit of Lizzie A. Borden. This mission took us to Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city about forty minutes from our home base, Billerica, MA. Destination: Buttonwoods Museum, for a presentation on Lizzie Borden. After a brief stop for sustenance and pumpkin ale at the Barking Dog, we arrived at our appointed time. Unfortunately, the talk was a bust – but do not despair! The effort was not in vain.
While Barbara was conversing with a newly-found distant cousin, Kristin and JoAnne spotted a lighted display cabinet in the rear of the room and went to investigate. What we saw left us bewildered and amazed. In the cabinet was an original full set of the transcripts of the case, “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie A. Borden”. Printed on the display card was “From the collection of William H. Moody”. Obviosuly it never occurred to us that there would be a privately –owned copy of the transcripts outside of Fall River or New Bedford.
This discovery begged the question, “Why were the transcripts here and how is Moody connected to Haverhill?”
Thus began our journey of Finding Moody.
As we know, Wm. H. Moody was one of the prosecutors for the Commonwealth in the Borden case. He was appointed by Massachusetts Attorney General Pillsbury to assist the District Attorney of the Southern District of Massachusetts, Hosea Knowlton. Mr. Moody gave the opening statement to the jury which concisely and cogently laid out a strong case against Lizzie A. Borden. Moody was praised for his effort and many believed Lizzie to be doomed. As a peripheral character in the case, our personal knowledge of Mr. Moody was limited. But, as Charter Members of The Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) , we knew there had to be more to Wm. H. Moody than this. As we have learned from other personalities in the case, no person is a one-dimensional individual. There was a rumor after the trial that Lizzie sent a packet of newspaper clippings and photos to Moody with a note that read, “ As a memento of an interesting occasion.” Was that true? Will the Intrepid Trio discover the truth? There was only one way to find out. Channeling Sherlock Holmes, our investigation began.
“The Game’s Afoot”
Finding Mr. Moody proved to be quite an endeavor. After searching the Internet and making numerous phone calls, we got some leads. Our first stop, the Haverhill Public Library, was a treasure trove of information. The Special Collections Department had newspaper clippings, scrap books kept by Moody and his sister, letters, photographs, and most impressively, the trial transcripts. Next, we went to the Buttonwoods Museum located in historic Duncan House, which is the home of the Haverhill Historical Society. The museum has a room dedicated to Wm. H. Moody with furnishings and personal belongings donated by his sister after his death. The staff and volunteers were very generous with their time and opened the room to us despite the museum being closed to the public at that time. Seeing these tangible objects and knowing that they belonged to Mr. Moody was very poignant. One realizes that he was an individual with a life, friends, and family and not simply a footnote from some celebrated case. In searching census records we were able to discover an address for Moody’s residence. Not knowing for sure if the house was still standing, we went in search of the home. With the assistance of GPS, we were successful in finding his home. Mr. Moody owned a large, beautiful Federal style house in a very prestigious section of Haverhill, akin to Lizzie’s house on the hill, Maplecroft. Luckily it is still standing and we were able to take pictures and envision how it must have looked in its heyday. Our final stop was definitely the most time-consuming in research, but the most rewarding – locating Moody’s final resting place. Contrary to what one may think, this distinguished gentleman is interred in a small family plot in a rural cemetery in Byfield, Massachusettts, a village north of Haverill. He lies with his mother, father, brother and sister. As with Lizzie and Emma, none of the children ever married.
We are appreciative of those who graciously assisted us in our research. The following is the pertinent information we found about William H. Moody.
William Henry Moody was born to Henry Lord Moody and Melissa Augusta Emerson ( a distant relative of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) on February 23, 1853 in Newbury, Massachusetts, a small fishing village outside of Haverhill. His father was a farmer and came from agrarian stock. Similar to the Borden family, the Moody family settled in America sometime in the 1600s. At this time we did not determine from which country the family emigrated. William was one of three children.
When William was quite young, his father, valuing the importance of education, moved the family to Haverhill. He attended the prestigious boys school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he graduated with a diploma in 1872. After graduation he attended Harvard University and graduated in 1876. While attending Harvard, William became acquainted with an underclassman, Theodore Roosevelt. Although Teddy was a few years below William, they had outdoorsmanship, sports, and friends in common. This developed into a life-long friendship which would prove to be quite valuable to William’s future. Moody was an excellent baseball player and was captain of the Harvard baseball team. He was also an avid debater on the Harvard debate team. After graduation he attended Harvard School of Law. However, he chose to leave school and practice law under the guidance of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. William successfully passed the bar and became a lawyer.
Being a very prominent lawyer and politician, in 1888 he gained his first elected position, Solicitor for Haverill, Massachusetts. Later he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Eastern Massachusetts (1890-1895). It is during this time Bordenphiles are introduced to Mr. Moody. In 1893 he was chosen by Attorney General Pillsbury to be associate prosecutor in the Borden trial. This was his first murder trial. Although the Commonwealth did not prevail in the Borden case, Moody continued on with a distinguished career. By 1895 Mr. Moody was elected federal representative of Massachusetts (1895-1902). By this time his old Harvard classmate was elected President of the United States. President Roosevelt called upon Moody to be his Secretary of the Navy (1902-1904), U.S. Attorney General (1904-1906), and the ultimate achievement, Justice of the Supreme Court (1906-1910), serving until the severe rheumatism forced Justice Moody to retire from the bench. William returned home to Haverhill where he stayed active in politics and renewed friendships until his death on July 2, 1917, President Roosevelt attended his friend’s burial.
William H. Moody was a beloved resident of Haverhill. Over his lifetime he was feted for his many accomplishments by his fellow townsmen with parades and dinners held in his honor. In 1919 the U.S.S. Moody, a destroyer, was commissioned in his honor. His sister, Mary, christened the ship which was built at the Squantum Victory Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.
He served our country with distinction and was a valued and dedicated public servant.
Sometimes life takes us on unexpected journeys and this is one of them. We have been fortunate to make Lizzie Borden-related discoveries in “our neck of the woods”. I say fortunate because these adventures allow us all to gain knowledge and realization that those we read about from the case are more than a name on a page or a mere character cast in a murder mystery.
By the way, we did not find that letter and packet from Lizzie to William – at least not yet.
Sources: Buttonwoods Museum, Haverhill, MA
Haverhill Public Library, Haverhill
Lizzie Borden Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Al-Zach Press, 1999.
Various Internet articles and newspapers
In honor of Lizzie’s birthday, one, in what will become a series of free downloads to augment your Dressing Miss Lizzie paper doll book is released today, Lizzie’s birthday. Here is an imagined walking suit for Lizzie to wear on her visit to Chicago during the Columbian Exposition in October, 1893. White matte photo paper, card stock or 28 lb. regular copy paper is suggested for printing out the pdf file on your home printer. Click on the link below to print out Lizzie’s new duds! Results, will of course vary from printer to printer.