On August 9, 1892, the heat was on in the city of Fall River to apprehend a suspect in the Borden Murders. Mayor John W. Coughlin, Fall River born of Irish parents, was a year younger than Lizzie Borden. He was an accomplished man, mayor and politician as well as a physician. He studied medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore , Md. and was elected Mayor of Fall River in 1890. In 1892 he represented Massachusett’s 13th Congressional District at the Democratic National Convention. He lived a modest life, unmarried, with his mother Abigail (Abbie) and spinster sister, Helen at 399 North Main Street and but for his involvement with Lizzie Borden, might well have passed quietly into history. Mayor Coughlin, along with City Marshal, Rufus Hilliard, would announce to Lizzie Borden, in her own parlor, that she was, indeed, a suspect. This fact was key in getting Lizzie’s Inquest testimony withdrawn at her 1893 trial, as she had been told she was a suspect by the Mayor himself, then giving her testimony without legal representation present. John Coughlin died on December 3, 1920 at the age of 59 and is buried in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, Fall River. The inscription on his stone reads, “The Day Breaketh , The Shadows Disappear.”
This beautiful 1852 Italianate home of Hosea and Sylvia Knowlton and their seven children is now on the market. The famous prosecutor in the Borden case, a former educator, would rise to the rank of Attorney General of Massachusetts before his untimely death in 1902. His remains were cremated and scattered over the harbor in Marion where the couple had built a summer home, now part of Tabor Academy. The link below will display many photographs of the interior of the Union St. home.
Click on link for interior photos https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/350-Union-St_New-Bedford_MA_02740_M98549-25831
With the advent of so many photo-enhancing and colorizing tools, it is now possible to clean up, repair and add color to old photos. Often clearing up the cracks and blurs will reveal details not noticed before. Sometimes color will enhance and bring a photo to life, other times black and white will be a better choice. Animation , such as used in the Gallery section on this page, will really humanize a still photo and add personality and life to a rigid photo. Here are known photos which have been sharpened and repaired via A.I. software and do reveal so much more detail. Sometimes details of clothing may suffer clarity in order to improve facial clarity. Watermarked photos indicate Warps & Wefts enhancement from the originals only, not possession or discovery.
As the funeral party left #92 on its way to Oak Grove, the hearse carriages, containing the two coffins would have gone first, followed by the carriage of the undertaker and pall bearers, then the family followed by friends and neighbors. Emma and Lizzie would ride in the procession to Oak Grove, arriving at 12:20, but would not descend and follow the minister and their uncle, John Morse, to the graveside for the final prayers which lasted perhaps only two minutes. This was not expected of Victorian ladies, as it was judged too taxing on their fragile feminine constitutions to be confronted with the yawning open grave. The graves themselves were lined with dark, thin cloth and strew with evergreen fir branches, a common practice before the advent of grave vaults. The viewing of raw earth was too grim a reminder of the phrase, “Ashes to ashes- dust to dust”. All along the cortege route, hundreds of Fall River citizens lined Second Street and were waiting with interest to view the spectacle at the cemetery. The procession turned left on Borden Street and made a pass by the Andrew J. Borden Building on South Main before continuing up to North Main Street bearing right onto Cherry Street, then left onto Rock Street and northward to Prospect Street where the procession went east into the main gate of Oak Grove. The custom of passing by the place of business of the head of house is still carried on today, if it is logistically possible. The procession then passed beneath the great granite Gothic arch, which had been erected in 1873, emblazoned with the motto, “The shadows have fallen and they wait for the day”- an apt sentiment considering the circumstances of the Borden murders.
If you can’t be in Fall River to visit the historical society for the 130th anniversary of the crime, here is a 2013 video featuring some of the remarkable items from the Borden collection you will want to watch.
To plan your visit please check the website for visiting and tour times at https://lizzieborden.org/visit/
In 1893 a little book appeared, written under the nom de plume of Todd Lunday. The identity of this man was finally revealed, but it is the content of this small volume and the manner of methodically revealing the difficulty an outsider would have in penetrating the Borden house to commit the murders on August 4th which is thought-provoking. The original was printed by J.A. & R.A. Reid of Providence, RI and thankfully for us, Robert Flynn’s King Philip Publishing Company reprinted this little gem in 1989. It is considered a rare book, the original volume being very valuable. It is well worth reading, as “Lunday” lists all of the hurdles an outside killer, whom he calls “Villain” would encounter.
Here are some of the problems Todd Lunday imagined summarized in THE MYSTERY UNVEILED. You will no doubt think of more issues an outsider would have faced coming in to do away with the old couple :
1. The assassin must leave no traces of his identity.
2. The Villain had a well-formed plan to execute the 2 murders.
3. He must arrive at the house, do his work, hide between the murders and escape undetected.
4. Villain must know the layout of the house, places of concealment and the family daily routine.
5. Villain must know exactly WHO is in the house to know how and who to avoid.
6. Villain would have to linger around the house to “case the joint” and make certain of who is at home, without being seen to be doing so, perhaps for a day or two.
7. He has to figure out how to get into and out of the house based on the only 3 entries and which ones would be locked.
8. Villain would plan on 4 people probably being in the house, and would have to calculate where his intended victims might be.
9. Villain would have to commit one or two murders without raising an alarm and out of sight of anyone else in the house.
10. If Andrew Borden were the intended target, and was in the habit of going downtown after breakfast, it could make the murder of Abby Borden easier but suppose Andrew came back with someone and it would surely make killing Andrew more diffficult. Especially in broad daylight on a busy street.
11. After killing his first victim, he would have to hang around taking a risk the body could be discovered and alarm raised before the second murder could take place.
12. Villain will have to trust to luck and happy accident in achieving his purpose and making a clean getaway.
13. Not knowing if Bridget would be coming out, or if Uncle John, Emma, or another person might be going in or out, Villain took a risk about sneaking in the side door and a bigger risk not knowing if the side door might or might not be locked.
14. Villain would not know the Borden’s bedroom door opening to the back stairs hall was kept locked and the only way to the second floor was up the front stairs.
15. Villain would not have known he would have had to pass through the kitchen, diningroom or sitting room to gain access to the front hall steps to the second floor, putting himself in a tight spot if he needed to escape.
16. Villain must have come upon his victim unawares and struck a first and fatal blow although there was only one entry into the murder room on the second floor and there was no place in the room to hide beforehand.
17. Villain has no idea when his second intended victim may return, perhaps with another person, or when his first victim might be found.
18. Villain must now wait, concealed for an undetermined amount of time because going out and coming in again at a later time to finish the deed would be impossible.
19.Lizzie’s room is locked and upstairs the only place Villain could hide might be under the bed in the guest room.
20. If the Villain hides in the guest room, how will he know when Mr. Borden lies on the sofa, the maid goes to the third floor and Lizzie is out in the barn to launch his attack on Andrew and escape before Lizzie comes back in?
While Lizzie was having a sojourn in New Bedford with the Pooles and a day trip to Blakes’ Point in the week before the Borden tragedy, elsewhere, sudden death, poison and horrific suffering took place in Salisbury Beach. A small summer boarding house on the oceanfront called the Cable House would become the scene for a shocking loss of life, the cause of which would puzzle the police, consulting physicians, and the population for several days. After consuming an evening meal in the dining hall of the popular establishment, eleven of the diners became violently ill- some more affected than others. Over the course of 48 hours, five would die horribly and in agony with fever, chills, extreme nausea and delirium among the symptoms. There was a demand for an answer and answers came fast and furious as at first the well water was suspected of containing bacteria, possibly of cholera morbus . This theory soon gave way to tainted fish,, ptomaine poisoning, possibly insecticide in the form of a Paris Green preparation which may have been spread on vegetables, to “Summer Complaint” of spoiled milk. An old pepper box containing insect powder which was owned by the landlord of the establishment, Mr. Montgomery, came under suspicion but was soon ruled out. Was this an accidental poisoning due to a mishap in the kitchen with the pepper box? None other than William H. Moody was called in, and soon the pressure was on for an investigation including testing, autopsies and on September 2- an Inquest which would be held at the Cable House. Stomachs were removed from the first three victims right at the Cable House, reminiscent of the Borden affair. In short order, chemist tests revealed some dead bugs in the water, but nothing more sinister, and the cause of deliberate poisoning was deemed to be in the tea in the form of Paris Green powder. The story was a sensation and was front page every day until August 4th when the Borden tragedy knocked it off the front page. Samples were sent up to Harvard Medical School where Dr. Hill and Dr. Wood (later to assist with the Borden forensics) took charge.
After the Borden tragedy and testimony, the topic of the elderly Bordens taking violently ill on August 2nd was discussed. They had a meal of swordfish that evening. Lizzie Borden would say she also was not well. On the day before the double murders, Mrs. Borden went across the street to the family doctor, Seabury Bowen, and exclaimed she thought they were poisoned, perhaps by the baker’s bread. She said she had heard of something like this in relation to cream cakes. Cream cakes were also mentioned by a doctor involved in the Cable House poisonings as well as fish. On the same day, a young pharmacist clerk at Smith’s pharmacy on South Main St., a block from the Borden house, claimed that Lizzie Borden had come in the store before noon, asking for Prussic acid to clean moths from a sealskin coat. It is something to think about, all of this talk of death and poison which flooded the papers and conversations during the days between July 20-August 4th. Did it give someone ideas? Is there a connection? Or is it one of Life’s coincidences?
Lizzie is questioned about where she bought her dress goods on July 23rd in New Bedford. She does not recall the street name but mentions the same street as Hutchinson’s book seller :
““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.”
“It was a bookseller dating back to the Civil War. Ownership went from Sylvander H. Hutchinson to his son Henry S. Hutchinson then in 1919 to Robert C Saltmarsh and in 1951 to his son Robert J. Saltmarsh.” Apparently today it is a Family Dollar store- but we do know now which street Lizzie was talking about. There was a very large dry goods store on the same side of the street at 182 Union St. which sold cloth by the yard and notions called Knowles & Company- perhaps this is where Lizzie shopped.
After the death of George D. Robinson in February of 1896, his family hired Vermont-born portrait painter Thomas W. Wood (1823-1903) to paint a portrait of the former governor to present as a gift to the city of Chicopee. Wood was considered a photographic portraitist whose works were lifelike and realistic.
The Robinson painting was done from a photograph. Robinson was a dandy from his garnet shirt studs to his gold watch chain and fob. The painting once hung in a former Mayor’s office, City Hall, and Chicopee Housing Authority’s George D. Robinson’s apartments. The portrait was badly damaged in 1980 when a pipe broke at City Hall, leaving the painting streaked with soot and water damage. It is the only portrait of the Chicopee governor in Chicopee so money was found to restore the painting in 1989. The state contributed $233 of the $2280 needed to restore the canvas with the balance coming from the Arts Lottery Council grant. The 33 x 27 inch oil painting found a safe home at Chicopee Public Library and it was rededicated at a ceremony on April 25, 1990 with an open house and lecture about Robinson’s life and the portrait. The restoration was done by Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory.
George Dexter Robinson will forever be linked to his most famous client, Lizzie Borden, and her trial in New Bedford during June of 1893. Robinson was born in 1834 in Lexington and had many careers as an educator, teacher, politician, state legislature representative, lawyer and governor from 1884-87. He purchased the Hale mansion (built in 1870 in the Second Empire style) and lived there with his second wife Susan from late 1870s until his death there in February 1896, only three years after Lizzie Borden’s acquittal. He is buried with his family in Fairview Cemetery in Chicopee. Robinson was proud of his adopted city and very involved in the Unitarian church there. His $25,000 legal fee from the Borden trial paid for all of the windows, said to be by Tiffany & Co. in his newly-built church. As you view the interiors in this slideshow, one can imagine Robinson in the stately home, on the staircase, coming in the entry doors. Robinson died and was waked in a private service in this house. He is buried with all of his family in Fairview cemetery, Chicopee. The Church of the Assumption owns the property and used the home for many years as a rectory. Today it provides office space for the parish. Robinson’s much sought-after notes and papers on the Borden case, unpublished, still reside in the law offices he shared with his son Walter, on Main St. in Springfield. Thanks to the Chicopee Public Library, the Diocese of Springfield and The Church of the Assumption for making this video possible.
Thanks to A.I. and so many photo-enhancing tools we have now, I have been able to clean up and colorize this last known photo of Alice Russell, a process which really brings her to life today. Alice has long been a person in the Borden story that many would have wished to interview. This photo was seen many years ago in the old Lizzie Borden Quarterly and is said to be Alice at the retirement-nursing home, Adams House on Highland Avenue, closed not long ago. She has very kind eyes, don’t you think? Oh, what those eyes must have seen in August 1892! Poor Alice worked very hard her whole life. Lizzie turned her back on her old friend after the dress-burning testimony. Alice lived close to Maplecroft on Hillside St. for many years. We have to wonder if Lizzie ever saw her passing by on the street. I hope her last years were happy ones.
Eli Bence has always been a person of great interest to Borden case historians, even though his testimony did not get considered at the trial in the end. He has been a person of personal fascination for me for 30 years and I was delighted to learn his home in Pittsfield, MA sold in July 2020 and the realtor included some interior photos of the graceful 1900 – built home. Bence had some heartaches in his life, the death of his daughter Priscilla, and first wife, Sarah Hayhurst- and he, himself died tragically at the peak of his illustrious career as a pharmacist. His story, pharmacy in New Bedford in 1894 and second marriage to Annie Maxfield have been covered fairly extensively on the Warps & Wefts blog over the years but here is a new photo of Eli in 1885, and photos of his Pittsfield home as well as two obituaries you will enjoy reading. The link will take you to interiors of his 64 Commonwealth St. Pittsfield home, which sadly, have been greatly modernized. I have always been a great believer in what Eli had to say in 1893. https://www.realtor.com/…/64-Commonwealth-Ave…
Mark your calendar for the 130th Anniversary of the Borden Murders. Hub 17’s Tea & Murder podcast will feature a special “Zooming with Lizzie” evening on Sunday, July 31, at 7 p.m. when our faithful viewers will be able to sign on and chat in real time about the case which continues to fascinate us, STILL! Leading up to the live ZOOM, Kimbra and I will be posting a weekly poll for our readers to take, featuring pressing questions which haunt students of the famous case. We will be going over the results of the polls and opening the forum to All Things Lizzie with our viewers! The ZOOM link will be posted on the Lizbeth Group and Warps & Wefts Facebook pages before the 31st as well as on this site. Join us for a great evening! To take the weekly polls, visit https://www.facebook.com/lizziebordenwarpsandwefts
Great news! The sale of Maplecroft is under agreement with inspections concluded and closing pending. A lovely family with children and experience with Victorian properties will make it a family home once more. A happy ending for this historic home. Congratulations to all.
“Maplecroft, the historic former home of Lizzie Borden, is being purchased by artist and professor Brooke Mullins Doherty, who will be moving her home and studio from New Bedford. She and her husband Michael, a polymath, along with their three children look forward to respecting the house’s unique history while they restore Maplecroft to a single family residence.”
What’s in the stars for the Borden clan? Join Kimbra and Shelley with special guest, astrologist Mat Gleason, at 7p.m. on June 12 as we examine the charts of Lizzie and the family.
There is a bit more to the marriage application than first published here. At the bottom of the page is the record for the ceremony which happened the day after they applied for the license. Father J.H. O’Brien married John and Bridget on June 21, 1905. Interesting to see the two witnesses were Bridgie and Pat J. Sullivan, presumably relations of John Sullivan. Hard to say when it’s a double Sullivan nuptial! This may have been a simple at home wedding as no church is mentioned. I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with John Sullivan’s great-nieces, Diana and Joan once and was told that Bridget became a rather sour and stern old lady, nearly blind at the end and wishing to die, saying her rosary at night. She ran a tight ship at the Sullivan house, and was meager in her cooking portions on the plate. No extra helpings or treats for little girls. One wonders if it was a happy marriage.
After Lizzie and Emma parted company at Maplecroft, Emma did a little traveling. In 1906 she decided to embark upon an extended tour of Scotland . This notice in the Boston Evening Transcript from Monday, October 15, 1906 tells of quite a gale on the return voyage to Boston. It was a thrilling finale to Emma’s big trip and getaway from Fall River.