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Bence in later years

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.

Thanks to the Barrett Family and Ancestry.com, an older Eli is shown below, photo taken in New Bedford, year unknown.

Bence’s parents, William and Sarah are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River.

William Bence, Eli’s father who was active in Globe area politics.

A medicine dispensing bottle from the Bence Pharmacy in New Bedford.


  • Barbara Morrissey

    Great story. We can only speculate what would have happened if both Eli’s and Alice’s testimony had been admitted in the Superior Court trial. Eli turned out to be a very handsome man.

    • administrator

      Bence was every prosecutor’s dream witness- reputable, observant and with a good memory. In the end it was Bence’s and Russell’s testimonies which convinced me of Lizzie’s guilt. Lubinsky to my mind is a little shaky in his facts. Surely everybody could not have been lying or mistaken and only Lizzie proclaiming the truth. I am impressed with Bence as a person, his family background, work ethic and continued career and credentials after 1892. And since I do believe Bence, it looks like an attempt at premeditated murder- which is even scarier!

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