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