So many stepchildren: Jane E. Gray

It was not uncommon to find a Victorian man married several times. A great- uncle of Lizzie’s married four times. Many women died in childbirth or complications after or during pregnancy. Andrew Borden himself was a stepchild as was Abby Durfee Gray Borden. Her father, a local tinsmith, blacksmith and peddler first married Sarah Sawyer, having two daughters, Abby Durfee Gray (Borden) and Priscilla Gray (Fish). When Sarah died in 1860, Oliver remarried a young widow quickly, a Mrs. Jane Baker Eldredge, who was 25 years younger than her new husband. Step-daughter Abby was only about 2 years younger than her new step-mother. Jane and her first husband had 2 children together, a son Henry H. Eldredge, and a daughter, Lucy J. Eldredge (Cahoon). Jane had lost her first husband, Obed Eldredge to the sea in 1857.

Oliver and Jane had one child together Sarah Bertha (Bertie) Gray (Whitehead) who was fifteen years younger than her stepbrother Henry. Oliver Gray died August 8, 1878 at age 77.

After Oliver died, Jane took in a boarder, Elijah Cahoon, a carpenter/cabinetmaker who would marry her daughter Lucy. That couple had two daughters, Jenny and Minnie and had the care of Jane in her old age. Jane would live to be just a couple of days short of 90.

One wonders how Abby got along with her stepmother who was young enough to be her sister. The house on Fourth St. (now Spring St. after it was moved) is not a large house and Bertie, her husband George Whitehead, Little Abbie and young Georgie all crowded in at one point together with Jane. Abby Borden would dote on Bertie and later on, her daughter Little Abbie, but was no doubt delighted to receive the marriage proposal from Andrew Borden in 1865 and have what she though would be a home of her own. Lizzie and Emma had something to say about that. The Gray- Whitehead house would cause no end of trouble when Andrew decided to give Abby the 1500 dollars needed to buy out Jane’s portion of the Gray house and lot. Andrew neglected to let his daughters in on this plan and Emma took her father to task for not compensating his own flesh and blood in equal share. Andrew then gave his daughters the old Ferry St. homestead to smooth over the situation. The girls would sell back this home to their father just before the murders in August, 1892, for $5,000 . The girls split the money.

It seems, in the end, Jane Gray fared better than any of them. She lived to a ripe old age, cared for by her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters. One has to wonder what she thought about the events of August 4, 1892. Jane and Bertie always tried to visit Abby on Second St. when Lizzie and Emma were gone as they were roundly snubbed by the Borden “girls”. Family dynamics can be brutal.

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