The walrus-mustached, round face of Rufus B. Hilliard is one which is well-known to those who take a close look at the Borden Case. Born in Pembroke, Maine on May 5, 1850, Hilliard had moved to Fall River and joined the FRPD by 1879. In an unusually fast promotion, surpassing his seniors, he rose to the rank of City Marshal by 1886. But he is immortal for the role in which he would play on the morning of August 4, 1892, at age 42, when the phone rang down at the Central Station, and news of the Borden slayings reached his ears. The chain of events which would unfold from that point on to the day when Hilliard “closed” the case is the stuff of which crime history is made. Certain from the start, Hilliard and the FRPD felt sure they had “got their man” but alas, the evidence proved circumstantial and their Prime Suspect was acquitted in 1893. One wonders what Hilliard thought and what private conversations went on behind closed doors until his death just before New Year’s Eve in 1912.
Hilliard would succumb to cirrhosis of the liver and additional complications from nephritis. He would die a year before his only child Dana S. Hilliard would marry Clara Hart, and would not know his grandchildren, Rufus K. “Bud” Hilliard and Jean. The widow Hilliard would live on with her son Dana and his family until her passing at 301 Hanover Street in the north end of the city. There are living descendants of Marshal Rufus Hilliard and his wife, Nellie S. Clark.
One positive event emerged from the tumultuous doings of 1892 surrounding the Borden case- Rufus Hilliard would be reunited with a long-lost sister due to the notoriety of Lizzie Borden and the constant newspaper coverage. In September of 1892, this lady had made contact with Rufus Hilliard and thus provided one happy ending in any event!