The Wrights: Lizzie’s Comforters and Champions

Have you ever been frightened and alone in a strange place, feeling friendless and without hope only to recognize a friendly face in that sea of despair?  Such was the case when Mary Jane Wright looked upon the stoic countenance of Lizzie Borden and recognized the one-time friend and playmate of her little girl, Isabel, from days long -gone by.  There was something in the face of the young woman standing before her that was familiar.  As the two women looked upon each other after Rev. Buck had left the corridor outside the cell door, it was reported that the elder lady’s eyes were moist with remembrance of happier times. 

That evening, August 12, 1892, Mary J. Wright went back to her own quarters in the Taunton Jail and brought a cushion, a small rocking chair and a few comforts to place in Lizzie’s cell.  Too nauseous to eat and trying to cope with her first night alone in prison, these comforts must have meant the world to Lizzie.  

Still unable to eat the hard prison fare the next day, a large tin dinner pail was sent out to a nearby hotel and was filled and returned with tasty meals for Lizzie. These little kindnesses made the long 10 months of incarceration bearable for Lizzie.  A stroll outside the cell, plants on the windowsill, a friendly cat, and good food all helped Lizzie to bear the lonely and frightening hours on Hodges Avenue.  Mrs. Wright would also nurse Lizzie back to health during a bout of bronchitis during her incarceration.

Mary J. IRVING was born  February 20,1832 in Providence, Rhode Island.  She married Andrew R. Wright on October 31, 1853, in Fall River, Massachusetts. They had three children during their marriage. Mary, a widow, died on November 6, 1905, in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the age of 73. and was buried in Fall River in Old North Cemetery on North Main St.  Her last years were spent in a sanitarium plagued with advanced senile dementia.

Andrew R. Wright was born in 1832 in Fall River He died on July 3, 1899, in Fall River, Massachusetts, at the age of 67 due to complications of heart disease and Erysipelas which is a condition that a bacterial infection causes.

In 1860 census Andrew is listed as a mechanic and machinist . In August of 1862 he enlisted in the army at the rank of Captain. Commissioned an officer in Company D, Massachusetts 3rd Infantry Regiment on 23 Sep 1862.Mustered out on 26 June, 1863. The family lived at several locations in Fall River including 83 Pine St., 6 Winter St. and 186 North Main St.  After the Civil War, Andrew went into law enforcement and was City Marshal by 1870. 

Captain Andrew Wright in 1862

From 1888-1895 the Wright family is listed in the Taunton directory with Andrew listed as jail keeper with the home at same address, 21 Hodges Avenue.

It is during that period from August 1892- June of 1893 when Andrew Wright became the comforter and supporter of Lizzie Borden and became a fatherly presence. He accompanied her to Taunton on the train before her trial and served as bailiff during her trial.  When newspapermen and sketch artists in the courtroom became distracting and over-zealous, Sheriff Wright had no problem with ejecting them promptly from the premises. There were tears in his eyes, the papers reported, when the verdict of “not guilty” went down.

New Bedford Gazette, June 1893

Lizzie would return to Taunton after her acquittal to thank her kind benefactors at the jail.  The visit made front page as reporters scurried to find out if she had returned to confess! Lizzie was followed to the local ice cream parlor and all around town that day. It was a sensation at the time.

Civil War Schedule
Cause of death, Andrew R. Wright

 By 1896 the Wrights had retired to 534 Hanover Street in Fall River. Lizzie’s childhood friend, Isabel Wright had married Charles Aldrich and had a daughter of her own, Anna. The entire family is buried at Old North, Fall River.  Lizzie, no doubt, would remember the old couple with gratitude all the days of her life.

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