By Jo Anne Giovino with photography and research by Barbara Morrissey and Kristin Pepe *(All rights reserved, August 2019)
Although it was a dark and stormy night, the Intrepid Trio, Jo Anne Giovino, Kristin Pepe and Barbara Morrissey was dauntless in their pursuit of Lizzie A. Borden. This mission took us to Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city about forty minutes from our home base, Billerica, MA. Destination: Buttonwoods Museum, for a presentation on Lizzie Borden. After a brief stop for sustenance and pumpkin ale at the Barking Dog, we arrived at our appointed time. Unfortunately, the talk was a bust – but do not despair! The effort was not in vain.
While Barbara was conversing with a newly-found distant cousin, Kristin and JoAnne spotted a lighted display cabinet in the rear of the room and went to investigate. What we saw left us bewildered and amazed. In the cabinet was an original full set of the transcripts of the case, “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie A. Borden”. Printed on the display card was “From the collection of William H. Moody”. Obviosuly it never occurred to us that there would be a privately –owned copy of the transcripts outside of Fall River or New Bedford.
This discovery begged the question, “Why were the transcripts here and how is Moody connected to Haverhill?”
Thus began our journey of Finding Moody.
As we know, Wm. H. Moody was one of the prosecutors for the Commonwealth in the Borden case. He was appointed by Massachusetts Attorney General Pillsbury to assist the District Attorney of the Southern District of Massachusetts, Hosea Knowlton. Mr. Moody gave the opening statement to the jury which concisely and cogently laid out a strong case against Lizzie A. Borden. Moody was praised for his effort and many believed Lizzie to be doomed. As a peripheral character in the case, our personal knowledge of Mr. Moody was limited. But, as Charter Members of The Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) , we knew there had to be more to Wm. H. Moody than this. As we have learned from other personalities in the case, no person is a one-dimensional individual. There was a rumor after the trial that Lizzie sent a packet of newspaper clippings and photos to Moody with a note that read, “ As a memento of an interesting occasion.” Was that true? Will the Intrepid Trio discover the truth? There was only one way to find out. Channeling Sherlock Holmes, our investigation began.
“The Game’s Afoot”
Finding Mr. Moody proved to be quite an endeavor. After searching the Internet and making numerous phone calls, we got some leads. Our first stop, the Haverhill Public Library, was a treasure trove of information. The Special Collections Department had newspaper clippings, scrap books kept by Moody and his sister, letters, photographs, and most impressively, the trial transcripts. Next, we went to the Buttonwoods Museum located in historic Duncan House, which is the home of the Haverhill Historical Society. The museum has a room dedicated to Wm. H. Moody with furnishings and personal belongings donated by his sister after his death. The staff and volunteers were very generous with their time and opened the room to us despite the museum being closed to the public at that time. Seeing these tangible objects and knowing that they belonged to Mr. Moody was very poignant. One realizes that he was an individual with a life, friends, and family and not simply a footnote from some celebrated case. In searching census records we were able to discover an address for Moody’s residence. Not knowing for sure if the house was still standing, we went in search of the home. With the assistance of GPS, we were successful in finding his home. Mr. Moody owned a large, beautiful Federal style house in a very prestigious section of Haverhill, akin to Lizzie’s house on the hill, Maplecroft. Luckily it is still standing and we were able to take pictures and envision how it must have looked in its heyday. Our final stop was definitely the most time-consuming in research, but the most rewarding – locating Moody’s final resting place. Contrary to what one may think, this distinguished gentleman is interred in a small family plot in a rural cemetery in Byfield, Massachusettts, a village north of Haverill. He lies with his mother, father, brother and sister. As with Lizzie and Emma, none of the children ever married.
We are appreciative of those who graciously assisted us in our research. The following is the pertinent information we found about William H. Moody.
William Henry Moody was born to Henry Lord Moody and Melissa Augusta Emerson ( a distant relative of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) on February 23, 1853 in Newbury, Massachusetts, a small fishing village outside of Haverhill. His father was a farmer and came from agrarian stock. Similar to the Borden family, the Moody family settled in America sometime in the 1600s. At this time we did not determine from which country the family emigrated. William was one of three children.
When William was quite young, his father, valuing the importance of education, moved the family to Haverhill. He attended the prestigious boys school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he graduated with a diploma in 1872. After graduation he attended Harvard University and graduated in 1876. While attending Harvard, William became acquainted with an underclassman, Theodore Roosevelt. Although Teddy was a few years below William, they had outdoorsmanship, sports, and friends in common. This developed into a life-long friendship which would prove to be quite valuable to William’s future. Moody was an excellent baseball player and was captain of the Harvard baseball team. He was also an avid debater on the Harvard debate team. After graduation he attended Harvard School of Law. However, he chose to leave school and practice law under the guidance of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. William successfully passed the bar and became a lawyer.
Being a very prominent lawyer and politician, in 1888 he gained his first elected position, Solicitor for Haverill, Massachusetts. Later he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Eastern Massachusetts (1890-1895). It is during this time Bordenphiles are introduced to Mr. Moody. In 1893 he was chosen by Attorney General Pillsbury to be associate prosecutor in the Borden trial. This was his first murder trial. Although the Commonwealth did not prevail in the Borden case, Moody continued on with a distinguished career. By 1895 Mr. Moody was elected federal representative of Massachusetts (1895-1902). By this time his old Harvard classmate was elected President of the United States. President Roosevelt called upon Moody to be his Secretary of the Navy (1902-1904), U.S. Attorney General (1904-1906), and the ultimate achievement, Justice of the Supreme Court (1906-1910), serving until the severe rheumatism forced Justice Moody to retire from the bench. William returned home to Haverhill where he stayed active in politics and renewed friendships until his death on July 2, 1917, President Roosevelt attended his friend’s burial.
William H. Moody was a beloved resident of Haverhill. Over his lifetime he was feted for his many accomplishments by his fellow townsmen with parades and dinners held in his honor. In 1919 the U.S.S. Moody, a destroyer, was commissioned in his honor. His sister, Mary, christened the ship which was built at the Squantum Victory Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.
He served our country with distinction and was a valued and dedicated public servant.
Sometimes life takes us on unexpected journeys and this is one of them. We have been fortunate to make Lizzie Borden-related discoveries in “our neck of the woods”. I say fortunate because these adventures allow us all to gain knowledge and realization that those we read about from the case are more than a name on a page or a mere character cast in a murder mystery.
By the way, we did not find that letter and packet from Lizzie to William – at least not yet.
Sources: Buttonwoods Museum, Haverhill, MA
Haverhill Public Library, Haverhill
Lizzie Borden Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Al-Zach Press, 1999.
Various Internet articles and newspapers
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.
Bence’s parents, William and Sarah are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River.
Referred to in old city documents as the City Tomb, the strange structure built into a hill at Oak Grove Cemetery near the entrance is more recently called the holding tomb. There are two similar structures in the cemetery, the other being only slightly east of the Borden-Almy plot. The purpose of these tombs was to provide a place in winter where coffins could be stored until the ground thawed enough for a grave to be dug. There were also other circumstances when a coffin could not be immediately buried, either because of a dispute as to plot ownership, police matters which might require further investigation, or a delayed burial for legal reasons. Early regulations going back to 1856 define time limits for how long a body was allowed to remain in the holding tomb, the shortest of ten days being in the summer months. Except by order of the mayor, the deceased was required to be a citizen of Fall River to be held in the City Tomb.
Today the holding tomb contains gasoline for the lawn equipment and is locked, its former use no longer required. The descent into the holding bays is steep. There are four bays on each side of the underground vault, each capable of holding three coffins on tiered shelves inside the bays.
Notably, Andrew and Abby Borden spent a week awaiting their full autopsy (done on August 11th in the Ladies’ Comfort Station near the front gate) inside the structure with heads intact, and nearly another week, thanks to Dr. Dolan, with heads removed in the holding tomb before burial at last in the family plot. Even in hot weather, the temperature deep inside the holding tomb remains very cool.
Perhaps the most thrilling photo from Parallel Lives was that of Lizzie on her veranda at Maplecroft with her little dog. Now we have two photos of the Borden maid around the same age. Whereas Lizzie looks rested, prosperous and content in her photo, Bridget has a stern and careworn visage. Two elderly ladies- worlds apart in many ways, but sharing one extraordinary day in common- August 4, 1892.
Photo of Lizzie and her dog courtesy of the Fall River Herald News Online as seen in Parallel Lives by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette.
Photos reproduced here courtesy of Diana Porter, a relative of John Sullivan
Photo of Bridget Sullivan courtesy of Diana Porter attributed as coming from the Barbara Knightly Hockaway Collection
The promised article is finally available via the Fall River Herald news http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x221044214/New-photos-surface-of-former-Lizzie-Borden-maid-after-murders
and contains the very interesting comment pertaining to Sullivan’s personality as being humorless, stern, and even “mean.” Reading Bridget’s testimony and statements made in 1892-1893, she gives the impression of being careful with her statements, and not just a little bit nervous and afraid to say anything negative about Lizzie or the family, so this new revelation causes one to wonder if Bridget developed the stern, mean and humorless traits after the trial or did she always have such a personality?
For decades the story has been widely circulated that Bridget had something to “get off her chest” and either died without telling “something about that Fall River business” – or else confessed it to a priest with her dying breath. What the something was, or even if all or a part of this story is true yet remains to be proven without a doubt. People have speculated what the something could be: she knew the dress Lizzie gave to the police was not the dress Lizzie had on that morning of the murders, Bridget helped clean up blood or other evidence, she knew Lizzie was guilty but protected the family in return for a favor, etc. The list of possibilities is endless. The notion that Bridget knew something but would never tell is, however, provocative and the recent disclosure of the photos and comments by a great niece of Bridget’s husband, John Sullivan, Diana Porter, only add even more flavor to conjectures about Bridget and what she knew. No single person was in a better position to know the daily workings of the Borden household better than Bridget, and so anything about her or anything which will emerge in the future promises to be greeted with eager eyes and ears.
Copies of the two photos will be added to Warps and Wefts as soon as the proper permissions have been granted.
Read Part I of The Brownells of Fairhaven at http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/brownells-of-fairhaven-pt-i/
It’s good to have an alibi and good friends who will swear to it!
The Gazette had an article marking Lizzie’s acquittal anniversary on June 20th.
A welcome home party was given for Lizzie at the home of Charles and Marianna Holmes on Pine Street on the day of the acquittal. Their house is still standing. Those waiting outside the murder house on Second Street, hoping for a glimpse of Lizzie, were disappointed.
Below: The Holmes house on Pine Street today, the scene of Lizzie’s triumphant return to Fall River, a free woman. It is now subdivided into several apartments. In the background, steeple of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Rock St. (now called Holy Spirit).
A new page has been added on the site today featuring excerpts from The Critic- a theatrical publication which printed reviews by authors on various productions and performers. This excerpt is from 1904, the year in which Lizzie and Nance crossed paths and underlines the celebrity Nance is enjoying in Boston at the time.
During the short interval in which Lizzie and Nance were friends, Nance was often on the road and much in demand. The opportunities in which the two ladies could have enjoyed leisure time together must have been few and far between. Lizzie made a visit to Nance’s estate in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts and no doubt enjoyed the menagerie to be found there, both house pets and farm animals. Nance, at least on one occasion enjoyed hospitality at Maplecroft, along with some of her troupe. Whether or not this friendship was the cause of Emma’s unhappy departure from Maplecroft and her sister’s company has been the source of speculation since the rift occured.
Cropped images courtesy of Ancestry.com, click on image to enlarge.
1900– Annie Smith, aged 29 born in Massachusetts, parents from Ireland
John H. Tatro (Tetrault) 37 coachman, born in Rhode Island
1910: Housekeeper Mary S. Boucher aged 35 born in New Jersey , Mary A.J. Reynolds aged 32, English
1920 Helen Smith aged 36 born in Scotland, came to America in 1909, Ellen “Nellie Miller” aged 30, English, came to America in 1891
From 1893 until 1927 when Lizzie Borden died and was waked at her impressive home at 306 French Street, she was never truly alone at Maplecroft, even after sister Emma left suddenly and without full explanation being known. Along with Lizzie’s beloved canaries and Boston bull terriers was the constant presence of a housekeeper, which at times, must have been the only other human presence walking through the spacious halls. Maplecroft saw a parade of handymen, carriage drivers, chauffeurs, delivery and service people, and men to do odd jobs and repairs. But surely it was her housekeeper, who slept on the third floor, within easy call of Lizzie’s second floor bedroom which provided a secure and reassuring presence when winter nights closed in early.
Hannah Nelson was born in Sweden on August 24, 1870, the daughter of Philomena and Phi Nelson. She was ten years younger than Lizzie, and when she came to work at Maplecroft in 1903, she was the same age as Lizzie when Lizzie was acquitted of double homicide in a New Bedford court. It would be Hannah who lived through some difficult times when Emma disagreed with Lizzie’s way of life at Maplecroft, and it would be Hannah who stayed on with Lizzie in the big house long after Emma had quitted it forever and the two sisters parted company.
Hannah stayed on until her death on July 3, 1908. She died at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence at the young age of 37. Lizzie had written worried letters to friends about Hannah’s declining health and welfare, and in the end, Lizzie would be the one to step forward to tend to Hannah’s care and burial.
The spot chosen to lay her to rest is located on a peninsula of land with a view of a little cove and river and to the east, a winding estuary. Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, in Riverside is secluded, private, and filled with fascinating historical figures of the Past. Some stones there pre-date the 1700’s, the official date of the cemetery being given as 1755. The headstone is invisible to anyone who travels down the narrow lane as it is located on the other side of a fieldstone wall, on the slope of an embankment. Only the zinc headstone of the Tillinghasts can be seen from the road above it. The view of the little estuary is Hannah’s outlook for eternity. A small child’s headstone is in the same little square plot and has names of several children, who are not related. Hers is a single grave, hidden in a secret place. What is most memorable is the one word on the top of the stone- SISTER.
The stone is plain and unremarkable but for the one word on the top. Was Hannah like a sister to Lizzie after her own sister Emma had left or did her brother wish “Sister” to be placed on the stone? Was Hannah a companion and comfort as well as a housekeeper? Yet one more mystery about Lizzie Borden and what really transpired behind the shuttered doors of Maplecroft.
Hannah was also remembered by Lizzie in the naming of one of her beloved pet terriers, Royal Nelson, buried in Pine Ridge pet cemetery at Dedham.
Thanks to Michael Znosko, a font of knowledge on the history of this part of the world, and a recent story http://www.eastbayri.com/detail/141281.html about paupers graves in the Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, Will Clawson (photographer), and Len Rebello (Lizzie Borden Past and Present) for assistance and biographical material.
Lizzie’s furs, her sealskin “sacques”. reputed to have required Prussic acid with which to remove moths in that testimony by pharmacist Eli Bence were a luxury garment. The furs were rumored to have been a 30th birthday gift for Lizzie prior to her trip to Europe on the Grand Tour with lady friends. Furs as a rule are put in cold storage in the Spring and removed later for winter wear. Apparently Emma Borden knew how to take care of her fur coats as this Portsmouth Herald newspaper reported on August 5, 1943, long after Emma’s death. Nice to know Emma had a few luxuries.
The text of the article:
” Miss Emma’s identity was kept secret by Miss Anne Connors with whom she lived in Newmarket and townspeople had no idea of the connection with the reknown Borden family until her death when she was buried beside her sister, mother, and her murdered father and stepmother. A quiet, elderly woman who was always dressed in rich mourning, she never visited neighbors and made two trips to Boston, one to put her fur coat in storage at the beginning of summer, and the other to take it out in the fall.
Miss Lizzie, on the other hand, lived in her new and modern home, attempted to resume her ardent church activities and made frequent trips to Boston where harrassed hotel managers tried to keep her presence a secret from other patrons and newspapermen.”
It’s good to know that at least on one occasion Emma Borden spent a little of her inheritance on herself. Emma’s name is eighth from the bottom of this document (Ancestry.com). She took the White Star line steamer R.M.S. Cymric (shown above) from Boston to Liverpool with a stopover in Queenstown, Ireland (also called Cobh). She went First Class and apparently without a chaperone. Scotland was her intended vacation destination, but she would surely have seen plenty of England on the way and at least a good glimpse of the Irish coast in Queenstown on the way to Liverpool.
She arrived in June and does not return home via the Cymric until October so it was a visit to rival Lizzie’s 1890 Grand Tour. Maybe those “goings on” at Maplecroft which forced Emma to leave had something to do with this long vacation abroad. Passenger list above. Click on image for larger view.