Case Personalities

People and personalities in the case

  • Happy 160th Emma Borden!

    March 1, 1851 marks the date of Lizzie’s sister’s entry into the Borden family.  Lizzie’s birthday anniversary usually gets all the attention in July.

    March 1 was also the date Uncle John V. Morse exited this world, taking whatever he may have known or suspected about the Borden mystery with him.

  • Feature on Fall River Police Department


    Denise Noe has compiled a fascinating array of facts in this recently released online article for Men’s News Daily about the Fall River Police force, focusing on the men in charge during the 1892 Borden case.  City Marshal Rufus Hilliard and Fleet are prominently featured. The article first appear in a 2009 issue of The Hatchet.

  • Lizzie Borden’s Servants

    Cropped images courtesy of, 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

    Nellie Miller and Hannah Nelson remembered in the names of Lizzie’s Boston Bull Terriers

    Who was Donald Stuart?  Another mystery.

  • Bridget at the Perry House, Newport

    Bridget Sullivan gives testimony about her first employment when she arrived in America, long before going to work for the Bordens on Second Street.  Today the old opera house is the Jane Pickens theatre on the green near the courthouse.  The Perry House Hotel, the original building destroyed many years ago, is at the intersection of Thames and Broadway. Bridget lived awhile with a man named Sullivan during her year in Newport, a fact which seemed to cause a little sensation as to if he were a married man or a single man.


    Q. You came to New York first, and went from New York to Newport?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. That then is five or six years ago, is it not?

    A. Six years ago the 24th of last May.

    Q. How old are you?

    A. Twenty-five.

    Q. When was your last birthday?

    A. I do not know.

    Q. You do not know?

    A. No Sir.

    Q. Then how do you know you are twenty-five; because you have been informed so?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. Did you ever live anywhere else than in Pennsylvania and Fall River?

    A. In Newport I worked twelve months.

    Q. In whose family there?

    A. A hotel.

    Q. What hotel?

    A. The Perry house.

    Q. That was when you first came to this country?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. How long did you stay there?

    A. Twelve months.

    Q. Did you work anywhere else in Newport than in the Perry House?

    A. No Sir.

    Q. And you were at work all the time while you were in Newport. While you lived there, in the Perry House?

    A. I was a little while with my friends before I went to work. I was twelve months in Newport before I left it.

    Q. Friends where?

    A. In Newport.

    Q. Who were they?

    A. Sullivans.

    Q. What Sullivan is it, what is the first name?

    A. Dennis.

    Q. Mr. Dennis Sullivan; does he live there now?

    A. I do not know.

    Q. Was he a relative of yours?

    A. A friend.

    Q. A married man?

  • First Murder Mystery Weekend

      The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum will be hosting its first Murder Mystery Weekend over the Valentine’s Day weekend. Characters from the past will be coming together to hear the revelation of city marshal Rufus Hilliard, who has received startling new information which leads to unveiling the identity of the REAL Borden murderer.

    The action will commence with a tea on Friday afternoon, followed by a themed dinner, a murder mystery play, followed by a lively round of sleuthing, games, and off-site activities.  Saturday night will feature the grand revelation of Whodunnit at the Quequechan Club banquet.  Guests will try to portray their historic characters throughout the weekend, with costumes and props encouraged.  The event is sold out, but hopefully will be repeated again soon! To follow the storyline of the weekend, you can read Rufus Hilliard, City Marshal’s journal at  More details and photos of the event will be posted to W&W.

  • A Letter from Lizzie Borden


    One of the most-viewed features of Warps and Wefts this year has been the newspaper clippings from all over the country detailing the most minute bits of information about the Borden case and personalities involved.  Of course newspapers do make mistakes, and when information is lacking, some unscrupulous reporters were not above inventing details to fill in the gaps.  With a little careful sifting, there are some golden nuggets to be found. Thanks to and Newspaper, all of this is available to the public.  Here is a very interesting paragraph which was buried in the Davenport (Iowa) Tribune, August 25, 1892.

    It’s unfortunate the Borden family threw notes and letters away so readily.  The famous note sent to Abby Borden asking her to come visit a sick friend went missing, even though a reward of $500 dollars was offered for information about  the sick friend’s name, who wrote the note, and who delivered it. It was suggested by Lizzie that it may have been burned up (in the kitchen woodstove as that was the only fire in August).

    Emma Borden was visiting the Brownells on Green Street in Fairhaven during the week of the murder, which must be where the letter mentioned in the article above was sent.  On the morning of the murders, Lizzie gave her father a letter to mail to Emma in Fairhaven.  The letter mentioned above must have been written before the letter written and given to Andrew Borden to mail on August 4th.   How unfortunate Emma did not keep the letter which mentions Lizzie’s “suspicious man”, which would have added credence to her tale to the police about such a character later. Or, did Lizzie make up the “suspicious” man loitering around the property as a convenient suspect to draw attention away from herself later?  To whom did Emma show that letter- most likely Mrs. Brownell and her daughter Helen. Lizzie mentioned the suspicious man idea to her friend Alice Russell the night before the murders.  Was Lizzie telling the truth- or cleverly covering all of her bases? Did Emma’s friends who saw the letter ever get to relay that information to the police?

  • Was there a Will in the Wind?

    Middletown Daily News August 18, 1892 (Middletown, N.Y.)

    Did Lizzie know that her father was seriously thinking about making a will? She seemed to know a great deal about her father’s real estate holdings.  Here is her inquest statement about knowledge of a will:

    Q. Do you know something about his real estate?
    A About what?
    Q. His real estate.
    A I know what real estate he owned; part of it. I don’t know whether or not I know it all or not.
    Q. Tell me what you know of.
    A He owns two farms in Swansea, the place on Second Street and the A. J. Borden Building and corner and the land on South Main Street where McMannus is and then a short time ago, he bought some real estate up further south that formerly, he said, belonged to a Mr. Birch. .
    Q. Did you know of your father making a will?
    A. No sir, except I heard somebody say once that there was one several years ago.  That is all I ever heard.
    Q. Who did you hear say so?
    A. I think it was Mr. Morse.
    Q. What Morse?
    A. Uncle John V. Morse.
    Q. How long ago?
    A. How long ago I heard him say it? I have not any idea.
    Q. What did he say about it?
    A. Nothing except just that.

    Was Lizzie lying in her testimony?  Had she overhead Andrew and her Uncle the night before the murders discussing such details about a will?  Andrew was nearly 70 years old, perhaps he had decided to put something in writing and was making an inventory of his assets.  A good many people seemed to think a will favoring a hefty settlement on his spouse provided a good motive for murder.

  • W&W’s Top 10 Borden Case Errors


    Axe or hatchet?  –  Most likely a hatchet or a short-handled axe.

    Top Ten List of Most Often-Quoted  Borden Case Errors


     1. Lizzie was found guilty by jury of the murders of her mother and father.

    Actually Lizzie was acquitted on all three counts, the murder of her father, her stepmother and both at the trial in New Bedford, June 1893.

     2. Lizzie Borden was a redhead.

    According to her passport she had light brown hair.

     3.  Lizzie’s father cut off the heads of  Lizzie’s pet pigeons with a hatchet.

    Andrew Borden did kill the pigeons, but by wringing their necks, according to Lizzie’s inquest statement.

     4.  Lizzie decapitated Abby Borden’s tabby kitten.

    We have only the interview of Abby Borden’s niece, Abbie Whitehead Potter stating that Lizzie killed a kitten. The Whitehead family, with reason, had very little sympathy towards Lizzie, and this tale cannot be validated.

     5.  Lizzie Borden was a big, mannish woman.

    Lizzie was 5 ft. 3 inches tall according to her passport, average for the times.  She had put on weight during the ten months she was incarcerated in Taunton jail. Her face did have a heavy lower jaw and was described by one newspaper as a face with attributes very common to the region.

     6.  Lizzie and her sister sold the house where the murders took place on Second Street after Lizzie was acquitted in 1893.

    The sisters held on to the property until 1918.

     7. Lizzie was a kleptomaniac.

     Legend has it that she shoplifted at local Main St. stores and that the bill for what she had pilfered would be sent to her father to pay.  Shoplifting was surprisingly not uncommon among ladies of the period. There is no documentation at present in existence  that Lizzie was a kleptomaniac and that Andrew paid the bills.  The only corroborating bit of evidence is of a documented thievery of a porcelain wall ornament which went “missing” from the Tilden and Thurber jewelry  store in Providence.  When the item was taken back to the store for a repair, the owner was questioned about its provenance only to be told Lizzie Borden had been the gift giver. This matter was eventually settled privately. It is possible that Lizzie was a shoplifter in younger years, but not proven so.

     8. Andrew Borden was a mortician.

     Andrew Borden was trained as a carpenter and then went into business as a furniture and household goods retailer.  He invested wisely in real estate, including two small farms, all of which would bring him a good financial return, and as a sideline, he was an undertaker.  Undertaker in 1890 parlance meant a person who would supply items needed for a funeral.  He was neither a funeral director, embalmer, nor mortician. An invoice has been found for his services and for a casket, signed by Borden.  It was not uncommon for furniture retailers to supply wooden coffins and caskets and have a showroom or warehouse facility containing these items.

     9. Lizzie committed the two murders in the nude. 

     Thanks to the 1975 film starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie, the nude murderess scenario has its supporters.  In 1890, the thought was put forth that the killer must be saturated with blood, and it should have been impossible to hide or escape without the telltale blood evidence being detected.  In fact, the killer need not have been covered from head to toe with blood, or could have worn, then later destroyed a protective covering garment. It would be unusual for a lady  in the era of corsets and petticoats to have stripped bare twice on a sunny morning and walked around the house in broad daylight , then to clean up in between in a large tin basin in the cellar. Not impossible- just unlikely.

    10. Lizzie Borden killed her stepmother and father.

    So often assumed as fact ,  –  in fact, nobody will ever have the final answer to this one. Based on the evidence given to the jury then, and in re-examinations of the trial evidence now, Lizzie is acquitted. Her inquest testimony, prussic acid evidence, and dress-burning evidence were not allowed at the trial.  The fact that a side door remained open for almost an hour, and that an intruder could have entered the house and concealed himself, allows for reasonable doubt.  And therein lies the fascination with this case.

    Got a favorite oft-quoted but unsubstantiated Borden case statement to share?  Please leave a comment!

  • “Bertie” Whitehead takes a trip

    (click on image for full-sized)

    Sarah Bertha “Bertie” Gray Whitehead, half sister to the victim, Abby Borden, apparently got out of Fall River from time to time.   In January of 1931 she crossed the border at Bridgeberg, Ontario.  Going to visit her son-in-law, Charles Potter and her daughter Abbie Borden Whitehead Potter, Bertie had visited  them before in November of 1929. The destination given is 512 Riverside Drive in Toronto. She lists her son George Whitehead and his wife as nearest relative living in Haverhill at 6 Flora Street and we learn the Whiteheads are Baptists.  Always interesting to have these small details about the family of Abby Borden, and to know Bertie’s later life as a poor widow, contained some pleasurable experiences.  Bertie’s daughter, Abbie Borden Potter would have nothing good to say about Lizzie Borden in years after.

    Bertie died not long after this trip in Winnipeg, Manitoba in her 68th year, only about a year older than Lizzie lived to be herself.  Bertie is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, with her daughter Abbie and husband George Whitehead, and near the graves of her mother,  Jane Eldredge Gray  and her father, Oliver Gray (also Abby Durfee Gray’s father).

  • Emma and her furs

      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.”

  • Emma has a spree 1906

       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 ( 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.

  • Fitchburg Sentinel Aug. 13, 1892

    Yet another version of the “pansy brooch” photo with a reference to Lizzie’s BROWN hair and heavier figure.   An interesting thought- did Andrew discourage gold digger suitors prospecting for his hard-earned dollars?

  • Abby Borden takes a stroll

    The last downtown “stroll” for 2010 took place Friday with Lizzie and Emma Borden’s beleagered stepmother appearing to speak up for the lot of stepmothers everywhere.  Elizabeth Teixeira joins a long line of ladies who have portrayed the unfortunate Abby Borden over the years.  The Stroll benefits the city and local businesses.

    Fall River Herald News file photo

  • One for the Lizzie Bookshelf

    Web of Iniquity by Catherine Ross Nickerson

    Duke University Press, Feb. 1999

    Here’s one that may have slipped by unnoticed. It sells from $6- $131 dollars depending on where you hunt for it.  Amazon has the best deals.

    “Surveys detective fiction from the Civil War to World War II, describes how women writers created a form of domestic mystery that offered a critical view of the condition of women, and discusses works based on the Lizzie Borden case.”

    For more about the book and its author visit the Duke U. Press

  • West Coast loves Lizzie

    Lizzie Borden has jumped the bounds of just New England lore. West Coasters love Lizzie too!  The popular play, Blood Relations is on tap for December in Olympia, Washington.  Not only transcontinental, Miss Borden and that hatchet are on the way to becoming transglobal, thanks to the Internet and the Travel Channel!

    Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock
    Directed by Tim Samland
    December, 2010
    Venue: The Midnight Sun“In 1892 Lizzie Borden was tried for the double murder of her father and stepmother. She was acquitted but the crime was never solved. 10 years later,
    at tea with an actress, Lizzie suggests a game in which the actress will portray Miss Lizzie and Lizzie will take the role of Bridget, the family’s maid.”

  • New crop of Lizzie shows for Halloween

    The Travel Channel kicked off Ghost Adventures tonight with an episode filmed at the Lizzie Borden B&B this past May- one of several which will be airing between now and Halloween.  This episode’s 7 minute clip from the shoot comes at the end of the show and features B&B guest interviews, comments from house co-owner, Lee Ann Wilber, seance highlights with Liz Nowicki, a local Fall River medium/psychic, and features house/museum employees in the roles of Abby and Lizzie.  The Rev. Bob Richardson plays Andrew Borden.  The episode will be airing several more times over the next few weeks.  For the schedule, visit the link below.

    Most Terrifying Places in America

                                                                 Kathleen Troost-Cramer as Lizzie Borden


    Rev. Bob Richardson as Andrew Borden

    Shelley Dziedzic as Abby Borden