It was a perfect weekend to journey out to Tyngsborough to get a glimpse of what was left of the charm Nance O’Neil found at her farm. The town, which is nestled between the Merrimack River and Flint Pond is a sleepy little place, filled with quiet backroads and rustic appeal, meadows and wildlife. Nothing remains of Nance’s stately manse, called various names over time but Brinley Farm or Brinley Manse when Nance was there. She took up summer residency in May, 1904 but the name of Benjamin Levy was also on the deed. Between her manager, McKee Rankin’s mismanagement of Nance’s finances and Nance’s spendthrift ways, she declared bankruptcy by May 1906 and sold the property in 1907 to the Sisters of Notre Dame. The nuns erected a school on the property of 220 acres, still there today. The mansion burned to the ground in 1977 when it was owned by the Marist Catholic Brothers. It is said that a couple small outbuildings from the farm still exist from Nance’s time. Here are some views from the property and some town buildings still around that Lizzie and Nance would recognize.
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
For those who cannot get enough of the Borden Case, this will be a four-star weekend featuring the annual dramatization at the house on Second Street ( tickets on sale now at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast) and a VERY special exhibit which opens on August 4th and runs through September 30th at the Fall River Historical Society. For Letterboxers, a special letterbox will be hidden in Fall River to mark the 120th anniversary of the historic crime. Atlasquest.com will have the clue, so bring your stamp and notepad, an inkpad is provided in the box. To see the clue type Fall River, MA in the locator box at the Atlasquest.com site. Got Lizzie? And how!
Christmas came early this year for those who enjoy Fall River history and have an interest in the Borden case and the enigmatic Miss Lizzie. Parallel Lives was released this morning to the public. By 11: 30 a.m. a long line snaked its way down the pavement toward Maple Street and there was a feeling of restless expectation in the air as the noon hour approached. . A man came around the corner bearing two copies of the coveted tome as heads swiveled to catch a glimpse. A spontaneous outburst of appreciation went up from the crowd followed by many comments as to the SIZE of the massive tome.
No preview copies were released for reviewing to anyone, so it was with enormous excitement today’s release was anticipated. Beginning on Friday, the benefactors of the publication enjoyed a special gathering, followed by Saturday night’s annual Christmas Open House for members, and capping off an extraordinary weekend with today’s public release of the book, viewing of a special exhibit of materials featured in the book (cards, letters, gifts Lizzie presented to friends, etc.) and a tour of the Christmas decorations, always an annual treat.
The authors held court in the front parlor at a beautifully decorated table with a red rose Christmas arrangement, signing autographs and having photographs taken with visitors. On the lawn, on the stairs, and anywhere one could sit, people clutched their volume, looking eagerly through the pages. From all corners came appreciative little shrieks of excitement as never-before-seen photos were discovered, especially those showing Lizzie herself. Even those who vowed not to ruin the surprise until they could sit at leisure soon gave way to overwhelming curiosity and were soon leafing furiously through the pages. Some had driven hours to pick up their copies.
It would be presumptuous to attempt any sort of review of this major work until the whole was digested, therefore the Warps & Wefts review will be forthcoming in the near future. Suffice it to say, Parallel Lives is as plummy a Christmas pudding as anyone could ever wish for, chock full of juicy morsels, delicious facts and photos, fascinating history, surprises and many hours of enthralled reading. To reveal too much would be to ruin your own Christmas surprise- so-
Just spring to your sleigh, to your team give a whistle,
To Rock Street fly like the down of a thistle.
Parallel Lives is the gift sure to please, so take heed,
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good read!
Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks, etc.
The jurors at the trial had a difficult time believing a lady could be capable of murdering her elderly father and stepmother. The pages of true crime are filled with such ladylike criminals who committed heinous acts upon the sick, helpless, young, and infirm, while at the same time projecting the very image of genteel propriety to the public. England’s most famous baby-killer, Amelia Dyer, must surely go down in history as one of the most evil women who ever lived. As for Lizzie, a song was soon made up about the devious woman some thought might be “Jill the Ripper”.
The old baby farmer, the wretched Miss Dyer
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid.
In times long ago, we’d ‘a’ made a big fy-er
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade
Dyer, although raised in a comfortable middle-class home, was taxed with the care of an invalid mother who was the victim of severe mental illness. This and other factors set Amelia on a turbulent life path of destruction and violence and murder of young innocents and hapless women who found themselves pregnant and unwed. Dyer spawned a veritable cottage industry in “baby-farming.” Most infants never lived to see their first birthday. There is no tally of the number of murders which could be laid at the door of Amelia Dyer, but her last, in 1896 resulted in being apprehended after a turn of bad luck, tried, and convicted in less than 5 minutes. Amelia was hanged on June 10, 1896, at 9 a.m. after filling notebooks with her confession. “I have nothing to say,” said Dyer, as the noose was tightened. The scope of her crimes still boggles the mind. It is entirely likely that Lizzie Borden knew about The Ogress of Reading as her killing spree was fodder for the press on both sides of the ocean.
For more on Amelia Dyer, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=11443817
This year the August 4th production at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast will debut a new leading lady. She is no stranger to the part. The photos here are taken from an episode filmed last summer for the Travel Channel. Kathleen Troost-Cramer, day manager at the famous B&B in Fall River, may be remembered for performances in years past as Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan. This year, having gotten in a few practice whacks with a hatchet, Kathleen is ready to take on the legendary Lizzie Borden, probably the most difficult role of the lot as expectations are so varied and anticipated by the sold-out crowd which assembles every year on the 4th to re-live the Borden tale of mystery.
Mild-mannered mother of two, and Bible scholar, this role is quite a stretch, but anyone who has been “under the hatchet”to Kathleen can testify- she means business!
Congratulations and “break-a-leg” to Kathleen as we wait to see her unique spin on the unforgettable Lizzie Borden!
First performance on August 4th at 10:30 a.m., last performance at 3:30 p.m.
In addition to anticipating the upcoming release of the historical society’s Parallel Lives, August will welcome a new play about the famous case. The Herald News reports:
A new play, “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe,” depicting the well known Lizzie Borden case will be staged in Fall River for the 119th anniversary of the hatchet murders of Andrew and Abby Borden.
There will be two performances on Aug. 5 and 6 at the Nagle Auditorium at B.M.C. Durfee High School by the Covey Theatre Company of Syracuse, N.Y.
Fresh from winning two Syracuse Area Live Theatre awards for Best Original Play and Best Costumes, as well as the Gloria Peter Playwright competition from Aurora, NY, “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” left critics enthralled and Bordenophiles raving.
“Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” will be staged Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling 315-420-3729 or online at” www.thecoveytheatrecompany.com.
The annual costumed recreation of August 4th will take place as usual at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast on the 4th, which this year, will be a Thursday, just as it was in 1892.
Plenty of Lizzie on the way for August!
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.
Among the Library of Congress collection of unusual broadsides, (those prolific paper tributes written by budding writers about popular topics of the moment), rests this Lizzie Borden case effort by Mr. Beard of New Hampshire, who gives his home address at the bottom of the page, no doubt in hopes of hearing from a publisher keen to publish his opus.
Thanks to CLEWS crime blog for bringing this to our attention a few years ago. If you missed it then, here it is again.
Bruce A. Brennan, attorney from DeKalb, IL released a novel on November 10, 2010. The book is historical fiction in the crime genre. The book takes place in the late 1880s through the early 1900s and involves Jack the Ripper and other infamous criminals of that period.. Jack the Ripper, Chicago’s H.H. Holmes, the Dalton gang and others make guest appearances. The novel is e-published and can be downloaded at this link. Send us your reviews! http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/11/prweb4774174.htm
About the Author:
“Bruce A. Brennan is a practicing attorney handling criminal defense work. This is his first published novel. A second one is expected within four months. He writes a daily blog and contributes to several others. This is the story of the investigation and crime solving techniques used to track down the most notorious murderer in the world. The killer plied his trade in Europe and the United States during the 1880s through the early 1900s. After an exhausting investigation, Ian Dean gets his man.”
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
As Halloween draws nearer every year, there seem to be more and more “Lizzie sightings”. Whether in haunted corn mazes, horror theme attractions, Halloween costumes or a proliferation of Lizzie Borden-based plays- the little gal with the hatchet is everywhere from August right through to All Saints Day!
The Discovery Channel has set the Ghost Lab show of the investigation of the Borden house for Oct 25th, with a preview on the 19th. The Travel Channel repeated its look at America’s Most Terrifying Places again this past weekend, Nance O’Neil is coming to a close this weekend in Manhattan and coming soon- a new play, Lizzie Borden Took An Axe, by Garrett Heater will be the debut production of a brand new theatre group.
Stay tuned for all-new Lizzie & Family productions coming this Fall on the Discovery channel, a landmark book on Fall River and Lizzie coming from the Fall River Historical Society, and the Borden case documentary shot by Ric Rebelo this past spring will be airing Saturday, October 30th at 7pm on Rhode Island PBS– the day before Halloween. And Sunday night, the 31st, is ALWAYS a special night at #92 Second Street and is sold out a year in advance!
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 http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?productid=566&viewby=subject&categoryid=389&sort=author
With Nance O’Neil off-Broadway until October 9th, playgoers may like to know that the famous Players Club has a full-length portrait of Nance as Lady Macbeth in the diningroom. See link below to the Player’s Club and a link to a mixed review of Nance as Lady Macbeth here below as a pdf file:
Have you seen the portrait of Lizzie Borden by Tiago? Currently, Mr. Finato is painting a portrait of the new Fall River Mayor. The Lizzie portrait shows Lizzie with a slightly ominous gaze! http://fineartamerica.com/featured/lizzie-borden-tiago-finato.html
To learn more about the young Brazilian artist, read his bio here http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/tiago-finato.html?viewcomplete=true
Just when you think everything has been done that can be done with the Borden case, along comes a new twist. We have Lizzie dolls, pins, magnets, teeshirts, bracelets, earrings, coffee mugs and shot glasses. There are books galore with more coming soon, paperdolls, collector cards, toy hatchets, and even Cat’s Meow has put out a wooden replica of the murder house on Second Street. And now- from ETSY, an online crafter’s catalogue, we have a Lizzie Borden perfume oil, in a limited edition, available only until November 2010. Have a look at the newest entry on the Lizzie market. Wonder what’s next?
This “eau de murder” is described as:
“A waft of Mother’s garden blooms, Father’s unlit pipe, tiny roses on the parlor wallpaper, and a dusty wooden axe handle.”