If Walls Could Talk

  • Down on the Farm at Tyngsborough with Nance O’Neil

    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.

  • Maplecroft Sold!! A new B&B coming to Fall River

    MaplecroftpaintedFor many summers the For Sale sign has been up in front of the famous address on French Street, Lizzie Borden’s beloved and last home.  Over the past few weeks, an interested buyer has made trips to Fall River and at last the house, owned for many years by Robert Dube, has transferred ownership.  The Fall River Herald News broke the story this afternoon at this link.  http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20141121/NEWS/141128850

    The house will operate as a Bed & Breakfast and it looks like exciting times ahead for the old Queen Anne house. The photo above was taken recently after a fresh coat of cream-colored paint was applied. The new owners should be taking possession after the holidays.  The house did operate briefly as a B&B some years ago. It will be fun to watch what the months ahead will bring.

  • Fall River Historical Society to debut a new photo of Maplecroft interior

    The FRHS announced an exciting donation to the Borden archive today.  The following appears on the FRHS Facebook page and is very exciting.  How can we wait until August 4th?

    maplecroft seal“Lizzie Borden’s home: Extremely rare photograph discovered! Lizzie Borden had this green and gilt “Maplecroft” seal made for use on her correspondence — a rare example of her personal style during her years in that residence. Now we are excited to report that a truly unique photograph taken inside the French street mansion while Lizzie lived there has been given to the FRHS! It’s the only suchphoto ever to have surfaced, and anyone with an interest in Lizzie will find it fascinating. For the first time, we have a partial but revealing glimpse of the interior of her home. And the subject of the photo – something Lizzie apparently cherished — helps to debunk one of the biggest myths perpetuated about her.

    Donated by a descendant of Lizzie’s personal maid, Ida S. Carlson, the photo came to us with impeccable provenance. Lizzie hired a professional photographer to capture the compelling image and had it mounted in an ornate frame, and around 1899 she gave it to Ida, who displayed the treasured piece in her home until her death, at which time it was acquired by a relative.

    The photo will make its debut at the FRHS at a special exhibit opening on August 4, 2014, where it will join a collection of other recently acquired Borden-related items of note. Mark your calendar, and be sure to come and take our informative tour about the life and trial of Lizzie Borden!”  (Posted April 22, Facebook).


  • Providence Journal Launches Six-Part Serial for the 120th Anniversary of Lizzie’s Acquittal

    ProjoA much-anticipated series debuted today in the Sunday Providence Journal. ” Projo” writer Paul Davis certainly did his homework for this six-part article which runs all week and features some new, never-before-published information. The writing is crisp, accurate and thought-provoking and highlights trial coverage from 1893 Providence Journals.  Lizziephiles will be over the moon with the expansive coverage.  If you cannot obtain a hard copy of the paper, read all about it at the newspaper online link.


    A short trailer was put up on Saturday night to heighten anticipation.


    A promotional online video is also on the Projo site and Youtube which features Warps and Wefts writer, Shelley Dziedzic who made a tour with Journal reporter Paul Davis in May.  The tour encompassed all things “Lizzie” in and around Fall River and a jaunt to the New Bedford courthouse to visit the scene where the 1893 trial unfolded.

  • August 4th is Coming Soon !

    The Pear Essential Players Present

    A Dramatization of August 4th on Second Street 

    Saturday, August 4, 2012

    Reserved Tickets are Now On sale at

    The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum

    Turn back the clock to the morning of August 4, 1892.  The bodies of Abby and Andrew Borden have been discovered cruelly murdered at their home on Second Street.  The friends and neighbors have gathered around daughters Emma and Lizzie as the police and doctors collect evidence and question the inhabitants of #92.  Can you help the police solve the mystery?  Who could have committed such a grisly deed? 

    A drawing for the day’s tour visitors will be held after the last performance for a Gift Certificate for Two for a night at the Bed & Breakfast.  The Drawing is at 4:15 p.m. Follow the Pear Essential Players on Facebook and at http://pearessentialproductions.org/ 

    Abby Borden- Shelley Dziedzic

    Andrew Borden- Don Sykes

    Lizzie Borden- Carol Ann Simone

    Emma Borden- Barbara Morrissey

    Uncle John Morse- Joe Radza

    Bridget Sullivan- Suzann Rogers

    Marshal Hilliard- Ray Mitchell

    Officer Phil Harrington- Mark Lomastro

    Dr. Bowen- Jack Sheridan

    Mrs. Phebe Bowen- Ellen Borden

    Addie Churchill- JoAnne Giovino

    Dr. Dolan- Michael Shogi

    Miss Manning- Eliza Marks

    Nellie Bly, Intrepid Globe-Spanning Reporter- Katrina Shogi

    Undertaker Winward- Jerry Pacheco

    Alice Russell- Kristin Pepe

    A new Miss Lizzie is making her debut!  Tickets go on sale July 15th! Call 508-675-7333 to reserve.

  • Another Borden Cellar

    The article on Mrs. Lawdwick (Ladowick, Ladwick, Lodowick. etc.) Borden is still a much-visited link on Warps and Wefts. http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/the-four-wives-of-lawdwick-borden/

    The tragic tale of Mrs. Eliza Darling Borden, (Lizzie’s great-uncle’s second wife who had died by the time Lizzie was born) throwing her three children in the cellar cistern, then stepping behind the chimney and slitting her throat is one which captures attention.  The incident in 1848, and the mention of it at Lizzie’s trial keeps the curiosity alive about that house.  The graves of the two little ones who died, and their troubled mother, are visited more often now at Oak Grove Cemetery.  They are directly across the road from the Southard Miller and Dr. Bowen’s plots.

    A few weeks ago, the Muttoneaters, at their annual gathering, were invited to see the old cellar where the tragedies took place.  The staircase is steep, and probably original.

    Today it is used as a family room and traces of the original layout are hard to find. The eastern room is now a small laundry with washer and dryer. The main room which is accessed at the bottom of the steep stairs has a fireplace, the infamous chimney now covered by a brick wall to the ceiling. One unusual feature is the floor -to-ceiling woodworking which is surprising and beautifully rendered into small shelves, cabinets and little drawers.  The owners, aware that Dr. Kelly once lived here, thought perhaps the doctor’s home surgery or consulting room may have been located here, the numerous storage spaces used for instruments and medical equipment. Dr. Kelly raised a happy family of three children here, and now the room is again filled with laughter and children- all vestiges of that dreadful day in 1848 gone.

    (All photos by Ginny B. Lahman)

  • End of Spring

    Yesterday was the 85th anniversary of Emma Borden’s death.  All was quiet at sunset in Oak Grove Cemetery as the sun went down on the graves of the two sisters.  Back on Second Street, the old house filled with secrets closed its shutters for another night as roses bloomed at the front door.

  • Bridget Sullivan – “Stern, Humorless- and mean”?

    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.

  • The Face of Lizzie Borden

    The sweet-faced lady on the piazza holding her pet is a far cry from the caricature of the raging homicidal spinster so often portrayed as being Lizzie Borden.  The bobbleheads, tee shirts, and cartoons may have to undergo a re-do.  Parallel Lives, the long-awaited biography of Lizzie and her times has released this amazing photograph of Lizzie with one of her Boston bull terriers (Laddie Miller), said to be taken around 1916 on the back porch of her French St. home, Maplecroft.

    Followers of the Borden case will be drinking in every detail of her dress, her furnishings, her expression. A picture is worth a thousand words. The thick volume, studded with over 500 photos may be pre-ordered  from the Fall River Historical Society.  For the full story and link to order click on this link http://www.heraldnews.com/features/x464394189/Historical-Society-announces-first-true-biography-of-Lizzie-Borden

    So will this photo and new bio change your mind about Lizzie?

  • Cooling Board

    Among the fascinating photos taken by hired photographer Mr. Walsh, on the day of the murders is this one below of Andrew Borden reclining post mortem on a caned autopsy board(sometimes called a cooling board). Cooling boards came in many patented designs. Air had to circulate through in the  styles which had no ice drawer beneath, so wooden ones were frequently drilled with holes in elaborate patterns. Cane was naturally open-weave.  In this photo, Mr. Borden has an incision from sternum to abdomen which was needed in order to extract his stomach.  The same procedure was done on Mrs. Borden in the diningroom while Mr. Borden’s took place in front of the black horsehair sofa in the sitting room. A portion of the sofa may be seen in the background as well as the arm of the sofa.  The doorway in the center of the photo goes into the kitchen.

    After a long search, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast museum has procured an 1890’s autopsy board which is strikingly similar, if not exact, to the one on which Mr. Borden reclines. This model folds in the middle so as to make it easy for the medical examiner or mortician to transport it.

    The term “cooling board” also refers to another type of solid wooden board upon which the body is laid while in transit, awaiting transit or awaiting attention from the mortician. The body literally goes from a warm state just post mortem to “cooling” on the flat surface.  Vintage cooling boards are quite collectible and can easily fetch a sum between 400- 1000 dollars.

  • Bad news day

    The front page of the Fall River Herald for August 4th featured a large colored photo of Kathleen Troost-Cramer and Barbara Morrissey as Lizzie and Emma Borden on the day of the infamous murders re-enacting the news about the killing of their father and stepmother.  The front page also featured a headline of the Dow down to the lowest point since 2008 and news of bacteria levels in the Taunton River. At least one of the stories was old news from 1892.


    Ray Mitchell as city marshal Rufus Hilliard.  Story by Deborah Allard.

  • Lizzie’s Easter bonnet

    Although Fall River may not have enjoyed the annual Easter Parade famous to Fifth Avenue, New York, Easter Sunday morning was a grand opportunity for ladies to promenade down the aisle in their new chapeau at church, and later in the many parks in the city.  Hats were de rigeur during Lizzie’s entire lifetime and she no more would have left the house without a hat on, than have left uncorseted.  Hats and gloves were the mark of a lady.  Lizzie even mentions that on August 4th, the day of the murders, when she returned from the barn loft looking for lead to make sinkers, she put her hat down in the diningroom before discovering her father on the sofa.

    Lizzie could easily afford a personal milliner when she moved to Maplecroft.  Mr. Bump, accompanied by his little daughter, would visit Maplecroft with trims and hat forms when Lizzie needed something new and stylish. She may have subscribed to The Delineator to keep up with all the styles.  Fun to think of Lizzie smiling over French ribbon, Italian straw boaters, felt cloches, and boxes of silk flowers and feathers in the comfort of her beautifully-appointed home on the Hill and making her choices for the season’s head adornments.

  • Andrew Borden’s Barber, Pierre LeDuc

    photos courtesy of JoAnne Giovino

    Andrew Borden’s final morning, leading up to the time of his murder was witnessed by many people as he made his usual rounds around the city.  A creature of habit, his daily pattern of barber, post office, banks, and check-in at properties he owned on South Main Street were predictable. He was noted by Abram G.Hart at the bank, encountered by store renter Jonathan Clegg on the street across from old City Hall, engaged in conversation by Mathers and Shortsleeves while checking on a window near the corner of Spring St. and South Main, and observed around 10:45 a.m. by neighbor Caroline Kelly coming around the corner of his house and going up his front steps, attempting to gain entry. Mrs. Kelly would be the last non-family member to see him alive.

    Pierre LeDuc is listed as a “hairdresser” along with his partner Joseph LeDoux in the 1891-2 city directory, with their establishment on the second level over Wood and Hall’s shop, which was a furniture store that also had a side line in undertaking, a common practice at the time, supplying things for a funeral and offering wooden coffins for sale in their showroom.

    Born of an English father (according to one source) and a French Canadian mother in May of 1864, the family came to America in 1870.  The stone marker in Notre Dame Cemetery does not list Pierre’s date of birth, only his death date. The 1900 census has his birthday as May 1864, but the marker has him aged 68 in 1928 which would have made his birth year 1860, the same as Lizzie Borden’s. On April 14, 1890 he married Marie at Saint Anne’s.

    Below: City directory entries:

    Pierre Leduc  1889-1891 City Directory
    Location 1: 8 Pleasant
    Location 2: boards 2 Sixth-and-a-half
    Occupation: hairdresser


    City: Fall River
    State: MA
    Pierre Leduc
    Location 1: 5 Main
    Location 2: boards 2 Sixth-and-a-half
    Business Name: Leduc & Ledoux
    Occupation: hairdresser


    City: Fall River
    State: MA
    Pierre Leduc
    Location 1: 5 Main
    Location 2: boards 2 Sixth-and-a-half
    Business Name: Leduc & Ledoux
    Occupation: hairdresser


    City: Fall River
    State: MA

    (click on image above to enlarge to full size) The 1910 census shows Pierre and Marie now living at 160 Robeson Street and they have adopted a daughter, Catherine.  With no children appearing since their wedding at St. Anne’s in 1890, twenty years later adoption completed the family. Catherine was born in Massachusetts. Pierre is listed as a barber. Interesting to note that while Pierre’s speaking language is English, Marie’s is listed as French.  In other census listings, Pierre and Marie Americanize their names to Peter and Mary LeDuc.  And what happened to Pierre’s partner, Joseph LeDoux?  In 1930 he is still barbering as an old man and living on Spring Street.  If you are fortunate enough to have a copy of Judith A. Boss’ book, Fall River. A Pictoral History (1982 and available on Amazon), you will see a young Pierre LeDuc posing in a jaunty boater hat and crisp white barbering smock in front of Whitehead’s grocery store. He is young and slender.  There is only the Fall River Globe’s account that Pierre gave Andrew Borden his last shave and trim the day of the murders.  LeDuc probably never thought this is what he would be remembered for in the future.

  • Lizzie Borden’s Housekeeper

    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 on the keyboard

     Most well-born ladies of the period took up the study of a musical instrument as part of their well-rounded education.  The pianoforte was a favorite as the lady might accompany herself singing or might become a sought-after party guest to accompany around-the-piano impromptu group singing which was so popular among all age groups .  Lizzie Borden took up the piano as a teenager but in the end abandoned the serious study of music as she felt her playing was inferior.  Sister Emma Borden also played, as her school records at Wheaton Female Seminary attest.  Andrew Borden had to pay five dollars per term to furnish Emma with a practice instrument. By 1892, even middle class families could afford to own a parlor piano.  Different sources list Lizzie’s piano as either a square parlor grand or an upright grand. Considering the decade of her piano playing, a square parlor grand is more likely. These were somewhat large, boxy instruments with thick carved legs.


     In 1892, the most popular tune of the time was After the Ball, a waltz by Charles K. Harris. He had written the piece in 1891.  According to Wikipedia:

    “In the song, an older man tells his niece why he has never married. He saw his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball, and he refused to listen to her explanation. Many years later, after the woman had died, he discovered that the man was her brother.

    “After the Ball” became the most successful song of its era which at that time was gauged by the sales of sheet music. In 1892 it sold over two million copies of sheet music. Its total sheet music sales exceed five million copies, making it the best seller in Tin Pan Alley‘s history.”   

    The song is still familiar to many and is often the last selection played at dances and cotillions.

    Did Lizzie amuse herself at the piano on Second Street as an adult?  – Most likely she did.  She would also have a handsome piano in her parlor at Maplecroft.  It’s fun to picture the sisters around the piano at Christmas trying out a few carols and Christmas tunes from the hymnal. Two other huge hits of 1892- The Bowery and Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two).

  • The Sisters of Abby Borden now online

    The latest in the series of “Mutton Eater” short articles is available for the month of September.  It is a tale of sisters-  Abby Borden and her two siblings Priscilla and Bertie in one corner versus the Borden sisters Emma and Lizzie in another!  As in most lives, the Gray girls had their share of tragedy, hard work and joy, but they, unlike Emma and Lizzie enjoyed motherhood and grandchildren.  In the Borden case, where nearly all the main players are women, here are two more stories to add to the potent mix which ended in the events of August 4th 1892.

    Graves of George and Priscilla Gray Fish in Hartford, CT