Oak Grove Cemetery
Taphophilia, monuments, grave stones, out buildings, Borden Plot, Victorian funeral statuary
One has to wonder if Eli Bence consulted his half-brother Peter Gaskell Bence in the matter of giving evidence to the Fall River Police Department regarding the attempt by the woman he identified as Lizzie to purchase prussic acid on August 3rd. Peter Bence had received a political appointment to the Fall River Police Department in 1878 and served as a patrolman until 1880. He is pictured above in his policeman’s uniform.
The Bences were a large and close-knit family. In 1892 Peter Bence, a widower, was preparing to marry again to Emma Macomber on August 25th. His first wife, Sarah Jane Ball Bence had died in childbirth at their home at 117 Bay Street in 1890. The house is still standing. The topic of the Borden case, Eli’s evidence, and trial must surely have been a hot topic of discussion within those walls. In 1893 Peter and his new wife moved into 56 Palmer Street, a duplex owned by the Harringtons, where they lived until after his second wife passed away. Peter died in 1919 in Newport where he had been spending his last days with his son.
After leaving the police force, Bence tried his hand at mill work as a weaver, many years as a carpenter and finally in later life, a janitor at the Mount Hope Elementary School. Carpentry was his first love and he did decorative interior woodworking at the B.M.C. Durfee High School and the Granite Block downtown. Boat building was a hobby.
Peter Bence, born in 1849, and his sister Ellen were born in Heaton Norris, Lancashire, England. Ellen died as an infant and Peter immigrated with his father William and stepmother Sarah in 1854. The family were living in Braintree when Eli Bence was born.
Peter and his wives are buried in the family plot in Oak Grove Cemetery, next to his parents. He does not have a marker.
*Photo above and some data courtesy of Ancestry.com and the Bence family descendants
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.
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.
So much can be learned about individuals by studying the wills, birth, marriage and death documents. Wills are particularly revealing in listing specific bequests to certain beneficiaries- and in some cases in what is not left to others. Below are thumbnails of some of the Borden case personalities’ documents. Click on thumbnail to enlarge and use ZOOM detail.
Bridget Sullivan Emma Borden Lizzie Borden
Sarah Morse Borden Nance O’Neil Edwin Porter
Last Will & Testament of Bridget Sullivan
This past weekend the cordial society of armchair sleuths returned to #92 Second Street for the annual flocking of the Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) for a jam-packed tour of many Borden-related sites around the area. Friday morning the group of 16 visited the Fall River Historical Society to bestow the yearly awards upon the recent publication by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, Parallel Lives. The flock enjoyed a coffee hour, tour and photo session in the beautiful Victorian garden before heading off to Fairhaven for a picnic at Fort Phoenix and a city tour given by Chris Richards who was dressed to impress!
Chris fired off a vintage rifle, explained how teeth were extracted, limbs were amputated and the life and activities of a wartime barber-dentist-surgeon, a role he re-enacts in costume with a local history group at Fort Phoenix annually. Afterward the Muttoneaters toured city hall and learned about Mark Twain’s dedication speech given on the stage there, visited the locales of the homes in which Helen Brownell stayed (Emma Borden’s alibi), and visited the beautiful Millicent Library where a letterbox was found in a very special place inside. (see Atlasquest.com for clues!) The group then returned to Fall River for a pizza party and presentations on the Villisca murders of 1912 and discussions on Andrew Jennings, one of the attorneys for Lizzie whose journals they saw at the historical society earlier.
Saturday was a busy day which began with a trip to Oak Grove Cemetery to see the room in which the Bordens were autopsied on August 11, 1892, and to inspect the interior of the holding tomb used to house the coffins of the Bordens both before and after the heads were removed by Dr. Dolan.
The morning concluded with a very special visit to Maplecroft and a great tour by Mr. Bob Dube who conducted the group through every room of the three-storied home and explained what was original to Lizzie’s tenure there. This was a very special and much-appreciated opportunity as the house is currently for sale with the future owner still unknown.
After lunch the Muttoneaters visited the Animal Rescue League of Fall River, an annual stop, to bring dog and cat treats and a special 1927 newspaper detailing Lizzie and Emma Borden’s donation to this worthy cause, bequeathed in their wills.
The afternoon brought a real surprise when the group was invited to visit the cellar of the Lodowick Borden (also known as Dr. Kelly’s) home next door to the Borden house on Second Street to view the chimney and cellar where in 1848 Eliza Darling Borden threw three of her children in a cistern and then committed suicide behind the chimney. Beautiful cabinetry with little drawers and cupboards were added much later when the Kellys moved to the house in 1891 and are still intact. The room was most likely used then as Dr. Kelly’s home office.
Saturday evening concluded with a visit from the “Women’s Christian Temperence Union” with Muttoneaters dressed as Mrs. Brayton, Carrie Nation and Mother Willard, followed by a Sunday-style chicken Gospel bird dinner and many hours of animated conversation about the famous Borden case. As always, nobody wanted to leave on Sunday morning and the planning begins again for next year’s adventures.
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. This year will mark the 120th anniversary of the Borden tragedy. It would be hard to conceive any possible connection between the two- until last month’s revelation.
With the publication of BUILT FROM STONE: THE WESTERLY GRANITE STORY, the sketch and work order for the Borden Oak Grove monument revealed the names of all the workers who worked on the main monument and the four small headstones. The headstone lettering, A.J.B. (Andrew Jackson Borden), A.D.B. (Abby Durfee Borden) for the victims, S.A.B. (Sarah Anthony Borden, Lizzie’s mother), and ALICE (Lizzie’s other sister) were cut by William J. Drew. R&P stand for “raised and polished”on the headstones. J.F. Murphy did the polishing of the letters.
William John Drew and his two brothers came to America in the 1880’s from Cornwall, near Falmouth, England. The sons of an early-widowed mother, the boys had gone to work in the famous granite quarries of Cornwall at a very young age. Simon Drew would head to Maine but William and his brother James Vivian Drew would eventually start a marble and granite monument business in Greenport, Long Island, N.Y. William’s first wife, Louisa, died in 1894 and for a time William J. Drew lived in Westerly, and did some work for Smith’s Granite Company, easily the most prestigious monument company in the Northeast. Orders came in from all over the country for the Westerly blue, red, and rose granite which had a fine grain. The blue was especially easy to carve. Smith’s was the most-desired company to fill the order. Lizzie and Emma Borden placed their order through the Smith’s Providence branch.
William Drew soon found a new love in Elizabeth Brines of Westerly, and on June 24, 1903, they were married. With the Greenport business now growing, the two brothers and their wives found a home together. James Vivian Drew married Mary Louise (Lulu) Thorne Christian and they all settled happily into married life and work at the new business on the harbor in Greenport. William’s son by his first wife had died in 1898, and when his new bride of only a year gave birth to a son on March 30, 1904 life was looking hopeful. The child was called Marshall Brines Drew. About three weeks after his birth, Mrs. William Drew (Elizabeth), died, leaving Marshall motherless and William Drew yet again, without a wife.
His brother James V. Drew and his wife Lulu took the infant in to raise. They had lost their only son Harold not long before so Marshall seemed a godsend.
In October of 1911, James, Lulu and little Marshall decided to go back to Cornwall to visit Grandmother Priscilla Drew. They sailed on the sister of the R.M.S. TITANIC, the OLYMPIC, making them among the very few who ever sailed on both. In April, 1912, Marshall, now aged 8, boarded TITANIC in second class with his aunt and uncle. On the night of April 14, the ship hit the iceberg and sank on the morning of April 15th about 2:20 a.m. Uncle Jim had bundled Lulu and Marshall into lifeboat #11 and both were saved. Jim never had a chance. His body was not found. Back in Greenport, his brother William was devastated at the news and hastened with Lulu’s father to meet the rescue ship, CARPATHIA, in New York harbor, only to find the worst was true. Jim was gone. William Drew carved this monument, a cenotaph, to his late brother Jim out of Westerly blue granite. The brothers were famous for their carved lilies and roses. It is in Oak Grove Cemetery– but not Oak Grove in Fall River- in Ashaway, Rhode Island where Aunt Lu and Marshall lived after Aunt Lu remarried Mr. Richard Opie.
William Drew died of tuberculosis in 1917 in Greenport, L.I. His son lived to be 82, and died in June of 1986. His stone was designed by this site’s administrator and funded by Titanic International Society, It is made of Westerly blue granite and carved by one of the last of the old Westerly granite men, Donald Bonner.
Below is the work order showing William Drew’s name. History is full of strange coincidences and unlikely links. It is hard to know if William Drew was familiar with the notorious case of Lizzie Borden, or that his work would find its way to the heads of two of crime history’s most famous victims.
Photos and text: Shelley Dziedzic, March 2012
The Borden Monument
By Shelley Dziedzic (all rights reserved, February 2012)
Click on the photo of the worksheet above to use enlargement ZOOM tool
Not surprisingly the Borden plot is the most visited site in Oak Grove Cemetery. On the day of the funeral of Abby and Andrew Borden, only grass and many trees surrounded the open graves lined with pine branches. Of course the Bordens were not buried on the date of their joint funeral, August 6, 1892, but instead lingered in a holding tomb at the cemetery awaiting a full autopsy on August 11th and burial at last on August 17th. It would not be until January 1895 that the stately Westerly blue granite monument would be set in place, along with the rectangular headstones bearing the initials of the victims.
With Fall River being famous for granite, especially rose granite, one wonders why Emma and Lizzie Borden did not shop for a fitting monument in their own home town. The fact was that Smith’s Granite Company of Westerly, Rhode Island was the most prestigious monument supplier of its day, with offices in many major American cities. Providence would have been the nearest branch to Fall River. Smith’s could claim orders from all of the finest old families as well as being in demand to supply important statues and civic monuments and memorial stones across the country. Emma and Lizzie chose the very best to mark the site of their eternal rest.
The stone was ordered on July 2, 1894, almost two years from the date of the burial of Abby and Andrew Borden. The stone is nine feet in height and is divided into five separate segments. The cost of the labor and materials is carefully noted in the order book, and the date of each stage of the work is listed when completed at the top of the page by stone numbers 1-5. The stone was crated and shipped by rail on January 4, 1895. The base is Stone #1, #2 is the section containing A.J. Borden in raised and polished letters, #3 is the panel stone where names and dates are inscribed, #4 is the most intricately carved by master carver, Mr. L. Galli who was paid $230.79 and #5 is the cap stone. At the bottom of the page appears the order for the small headstones. There are four of them with the lettering and polishing done by William Drew and J.F. Murphy. The four are AJB,(Andrew Jackson Borden) ADB, (Abby Durfee Borden) SAB (Sarah Anthony Borden) and the full name Alice, the sister who died very young. No doubt the matching headstones of Lizzie and Emma were added at a much later date, and also the inscription on the panel of the main marker added in 1927 or later.
It is interesting to note on this order sheet that the panel engraving had to be done twice due to an error. Many have remarked that there is an “S” added to Lizzie’s name and wondered if this was an order left by Lizzie to be completed after her death or merely an error on the part of the carver, who may have thought Andrews was a surname and that Andrew was an unlikely middle name for a woman. Lizzie had, herself, opted to change her name unofficially to Lizbeth, but is not known to have added an “S” to her middle name of Andrew.
It is unknown exactly when the names of Emma and Lizzie, and their dates of birth and death were added to the panel, or whether either sister ever actually saw the panel with their names on it. It is not uncommon to have names and dates of birth engraved on a stone while the person is still alive, with the death date added after the fact. This may or may not have been done at the time of the creation of this monument. As particular as Lizzie was known to be, it would be easy to make the case that she never saw the panel in life to catch the error.
Newspapers printed that on the day of the stone’s installation, Lizzie and Emma went out to inspect the work. It was reported that Lizzie only gave a cursory glance and then went back to her carriage. Emma is said to have made a careful inspection. The cost today of the stock and labor for this monument would be many times the figure on this work order.
A list of artisans who worked on the Borden monument:
Pat Holliday, Jas. Brown, Mike Burke, Jas. Dower, Tom Holliday, George Rae, P. Craddick, F. Polletti, J.D. Craddick, Joe Frasier, L. Galli, Dan Kelleher, James Blake, Ira Norman, George Dunn, William Frances, Frank Roads, John Moore, J.F. Murphy and William Drew.
- Alexander Lawson, a Scottish-born stone carver from Aberdeen, who immigrated in the great Scottish wave which came to America lived and worked in Westerly, Rhode Island before moving to Fall River to open his own granite works and monument business on Prospect Street, just outside the gates of Oak Grove Cemetery. The family lived on Robeson Street for many years, and the business was inherited by Frederick Lawson, Alexander’s son and prospered for many years. Alexander Lawson is credited with the carving of the 1873 arch at Oak Grove.
The diagram and details for this article were furnished by the Smith-Babcock House Museum on Granite Street in Westerly, R.I. The diagram is reproduced with permission. Additional information on Smith’s and the granite industry in Westerly may be found in the excellent publication, Built From Stone: The Westerly Granite Story by Linda Smith Chafee, John B. Coduri, and Dr. Ellen L. Madison. Copies may be purchased at Other Tiger Bookstore on High Street in Westerly or at this link http://www.builtfromstone.com/
Visit the Smith-Babcock House Museum, which is the premier repository of archived materials relating to the granite industry in Westerly. http://www.babcock-smithhouse.com/
Need more excitement in your life? Nothing good on T.V.?
Tune in tonight,( September 15th) at 10 p.m. for the first ever (but not the last) So you think you know Oak Grove Cemetery? Jeopardy- style online quiz.
Questions and photo identifications will be posted in rapid fire, each going up after the previous one has been correctly answered. There will be one winner, with difficult brainbusters in case of a tie. Join us at Friends of Oak Grove Fall River tonight. A prize will be awarded to the winner- and the competition will be fierce! How well do YOU know Oak Grove?
* Contestants will need a free Facebook account to post answers.
Joseph Wilmarth Carpenter, Jr. left the Borden & Almy business “under a cloud”, and with some hard feelings toward crusty Andrew Borden. That news was known about town. After Andrew Borden was murdered, Mr. Carpenter’s history with the victim made him a “person of interest.” He may have done better to stick around town and face the music. Still, he was off the hook with an air tight alibi.
Carpenter’s family monument and head stone is seen below in Oak Grove Cemetery.
(Top photo by Will Clawson)
For students of the Borden case, the name of Wade’s Market crops up several times. The little local grocery was located just to the south of Dr. Kelly’s house and had the number of 98 Second St. Newspaper story stringer and newspaper vendor, John Cunningham had just exited Wade’s and was heading north on Second Street when he overheard Adelaide Churchill telling Tom Bowles of the carnage on the Borden sofa. Cunningham subsequently headed to Gorman’s paper and paint store to telephone the police station, after first informing the newspapers of the sensational story unfolding at the Borden house.
It wasn’t long after the discovery of Andrew Borden’s body that news of the murder was heard in Wade’s store, where the lunch hour crowd got the details of the gruesome killing while awaiting their nickel’s worth of bologna lunch meat. Above Vernon Wade’s store lived Mary and Nathan Chace. Mary Chace was the lady who had seen a man stealing pears out of the Borden back yard earlier in the day. That man was soon run down and turned out to be an innocent party working in Crowe’s yard. It is probable that Abby and Lizzie Borden frequented Wade’s often.
Vernon Wade’s substantial and handsome stone is at the southernmost end of Birch Avenue very close to the Terry plot where Lizzie’s chauffeur, Ernest Terry is buried. If you stand in front of the Terry plot and look west, you will see the Wade monument.
Just in time for Lizzie’s birthday: the guide to Borden-related graves in Oak Grove Cemetery. The booklet contains maps, biographies of people connected with the case who are buried at Oak Grove, three walking tours with maps of how to locate both minor and major personalities in the Borden story, a history of the cemetery, fun facts and trivia, who is NOT buried at Oak Grove connected to the Borden case, and articles on the Victorian celebration of death, symbolism on funerary statuary and much more! Designed in a black and white “Edward Goreyesque” style, the publication will go on sale July 19th. Pricing and outlets which will stock the guide will be finalized and announced here on July 15th.
This Monday, March 14th, will mark the birthday of Lawdwick Borden, the great -uncle of Lizzie Borden. Lawdwick is not so much remembered as his second wife, Eliza Darling, the mother of the unfortunate children who were thrown into a cistern. The story has grown over the years and been embellished. Guests to the Borden house today all want to hear about “the children in the well”. Finally the facts and the correct spelling of Lawdwick Borden can be set forth for all time. The photographs and censuses detailing the four wives of Lawdwick Borden may be viewed here. http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/the-four-wives-of-lawdwick-borden/
Happy Birthday “Uncle Lawdy”.
The December 20th anniversary date of mill worker, Sarah Cornell is usually forgotten in the bustle of the holiday preparations. The tragic story of a young girl found hanging near a haystack on Mr. Durfee’s farm has been the inspiration for several books, and much sympathy over the decades since the deed. Sarah indicated in a note that if she were to go missing, the Rev. Ephraim Avery would be the man to find. The pregnant girl’s message from beyond the grave and the circumstances surrounding her demise convinced authorities to bring in the minister for questioning and ultimately for trial. Aided by his standing in the Methodist church and the influence of important people, Avery was aquitted. He then fled to Ohio and led an uneventful life. Sarah’s thin and worn gravestone in Oak Grove Cemetery still stands as a reminder of the pitiful tale of Justice unserved. The costs for her burial and stone were undertaken by the Fall River Congregationalists when the Methodist congregations of which she had been a member declined the responsibility. Sarah was laid to rest on Christmas Eve. For more on the story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Maria_Cornell
(photo January 9, 2011)
The ground fog rolled in thick from Oak Grove Avenue to the front entrance of Oak Grove last Sunday between 3 and 5 p.m. Captured in the fog are some interesting photos of the Borden plot, Cook Borden’s famous granite tree trunk, stones of Officer Wixon (he who tried out climbing over the Borden’s back fence on August 4th), and Southard Miller who built the Borden house on Second Street. Someone had visited over the holiday, and left a tribute at Lizzie’s grave. Several photos in the slideshow below, as indicated, were photographed by Will Clawson.
Perhaps the most frequent blooper oft-repeated in print and in documentaries is Lizzie’s name. In her inquest testimony Lizzie clearly states she was christened Lizzie Andrew Borden, but those who would rewrite history will have it be Elizabeth. Although Lizzie is a nickname for Elizabeth, Lizzie Borden opted to start calling herself Lizbeth as a whim. Perhaps she was tired of that little ditty about herself and those 40 whacks! Liz, Lizzy, Lizzie, Lizbeth, Elizabeth- but in the end, as far as history is concerned she will ever be Lizzie Andrew Borden.
The temps have dropped, the frost is on the pumpkin, the leaves are off the oaks in Oak Grove Cemetery and the city has its Christmas decorations up. Here is a twilight shot tonight under the full moon in Oak Grove.
The Victorian Celebration of Death
The Borden Funerals
Those Victorians sure knew how to mourn and how to keep Loved Ones around for years after the funeral through Memento Mori. To find out more about the customs of the era, and the Borden funeral in particular, visit the link for October Mutton Eaters online. Why did Lizzie wish her grave “bricked over”. What is a mort-safe?
The Funeral Service of Abby and Andrew Borden
Private funeral services for the deceased victims began at the house on Second Street at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. The streets surrounding the house were packed with over 2500 people anxious to get a glimpse of the proceedings. Services were conducted by the Rev. A. Buck, William Adams, D.D. gave the invocation and read passages from the Bible. The bodies were each placed in a cedar coffin covered with black broadcloth and bore three silver handles on each side. The names of the deceased were engraved on a plate on the lid. On the casket of Andrew Borden was an ivy wreath, on Abby Borden’s a wreath of white roses, fern and sweet peas tied up with white satin ribbon. The bodies were exposed for viewing.
Family and neighbors attending the home service included Abby’s half-sister Sarah Whitehead, Mrs. Gray (Abby’s stepmother), Hiram Harrington (brother-in-law of Andrew Borden), Mrs. J. L. Fish (sister of Abby Borden), Dr. and Mrs. Bowen, Southard Miller and son, Mrs. Addie Churchill, Mrs. Thomas Cheetham, several cousins, neighbor Mrs. James Burt, Mrs. Rescomb Case, and Mrs. John Durfee. Over seventy-five in all were received at the home.
Miss Lizzie Borden was attired in a black lace dress with jet bead trimmings and wore a bonnet of dark material with small, high flowers. The funeral procession traveled north on Second Street, to Borden Street, on to South Main, and passed by the Andrew J. Borden Building. It continued north to Cherry Street, to Rock Street, and turned East on Prospect Street to the entry of Oak Grove Cemetery. The cortege arrived at the burial site at 12: 20 where several hundred people were assembled for the graveside services. The crowd was contained by a dozen policemen. None of the funeral party descended from their carriages except John Morse, Lizzie’s uncle, the bearers and the clergy. The tops of the graves were covered with branches of fir and the sides lined with cloth.
Pallbearers included John H. Boone, businessman, Andrew J. Borden, Merchant Manufacturing Co. (same name as the deceased), Jerome Cook Borden, cousin, Richard A. Borden, prominent businessman, George W. Dean, businessman, Abraham Hart, treasurer of Union Savings Bank, and James Osborn, a member of the Central Congregational Church. For Abby Borden: Frank Almy, John Boone, Henry Buffinton, Simeon Chace, James Eddy and Henry Wells. The bodies were not buried until after a cemetery autopsy on August 11th when both skulls were removed and a complete autopsy took place.
- information above courtesy of Leonard Rebello, Lizzie Borden Past and Present and the Fall River Daily Herald