Oak Grove Cemetery

Taphophilia, monuments, grave stones, out buildings, Borden Plot, Victorian funeral statuary

  • The Kelly/Hart Connection

    Abraham & Lydia P. Hart, Oak Grove Cemetery

    Abraham Hart was one of the last to see Andrew Borden alive on the morning of August 4th when Andrew stopped by the bank.  Mr. Hart would later tell police that Mr. Borden looked weak and feeble.  Abraham Hart would be one of the pallbearers on the morning of Saturday, August 6th at the short service at #92 Second Street and procession to Oak Grove Cemetery.

    Dr. Kelly’s wife, Mary Caroline Cantwell Kelly was the last (but one) to see Andrew Borden alive as he entered his front door moments before his murder.  Mrs. Kelly was expecting a baby at the time and was on her way to the dentist.  Mrs. Kelly’s second child, Mary Philomena married the grandson of Abraham Hart, Bertrand K. Hart.  Both are buried in the Gifford/Hart plot at Oak Grove, directly across from the Rev. Augustus Buck, Lizzie’s minister and champion throughout her ordeal.  All are together for eternity in a fascinating entertwining of personalities who had Lizzie Borden in common.

    Below:  The mossy stone of Rev. Buck.

  • A Bit About Bowen

    Dr. Seabury Warren Bowen was the focus for last month’s Mutton Eaters Annual Meeting at the Borden home in Fall River.  Facts were pooled by members over the year and shared at the gathering.  The fruits of the research are featured in this month’s Mutton Eaters Online for May http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/2996-2/ or accessed at the tab at the top of this page.  Also of interest is Dr. Bowen’s tesitimony, also found at the top of the web site home page. Thanks to all the Mutton Eaters, the Worcester Historical Museum, Lauren Hewes, Robyn Christensen, Lorraine Gregoire, Lee Ann Wilber and all who made this article possible.

  • Remembering John Fleet

    Died May 10, 1916 (photo courtesy FRPD)

    On May 10, 1916, John Fleet, former city marshal died of heart failure following several months of poor health. On May 9th he had been well enough to visit his daughter Harriet Isherwood and showed no signs at that time that death was imminent. He was stricken after midnight at his home at 85 Park St. and succumbed quickly. He was 69 years old.

    Fleet was born at Ashton-Under-Lyne in Lancashire, England March 29, 1848.  He had been in America for over 50 years at the time of his death, and had begun his working career in the American Linen mills. At the age of 16 in 1864 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until the end of the Civil War, taking part in many engagements under Admiral Farragut including the siege of Mobile and the battle against a Spanish fort. Fleet sustained a fractured arm on the same day Lincoln was assassinated when Fleet’s ship was blown up.

    Returning to Fall River after the war, Fleet, who was rated as a “landsman” in the Navy, went back to work in the mills.  He worked at the Fall River Boiler Company on Water St., then began a new career direction as a house painter and decorator until he was appointed to the police force on February 27, 1877 at the age of 29.  His career would maintain a steady rise in this line of work, being promoted to sergeant on March 2, 1883, assistant city marshal on December 22, 1886 and city marshal on November 8, 1909. He retired on half pay May 31, 1915, when Medley, another officer involved in the Borden case became Fall River’s first Chief of Police, replacing the title City Marshal held by Fleet at retirement.

    John Fleet was known as an efficient officer and was held in high esteem by fellow officers and citizens alike. He was the husband of Lydia Wallace Fleet, the father of four sons and a daughter and was also survived by two brothers and two sisters. His daughter was Harriet Isherwood, and sons  were John W. of Seattle, Frank W., the manager of the Westport telephone exchange, Walter R., assistant superintendent of Borden City mills, and Arthur J., a designer. Surviving brothers and sisters were Richard and Samuel Fleet, Mrs. Fannie Lewis and Mrs. Ann Thackery. A third sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Meyers predeceased her brother a month before in Providence.

    Fleet was a member of Richard Borden Post 46 G.A.R. , Mt. Hope Lodge of Masons, Odd Fellows and Puritan Lodge, K.P. 

    Chief Medley ordered the flag at half-mast at all stations and sent the following statement:

    “ . . . His record shows clearly to the members of this department what can be accomplished by persistent effort and fidelity to duty.  In his death the department loses a friend and the community a valued citizen.  The funeral will take place Saturday afternoon, at which time I trust that as many members as can possibly make it convenient will attend.  I have this day forwarded to Mrs. Fleet and members of the family a message of condolence from the department.  As a token of respect the department will forward a floral emblem. “ W. H. Medley, Chief of Police

    The funeral service was conducted from the home at 85 Park St. at 1:30 and was conducted by the Rev. Albert R. Parker of St. John’s Episcopal Church for immediate family and friends.  The body was taken to St. John’s where Fleet had been a member for many years.  The traditional Episcopal  requiem was conducted and “Lead Kindly Light”, “Nearer My God to Thee”, and  “Heart Be Still”were among the musical selections. A large number of police officers were in attendance including Chief Medley and Captain Dennis Desmond who had worked with Fleet on the Borden case in 1892. Following the service, interment took place at Oak Grove where at the grave the ritual for Grand Army members was carried out by Post 46. The Massachusetts Police Association sent a large floral tribute in the form of a policeman’s badge. R.I.P.

    (sources:  Fall River Evening News May 13, 1916, Fall River Globe May 10, 1916)

  • Dr. Draper comes to call

    The diningroom at Second Street now has a gallery of photos of physicians who were in one way or another connected to the Borden case.  The most recent addition is Dr. Draper of Harvard Medical School, Boston, who assisted with the autopsy of Andrew and Abby Borden on August 11th in Oak Grove cemetery.

    Dr. Draper has an uncanny resemblance to Dr. James Starrs, a forensics expert who had attempted to gain support for the exhumation of the Borden bodies in 1992.  Professor Starrs was denied the request but did examine trial exhibits at the historical society and utilized ground penetrating radar to map the Borden plot. 

  • The Minister & the Mill Girl

    The Rev. Ephraim AveryIt has been just a month over the 178 years since the body of poor Sarah Cornell was found swinging on a post in a Tiverton farmyard on a cold winter’s morning  just before Christmas.  With the recent publication of Rory Raven’s Wicked Conduct,  reviews are appearing in area newspapers and interest is again renewed in the story of the pregnant mill worker and the suspicious circumstances surrounding her relationship with the Rev. Ephraim Avery. 

    Sarah’s grave in Oak Grove cemetery has seen an increase in visitors and there is talk of a new grave marker to supplement the nearly illegible worn stone now in place.  To read the full article by William Moniz of the Spirit, visit this link http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100114/PUB03/1140435

    Amazon is offering the book at 13.59 plus 3.99 shipping and the volume is in stock.

  • A Christmas Editorial

    All across the country families  now make their way to cemeteries carrying Christmas wreaths and baskets filled with artificial holly, greens and pinecones and red velvet bows.  Our dead should not be forgotten at this family time of year.

    On August 4, 1892, two elderly, harmless people were brutally slashed and bludgeoned to death in the sanctity of their home, a place which should have been a haven of safety.  No justice will ever come for the silent slain.  The killer went on to live and prosper another day, and to celebrate Christmas. 

    Christmas 1892 left Lurana Borden without her brother Andrew.  Lizzie and Emma Borden were fatherless.  Nobody knows for sure if they both mourned deeply.  It is entirely possible that they did.

     In the Whitehead household on Fourth Street,  Sarah and Little Abbie mourned.  Mrs. George Fish, Abby’s sister was bereft.  Abby and Andrew Borden were loved by some family members, surely- and liked by some neighbors and friends. The tragedy of their loss was felt.  How did they feel standing at the grave, bare of a marker in the Christmas of 1892?  The citizens of the city, demanding that someone be brought to trial for the deeds during that hot month of August had a suspect in jail- waiting.

    How curious it is that in 2009, the victims become but a side note to the tragedy.  It is the accused and aquitted whose name lives on.  If one were to stop by Oak Grove Cemetery and leave a floral tribute to the victims, within hours it would find its way to the grave of Lizzie Borden- taken without a thought and re-deposited  without a thought.  Below the frostline now lay today what remains of the sad, frozen bones of Abby and Andrew Borden- still headless, –  and now their likenesses and characters the fodder for irreverent cartoons, gift products and unspeakable accusations made without a shred of evidence.  Those who once were loved and walked among us.  Does the interval of Time allow for such insensitive liberties?  Is murder ever a source for humor?

     How we memorialize our Dead says a great deal about ourselves in these modern times- a thought to contemplate any day- and especially at this time of year. 

    An epitaph often seen on grave markers

    Remember friend as you pass by.
    As you are now so once was I.
    As I am now so shall you be.
    Death take thy hand, and follow me.”

  • Just in Time for Halloween


    Opening tomorrow:  

    October 28 Artists and Fall River Natives Jim Charette and Mark Delisle present Boneyard, a series of paintings, prints, photography, music, video and more inspired by Oak Grove Cemetery. The gallery opening will be from 6-9PM on Wednesday, 10/28 at the Cherry & Webb Gallery, 139 South Main Street. Jim and Mark grew up on opposite ends of Oak Grove and attribute the formation of their life-long friendship to their old “stomping grounds”. As such, this cemetery holds a special meaning to both Jim and Mark.  Both artists have generously agreed to donate a portion of the profits from the sale of their artwork to the Friends of Oak Grove. Please mark your calendar and consider attending this event and support these two local artists.

  • New Oak Grove Calendar Unveiled


    These high quality, full-color calendars are spiral bound and printed on heavy cardstock


    Our calendars feature photographic contributions by Mary Beth Rigby and William Moniz as well as historic images donated from private collections

    Layout by Ann Keane

    Additionally, the birth dates of notable historical figures are observed throughout


    Limited quantities of our calendars are available for $15 and make a wonderful holiday gift


    Shipping is an additional $1 per calendar.  Those in the Fall River area may arrange for pickup.  Please call or email to reserve your copy or to arrange for pickup


    Payment may be mailed to:

    The friends of oak grove cemetery

    96 colfax street

    Fall river, MA 02720

    Ph: 508-642-9636

  • October 4th at Oak Grove


    Don’t forget this Sunday’s tour which includes Borden-related grave stones!

    History Underfoot III Tour – The Fall River Garden Club, Fall River Historical Society and The Little Theatre of Fall River, Inc. will be hosting their 3rd tour of this historic cemetery, sponsored in part by Citizens-Union Savings Bank.  The group has graciously agreed to donate a portion of their profits toward the purchase of a Memorial Tree.  F.O.G .has been invited to provide an informational table on our group and the work we are doing to restore Oak Grove. Past tours have been a tremendous success and we hope that you will plan to attend.  Tour will be conducted from 11 – 3:30 and tickets for the fundraiser are $15.  Rain date is October 11.

  • August 11th Autopsies

    It was on this day in 1892, 127 years ago, that the bodies of Abby and Andrew Borden were removed from the holding tomb where they had reposed for a full week, and transported to the Ladies Comfort Station just inside the gates of Oak Grove Cemetery. It was here that the heads of the victims were removed from the bodies.

    The holding tomb was a fixture in all cemeteries in the North where extreme winters made gravedigging impossible until the Spring thaw.

    The Ladies Comfort Station, which is now a break room for the cemetery grounds staff, consisted of two rooms, one white-tiled with sinks and lavatories, the other paneled in dark wood wainscotting.

    Andrew Borden:  Aged 69 years. Autopsy performed by W. A. Dolan, Medical Examiner, assisted by Dr. F. W. Draper. Witnesses F. W. Draper of Boston and John W. Leary of Fall River. Clerk D. E. Cone of Fall River. Time of Autopsy 11.15 A.M. August 11th, 1892, one week after death.

    Abby D. Borden, aged 64 years. Thursday August 11, 1892. at 12.35 P.M. One week after death.The Autopsy was performed by W. A. Dolan, Medical Examiner, assisted by Dr. F. W. Draper, and witnessed by F. W. Draper of Boston, and J. H. Leary of Fall River. Clerk of Autopsy D. E. Cone of Fall River.

    Preliminary Testimony by Dr, Dolan describing the skull removal.

    Q. He told you to remove the skulls?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. The Attorney General?

    A. The Attorney General of this state, yes sir.

    Q. I do not assume the Attorney General of any other state has anything to do with this case. You did so?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. What did you do with them?

    A. I cleaned them.

    Q. You cleaned them?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. Do you mean to say these bodies are now buried without the heads?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. Where are these skulls?

    A. In my possession.

    Q. Where?

    A. At my office.

    Q. Has it been said to any member of this family, or any friend, that these people were buried without their heads?

    A. I do not know.

    Q. Have you said it, or caused it to be said?

    A. No Sir.

    Q. Did you photograph them, or cause them to be photographed?

    A. Yes Sir.

  • Undertaker Winward

    James E. Winward was the man Lizzie Borden wanted immediately to undertake the funeral of her father.  On the day of the murders, just a very short time after Lizzie said she found her father on the sofa, she requested the services of Mr. Winward, who at the time had his business address at 13 South Main Street.  Even before the body of Abby Borden was found on the second floor, Lizzie was voicing the opinion that she would be the one to go down to Oak Grove Cemetery to arrange her father’s funeral and burial.  This may be construed as a curious statement as Mrs. Borden would have had this task herself-did Lizzie already know Mrs. Borden was lying dead upstairs?

    Young Mr. Winward (aged only 38 on the day of the murders) came as requested, and was to find not one, but two bodies at #92 Second Street. He and his assistant had the grisly task of removing the heavily blood-stained sofa from the sitting room later in the day. 

    Mr. Winward enjoyed a successful career in his field, and fitted the ideal of a funeral director in every aspect of appearance and decorum.  A photograph of Mr. Winward is soon to be published.  At the end of his life, Mr. James E. Winward lived in a prosperous section in the north end of the city on Madison Street.  He is buried with his wife Annie, his daughter Helen Winward Brown and his son-in-law in the cemetery where he spend  so many years organizing funerals for so many city clients- Oak Grove.

    The role of Mr. Winward was ably performed by funeral director Andrew Correia for the recent August 4th re-enactments at # 92 Second Street.

  • Friends of Oak Grove Tree Survey Tomorrow


    The Great Arch 1873 The Shadows Have Fallen and they Wait for the Day

    Sunday, March 2nd at 9 a.m., the Friends group will begin surveying Oak Grove Cemetery plantings.  Diseased and dead trees will be noted as well as thriving species as a first step in the ambitious tree replanting program.  The city arborist will be on hand to help with determining species and condition.  The group, made up of preservationists in the city and also out of state, has already planted two oaks and has actively been encouraging sponsors for future plantings.  The official website for the group may be found at http://www.oakgrovecemetery.wordpress.com where a membership application can be found and a  full-sized map of the cemetery which may be printed out.

    Although the Borden plot, holding tomb, and Ladies Comfort station is of great interest to many Lizzie Borden visitors, The Friends of Oak Grove was founded primarily to replant gardens and trees, repair broken stones, document nearly-illegible stones, and preserve the character and design of the old Victorian cemetery which was laid out by Josiah Brown in 1855 on land bought from Dr. Nathan Durfee.

    drnate.jpg Dr. Durfee

    Annual membership is $25.00 per year.  A list of benefactors and updates on projects, tours, lectures and exhibits for the future is also included on the website link above.  All contributions to the Friends go directly for the benefit of the cemetery.


  • A Companion Blog for Warps and Wefts


    Whether you enjoy strolling through old cemeteries on a Sunday afternoon- or take an interest in Borden case personalities, the companion blog, Friends of Oak Grove, may be a new blog site of interest.  A great many of the principle players in the case find their final rest within the walls of Oak Grove, in itself a superb example of the Victorian memorial park ideal of the mid-nineteenth century.  The Borden family, friends, attorneys, policemen, witnesses and others of interest will be showcased on the web blog, which will also serve as a companion site for the upcoming publication, The Shadows Have Fallen : A History of Oak Grove Cemetery

    Victorian funeral customs, reference books, unusual stories and monuments, and historical background on the famous inhabitants will be featured. Friends of Oak Grove is a new group of locals who will undertake special projects for the cemetery under the direction of the superintendent such as guided history tours, planting and landscaping sessions, grave documentation and recording, photography, stone rubbing classes and other activities to benefit the cemetery.  Follow the blogroll link on this page or click on www.oakgrovecemetery.wordpress.com

  • Andrew’s Last Client

    jeff.jpgclegg2.jpg  Doing business till the bitter end, Andrew Borden, (who was stopped near the Granite Block by Jonathan Clegg on the morning of August 4th), went to inspect a window in the South Main Street shop Clegg was waiting to occupy, just before heading home to his death. He was thrifty and conscientious up to his last hour!

  • What is that stuff on tombstones?

    alicestone.jpgalice2.jpg alice3.jpg   A recent visit to Beech Grove Cemetery inWestport revealed that the creeping gray-green substance on the markers of Alice Russell and her parents is still thriving.  What is it? That stuff is lichen, a combination of an algae and a fungus. Lichen is actually a living organism and if left unattended, will eventually eat away the stone to the point where it will start cracking and breaking off and the stone will eventually no longer be readable. 


    The cure is simple : plain warm water and several soft old nylon toothbrushes, or soft bristle brushes.  No detergent is needed-just a little elbow grease.  The Russell stones will be cleaned in November by the Fall River chapter of The Second Street Irregulars, The Noble Order of Mutton Eaters.  Taphophiles and “stone rubbers”, or people who love memorials, cemeteries, memorial parks, stone monuments, etc. actually do a great service for future generations by patiently cleaning and preserving these affected stones.  Plans for a Friends of Oak Grove Society are in the works!