All sorts of unusual things related to Lizzie Borden and Fall River

  • A Happy Mother’s Day

      For all mothers, mothers-in-law, and stepmothers

    Sonnets are full of love
    Christina Rossetti (1881)
    clr gif

    Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
    Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
    One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
    To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
    To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
    I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
    Whose service is my special dignity,
    And she my loadstar while I go and come
    And so because you love me, and because
    I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
    Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
    In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
    Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
    Of time and change and mortal life and death.
  • 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.

  • Titanic and Fall River


    April 15, 1912 was a morning the world awoke to the seemingly impossible news that the new White Star liner, the latest word in ship-building technology, was on the bottom of the North Atlantic.  At Maplecroft, in the comfort of her breakfast nook off the kitchen, or perhaps in her blue, floral-papered dining room, Lizzie Borden must surely have read the news in her Providence Journal or Fall River Herald and was as shocked and disbelieving as the rest of the world.  The sinking would be the talk in every city, town and village for many months to come.

    With the great city of Boston so close to Fall River, some passengers aboard the ill-fated liner were Boston-bound after the ship was to have docked in New York city and some Fall Riverites knew or had connections to some of the lost and survivors.  Some passengers called Massachusetts home, some were coming to Massachusetts from the old country for a better life.

     The last first class survivor of the disaster, Marjorie Newell Robb, lived to  be 103 and passed away on Highland Avenue at the Adams House in Fall River.  She was a girl of nineteen on the ship and was returning home with her father and sister to their home in Lexington, Massachusetts. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/the-titanic-sisters.html 

    Her son, Newell Robb, was curator of the Fall River Marine Museum for a time, and the family made their home in nearby Westport.  Mrs. Marjorie Robb had lived near the water at Westport Point until she was unable to live alone.  She was a frequent speaker at area schools, churches and civic groups.  She attended several conventions of Titanic societies and held audiences spellbound with her clear recollections of the disaster.

    Today the Fall River Marine Museum has an excellent display of Titanica, as well as the  28 foot model of the ship used in the Barbara Stanwyck film from the 1950’s, TITANIC. The museum is a part of the Battleship Cove complex and houses many fascinating artifacts of the Fall River Line and Andrea Doria.  http://www.marinemuseum.org/home.html

  • Spinner Publications & Keeley Library

    Although many of these publications are out of print, Amazon and Ebay frequently have Volume 3 and 4 of Spinner at a good price.  Volume 4 has many wonderful old photos of Fall River and New Bedford, and features articles and interviews which give invaluable details of the “good old days”.  Mrs. Florence Brigham, former curator of the Fall River Historical Society, gives a memorable interview about her memories growing up in the city. The history of ice cream parlors in New Bedford is another article full of information and charm.

    Spinner Publications http://www.spinnerpub.com/Home.html site posts on new publications, calendars, maps, etc. and maintains an unparalleled archives of vintage photos.

    Also not to be missed, for the serious student of Fall River history, is the Keeley Library Online collection of photographs and postcards, Fall River yearbooks and articles- many hours of free online material to enjoy if you cannot come to Fall River. http://www.sailsinc.org/durfee/fulltext.htm (articles)  http://sailsinc.org/Durfee/ (index page)  http://sailsinc.org/Durfee/fallriver.htm (vintage slides of the city)

  • The Skeleton in Armour

    One pretty mystery which rivals the Borden case is that of the Skeleton in Armour found near Hartwell St., just around the corner from the Borden house.  Who was he and how did he come to be buried there and when?  All that remains of him now are a few bits of metal tubing which may have been an adornment, buried in the inventory of the historical society.  He is immortalized in poem by the great Longfellow who was visiting his Unitarian preacher brother Samuel in Fall River, while on the way to Newport when he heard of the mystery and was inspired to write about it.  Read all about it at the link skeletoninarmor

    NEARA Journal, VOLUME VIII, No. 2, Summer 1973, page 36. (excerpt)

    Almost every book or article relating to pre-Columbian contacts with New England makes reference to the “Skeleton in Armor” found near Fall River, Massachusetts, in the early 1830’s.  While there is little or no evidence to support any assertion that the “armor” was anything else but late 16th century or early 17th century brass plates and tubes for personal adornment, supplied to the Indians by Elizabethan-era traders, NEARA readers will doubtless welcome having available for their files the following complete text of the first published account of the discovery.  It. appeared in Vol. III of the “American Magazine”, Boston, 1837, and was written by John Stark of Galena, Illinois, who was interested in the Indian mounds and other American antiquities. Two years later, in 1839, the account was reprinted in John Warner Barber’s “Historical Collections of Massachusetts” (Dorr, Howland & Co., Worcester) from which we have retyped it:

    “These remains were found in the town of Fall River, in Bristol county, Massachusetts. about three years since.  In digging down a hill near the village a large mass of earth slid off leaving in the bank, and partially uncovered. a human skull, which on examination was found to belong to a body buried in a sitting posture; the head being about one foot below what had been for many years the surface of the ground. The surrounding earth was carefully removed, and the body found to be enveloped in a covering of coarse bark of a dark color.

    Within this envelope were found the remains of another of coarse cloth made of fine bark, and about the texture of a Manilla coffee bag.  On the breast was a plate of brass, thirteen inches long, six broad at the upper end and five at the lower.  This plate appears to have been cast, and is from one eighth to three thirty-seconds of an inch in thickness.  It is so much corroded, that whether or not anything was engraved upon it has not yet been ascertained. It is oval in form, the edges being irregular, apparently made so by corrosion.
        “Below the breastplate, and entirely encircling the body, was a belt composed of brass tubes, each four and a half inches in length, and three sixteenths of an inch in diameter arranged longitudinally and close together: the length of a tube being the width of the belt. The tubes are of thin brass, cast upon hollow reeds, and were fastened together by pieces of sinew. This belt was so placed as to protect the lower parts of the body below the breastplate. The arrows are of brass, thin, flat and triangular in shape, with a round hole cut through near the base. The shaft was fastened to the head by inserting the latter in an opening at the end of the wood, and then tying it with sinew through the round hole – a mode of constructing the weapon never practiced by the Indians, not even their arrows of thin shell. Parts of the shaft remain on some of them. When first discovered, the arrows were in a sort of a quiver of bark, which fell in pieces when exposed to the air.
        “The annexed cut will give the readers an idea of the posture of the figure and the position of the armor. When the remains were discovered the arms were brought farther closer to the body that in the engraving. The arrows were near the right knee.
        “The skull is much decayed, but the teeth are sound, and apparently those of a young man. The pelvis is much decayed, and the smaller bones of the lower extremities are gone. The integuments of the right knee, for four or five inches above and below, are in good preservation, apparently the size and shape of life, although quite black. Considerable flesh is still preserved in the hands and arms, but none on the shoulders and elbows. On the back, under the belt, and for two inches above and below, the skin and flesh are in good preservation, and have the appearance of being tanned.  The chest is much compressed, but the upper viscera are probably entire. The arms are bent up, not crossed; so that the hands turned inwards touch the shoulders.  The stature is about five and a half feet.  Much of the exterior envelope was decayed, and the inner one appeared to be preserved only where it had been in contact with the brass.
        “The preservation of this body may be the result of some embalming process; and this hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that the skin has the appearance of having been tanned; or it may be the result of the action of the salts of the brass during oxidation, and this latter hypothesis is supported by the fact, that the skin and flesh have been preserved only where they have been in contact with or quite near the brass; or we may account for the preservation of the whole by supposing the presence of saltpeter in the soil at the time of the deposit.  In either case, the preservation of the remains is fully accounted for, and upon known chemical principles.
        “That the body was not one of the Indians, we think needs no argument. We have seen some of the drawings taken from the sculptures found at Palenque, and in those the figures are represented with breast-plates, although smaller than the plate found at Fall River

    The Skeleton in Armour by Henry W. Longfellow

    “Speak! speak I thou fearful guest
    Who, with thy hollow breast
    Still in rude armor drest,
        Comest to daunt me!
    Wrapt not in Eastern balms,
    Bat with thy fleshless palms
    Stretched, as if asking alms,
        Why dost thou haunt me?”

    Then, from those cavernous eyes
    Pale flashes seemed to rise,
    As when the Northern skies
        Gleam in December;
    And, like the water’s flow
    Under December’s snow,
    Came a dull voice of woe
        From the heart’s chamber.

    “I was a Viking old!
    My deeds, though manifold,
    No Skald in song has told,
        No Saga taught thee!
    Take heed, that in thy verse
    Thou dost the tale rehearse,
    Else dread a dead man’s curse;
        For this I sought thee.

    “Far in the Northern Land,
    By the wild Baltic’s strand,
    I, with my childish hand,
        Tamed the gerfalcon;
    And, with my skates fast-bound,
    Skimmed the half-frozen Sound,
        That the poor whimpering hound
    Trembled to walk on.

    “Oft to his frozen lair
    Tracked I the grisly bear,
    While from my path the hare
        Fled like a shadow;
    Oft through the forest dark
    Followed the were-wolf’s bark,
    Until the soaring lark
       Sang from the meadow.

    “But when I older grew,
    Joining a corsair’s crew,
    O’er the dark sea I flew
        With the marauders.
    Wild was the life we led;
    Many the souls that sped,
    Many the hearts that bled,
       By our stern orders.

    “Many a wassail-bout
    Wore the long Winter out;
    Often our midnight shout
       Set the cocks crowing,
    As we the Berserk’s tale
    Measured in cups of ale,
    Draining the oaken pail,
       Filled to o’erflowing.

    “Once as I told in glee
    Tales of the stormy sea,
    Soft eyes did gaze on me,
       Burning yet tender;
    And as the white stars shine
    On the dark Norway pine,
    On that dark heart of mine
       Fell their soft splendor.

    “I wooed the blue-eyed maid,
    Yielding, yet half afraid,
    And in the forest’s shade
       Our vows were plighted.
    Under its loosened vest
    Fluttered her little breast
    Like birds within their nest
       By the hawk frighted.

    “Bright in her father’s hall
    Shields gleamed upon the wall,
    Loud sang the minstrels all,
       Chanting his glory;
    When of old Hildebrand
    I asked his daughter’s hand,
    Mute did the minstrels stand
       To hear my story.

    “While the brown ale he quaffed,
    Loud then the champion laughed,
    And as the wind-gusts waft
       The sea-foam brightly,
    So the loud laugh of scorn,
    Out of those lips unshorn,
    From the deep drinking-horn
       Blew the foam lightly.

    “She was a Prince’s child,
    I but a Viking wild,
    And though she blushed and smiled,
       I was discarded!
    Should not the dove so white
    Follow the sea-mew’s flight,
    Why did they leave that night
       Her nest unguarded?

    “Scarce had I put to sea,
    Bearing the maid with me,
    Fairest of all was she
       Among the Norsemen!
    When on the white sea-strand,
    Waving his armed hand,
    Saw we old Hildebrand,
       With twenty horsemen.

    “Then launched they to the blast,
    Bent like a reed each mast,
    Yet we were gaining fast,
       When the wind failed us;
    And with a sudden flaw
    Came round the gusty Skaw,
    So that our foe we saw
       Laugh as he hailed us.

    “And as to catch the gale
    Round veered the flapping sail,
    Death I was the helmsman’s hail,
       Death without quarter!
    Mid-ships with iron keel
    Struck we her ribs of steel
    Down her black hulk did reel
       Through the black water!

    “As with his wings aslant,
    Sails the fierce cormorant,
    Seeking some rocky haunt
       With his prey laden,
    So toward the open main,
    Beating to sea again,
    Through the wild hurricane,
       Bore I the maiden.

    “Three weeks we westward bore,
    And when the storm was o’er,
    Cloud-like we saw the shore
       Stretching to leeward;
    There for my lady’s bower
    Built I the lofty tower,
    Which, to this very hour,
       Stands looking seaward.

    “There lived we many years;
    Time dried the maiden’s tears
    She had forgot her fears,
       She was a mother.
    Death closed her mild blue eyes,
    Under that tower she lies;
    Ne’er shall the sun arise
       On such another!

    “Still grew my bosom then.
    Still as a stagnant fen!
    Hateful to me were men,
       The sunlight hateful!
    In the vast forest here,
    Clad in my warlike gear,
    Fell I upon my spear,
       O, death was grateful!

    “Thus, seamed with many scars,
    Bursting these prison bars,
    Up to its native stars
       My soul ascended!
    There from the flowing bowl
    Deep drinks the warrior’s soul,
    Skoal! to the Northland! skoal!”
       Thus the tale ended.

  • The Falls in Fall River

    Most visitors to Fall River today never link the name of the city to waterfalls mostly because one has to hunt to find the falls. 

    The Quequechan River, nearly 3 miles long, (pronounced “Quick-a-shan” by natives), is the river that flows in a northwesterly direction from the South Watuppa Pond to the Taunton River. The word Quequechan means “falling water” in Wampanoag, which is the origin of the city’s name.  At one time, there were eight falls between the Taunton River and where South Main St. is today.

    When route 195 was built running beneath Government Center during the 1960’s, much of the river west of Plymouth Avenue was re-routed by a series of box culverts.  It takes a careful eye to spot the few places in the city where a glimpse of the old Quequechan can still be seen.  There is a small view at Hartwell and Fourth streets.

     The most impressive view can be found on Anawan Street near the Work Out World gym where a section of surging river sweeps beneath a granite arch and then plunges down on the other side.  With the Spring rain and melted snow swelling the river, April is the time to see the falls in their glory, flanked by enormous growths of pussey willows on the banks. It’s easy to imagine how the force of the falling water and coursing river was a boon to powering the great mills long ago. (video by Chris Striker Bound, April 1, 2011).

    (wild pussey willows, photos by Chris Striker Bound)

  • Old City Hall Eagle

    The early 1960’s heralded a time of great demolition and restructuring in the heart of Fall River. The Quequechan river was filled in in some places, redirected and channeled in other places to make route 195 a possibility.  Down came the wonderful old city hall with its clock tower and fabulous golden eagle perched at the very top. Down came many other brick and granite and mortar buildings nearby. At the time it seemed like progress, in retrospect, many today rue the day when the grand old edifices came down and the new government center, which some claim was designed in the “Brutalist” style went up with route 195 passing directly beneath it.  The golden eagle was saved, as was the magnificent paneling inside and two of the tall granite columns on the front facade.  The eagle is on display at government center and the Second Street Irregulars were treated to a fascinating tale by Chris Donovan  about the day the eagle came down during a stop the Second Street Irregulars made to meet the mayor last week.

    (video by Chris Striker Bound)


    (Eagle looking very small atop the old City Hall)

  • Today Show visits Second Street

    The Borden house is hosting guests from the TODAY show this afternoon.  The filming, which was to have taken place last Wednesday, was postponed until today.  The segment is slated to air sometime in May.  The crew will be filming at the house, with an interview by Barbara Borden Morrissey and will then relocate to the Fall River Historical Society to film case artifacts and to discuss the upcoming Parallel Lives.  The crew picked a beautiful day to be in the city, with high temps and plenty of sunshine.

    MSNBC and NBC reporter Amy Robach is shooting the feature.

  • Lambie Awards for 2011

    The Best Actor Award was a tie this year- for the first time.  Will Clawson and Ray Mitchell, both employees of the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum are also Pear Essential Players and last August 4th, on the anniversary of the murders, took up the roles of Officer Harrington and City Marshal Rufus B. Hilliard.  The Second Street Irregulars (the “Muttoneaters”), award the golden statuette yearly for best performance in a Borden case-related role.

    Will Clawson as the popular and well-beloved Phil Harrington (the man who described Lizzie’s wrapper in such detail and died tragically on his honeymoon the year Lizzie was acquitted)

    Ray Mitchell as City Marshal Rufus Hilliard

    The best actress award this year went to Kristin Pepe for her sympathetic portrayal of long-time Borden friend, and former neighbor, Alice Russell.  Kristin played the role of Bridget Sullivan in 2009 and 2010 was her first time in the role of the lady who saw Lizzie burn the dress in the woodstove and who was the recipient of the exciting news divulged by Lizzie on the night before the murders that “something is going to happen, Father has an enemy. . .” Kristin was also a Lens of Sherlock recipient several years ago when she tracked down Emma Borden’s alma mater, Wheaton Female Seminary. Congratulations, all!

    Kristin (center) with Barbara Morrissey (Emma, on the left) and Lorraine Gregoire (Lizzie on the right) on August 4, 2011.

  • Author Rich Lindberg visits Fall River


    (Rich Lindberg with Ellen Smith and Jack Faria at the Fall River Art Association)

    Among the special guests at the recent Second Street Irregulars’ annual reunion was Chicago history writer Rich Lindberg.  Mr. Lindberg , a newcomer to the Borden case, has a new book coming out in May on serial killers in the heartland, notably the infamous black widow, Belle Gunness and Johann Hoch.  The “Muttoneaters” enjoyed an evening of hearing about the new book from the author and the author learned a lot about Lizzie Borden as he toured Fall River, Swansea, New Bedford, Marion and Fairhaven and stayed four days at #92 Second Street.  Mr. Lindberg will be bringing the Borden case to Chicago in a lecture format in the near future.  http://richardlindberg.net/index.htm

  • Nance O’Neil 1904


    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.

  • Lizzie & Nance- A Passion for Animals

    From the January 1911 American Primary Teacher Actresses and Their Pets by Grace Agnes Thompson (excerpt).

    “Miss Nance O’Neil is another actress who has made friends with animals under unusual circumstances, and she has, perhaps, more pets at any one time, and of a greater variety, than any other actress.

    On one occasion when Miss O’Neil was playing in Denver, where Magdalena, a very favorite cat, had just died, and thereby deeply grieved her mistress, she returned from the theatre late in the evening and found a very pretty, woe-begone stray Angora kitten cuddling for refuge from the icy cold and falling snow against her door. The sight of the draggled gray fur and the sound of the pitiful mewing went straight to Miss O’Neil’s heart, and from that moment pussy had a good home. Miss O’Neil tried in vain to find out whose lost pet the little creature was, and decided to keep it herself.

    Among the more interesting of her other pets have been the Turquoise donkey, which used to carry her about so cheerfully in Egypt; Teazle, the white Angora cat, which now lives in Bedford street, London; Jim, the orang-outang, which,, though delightful company at any time, was so big and bothersome to journey about with one on a tour, that he had to be given away; and the Manling (named from one of the Jungle Tales), one of the only two black cockatoos ever brought north across the equator, and now to be seen in the London zoo, to which he was sold about four years ago. The other of these two black cockatoos is kept at the Berlin zoo. Miss O’Neil has also a specimen of the white cockatoo, the more common variety, in Binkie, now kept at her beautiful country home in Tyngsboro, Mass. Binkie is rather a traveled bird, for he has crossed the equator twenty times, and journeyed all the way around the earth in the company of his mistress.

    On the Tyngsboro estate also live Kintaro, a big yellow coon cat, found once upon a time in Lawrence; and Tom and Jerry, the famous driving span of horses; and a small multitude of chickens, sheep, pigs, cats, canaries, dogs, and fine cows. Miss O’Neil’s farm contains two hundred and sixty splendidly cultivated acres, with a large and very charming country house, which she is able to visit for scarcely more than two weeks out of each year, but leaves in charge of capable caretakers during her absence.

    Togo and Nogi, two handsome dogs, named for the distinguished Japanese admiral and general, are Miss O’Neil’s latest favorites, and they have been her companions during the last few months of her tour. Their Japanese names are accounted for by the fact that Miss O’Neil, through her liking for Oriental philosophy and peoples, is attended always by a dear little Japanese maid, called Toto, who says she has “a awful fond to animals,” and who is constantly in charge of all the pets.—Our Dumb Animals.”

    Perhaps the great friendship between Lizzie Borden and Nance O’Neil was prompted by a mutual love of animals.

  • Reunion of the Second Street Irregulars

    The annual banquet for the Second Street Irregulars was held at the Quequechan Club Saturday evening. This year, among the awards given, the first Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to long-time Borden case historian, Ed Thibault of Somerset, Massachusetts.  The original Irregulars joined Ed and his wife Eleanor at the head of the table.  Barbara MacDonald, Deborah Shannon Valentine, Shelley Dziedzic, and Leonard Rebello enjoyed getting the old gang together once more.  Ken Souza was unable to be contacted to round out the original six members. 

     Ed Thibault traces his interest in the Borden case to the age of 14, and has researched and shared his discoveries for many years with local civic groups, schools and visitors to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast where he and his wife Eleanor have worked for many years.  Congratulations- and thanks, Eddie!

    Ed “assumes the position” one  more time back at the Second St. house.

  • “Muttoneaters” visit Lizzie’s Dogs

    This weekend’s annual gathering of the Second Street Irregulars, “Muttoneaters” included a visit on April 1st to Pine Ridge Animal Shelter to visit the three Boston bull terrier dogs belonging to Lizzie Borden which are buried in the pet cemetery there.   A bouquet was left for Laddie Miller, Royal Nelson and Donald Stuart.


    (photo credit:  Barbara Morrissey)

    The weather was sunnier the following day when the group visited the Faxon Shelter on Durfee Street to deliver a basket of puppy and kitten treats and to pose for the shelter newsletter with a few four-legged friends.

    Both Borden sisters left generous cash gifts to the shelter in their wills.  Photographs of the Misses Emma and Lizzie Borden can be seen on the wall at the shelter.  It was a busy day for adopting pets.



    (photo credit:  Jack Faria)  “Lizzie & Emma Come to Call” Shelley Dziedzic & JoAnne Giovino

    http://www.animalrescueleaguefr.org/  Donate Today!