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  • Two of a Kind

    This weekend as we look at the life of Southard Miller on our Facebook page, it’s no surprise that the two men were friends. They had a lot in common. Southard H. Miller, a little more than a decade older than Andrew, was also trained as a carpenter and through hard work and ambition, built himself an empire within the city of Fall River. Neither man came from money and both understood the value of a dollar and a strong work ethic. Both could turn a hand to more than one thing if needs be. Andrew farmed, did carpentry, had a furniture business, invested in real estate and development, and took in supplying funeral needs on the side, – just as his own father found ways to make a dollar. At the end of their lives, both men had accumulated a comfortable retirement and the esteem of their peers. We know that Southard Miller not only built the Borden home for Charles Trafton, but had built his own home at 217 Second St. (formerly #91)

    Bowen- Miller house at #91 Second St. built by Southard Miller, later renumbered #217.

    Miller came to Fall River from Middleboro, Massachusetts when he was only 18 and went straight to work. He and Andrew Borden worked on the old City Hall together. Mr. Miller went into business with Mr. Ford and were soon building, doing carpentry and contracting. The duo had a thriving business located at the SW corner of Borden & Second St. They built the U.S. Marine hospital in Portland, ME, an almshouse in Bridgewater, worked at building many of the local mills, (Union, Tecumseh, Davis, Mechanics and Granite) and the entire contracting for Laurel Lake Mills. The Baptist Temple, and many other private residences in the city were constructed by Miller & Ford.

    Mr. Miller was a representative to the General Court in 1851, a city alderman in 1857, a member of the Legislature in 1875 and Chief Engineer 1866-1870 in the local fire department in which he took great interest. He served as director of Massasoit Bank as well as director of two mills (Laurel Lake and Mechanics). You will immediately see the similarities in his civic positions to those of Andrew Borden. Southard Miller died 3 years after Andrew Borden was murdered, after a lengthy period of illnesses and infirmities. He is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery.

  • One who grieved for Andrew Borden

    Southard Harrison Miller 1811-1895 : photo Massachusetts State Archives

    For all of the negative comments about the thriftiness of Andrew Borden and his seeming lack of joviality, there was one elderly gentleman who was very sorry to see the brutal end of his old friend and fellow carpenter on August 4, 1892. He stood helplessly, much distressed, in the Borden driveway, but declining to go inside the Borden house to see his old friend. Southard Harrison Miller lived diagonally across the street from the Bordens and had known the Borden family for many years. He had three children, Reuben, Franklin and Phoebe. Phoebe would marry Dr. Seabury Bowen and live in the large, rambling house with her parents on one side of the structure.

    Son Franklin Harrison Miller studied art in Boston and Paris and worked with the distinguished Fall River School of Art artist, Robert Spear Dunning, noted for still life portraits of fruit and landscapes.

    Franklin Harrison Miller 1843-1911 : photo, Ask Art artist image

    An oil painting by F. Miller in the Fall River School of Art style.

    Mr. Miller had a long and distinguished career as a carpenter and a contractor. It is said that he and Andrew Borden at one time worked together on the building of City Hall. His obituary below indicates the esteem in which Southard Miller was held by his fellow citizens. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery directly across from Lawdwick Borden and his family, whose story of his children being drowned in a cistern by his second wife Eliza is well-known.

    S.H. Miller Chief Engineer 1866-1870

    This weekend, on our Facebook page Lizzie Borden Warps and Wefts, we will be featuring more on the Southard Miller family.

    https://www.facebook.com/lizziebordenwarpsandwefts

  • Lizzie Borden: Tea & Murder February 19th at 7 p.m. with William Meurer

    Kimbra and I are looking forward to interviewing William Meurer about his new play, Lizzie Borden, Life After Death. Who is the unexpected visitor at Maplecroft, thirteen years after the famous murders on Second Street? What secrets will be revealed? What secrets must be kept? See the link below for Livestream tickets for the January 28th performance. Tea & Murder Livestream Interview streaming on Youtube, Facebook and Spotify. Links will be posted on February 18th.

    https://www.broadwayworld.com/off-off-broadway/article/LIZZIE-BORDEN-LIFE-AFTER-DEATH-Virtual-Reading-To-Stream-January-28-20230104?fbclid=IwAR3ED2X688W3Pe3yGcsXBKjMq53t7n4R4Ynlmuz1g7V3jWKervVRCq5KNWc

  • New play by William Meurer!

    “Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty wacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” You know the rhyme, you may even know about the crime, but what happened after Lizzie Borden had been acquitted for the crime of the century?

    “Lizzie Borden: Life After Death” is a new play written by William Meurer, and directed by Jess Reed that takes place thirteen years after the bloody murders of Andrew and Abby Borden in 1892. Lizzie and her sister Emma are now living in a mansion on the hill, trying to escape the shadow of the crimes. However, when an all too familiar face arrives on her doorstep, Lizzie must relive her past and decide what secrets are worth keeping.

    The cast includes Ali Regan as Lizzie Borden, Siubhan Stormont as Emma Borden, Carlyn Barenholtz as Nance O’Neil, Annamaria Christina as Bridget Sullivan, Deborah Rupy as Hannah Nelson/Abby Borden, Isaac Conner as Dr.Bowen/Andrew Borden, and Leslie Renee providing stage directions.

    The play is being presented online as a virtual reading on Jan 28th, 7pm (EST), and be available for all ticket holders to watch for one week after the original broadcast. For tickets, please go to https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5689078?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!

  • A Little Holiday Tea & Murder

    Join us on December 11th when Kimbra and I will be talking to historian (and Second Street Irregular) Kristin Pepe who will shine a light on nurse Jolly Jane Toppan, serial killer! Toppan is quoted as saying that her ambition was “to have killed more helpless people than any other man or woman who ever lived”.

    Kristin was first to discover the connection between Emma Borden and Wheaton Female Seminary as well as adding to the knowledge on Officer Medley and William Moody. We’ll have lots of questions for Kristin about her adventures in sleuthing as well as her plunge into the dark life of Jolly Jane who died in Taunton Insane Asylum, just down the street from the Taunton Jail where Lizzie languished for 10 months. Join us for the disturbing tale of when nurses go BAD- very BAD!

  • January was a Cruel Month for the Fish Family

    The Borden Curse #9 The Fish Family

    There is plenty of documentation that Lizzie and Emma ignored Abby’s half-sister Bertie Whitehead and her family when they came to call on Abby at Second St. But Abby had a full sister, Priscilla S. Gray who married George B. Fish in 1840 and spent her life after in various Connecticut towns. One can only wonder what Priscilla had heard and seen in the Borden home when she visited her sister or what Abby may have written to her in letters about those Borden sisters!. George and Priscilla were at the August 6, 1892 funeral. The couple read about the trial and it would be interesting to know what they both thought about the acquittal.

    January would prove a disastrous month for the Fish family. About six months after Lizzie was acquitted, George, who worked for the railroad as a tallyman on the Trunk Line, died on January 3, 1894. Priscilla, Abby’s sister followed her husband 3 weeks later and died on January 25th. Their one grandson, Frederick (Freddie) H. Fish who also worked for the railroad died on January 7, 1915 at the age of 43, leaving 5 young children. His brother Harry died at age 2. The family is buried at Spring Grove in Hartford. They were a close family. Their home at 20 Canton Street was demolished many years ago.

    Spring Grove, Hartford graves of George and Priscilla Fish
  • Another Fall River Policeman Dies of Pneumonia

    The Borden Curse # 8 Officer John Minnehan

    The week of February 1, 1893 was a rough one for the city of Fall River. There had been many deaths from various things like bronchitis (5) and six deaths from pneumonia. One of them was Officer John Minnehan, who, like Capt. Phil Harrington, died suddenly with pneumonia.

    Minnehan was born in Ireland in on March 25, 1850 and had come to America, boarding the S.S. Siberia in Liverpool-Boston. He was the son of Mary Dempsey and Michael Minnehan. He left a wife, Bridget Lyons Minnehan and a daughter,Nora, born in 1887 and a son, John James Minnehan born in 1892.

    Minnehan was on the spot for much of the day of the murders, part of the first search, standing guard at the house the night of the murders and the next day, and most notably, coming to the rescue of John Morse when Morse was set upon by an angry mob when he went to the post office. Minnehan got Morse safely back to Second St. and suggested he stay put inside #92.

    During Lizzie’s trial, as you can see in the Fall River and Globe newspapers, it is mentioned that Minnehan would have been called as a witness but he had died on February 8, 1893, never knowing that Lizzie would be acquitted. He died at his home on Mulberry St. and is buried, like Harrington, at St. John’s cemetery. Minnehan had quite a grand funeral and send off as described in the clippings below.

    Fall River Globe
    Mention of Minnehan’s death in Lizzie’s June 1893 trial coverage
  • Hosea M. Knowlton- Cut Down in His Prime

    The Borden Curse #7

    In later years Knowlton was often clean-shaven

    Hosea M. Knowlton was a talented and accomplished man. Born May 20, 1847 in Durham, Maine, he excelled at Keene, New Hampshire High School, Tufts College, B.A. 1867, and Harvard Law School, class of 1870. He married an equally accomplished woman, Sylvia B. Almy and produced seven successful children:

    John Wellington Knowlton

    Abby Almy Knowlton

    Frank Warren Knowlton

    Edward Allen Knowlton

    Helen Sophia Knowlton

    August I. Knowlton

    Sylvia Prescott Knowlton

    Benjamin Almy Knowlton- one year old at the time of Lizzie’s trial

    His portrait still hangs in the courtroom in New Bedford where Lizzie’s trial took place, and for all of the accomplishments including District Attorney, he is always remembered as the prosecutor in the Borden trial of 1893.

    In 1902 Mr. Knowlton’s mother died in an horrific accident in Boston. In December of that same year, Hosea himself was struck down suddenly with apoplexy while at his summer home in Marion and died on the 19th, only 55 years old. He and Sylvia had just built a beautiful house there and he was finally enjoying the fruits of his hard labor. Eli Bence and Defense Attorney and former Massachusetts Gov. George D. Robinson would also suffer the same fate, apoplexy- in their prime. Knowlton’s youngest son, Ben, who was just a year old at the time of Lizzie’s trial would die of cerebral hemorrhage in 1960. Knowlton’s remains were cremated and ashes scattered over the harbor of his beloved Marion. His name is on a memorial stone in Rural Cemetery, New Bedford where many of his relatives are buried.

    Memorial stone in New Bedford
    New Hampshire Obituary
  • Lucy (Lucie) Collett- Witness for the Prosecution

    The Borden Curse #6

    Lucy (Lucie Collett) on the stand

    You will remember young Lucie Collett as the girl sitting on Dr. Chagnon’s Third St. porch on the morning of the murders. The doctor had been called out of town and Lucie was to meet his appointments and tell them Dr. Chagnon was called away with his family to an anniversary celebration that day. Lucie had to sit on the porch as the door was locked when she arrived around 10 minutes of 11. She was unsure just how long she stayed outside but it was after 11 o’ clock for sure. She did not recall seeing anyone jump over the Borden fence or hearing any odd noises coming from the Borden house behind the Chagnon house. The prosecution had high hopes of Lucie’s testimony supporting the fact that no stranger came into the Borden yard.

    Dr. Jean Normand, Lucie’s husband

    Lucie was born in Quebec and moved to Fall River where she lived all of her short life. In 1896 she was married to Dr. Chagnon’s clerk, Dr. Jean Normand until her tragic and early death from tuberculosis (Pulmonary phthisis) in 1900 at the age of 26. She was childless. The couple is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery.

  • Doors of Maplecroft

    Maplecroft: Mansion of Mystery #5

    A thoughtful convenience for the iceman at Maplecroft was this ice door on the back porch where the big blocks could be pushed through with tongs without dripping through the kitchen. The back door on the porch contained a one time a panel of glass with a fancy etched “B” in the glass. Over time it has been broken. The side door in the photo was no doubt handy for tradespeople and delivery services as it leads directly into the kitchen.

    Ice door, back porch
    Side door into kitchen

  • Hatchet in the cellar

    Maplecroft: Mansion of Mystery #4

    There’s nothing as creepy as a cellar and this one certainly is, especially after dark. The cellar, as you will see, is divided into numerous rooms filled with pieces of the past – and a hatchet! Run time: 6 minutes!

  • Lizzie’s Judge: Plagued with Accusations

    The Borden Curse #5

    Josiah Coleman Blaisdell (1820-1900) will probably be forever remembered as the judge who, at the Preliminary, informed Lizzie Borden that she was probably guilty and would be held for trial. It is said that he had a “tear in his eye” when he made this pronouncement. Blaisdell, born in Campton, N.H. had his own share of life’s sadnesses before the trial with the death of three sisters, his mother and his first wife with whom he had six children, two, including his namesake dying at age 3. His career had been a fairly distinguished one, even serving as mayor of Fall River for two years in 1858 and 1859.

    In 1885 there had been a scandal involving his oldest son, John, who was a clerk at Weetamoe Mills with the company’s books being audited and young Blaisdell absconding.

    Scandal would follow Judge Blaisdell as well due to his practice of seeing clients in his continuing private practice even when he became a judge. This was a sticky business as some of his own private clients, who paid him well, would come up before him on the bench. Although Judge Blaisdell said this was not a conflict for him, and he had ruled against his own clients before, – another lawyer in town, Arba Lincoln,brought suit. The bar association (of which Andrew J. Jennings was a member) decided to do a thorough investigation. Clearly worried about this turn of events, Blaisdell immediately resigned, effective April 21, 1893, only months after his connections with the Borden affair.

    Blaisdell was, at another time, accused of some shady business in regards to being a benefactor of a certain lady’s will. The problem here was that the will was in Blaisdell’s own handwriting! Pleading ill health, and having to be assisted into his chair on the bench, Blaisdell gave ill health as his reason for retirement in 1893- in fact he lived for another healthy seven years and died of “old age” according to his death certificate.

    Resignation- the better way out
    Undue Influence?
    Death at 89 Highland Avenue of “Old Age”
  • A Crushing Finale to the Life of Henry G. Trickey

    The Borden Curse #4 The Trickey-McHenry Affair

    Henry Trickey was born in New Hampshire in 1868 and was an honor student at school, with journalism aspirations for a bright future. By 1884 he had found a place with the Boston Globe covering Boston suburb news, winning acclaim for his coverage of opium dens, criminal cases, and even interviewing Jefferson Davis! Then came his big downfall when he decided to trust information he received from a very shady character, Edwin McHenry.

    McHenry, who started his working career as a bootblack in New York, then a bartender, and finally styling himself a “private detective” in Providence, R.I. by 1886, was pretty much a scoundrel. Pinkerton’s was the premier agency of the day and McHenry promoted himself as one of the first class gumshoes- Pinkerton’s in actuality had never heard of him. But he could sniff out a good opportunity when he saw it and quickly jumped on a train from New York to Fall River when he heard about the Borden murders. The day after the crime, McHenry wasted no time in ingratiating himself with Marshal Hilliard of the FRPD who convinced Mayor John Coughlin to hire McHenry to work the Borden Case.

    Seeing a way to make even more money out of his position on the inside, McHenry contacted young Trickey with his “valuable” information on the Bordens for an exclusive in the Boston Globe. Trickey eyed the scoop and pounced on it with both feet, believing his career was now made from this on-the-scene advantage. The only problem with this unexpected windfall of news was that it was all entirely fabricated by Ed McHenry. Nothing but a pack of lies.

    The exclusive ran in the Globe on October 10, 1892 and contained the most sensational and outrageous claims. Lizzie had a devastating secret and Andrew had found her out! Someone had seen Lizzie in Abby’s room with a hood on her head! Lizzie’s sister accused of treachery and kicked her in anger! Each claim was more sensational than the last. The Globe sold thousands of issues.

    Alas, McHenry’s luck ran out and Jennings exposed the pack of lies and other nonsense. The Globe was obliged to publish extensive retractions in the Oct. 11th and 12h editions and poor Trickey had egg on his face, sterling reputation in tatters. Trickey left town as soon as possible and headed out to Illinois in November to visit his wife’s family until the heat in Boston had died down.

    When news of Lizzie’s indictment came to his notice on December 3rd, Trickey panicked, fearing some legal repercussions of his own and decided to get out of the country. Trickey left Hamilton, Ontario to go on to Guelph. While trying to jump aboard the smoking car of the train, he slipped on the platform trying to swing himself up, falling between the car and the platform. The brakeman and a passenger on the train jumped off to see what was to be done, but Trickey was crushed and died in mere moments. Trickey was only 24 years old. McHenry went on with his nefarious life, finding himself in and out of jail for many offenses over the years. His end is not known.

  • Eli Bence: A Tragedy in Three Acts

    The Borden Curse #3

    The earnest face of Smith’s pharmacy clerk, Eli Bence, is known to all who study the Borden case. Bence would identify Lizzie by voice and sight as the lady who entered his store on the morning of August 3, 1892, asking for ten cents’ worth of Prussic acid for the removal of moths in a sealskin cape. Bence’s testimony would be allowed at the Preliminary but lucky for the Defense, dismissed as being too remote in time at the 1893 trial. One has to wonder how Bence felt about that. His evidence was very damaging, but not allowed to be considered by the jury.

    By 1894, one year after Lizzie’s acquittal, Eli and his English wife,Sarah (Hayhurst) had moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts where Eli set up a neighborhood apothecary at the corner of 4th and Russell Streets. His young son, Roy, was now five years old as the couple settled down to married life away from the aftermath of Lizzie Borden, Fall River, and her acquittal. 119 Fourth Street (now Purchase Street) is a large, rambling Victorian house in what was an upper middle class neighborhood of similar homes. The apothecary was a first floor walk up steep stairs from the street. The little family lived at 74 Willis Street, in a lovely neighborhood further north in the city. The house is still standing. In 1898 the family moved to 103 School Street, just a short walk to the apothecary store for Eli. That house is no longer standing but was in another charming residential neighborhood. But happiness was once again – elusive. Sarah died just two weeks before Christmas in 1899 leaving a grieving Eli and an inconsolable 10 year old son.

    Joy again entered Eli’s life in 1903 when he married Annie C. Maxfield, a school teacher at New Bedford High School and in 1901 a principal at a small country school in Acushnet. Annie’s father had a thriving plumbing business, C.P. Maxfield’s, on Bridge Street in Fairhaven.

    By 1904 the family appear in the Pittsfield, Massachusetts directory as living at #20 Hamlin Street with Eli employed at 75 North Street. By 1907 Eli has set himself up in his own business, an apothecary at 49 North and the Morton Block. The family moves to 23 Howard Street in 1908 with new baby girl, Priscilla born in 1907 and Roy who, like his father and uncles, went to work at age 15 helping in his father’s store.

    Tragedy would strike yet again with the death of Eli’s precious daughter Priscilla in 1909. In 1910, at the age of 37, Annie presented Eli with Maxfield Hudson Bence, named for her father, and Eli’s mother. With business prospering, Eli moved his family to #64 Commonwealth Avenue in 1913 and life was good. Eli had risen to the top of his profession and was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues as a pharmacist, revered by his community and active in the Masons and many civic organizations.

    Bence around the time of the Borden Trial

    While driving with Annie one May morning in 1915, Eli suddenly became ill, and after a brief illness, succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage and died at home at the age of fifty, leaving Annie and Maxfield, aged 5, and Roy, now 26 and newly married (July 3, 1914) to Minetta Welton Steel to mourn. The front page of the New Bedford Standard-Times printed Eli Bence’s obituary on the day of his death, and as always, the Lizzie Borden trial and Eli’s testimony about the Prussic acid was told . Annie lived on until 1923 in Pittsfield until she joined her husband and daughter Priscilla in Riverside Cemetery in Fairhaven, dying also at the young age of 50. Maxfield was left an orphan of 13.

    Obituary