Old Fall River, nineteenth century customs and lifestyle, interiors, Painted Ladies and more
It’s always fun to find just the right thing to add years to the Borden house. Co-owner LeeAnn Wilber haunts the antique shops and auctions on a quest to find just the right object to bring the 1890s feel to the house on Second Street. Here are some new finds which will greet you on your next visit to Lizzie’s home. The dead pigeons and pears print in the “Death in the Dining Room” genre is typical Victorian decor and is especially fitting for the Borden dining room for those who know the significance of pears and pigeons! The kitchen refrigerator has received a face lift in the form of oak panels to evoke the old ice box once found at the house in the sink room. Lizzie loved blue and pansies and this charming Eastlake footstool is just the ticket for Lizzie’s own room. Lizzie’s room also boasts a wonderful Sailor’s Valentine made of shells on the south wall. Rhode Island Antique Center in Pawtucket was the place to unearth a delightful summer fireplace screen for the sitting room. In the Eastlake, ebonized and gilded style, the canvas is hand – painted with blue summer blooms. Little touches can add so much age and charm to period settings.
For those who cannot get enough of the Borden Case, this will be a four-star weekend featuring the annual dramatization at the house on Second Street ( tickets on sale now at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast) and a VERY special exhibit which opens on August 4th and runs through September 30th at the Fall River Historical Society. For Letterboxers, a special letterbox will be hidden in Fall River to mark the 120th anniversary of the historic crime. Atlasquest.com will have the clue, so bring your stamp and notepad, an inkpad is provided in the box. To see the clue type Fall River, MA in the locator box at the Atlasquest.com site. Got Lizzie? And how!
For most visitors to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast house museum, the interest is in two deaths primarily- Abby and Andrew Borden. Psychics who perform seances in nearly every room in the house have picked up various presences and often ask about other possible deaths in the house over the years. Considering the era, and the general occurence of being born, dying, and being waked in one’s home, the probability of other people dying a natural death in the Borden house is high. After the Borden sisters moved out in September of 1893, the house functioned as a rooming establishment, and then in 1918 was sold and changed hands and families over the years.
Built in 1845 by Southard Miller for woolen mill carding room supervisor, Charles Trafton, the house was built on land once owned by Lizzie’s great uncle Lawdwick (or Lodowick) Borden. In the 1850 census Charles Trafron is 45 and living with his wife Hannah, aged 32 and Rhoda White at the house. Unfortunately we do not know exactly the date the couple move into the house nor when their infant son was born and died.
Hannah Trafton died a tragic death from tuberculosis, which at the time was called consumption, a disease which affected young to middle aged adults primarily. Her date of death was January 11, 1851 so the couple had not lived long at the new house on Second Street.
Identifying and understanding the contagious nature of the tuberculosis bacillus, the building of sanitoria, and medications for the disease came several decades after Hannah Trafton’s death. The disease, sometimes called “wasting away” disease caused prolonged coughing, spitting up of blood, and a gradual heartrending decline of the affected victim. The quality of the air and water were suspected causes and the treatment consisted of fresh air and making the victim as comfortable as possible as they grew ever weaker and paler. In 1851 Fall River, it is probable that Hannah Trafton did die in her bed on Second Street. The Traftons inhabited the first floor, and what is now the dining room would have been in 1851, two small bedrooms. It is also very likely that their infant son Charles Jr. died at the house.
The words “Town Lot” on the death certificate refer to the Old North burial ground on North Main at the corner of Brightman, the city lot before Oak Grove Cemetery opened in 1855. Charles Trafton remarried as appears in the 1870 census with his second wife Susan. They had no children. After Charles’ retirement, the Bordens arrive on the scene in 1872, and the Traftons moved to Somerset where Charles died on Feb. 23, 1878. Susan remarried Frank DeCaro, an Italian barber. Frank returned to Italy after her death. As was the frequently- seen custom, Charles is buried between his two wives.
Although not as horrific as the murders of the two Bordens, Hannah Trafton’s sad demise and that of her child is tragic. How many other deaths at #92 can only be imagined. The dining room, which saw the preparation of Abby and Andrew’s bodies, the removal of Mrs. Borden’s stomach, and was the bedroom for owner, Mrs. Josephine McGinn in her final days, was a place which had witnessed much sadness and horror. There should be enough hauntings for almost any psychic.
Since the publication of this 1916 photograph in the Fall River Herald, there has been much discussion about every detail shown in the picture, from furnishings to Lizzie’s dress, and the little dog she is holding. Boston Bull Terriers were admitted to the Kennel Club in 1893, and looked quite different from the familiar black and white version seen today. Some were even brindle-colored. Lizzie would have three in her lifetime, and the one she holds here is more reflective of the Victorian version of the breed. For more about this fascinating topic for the animal-loving W&W readers, visit this link http://www.victorianbostonbulldog.com/breed-history.html
Christmas came early this year for those who enjoy Fall River history and have an interest in the Borden case and the enigmatic Miss Lizzie. Parallel Lives was released this morning to the public. By 11: 30 a.m. a long line snaked its way down the pavement toward Maple Street and there was a feeling of restless expectation in the air as the noon hour approached. . A man came around the corner bearing two copies of the coveted tome as heads swiveled to catch a glimpse. A spontaneous outburst of appreciation went up from the crowd followed by many comments as to the SIZE of the massive tome.
No preview copies were released for reviewing to anyone, so it was with enormous excitement today’s release was anticipated. Beginning on Friday, the benefactors of the publication enjoyed a special gathering, followed by Saturday night’s annual Christmas Open House for members, and capping off an extraordinary weekend with today’s public release of the book, viewing of a special exhibit of materials featured in the book (cards, letters, gifts Lizzie presented to friends, etc.) and a tour of the Christmas decorations, always an annual treat.
The authors held court in the front parlor at a beautifully decorated table with a red rose Christmas arrangement, signing autographs and having photographs taken with visitors. On the lawn, on the stairs, and anywhere one could sit, people clutched their volume, looking eagerly through the pages. From all corners came appreciative little shrieks of excitement as never-before-seen photos were discovered, especially those showing Lizzie herself. Even those who vowed not to ruin the surprise until they could sit at leisure soon gave way to overwhelming curiosity and were soon leafing furiously through the pages. Some had driven hours to pick up their copies.
It would be presumptuous to attempt any sort of review of this major work until the whole was digested, therefore the Warps & Wefts review will be forthcoming in the near future. Suffice it to say, Parallel Lives is as plummy a Christmas pudding as anyone could ever wish for, chock full of juicy morsels, delicious facts and photos, fascinating history, surprises and many hours of enthralled reading. To reveal too much would be to ruin your own Christmas surprise- so-
Just spring to your sleigh, to your team give a whistle,
To Rock Street fly like the down of a thistle.
Parallel Lives is the gift sure to please, so take heed,
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good read!
Have your copy of Parallel Lives autographed. Pre-ordered your copy? Not to worry, pick it up Sunday at the Fall River Historical Society Book Signing! Don’t let your friends beat you to the punch! 1000 pages and over 500 photos. You just may have to take your vacation next week! Come back over the holidays to see a very special exhibit of ephemera and other items discovered while researching for the book: notes, cards, letters and more from Lizzie’s own hand. Who could ask for anything more?
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.
Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks, etc.
The jurors at the trial had a difficult time believing a lady could be capable of murdering her elderly father and stepmother. The pages of true crime are filled with such ladylike criminals who committed heinous acts upon the sick, helpless, young, and infirm, while at the same time projecting the very image of genteel propriety to the public. England’s most famous baby-killer, Amelia Dyer, must surely go down in history as one of the most evil women who ever lived. As for Lizzie, a song was soon made up about the devious woman some thought might be “Jill the Ripper”.
The old baby farmer, the wretched Miss Dyer
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid.
In times long ago, we’d ‘a’ made a big fy-er
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade
Dyer, although raised in a comfortable middle-class home, was taxed with the care of an invalid mother who was the victim of severe mental illness. This and other factors set Amelia on a turbulent life path of destruction and violence and murder of young innocents and hapless women who found themselves pregnant and unwed. Dyer spawned a veritable cottage industry in “baby-farming.” Most infants never lived to see their first birthday. There is no tally of the number of murders which could be laid at the door of Amelia Dyer, but her last, in 1896 resulted in being apprehended after a turn of bad luck, tried, and convicted in less than 5 minutes. Amelia was hanged on June 10, 1896, at 9 a.m. after filling notebooks with her confession. “I have nothing to say,” said Dyer, as the noose was tightened. The scope of her crimes still boggles the mind. It is entirely likely that Lizzie Borden knew about The Ogress of Reading as her killing spree was fodder for the press on both sides of the ocean.
For more on Amelia Dyer, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=11443817
A recent W&W purchase from Ebay shows a great vintage photo of bales of cotton in transit to the mill to be spun and woven. Guessing on just where this photo was taken, and going by the GLE on the sign in the background, this looks to be North Main Street in front of the old EAGLE building. Can anyone confirm this? There are many wonderful Fall River photos to be bought at a bargain on Ebay at the moment.
The front page of the Fall River Herald for August 4th featured a large colored photo of Kathleen Troost-Cramer and Barbara Morrissey as Lizzie and Emma Borden on the day of the infamous murders re-enacting the news about the killing of their father and stepmother. The front page also featured a headline of the Dow down to the lowest point since 2008 and news of bacteria levels in the Taunton River. At least one of the stories was old news from 1892.
Ray Mitchell as city marshal Rufus Hilliard. Story by Deborah Allard.
As posted yesterday, Miss Lizzie is coming home for two performances August 5th and 6th at the Nagle Auditorium at B.M.C. Durfee High School in a production by the Covey Theatre Company of Syracuse, N.Y., according to the Fall River Herald News http://www.heraldnews.com/entertainment/x2108626470/Latest-Lizzie-Borden-play-to-be-staged-Aug-5-6-in-Fall-River
For reviews of the play and some color stills, visit this link http://www.thecoveytheatrecompany.com/production-archives.html
Tickets may be purchased online at the link and word is out that this new treatment of the case promises to satisfy the most ardent Bordenite. Snag a ticket early!
August must be a bad month for homicide. Curiously enough, on August 3, 1877 the bodies of Mr. Lewis Spencer and his four children were found hacked to bits in the family home and barn. The Clark County, Missouri killings apparently occured on August 2nd and the bodies found by a family relative on the 3rd. Mr. Spencer was a deacon at the Bethlehem Baptist Church near Luray, Missouri, and was a tax collector. He often kept a large amount of cash in the home which was found to be missing at the time of the murders. It may have had something to do with the murders. The Spencer family had suffered the loss of Mrs. Spencer and two other young children prior to the murders. All are buried together in the family plot.
Two men were put on trial for the deed but were acquitted while another suspect from Keokuk was set upon by an angry mob and hanged for the killings even though there was no proof he did it. One suspect was the brother of Mrs. Spencer. The murder weapon was found at the back of the house covered in blood and there was the appearance that more than one killer might be involved. Each victim was hit one to three times in the head, a fact which contrasts widely to the 19 blows to Abby Borden and the 10-11 to Andrew Borden in the Lizzie Borden case.
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50616F63D5A127B93C7A91783D85F438784F9 Link to New York Times Article
and an excellent detailed account of trials and crime scene here http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.missouri.counties.clark/722.214.171.124/mb.ashx
http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2011/03/11209/ “women murdering make better copy”- we agree!!
From the blogger of Murder by Gaslight, and in the style of the old Police Gazette, have a look at the new sister blog, The National Night Stick . Best of luck with the new enterprise!
With winter showing no signs of letting up in New England, seems a good time to stay inside by the fire with a few good blogs and web sites to read. Here are some you may enjoy which include Victoriana, fictional and true crime. It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten, but here’s ten good ones you might have missed. Hours of reading- pack a lunch!
1. Murder by Gaslight http://murderbygasslight.blogspot.com/
2. Clews– historic true crime http://laurajames.typepad.com/
3. Anne Perry – Detective Pitt in Victorian England, and other great series http://www.anneperry.net/
4. 1893 Columbian Expo in Chicago http://columbus.gl.iit.edu/
5. Victorian Station– all things Victorian http://www.victorianstation.com/home2.html
6. Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH) http://www.ash-nyc.com/AboutASH.htm
7. Victoriana– free online magazine, great articles and links http://www.victoriana.com/site_map.htm
8. Historic New England Homes and events http://www.historicnewengland.org/
9. Victorian Society in America – lectures, events, tours, classes http://www.victoriansociety.org/
10. Jack the Ripper http://www.casebook.org/
Among the Library of Congress collection of unusual broadsides, (those prolific paper tributes written by budding writers about popular topics of the moment), rests this Lizzie Borden case effort by Mr. Beard of New Hampshire, who gives his home address at the bottom of the page, no doubt in hopes of hearing from a publisher keen to publish his opus.
Thanks to CLEWS crime blog for bringing this to our attention a few years ago. If you missed it then, here it is again.
Most well-born ladies of the period took up the study of a musical instrument as part of their well-rounded education. The pianoforte was a favorite as the lady might accompany herself singing or might become a sought-after party guest to accompany around-the-piano impromptu group singing which was so popular among all age groups . Lizzie Borden took up the piano as a teenager but in the end abandoned the serious study of music as she felt her playing was inferior. Sister Emma Borden also played, as her school records at Wheaton Female Seminary attest. Andrew Borden had to pay five dollars per term to furnish Emma with a practice instrument. By 1892, even middle class families could afford to own a parlor piano. Different sources list Lizzie’s piano as either a square parlor grand or an upright grand. Considering the decade of her piano playing, a square parlor grand is more likely. These were somewhat large, boxy instruments with thick carved legs.
In 1892, the most popular tune of the time was After the Ball, a waltz by Charles K. Harris. He had written the piece in 1891. According to Wikipedia:
“In the song, an older man tells his niece why he has never married. He saw his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball, and he refused to listen to her explanation. Many years later, after the woman had died, he discovered that the man was her brother.
“After the Ball” became the most successful song of its era which at that time was gauged by the sales of sheet music. In 1892 it sold over two million copies of sheet music. Its total sheet music sales exceed five million copies, making it the best seller in Tin Pan Alley‘s history.”
The song is still familiar to many and is often the last selection played at dances and cotillions.
Did Lizzie amuse herself at the piano on Second Street as an adult? – Most likely she did. She would also have a handsome piano in her parlor at Maplecroft. It’s fun to picture the sisters around the piano at Christmas trying out a few carols and Christmas tunes from the hymnal. Two other huge hits of 1892- The Bowery and Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two).