By Jo Anne Giovino with photography and research by Barbara Morrissey and Kristin Pepe *(All rights reserved, August 2019)
Although it was a dark and stormy night, the Intrepid Trio, Jo Anne Giovino, Kristin Pepe and Barbara Morrissey was dauntless in their pursuit of Lizzie A. Borden. This mission took us to Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city about forty minutes from our home base, Billerica, MA. Destination: Buttonwoods Museum, for a presentation on Lizzie Borden. After a brief stop for sustenance and pumpkin ale at the Barking Dog, we arrived at our appointed time. Unfortunately, the talk was a bust – but do not despair! The effort was not in vain.
While Barbara was conversing with a newly-found distant cousin, Kristin and JoAnne spotted a lighted display cabinet in the rear of the room and went to investigate. What we saw left us bewildered and amazed. In the cabinet was an original full set of the transcripts of the case, “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie A. Borden”. Printed on the display card was “From the collection of William H. Moody”. Obviosuly it never occurred to us that there would be a privately –owned copy of the transcripts outside of Fall River or New Bedford.
This discovery begged the question, “Why were the transcripts here and how is Moody connected to Haverhill?”
Thus began our journey of Finding Moody.
As we know, Wm. H. Moody was one of the prosecutors for the Commonwealth in the Borden case. He was appointed by Massachusetts Attorney General Pillsbury to assist the District Attorney of the Southern District of Massachusetts, Hosea Knowlton. Mr. Moody gave the opening statement to the jury which concisely and cogently laid out a strong case against Lizzie A. Borden. Moody was praised for his effort and many believed Lizzie to be doomed. As a peripheral character in the case, our personal knowledge of Mr. Moody was limited. But, as Charter Members of The Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) , we knew there had to be more to Wm. H. Moody than this. As we have learned from other personalities in the case, no person is a one-dimensional individual. There was a rumor after the trial that Lizzie sent a packet of newspaper clippings and photos to Moody with a note that read, “ As a memento of an interesting occasion.” Was that true? Will the Intrepid Trio discover the truth? There was only one way to find out. Channeling Sherlock Holmes, our investigation began.
“The Game’s Afoot”
Finding Mr. Moody proved to be quite an endeavor. After searching the Internet and making numerous phone calls, we got some leads. Our first stop, the Haverhill Public Library, was a treasure trove of information. The Special Collections Department had newspaper clippings, scrap books kept by Moody and his sister, letters, photographs, and most impressively, the trial transcripts. Next, we went to the Buttonwoods Museum located in historic Duncan House, which is the home of the Haverhill Historical Society. The museum has a room dedicated to Wm. H. Moody with furnishings and personal belongings donated by his sister after his death. The staff and volunteers were very generous with their time and opened the room to us despite the museum being closed to the public at that time. Seeing these tangible objects and knowing that they belonged to Mr. Moody was very poignant. One realizes that he was an individual with a life, friends, and family and not simply a footnote from some celebrated case. In searching census records we were able to discover an address for Moody’s residence. Not knowing for sure if the house was still standing, we went in search of the home. With the assistance of GPS, we were successful in finding his home. Mr. Moody owned a large, beautiful Federal style house in a very prestigious section of Haverhill, akin to Lizzie’s house on the hill, Maplecroft. Luckily it is still standing and we were able to take pictures and envision how it must have looked in its heyday. Our final stop was definitely the most time-consuming in research, but the most rewarding – locating Moody’s final resting place. Contrary to what one may think, this distinguished gentleman is interred in a small family plot in a rural cemetery in Byfield, Massachusettts, a village north of Haverill. He lies with his mother, father, brother and sister. As with Lizzie and Emma, none of the children ever married.
We are appreciative of those who graciously assisted us in our research. The following is the pertinent information we found about William H. Moody.
William Henry Moody was born to Henry Lord Moody and Melissa Augusta Emerson ( a distant relative of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) on February 23, 1853 in Newbury, Massachusetts, a small fishing village outside of Haverhill. His father was a farmer and came from agrarian stock. Similar to the Borden family, the Moody family settled in America sometime in the 1600s. At this time we did not determine from which country the family emigrated. William was one of three children.
When William was quite young, his father, valuing the importance of education, moved the family to Haverhill. He attended the prestigious boys school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he graduated with a diploma in 1872. After graduation he attended Harvard University and graduated in 1876. While attending Harvard, William became acquainted with an underclassman, Theodore Roosevelt. Although Teddy was a few years below William, they had outdoorsmanship, sports, and friends in common. This developed into a life-long friendship which would prove to be quite valuable to William’s future. Moody was an excellent baseball player and was captain of the Harvard baseball team. He was also an avid debater on the Harvard debate team. After graduation he attended Harvard School of Law. However, he chose to leave school and practice law under the guidance of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. William successfully passed the bar and became a lawyer.
Being a very prominent lawyer and politician, in 1888 he gained his first elected position, Solicitor for Haverill, Massachusetts. Later he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Eastern Massachusetts (1890-1895). It is during this time Bordenphiles are introduced to Mr. Moody. In 1893 he was chosen by Attorney General Pillsbury to be associate prosecutor in the Borden trial. This was his first murder trial. Although the Commonwealth did not prevail in the Borden case, Moody continued on with a distinguished career. By 1895 Mr. Moody was elected federal representative of Massachusetts (1895-1902). By this time his old Harvard classmate was elected President of the United States. President Roosevelt called upon Moody to be his Secretary of the Navy (1902-1904), U.S. Attorney General (1904-1906), and the ultimate achievement, Justice of the Supreme Court (1906-1910), serving until the severe rheumatism forced Justice Moody to retire from the bench. William returned home to Haverhill where he stayed active in politics and renewed friendships until his death on July 2, 1917, President Roosevelt attended his friend’s burial.
William H. Moody was a beloved resident of Haverhill. Over his lifetime he was feted for his many accomplishments by his fellow townsmen with parades and dinners held in his honor. In 1919 the U.S.S. Moody, a destroyer, was commissioned in his honor. His sister, Mary, christened the ship which was built at the Squantum Victory Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.
He served our country with distinction and was a valued and dedicated public servant.
Sometimes life takes us on unexpected journeys and this is one of them. We have been fortunate to make Lizzie Borden-related discoveries in “our neck of the woods”. I say fortunate because these adventures allow us all to gain knowledge and realization that those we read about from the case are more than a name on a page or a mere character cast in a murder mystery.
By the way, we did not find that letter and packet from Lizzie to William – at least not yet.
Sources: Buttonwoods Museum, Haverhill, MA
Haverhill Public Library, Haverhill
Lizzie Borden Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Al-Zach Press, 1999.
Various Internet articles and newspapers
In honor of Lizzie’s birthday, one, in what will become a series of free downloads to augment your Dressing Miss Lizzie paper doll book is released today, Lizzie’s birthday. Here is an imagined walking suit for Lizzie to wear on her visit to Chicago during the Columbian Exposition in October, 1893. White matte photo paper, card stock or 28 lb. regular copy paper is suggested for printing out the pdf file on your home printer. Click on the link below to print out Lizzie’s new duds! Results, will of course vary from printer to printer.
Signing party with Q & A and refreshments, July 13th, Saturday 12 -4 p.m. Jules Antiques and General Store, Rt. 138 in Richmond, R.I. (Exit 3 East off 95). Copies of Dressing Miss Lizzie are now available exclusively in Rhode Island at Jules! Miss Lizzie is getting out of town this summer!
Yes! Even the props are for sale at Jules Antiques!
Dressing Miss Lizzie, which is a paper doll book featuring Lizzie’s garments described in newspapers of 1892 -1893 is now available through hollisterpress.com as well as at the Second St. Borden home and the Fall River Historical Society if you live near Fall River. The Fall River Herald News recently featured a story about the new publication.
Coming in May! Warps and Wefts is excited to announce the publication of “Dressing Miss Lizzie”, a collection of paper dolls featuring clothing Lizzie wore as described in newspapers of the day. The collection includes the famous Bedford cord dress, the pink wrapper, the funeral ensemble and other garments described during the trial and acquittal and some surprises.
The Savoy bookstore in Westerly, R.I. was cram-packed with Borden case enthusiasts this evening as author Cara Robertson held forth on her new book, The Trial of Lizzie Borden. The author is currently on a book tour in New England and will be at the Fall River Historical Society tomorrow, Wednesday, at 5 pm. There were eager questions and much lively discussion tonight which is sure to be the case at every stop along the tour.
If you are anywhere near Fall River tomorrow evening- do not miss the book signing and a chance to hear Cara Robertson. Lizzie B. has not lost her luster!
So- did Lizzie have a sweetheart? It would seem one Curtis I. Piece had high but unrequited hopes of winning Lizzie’s heart. Lizzie had met the ambitious itinerant preacher around 1882 at the Tripp’s house in Westport. Curtis was never one to turn down a possible single lady prospect from a well-heeled and connected family. His advances were tenacious if not welcomed by Lizzie. Although he had not written to her for several years before the murders, he fired off a letter to her while she was incarcerated in the Taunton Jail :
“Westport, Sept. 20, 1892,
To Miss Lizzie with friendly greetings, I am very anxious to meet you and cannot presume upon your presence without your permission, will you be so kind as to appoint a day for me to visit you as soon as convenient? I can come any day or hour. Please do not deny me this one request, believe me, you have my deepest sympathy and constant prayer. I am sincerely yours, Curtis I. Piece.”
Lizzie handed the note over to her family attorney, Andrew Jennings who told Curtis, in short- to bug off! Although grateful for his sympathies, Jennings added, ” She has told me of your previous conduct and I am surprised that any man should attempt to renew it under the current circumstances” and to ” cease your attempts to force yourself upon her notice”! Poor Curtis. He finally gave up.
(Rebello, Lizzie Borden Past and Present, p. 14, Alzach Press, 1999)
Lots of Lizzie to look forward to in the early months of the new year. Available in March and ready to pre-order on Amazon now
In addition to the hoped for opening of Maplecroft in the very near future is the debut in NYC of the rock musical LIZZIE. Follow the production news on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/LizzieMusical/
The third printing is now available at https://www.ebay.com/itm/323423665855 and includes some updates on the gate restoration which was completed earlier this year. The publication features three separate walking tours of graves of Borden-related personalities as well as information on the history of the 1855 cemetery. Autumn is coming- the perfect time to visit Oak Grove Cemetery.
Excitement is building all around town as Maplecroft is preparing to open its doors to the public. Important safety features, porch renovations, and other structural projects and improvements are underway while enthusiastic devotees of the Borden case are counting the days until they might see with their own eyes the place where Miss Borden spent the rest of her life after her acquittal in 1893. The hope is that it shall not be much longer- perhaps three or four weeks until this Victorian gem of French Street will be receiving visitors.
Oh my! Is that Miss Lizzie! ?
It’s been a while since we’ve had an update and many things have fallen into place recently. The big news, of course, is that Maplecroft has been sold to the owners of the Second Street Bed and Breakfast Museum and will probably be open early this Spring. This is exciting for many who have wanted to see inside Lizzie’s home after the acquittal and the place where she passed away in 1927.
LIZZIE, the upcoming film with Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart was sold at Sundance and is to debut on the big screen sometime this summer. August 4th would be a good date! There’s a lot to Google about the film including mixed reviews. A good many liberties have been taken with the history of the case but it should find an appreciative audience.
Kristen Stewart as Bridget Sullivan
A new Lizzie play is previewing March 1st in Ontario at The Black Door.
Also in March, the Travel Channel will present a documentary by the British production company ICON which will travel all around Lizzie country: Taunton, Swansea, New Bedford and of course Fall River and the house on Second Street. No air date known at this time. Stay tuned. Looks like a very Lizzie summer ahead.
Nothing new to report on the sale of Maplecroft. The price was recently lowered but no takers so far. It’s never looked better, inside and out!
Seems like we’ve been waiting forever for the upcoming Lizzie film. Here’s what Fall River Development News has to say.
“The city of Fall River will be receiving worldwide attention soon with the release of the Hollywood film Lizzie. The new film will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018. Lizzie is a biographical thriller film directed by Craig William Macneill and written by Bryce Kass. The film is based on the true story of Lizzie Borden, who was accused and acquitted of the ax-murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, in 1892. The film stars Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jay Huguley, Fiona Shaw, Jamey Sheridan, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare, and Jeff Perry.
The film could be a boon for tourism in Fall River, but the city will first need to come up with a plan to capitalize on the momentum. The city has been looking for a signature event for years to replace Fall River Celebrates America. Could a yearly Lizzie Borden event or convention be the answer?
The new look at the Borden mythos is billed as a “gothic psychological thriller with an indelible romance at its core.” The film will explore “the events that led up to the notorious murders of the Borden family — and reveals the many layers of the strange, fragile woman who stood accused of their brutal murder” and will pick up “when Bridget Sullivan, a young maid, comes to work for the Borden family, [and] Lizzie finds a sympathetic and kindred spirit, and what begins as innocent companionship eventually escalates into attraction, love and bloody vengeance.”
A new documentary for the Travel Channel just wrapped in Fall River. Look for it in March. You will be pleasantly surprised to see Lizzie-related locations seldom visited and hear a few new angles. Things to look forward to in 2018!
Looking for a stocking stuffer for Lizziephiles? Can’t go wrong with these two recent releases!
This is GREAT news. We have high hopes for this one with Hanks at the helm!
There is cause for rejoicing in Lizzieland! Sarah Miller’s upcoming book, Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century is a winner. Aimed at the young adult demographic, this is a page-turner for anyone wanting to get the facts on the infamous Borden double homicide of 1892.
Miller has an appealing you-are-there style which engages the reader from the start, but best of all, this is a work based on the source documents in the case without all the speculations, theories, rumors and misinformed myths which mislead and muddy the case .
Thoughtfully organized by chapter from the events of August 4th through the inquest, preliminary, trial and aftermath, this is a sensible read which enlightens and frankly, – entertains. The text is studded with inserts of useful knowledge set off in gray which provide useful background information on everything from the jury, Lizzie’s dresses to places and people. These enrichments, along with a Who’s Who of all the important players in the story help to expand the reader’s understanding of the finer points of the case.
The author’s aim to create a balanced view of the case, along with painting a truer picture of Lizzie as a real human being, not an axe-wielding caricature, as so often portrayed , has been amply realized. It’s refreshing to see Lizzie in a neutral light while considering the possibility that she may have been innocent. This is a thinkers’ book which engages the reader from the very first page and kicks those little gray cells into overdrive.
A cold winter ‘s night, a cup of hot cocoa and Miller’s, Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century- nothing could be better for the true crime reader. Just be warned, it will be a long night as you will not want to put this one down!
If Lizzie could only have known!
- Over the years the Second Street Irregulars and the Pear Essential Players have been fortunate to be able to visit Maplecroft on many occasions, either individually or as a group. Photos allowed to be taken of the interiors were promised to be viewed privately until such time as the owner sold the house. Now these may be shared. The most remarkable feature about Maplecroft is the wood – floors, paneling and woodwork, especially the fireplace mantels. The stonework in Lizzie’s hearth in the back bedroom over the porch and the big stone chimney are memorable. It was very exciting to see her own dining room wall paper choice and the tin ceiling in the kitchen. Here is a sampling of the interiors and exteriors, from the entry to the third floor. It was thrilling to see the window seat in the front second floor room and imagine Lizzie watching out. Link to photo album below.