• Astrology & the Bordens

    What’s in the stars for the Borden clan? Join Kimbra and Shelley with special guest, astrologist Mat Gleason, at 7p.m. on June 12 as we examine the charts of Lizzie and the family.

  • A Really Sullivan Wedding

    Married the day after filing the application for a license

    There is a bit more to the marriage application than first published here. At the bottom of the page is the record for the ceremony which happened the day after they applied for the license. Father J.H. O’Brien married John and Bridget on June 21, 1905. Interesting to see the two witnesses were Bridgie and Pat J. Sullivan, presumably relations of John Sullivan. Hard to say when it’s a double Sullivan nuptial! 🙂 This may have been a simple at home wedding as no church is mentioned. I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with John Sullivan’s great-nieces, Diana and Joan once and was told that Bridget became a rather sour and stern old lady, nearly blind at the end and wishing to die, saying her rosary at night. She ran a tight ship at the Sullivan house, and was meager in her cooking portions on the plate. No extra helpings or treats for little girls. One wonders if it was a happy marriage. 

  • Emma’s Wild Return from Scotland

    R.M.S. Cymric, White Star Line

    After Lizzie and Emma parted company at Maplecroft, Emma did a little traveling. In 1906 she decided to embark upon an extended tour of Scotland . This notice in the Boston Evening Transcript from Monday, October 15, 1906 tells of quite a gale on the return voyage to Boston. It was a thrilling finale to Emma’s big trip and getaway from Fall River.

    Thanks, Mike P.!
  • The Day Sarah Died, March 26, 1863

    The Day Sarah Died

    March 26, 1863 was a Thursday like any other in Fall River.  As the Civil War raged on, inside #12 Ferry Street, not far from the waterfront, twelve year old Emma Borden would experience the saddest day a daughter would know – the loss of her mother.  Emma’s little sister, Lizzie, not quite three years old, most likely was not taken into the sick room where Sarah Anthony Morse counted down her last hours .  She was 39 years old. The effect of the long suffering and decline of Sarah Borden as witnessed by the twelve- year -old Emma Borden would resonate for a lifetime. It is not hard to image why Emma resented her father marrying not long after her mother was laid to rest and her extreme dislike of Abby Gray, her new stepmother in 1865. 

    A very young Sarah Anthony Morse painting in the style of the era

    Sarah was no stranger to sorrow and early death.  Born on September 19, 1823 in Somerset, Sarah was most likely named after her father’s sister Sarah who died at age 22 or possibly her grandmother, Sarah Vinnicum Morse.  Sarah’s  mother, Rhoda Morrisson, married Anthony Daney Morse on November 10, 1822 . Sarah was born within the year.  As years passed, the family grew, as Victorian families often did, increasing with many children, several of whom died young.  Sarah’s sister Hannah died at age 15, a brother Frederick Augustus passed away at age 3, .and an infant brother, Orin, less than a year old.  

    Most probably Sarah’s wedding portrait

    It is said that Sarah’s marriage to Andrew Jackson Borden on Christmas Day 1846 was a happy one and a true love match.  Sarah was 23. Her mother, Rhoda was missing at the wedding, she had died in January of 1843 at the age of 42. The couple lived in the house on Ferry Street for a time with Andrew’s sister Lurana and her husband Hiram Harrington.  Emma was born in February of 1851 and so the couple began their family after four years of marriage.  It was not until May 3, 1856 that Sarah gave birth to another baby girl, Alice Esther who would not survive to reach her second birthday. Whether it was congenital hydrocephalus or that condition derived from illness or accident, little Alice succumbed on March 10, 1858.  The death report refers to the condition as dropsy of the brain. One can only imagine the devastation of the loss on the family.  

    Alice Esther’s report of cause of death
    #12 Ferry St., Fall River

    After the death of Alice, the health of Sarah declined with the development of uterine congestion, a relatively unusual condition affecting women of child-bearing age, especially after the birth of more than one child and worsens in the late stages of pregnancy.  It is hard to diagnose and causes sharp pains in the abdomen, pooling of blood in the veins, bulging veins and poor circulation resulting in a heaviness, difficulty walking, and it can affects other systems in the body. Deep Vein Thrombosis , a blood clot, can be associated with untreated uterine congestion. Today there are treatments for the condition:  hormone therapy, vein surgery, hysterectomy and other treatments. The painkiller of choice in the 1850s-60s was laudanum, or tincture of opium in alcohol.  By the 1870s morphine became the pain reliever of choice. Many became addicted to the medications used.  

    Sarah and young Emma circa 1853

    On July 19, 1860, a third daughter, Lizzie Andrew Borden was born.  One wonders if her father was disappointed not to have a son to carry on the family businesses.  He may also have realized childbearing was dangerous for his wife and that Lizzie should be the last child.  She was given his name as Sarah had been given her father’s first name, Anthony. 

    In the well-known photograph of Sarah holding little Emma who appears perhaps 2-3 years old, one finds Sarah looking unwell. Lizzie would know the loss of her mother not even three years after her birth .  Sadly, Lizzie would not have the memories of her mother that Emma could claim.

    Sarah’s father remarried Hannah Chase after Rhoda died in 1843 and moved in the 1860s out to Macoupin. Illinois. The couple had children of their own, and Anthony died on the 4th of July, 1878 in the town of Girard. It is doubtful Lizzie and Emma ever saw much if anything of their grandfather Morse. They never knew their grandmother. 

    Headstone of Anthony Morse in Macoupin Cemetery, Ilinois courtesy of Find-a-Grave

    In June of 1865, Andrew Borden married Abby Durfee Gray.  In 1872 the family moved into 92 Second Street.  Lizzie was 12, Emma was 21. The rest is history. Today Sarah rests for eternity by the side of her husband in Oak Grove Cemetery, mercifully never knowing what would happen in 1892.



  • Better late than never- John Morse’s Will

    Like Andrew Borden, Uncle John Morse did not give much thought to making a will as he aged. Andrew never did get around to it, although he mentioned it and his intent to do so eventually. He even decided he should leave a little something to the Old Folks Home on Highland Ave. Uncle John’s will is interesting, and made on February 20, 1912, only about a week before he died. Well, better late than never! Photo copy, Ancestry.com

  • A softer view of Emma

    On Emma’s 171st birthday, imagine what she might have looked like in a frilly pink dress instead of the dark, somber attire we have seen in the familiar portrait so often seen of her. Was she really always the dour, religious, conservative person so often depicted? It would be nice to think that she had some fun and joy in her life. We know she traveled a bit after her separation from Lizzie in 1905. Emma seemed to keep up the family ties through visits and correspondence. Here’s hoping there were some happy birthday memories and parties with the Buck sisters.

    Image by HGF Grafix 2022
  • March 1st, Emma & Uncle John share a date

    1851-1927 Emma Borden arrives in the world on March 1
    1833-1912 John Vinnicum Morse departs the world on March 1, 1912

    An interesting tale of a gypsy fortune teller in Uncle John’s obituary from the Fall River Daily Evening News, March 1, 1912.

    Fall River Daily Evening News, March 1, 1912
  • Dave Quigley, Another loss in the “Lizzie Family”

    Master of Jonnycakes and the old cast iron stove

    Dave Quigley will be a name many who visited the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum before 2009 will recall. Dave started off with the opening crew, working for the McGinns as cook and became part of the Lizzie family in short order. Sadly, Dave passed away on January 20th and all who knew him mourn the loss of a hospitable and welcoming soul who truly loved life and meeting new people at #92. Dave was the only one who ever seemed to be able to handle the temperamental black Glenwood stove in the kitchen and his jonnycakes are legendary. Dave retired in December of 2009 and his absence was sorely felt. Thanks for all the memories, Dave, and so many happy hours cooking with you side by side in the Borden kitchen and serving guests waiting with anticipation in the dining room. They were the best of times. https://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/…/end-of-an-era…/

    https://www.heraldnews.com/obituaries/herald-news_cn14006789?fbclid=IwAR3owDH80YkJRP6bvmLkcXDIXX9SO1Ih3py2lxsB2IWL-h1WQgwNoXyNe74 Obituary

  • February 6, 1926 Remembering Mrs. Churchill

    Today in history: On February 6, 1926 Mrs. Adelaide Churchill died. She was first on the scene of the crime on August 4, 1892 and the Borden’s neighbor to the north in the old Buffinton mansion. “Addie” is one person many Borden case scholars would have loved to interview. Rumor has it that she once told a friend that she saw something in the Borden house on the day of the murders but would not tell it if they tore her tongue out. Fascinating to speculate what that might have been. Adelaide was widowed after only about three years and lived with her sister Estelle, who inherited the mansion from her mother. Addie never remarried. Estelle, (the oldest of Comfort and Edward P. Buffinton’s children) also died on February 6, in 1934 as well as Addie’s husband Charles who died Feb. 6, 1879. An article about the Buffintons and Addie will be published this week on W&W.

  • February 7, 1965

    Today in history: February 7, 1965, actress Nance O’Neil died at age 90. In her final years, O’Neil lived at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. A cinerary urn containing her ashes was transported to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California and was placed in the park’s columbarium, inside the niche that holds her husband Alfred’s urn. Nance and Lizzie were good friends for a short time. Lizzie was always generous with the spendthrift Nance. After Emma left Maplecroft in 1905, LIzzie no doubt needed a friend. We know Lizzie entertained Nance and her acting troupe at Maplecroft at least once, and that Lizzie went to visit Nance at her farm in Tyngsboro, Mass. Both ladies were dedicated to the animal protection cause. Nance always gave a kindly reminiscence of her friend Lizzie and their short acquaintance..

  • D.R. Smith – The Man, Prussic Acid, Two Brides & a Scandal

    David R. Smith 1854-1923, Fall River Globe 1923

    by Shelley M. Dziedzic (all rights reserved)

    As all the eager researchers who take up the Lizzie Borden case will find, it does not take very long to run into the name of Eli Bence.  The earnest face of Bence, with his close-cropped hair and determined mouth, was the man who gave evidence right through the Borden case preliminary about the doings in the corner pharmacy on the day of August 3, 1892.  All who are familiar with the case know of his claim that Miss Borden came in Wednesday before noon and asked for ten cents’ worth of Prussic acid, a deadly poison.  The lady claimed she had purchased it before with no difficulty at this establishment and it was needed to remove moths from a set of sealskin furs. Without a prescription, the young woman walked away without the desired substance, the entire proceeding observed by two gentlemen in the drug store, Mr. Kilroy and Mr. Hart who claimed it was Andrew Borden’s daughter Lizzie .  

    Eli Bence

    After the murders the next day one can only speculate what Bence did next as news of the murder details emerged.  Most likely he told his employer, David R. Smith, owner of the pharmacy at the corner of South Main (#135) and Columbia St. about the encounter or possibly even his brother Peter Gaskell Bence, once a Fall River Police patrolman, and wondered what he should do next.  Bence did go to the police with his story and was taken to Second St. to identify Lizzie as she paced the kitchen at #92.  Bence looked down the long hall from the side door and identified Lizzie by voice and sight as the woman who had been in Smith’s the day before.  Luckily, for the defense, this testimony was not allowed at Lizzie’s trial in New Bedford in June of 1893 as it was deemed “too remote in time” from the grisly deeds. In addition no Prussic acid had been found in the stomachs of the victims or in the house on Second St.  Thus Eli Bence and his testimony faded away into the mists of time and history.   One can only wonder if his testimony might have made any difference in decision to acquit.  Lizzie would maintain that she was feeling ill, never left the house during the day until much later in early evening when she went to see Alice Russell, and was not acquainted with the location of D.R. Smith’s apothecary. 

    Corner of Columbia & South Main location. The building is not original to D.R. Smith Pharmacy days. Formerly Virginia Dare Ladies clothing, White’s Market and Copacabana Club (courtesy Fall River Historic Photos, Facebook)
    Building on the far left is Smith’s Pharmacy 1896, taken from a booklet about Fall River

    Human nature being what it is both now, and in 1892, no doubt D.R. Smith’s pharmacy was a place of curiosity once the news of the Prussic acid emerged.  It’s easy to imagine inquisitive shoppers walking by, peering in the window or even going in to make a purchase at the place where Lizzie Borden was said to have tried to buy Prussic acid!  David Smith and Eli Bence might have even been sought out to some degree.  Much has been written about Bence but who was his employer and what do we know about David R. Smith?

    David R. Smith was one of a large family whose parents had come over from Ireland in 1850.  His father, Samuel Smith was born in Guilford, Ireland on June 18, 1815, the day of the Battle of Waterloo.  His mother, Eliza A. McCleary stayed home to tend to a growing family including Mary, David, Eliza J., Sam Jr., Josephine, William, Hattie, and Margaret.  Sam worked as a machinist for the company of Kilburn and Lincoln, which made power looms and other mill equipment and machinery in the city since 1846.  The family home was at 683 Second Street.

    David knew from a fairly young age that apothecary work would be his career path.  He was very fortunate to have been childhood chums with Alice Whitaker whose father, Dr. John Whitaker, (born in England) and brother John Wesley Whitaker had an apothecary down on the corner of Ferry Street and Canal Street.  The Whitakers lived at  181 Second Street, and so when David was ready to begin work in earnest, he gained a position in the Whitaker Apothecary on Canal Street corner of Ferry Street., where Lizzie and her family lived until they moved to 92 Second St. in 1872.  David was a hard worker and by 1875 he was able to open his own pharmacy in Stafford Square. That business also being very successful, he then moved to 135 South Main at the corner of Columbia Street, a very desirable and high traffic address where he was able to take on assistants and a clerk in the person of Mr. Eli Bence. 

    In November of 1879 David Smith  married old Dr. Whitaker’s daughter Alice, who was a great asset to David’s career and business, and greatly admired in the neighborhood.  The couple were happily married for 22 years.  The last ten of those years Alice had suffered ill health and preferred to be a homebody at their house at 589 Second Street.  Paralytic shock is given as the cause of her death in August, 1902.  David, who had enjoyed a comfortable life with Alice, puttering about in his home laboratory inventing a cure for dyspepsia and managing his apothecary on South Main St. was devastated.  There were no children to soothe his lonely hours.  David had instead sponsored and supported a local baseball team of boys who had many wins on the baseball diamond.  Life had been very satisfactory for the Smiths in every way.   

    Fall River Herald, August 29, 1902

    At the peak of his success, his brother Sam, also a thriving druggist with an apothecary on North Main, the Smith brothers were well-known and respected in the city.  With Alice no longer by his side, David surprisingly wasted little time in procuring the second Mrs. Smith.  Miss Ida A. Murphy, of 57 Whipple St. (also the street where Eli Bence lived in 1892) caught the attention of David Smith and according to Miss Murphy and her outspoken mother, started to pay serious court to her daughter with intent for the relationship to culminate in engagement and marriage.  Miss Ida, a clerk at the public library, is quoted in 1904 as saying David Smith had been ardently courting her for two years, which would put the time just after the death of his wife Alice, and that he had proposed no fewer than three times to her!  After putting David off twice, she had finally consented to become the second Mrs. Smith and had set the date for September, 7, 1904.  With her gown selected, her trousseau purchased and the announcement put in the city papers, Miss Ida Murphy was to very soon get the shock of her young life. 

    There, in black and white in the newspaper for July 12, 1904 was published the announcement of the marriage of David R. Smith to Miss Celia Gesner (twenty-one years his junior)!  Miss Gesner was a seamstress, born in Canada, who lived at 1380 Globe St., the daughter of Catherine and Jacob Gesner, her father being a carpenter. This would be Miss Gesner’s first marriage.  The ceremony took place at 268 Highland Avenue and was presided over by the Rev. W.J. Martin. 

    Ida, not believing her eyes must have run to inform her mother of the shocking news.  Mrs. Murphy, said to be of a charming disposition as a rule wasted no time in giving an interview to the Globe about the shameful occurrence.  Breach of promise was a real thing in 1904 and the Murphy ladies were quick to let the scandal out of the bag. Mrs. Murphy declared David had spent the two years  from 1902 – 1904 practically parked in her parlor, taking most of his meals at her table and suggesting perhaps he might board at the Murphy’s address.  As only a mother of a jilted bride-to-be could exclaim, Mrs. Murphy declared David Smith was in for a thrashing if she could just get her hands on him and promptly declared him a scoundrel in just those words! It would appear that scoundrel was the nicest word that she had to call him. The furious mother of the bride deemed him a nuisance who had haunted their home and that she had misgivings from the very start about Mr. Smith.  No time was wasted in engaging the services of John W. Cummings in drawing up papers for a suit to sue the romantic David Smith who had one bride too many, for breach of promise. 

    Ida, still in a daze , refused to believe the situation could be true unless she heard it from the marrying minister himself.  Revenge was in the air but David Smith went yet a step farther and settled all of his business concerns on his new bride immediately and thus Mrs. Celia Smith became the new owner of Smith’s Pharmacy.  David Smith himself maintained his total innocence in the whole affair, pitied poor Miss Murphy who was surely in error, and what with there being no proof of his promise to marry poor Ida, happily went off on his honeymoon with the comely Celia Gesner Smith, his new wife. 

    Fall River Globe July 12,1904

    It is presumed there was an end to it- the breach of promise suit pressed by Mrs. Murphy was dead in the water as Smith’s new wife held all of the Smith family property and assets and there was nothing financially to be gained. 

    David R. Smith died on December 2, 1923.  Lizzie Borden, who had made his pharmacy famous was alive at Maplecroft.  His second wife Celia died in 1966. He is buried between his two wives as is the custom, in Oak Grove Cemetery Plot OG1790.  But what happened to his spurned paramour Ida Murphy?  In 1925, two years after David’s death, Ida was still working at the library, now living in a nice neighborhood on Madison St. , her outraged mother having died in 1919, her father Jeremiah, a liquor dealer in the city, still living until 1928.  The Murphys are buried in Old North Cemetery on North Main St.  Ida never married.  So closes the curtain on D.R. Smith.

    Ida’s mother’s obituary, Fall River Globe Dec. 1, 1919
    Fall River Herald, Dec.3, 1923 (courtesy Newspaper Archives.com)
    (courtesy Find – a- Grave OG Plot 1790)
    Masonic membership record, Narragansett Lodge, Ancestry.com
    Fall River City Directory listing second wife, Celia
    D.R. Smith’s father’s obituary, Fall River Globe 1901
  • February Tea & Murder Podcast

    Kimbra and I are delighted to be chatting with Keith Morrison of Lions Den Theatre on Sunday, February 20th at 7 p.m. Lots to talk about this time out from the release of The Jennings Journals from the Fall River Historical Society to whether Lizzie had any real-life Valentines and most importantly, a special interview with Keith all about how the Lizzie Trial Audio project got started and the approach to capturing the personalities from the proceedings for posterity. While you are waiting for the podcast, you will want to listen to the fascinating hours already recorded on the Lions Den YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/c/LionsDenAudioTheatre The link to join the podcast LIVE will be posted here and on W&W Facebook page as well as Lizbeth Facebook group. Also streaming LIVE on YouTube. Links will be posted the day before the podcast.

  • A Halloween Anniversary

    Halloween is always a busy time at the Borden House on Second St. but it also marks the anniversary of a couple, important in the story of the happenings on August 4th- the Bowens. Phoebe and Seabury Bowen were married on Halloween day, 1871. Lizzie was eleven.

    There is a mistake on the certificate, probably poor handwriting on the original- Loutheur should be Southard Miller. Bowen’s mother was Leafa Claffin Bowen, not Sofie, once again, handwriting was deplorable.

    Young Seabury Bowen

    For more about the life and career of Dr. Bowen visit this link here on the website. https://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/2996-2/?fbclid=IwAR3RZHUqKvrV4Wi_2ZjKjKGqZudKPYEjli9y6rfldK_JPGv2EceYjCj4-wo

  • Ken DeCosta Joins Us for Halloween Tea & Murder! Oct. 17th at 7 p.m.

    It’s almost Halloween Tea & Murder time! Don’t forget to join us this time NEXT Sunday evening, October 17th at 7 p.m. when Rhode Island paranormal investigator, Ken DeCosta, will be joining us to talk about his experiences at Maplecroft and Second St. Questions, oh, so many questions to ask!! 👻 Livestream on Facebook and Youtube!

  • Buttonwoods Museum- William H. Moody Room

    I am very grateful to the staff of Buttonwoods Museum in Haverhill, MA. for allowing this photography of the Moody Room for Warps & Wefts and for arranging a special guide Saturday afternoon. The museum is a must-see and these photos do not do the real objects justice. If you find yourself in Haverhill please stop by not only to see the amazing Moody display but many other items and the historic house. 

    There’s nothing like seeing objects owned by a person to reveal a lot about who they are and their place in history. William H. Moody was indeed a match for defense attorney George Dexter Robinson in the Borden case, and went on to have an unbelievable career cut short by extreme rheumatoid arthritis which compelled Justice Moody to step down from the bench at a young age. The first thing one notices in the Moody Room is the impressive portrait hanging over the mantle and the round gaming table in the center of the room which was made to accommodate his wheel chair. The top of this mahogany table flips over to a solid top. One can imagine games played at this table with gentleman visitors. Moody was a rampant Red Sox supporter and took a keen interest in baseball as did defense attorney Andrew Jennings, himself a pitcher for the Fall River baseball team TROY. One wonders if the two men ever discussed baseball during the trial.

    William Moody never married, nor did his sister Mary who kept house for him and was a dedicated hostess throughout his career- and what a career it was! The top photo is Moody’s mother, the middle photo is a young Mary, also with a wealth of fair hair like her brother. Mary was asked to christen the U.S.S. Moody (which was sunk purposely in the making of a Hollywood film). The photo shows Mary with a huge bouquet on launch day and the trimmings from the bottle of champagne used to christen the new ship is shown in its original box with red, white and blue ribbons.

    The little Klipper desk was used by William H. Moody in the House of Representatives. Klipper desks were used in the House Chamber from 1873 until 1901 The little hole in the front right used to contain a button to summon a page. Before the button, representatives had to clap to summon a page. The two Cabinet chairs are Moody’s as Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General. They were made by A.H. Davenport and Co. of Boston.

    The Elizabethan sideboard was purchased by Mary Moody in England for their Haverhill home. The bottom shelf is made of an old door. Apparently it was the thing to have a statue of Daniel Webster in every attorney’s office and Moody was no exception. The photo at the top of the frame is Moody’s father.

    Not all objects in the Moody Collection are on display but among those I particularly liked seeing are very personal ones, Moody’s cigar case, ink stand of Benjamin Franklin with a quill pen, and his official document case – which as you can see, is weathered from use in service. A cigar smoker! What a surprise, but then most men smoked socially in that era.

    The Moody home at 38 Saltonstall Rd. is currently for sale. While in Haverhill, drive by for a look at the home of the Moodys. There are many interior views of the house on the realtor’s page https://www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/ma/haverhill/38-saltonstall-rd/pid_41517790/?fbclid=IwAR1R71QHEQwuhdRFTbxBvoIM78zzBrx-jHCSHjRXSfxBNcpkIj0p9Yr1s9U

    For more about the Buttonwoods Museum, visiting times, and special events, visit http://www.buttonwoods.org To seee the Moody Papers, which includes the majority of the Borden Trial transcript, visit the Haverhill Public Library. https://haverhillpl.org/app/uploads/2020/08/William-H-Moody-papers-31479006368590.pdf