• Emma’s summer wardrobe

    The following is a copy of a note to a dressmaker, Mrs. Cummings, dated March 23, 1897 from Emma Borden, written at Maplecroft.  (Copy courtesy of Mrs. Florence Brigham, Fall River Historical Society)

    The little note is a good window into the personality of Emma as being a practical person, religious, and also caring as to the welfare of her friends and those who furnished services for her comfort.  Lizzie also concerned herself with the well-being and comfort of servants and staff.  The small, neat handwriting is refined and ladylike. By 1897 leg o’ mutton sleeves had grown very big as fashion dictated before disappearing altogether by the turn of the century.

    “I received your message last evening and think you are very kind to remember me.  I hope to be in the country some this summer so think one dress will be all I need. India or China silk are useful as any thin dress and if you will bring a pattern of something with dark ground,something suitable for church wear and for calling. I will go to see you the middle of the week-I suppose you will be home by that time.

    I hope this wind will go down before night that you may have a pleasant and safe passage to New York.

    Truly yours, Emma L. Borden “

  • Happy 160th Emma Borden!

    March 1, 1851 marks the date of Lizzie’s sister’s entry into the Borden family.  Lizzie’s birthday anniversary usually gets all the attention in July.

    March 1 was also the date Uncle John V. Morse exited this world, taking whatever he may have known or suspected about the Borden mystery with him.

  • A Letter from Lizzie Borden


    One of the most-viewed features of Warps and Wefts this year has been the newspaper clippings from all over the country detailing the most minute bits of information about the Borden case and personalities involved.  Of course newspapers do make mistakes, and when information is lacking, some unscrupulous reporters were not above inventing details to fill in the gaps.  With a little careful sifting, there are some golden nuggets to be found. Thanks to Ancestry.com and Newspaper Archives.com, all of this is available to the public.  Here is a very interesting paragraph which was buried in the Davenport (Iowa) Tribune, August 25, 1892.

    It’s unfortunate the Borden family threw notes and letters away so readily.  The famous note sent to Abby Borden asking her to come visit a sick friend went missing, even though a reward of $500 dollars was offered for information about  the sick friend’s name, who wrote the note, and who delivered it. It was suggested by Lizzie that it may have been burned up (in the kitchen woodstove as that was the only fire in August).

    Emma Borden was visiting the Brownells on Green Street in Fairhaven during the week of the murder, which must be where the letter mentioned in the article above was sent.  On the morning of the murders, Lizzie gave her father a letter to mail to Emma in Fairhaven.  The letter mentioned above must have been written before the letter written and given to Andrew Borden to mail on August 4th.   How unfortunate Emma did not keep the letter which mentions Lizzie’s “suspicious man”, which would have added credence to her tale to the police about such a character later. Or, did Lizzie make up the “suspicious” man loitering around the property as a convenient suspect to draw attention away from herself later?  To whom did Emma show that letter- most likely Mrs. Brownell and her daughter Helen. Lizzie mentioned the suspicious man idea to her friend Alice Russell the night before the murders.  Was Lizzie telling the truth- or cleverly covering all of her bases? Did Emma’s friends who saw the letter ever get to relay that information to the police?

  • Emma and her furs

      Lizzie’s furs, her sealskin “sacques”. reputed to have required Prussic acid with which to remove moths in that testimony by pharmacist Eli Bence were a luxury garment.  The furs were rumored to have been a 30th birthday gift for Lizzie prior to her trip to Europe on the Grand Tour with lady friends.  Furs as a rule are put in cold storage in the Spring and removed later for winter wear.  Apparently Emma Borden knew how to take care of her fur coats as this Portsmouth Herald newspaper reported on August 5, 1943, long after Emma’s death.  Nice to know Emma had a few luxuries.

    The text of the article:

    ” Miss Emma’s identity was kept secret by Miss Anne Connors with whom she lived in Newmarket and townspeople had no idea of the connection with the reknown Borden family until her death when she was buried beside her sister, mother, and her murdered father and stepmother.  A quiet, elderly woman who was always dressed in rich mourning,  she never visited neighbors and made two trips to Boston, one to put her fur coat in storage at the beginning of summer, and the other to take it out in the fall. 

    Miss Lizzie, on the other hand, lived in her new and modern home, attempted to resume her ardent church activities and made frequent trips to Boston where harrassed hotel managers tried to keep her presence a secret from other patrons and newspapermen.”

  • Emma has a spree 1906

       It’s good to know that at least on one occasion Emma Borden spent a little of her inheritance on herself.  Emma’s name is eighth from the bottom of this document (Ancestry.com). She took the White Star line steamer R.M.S. Cymric (shown above) from Boston to Liverpool with a stopover in Queenstown, Ireland (also called Cobh).  She went First Class and apparently without a chaperone.  Scotland was her intended vacation destination, but she would surely have seen plenty of England on the way and at least a good glimpse of the Irish coast in Queenstown on the way to Liverpool.

    She arrived in June and does not return home via the Cymric until October so it was a visit to rival Lizzie’s 1890 Grand Tour. Maybe those “goings on” at Maplecroft which forced Emma to leave had something to do with this long vacation abroad. Passenger list above.  Click on image for larger view.

  • The Brownell House Today


    Just a little over a year between the two photos above reveal big changes at the Fairhaven Green Street house where Emma Borden stayed with the Brownells the days before the murders in Fall River.  A sort of patio fenced in with white railings is now in place where the former kitchen addition came off the back of the house.  Gone are the creeping briars and trumpet vine, sagging back porch and decaying front stairs.  The siding is a bit of a disappointment for purists who love Victorian houses, but the structure has managed to come into the decade keeping some of its early charm for future generations to inherit.

  • Brownell House Happenings


    A visit on April 24th revealed a great change to the house on Green Street where Lizzie Borden’s sister Emma was staying at the time of the murders.  The house is undergoing extensive renovations. The back kitchen annex is demolished, the heavy vegetation is removed, and the house has received siding recently. The interiors have been gutted and rewired with the walls stripped back to the studs.  The graceful staircase to the second floor just inside the front door will remain, as well as the handsome wide-planked floors and the original wide granite base slab for the front exterior stairs.  The lightening fixture shown in the entry foyer was of course added on some time after the original construction. The owner of the property who is ordering the renovation plans to move in soon.  Neighbors out on the street seem happy something is finally being done to clean up the old property.

  • Emma Borden’s jaunt to Scotland

    Lizzie Borden: Past and Present by Leonard Rebello mentions one trip Emma Borden made in 1906 to the United Kingdom- Scotland in particular.  It is believed Andrew Borden’s family originally had roots in that country, and is sometimes a speculation as to why Lizzie had Scottish thistles on her Maplecroft library mantel.  Recently Ancestry.com made passenger manifests available and Emma does show up aboard the White Star liner, RMS Cymric, departing from Boston- a ship which was torpedoed and sunk in 1916.  Emma is listed under “American” passengers. The voyage is June 2, 1906 and Emma would have stopped in Queenstown before Liverpool.


    Cymric Passenger manifest in photo above.  Emma disembarks at Liverpool.

  • Good news for Green St.

    A recent visit to the Brownell house on Green Street, the address of Emma Borden’s alibi on the day of the murders, revealed good things happening for the old place. 

    The sagging front steps have been removed, the jungle growth of trumpet vine has been cut back, and a large dumpster in the side yard is filled with debris. Structurally, the house has been pronounced in good shape, with some minor roof leaks and a side porch which needs shoring up.  Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead soon for the historic property!