Lizzie Borden

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Lizzie Borden - Lizzie Borden Sensational trial leads to famous...
Lizzie Borden Sensational trial leads to famous spinster's acquittal EDITOR'S NOTE —It was 100 years ago that the spinster Lizzie Borden was accused of the hatchet murders of her rich father and stepmother, a sensational crime that inspired some 30 books, not to mention plays, movies and a ballet. Since Lizzie was acquitted and the murders remain unsolved, mystery buffs remain fascinated by the case. They are invited back to the scene of the crime for a weeklong observance in August. By ANNE STUART Associated Press Writer FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Lizzie Borden of Fall River rose early on the morning of Aug. 4, 1892, one of the hottest days on record, nearly 100 decrees, in that old mill town by the sea. "Before noon, the 32-year-old spinster ate three pears, ironed some handkerchiefs, flipped through a magazine and then — depending on whom you believe — either did or didn't take a hatchet to her father and stepmother in one of history's most publicized murders. At the time, the case riveted the world. Since then, generations more have learned about Lizzie Borden through a grim skipping-rope rhyme: "Lizzie Borden took an ax. "And gave her mother 40 whacks. "When she saw what she had done, "She gave her father 41." Despite what this ubiquitous doggerel says, Lizzie was acquitted after a sensational trial, and no one else was ever charged. But a century later, as Borden buffs plan a centennial conference on the case, Lizzie lore abounds. And not just in Fall River. "There are people all . .over the- .world, who ,are just .fascinated w,ith,thisr- crime,"'says' Michael Martins,, director of .the..Hall;: .RiverHistorical Society. ' • 'Every, year; up-to 9,000 tourists'Visit the society's Lizzie Borden exhibit to gape at gory police photographs, a bloodstained pillowcase and a broken hatchet. Orders for the society's sepia-loned centennial sweat shirts are rolling in from as far away as Alaska, Puerto Rico and Japan. Recently, a forensic expert scanned the Bordens' graves with radar, hoping high technology would provide new clues to unlocking the mystery. A weeklong observance marking the 100th anniversary of the crime that put the textile city on the map will include three days of academic presentations, a partial re-enactment of Lizzie's trial in New Bedford Superior Court, bus tours-to key settings in the saga, and, of course, souvenir sales. And although the double homicide has already inspired more than 30 books, several more are under way, undoubtedly raising new theories about what really happened at 92 Second Street on that sweltering Thursday morning. What is known is that four people were in the house at 9 a.m. By 11 a.m., two were dead. The principal players: Q Andrew Jackson Borden, 70, a self-made businessman who, despite assets of about $500,000. lived in a cramped shoebox of a home in an unfashionable neighborhood. Borden was in the furniture business. He also was an active invester in several textile mills and a board member of several local banks. Q Abby Durfee Borden, 64, his second wife, whose relations with her two stepdaughters were strained. Q Lizzie Borden, Andrew's daughter by his first wife, Sarah, who died when Lizzie was about 5. Moon-faced, with red hair and gray eyes, Lizzie was active in the Congregational Church. Q Bridget Sullivan, about 26, an Irish immigrant and the family's live-in maid for three years. Q Lizzie's sister. Emma, 41, who also lived there, was visiting friends 15 miles away. Q Lizzie's uncle, John Vinnicum Morse, 69, of nearby South Dartmouth, had stayed overnight, but left after breakfast. Later, Lizzie and Bridget would both testify that they spent much of the morning outside the house. Lizzie, Won't You Be My Neighbor — Not The former Borden homestead— where the renowned double homicide took place — is privately owned by a printing company next door. The owners don't give tours. FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Both of Lizzie Border's homes still stand in this mill town by the sea, but the neighborhoods around them little resemble the Fall River of 1892. The murder scene was the boxy, narrow home at 92 Second Street, where Andrew and Abby Borden lived with his two daughters, Lizzie and Emma, and a maid, Bridget Sullivan. In 1892, Second Street was a plain, pleasant, middle-class residential neighborhood. Today, Second Street is part of downtown Fall River. The former Borden homestead is privately owned by a printing company next door. The owners don't give tours. Several small businesses and a modern brick apartment „ compjex ngw,||l ^spaces X6*ncex>ccupie$by thelBordens' • next-door neighbors: Across ^Ih^sfreet afe-tfefall River bus station and the Pearl Garden Chinese restaurant. Down the street is a high- rise parking garage and, just around the bend, a Victorian- style restaurant named, of course, "Lizzie's." It's a mile or so to 306 French Street, the 14-room home Lizzie and Emma bought with their inheritance after Lizzie was acquitted of murdering their father and stepmother. The house, a rambling Victorian, sits high on Heritage Hill, the snazziest neighborhood of its day and stiil filled with mansions built by wealthy textile mill owners. Lizzie had the house's name, ''Maplecroft," chiseled into the front steps, an ostentatious Victorian.breach of etiquette that makes the home easier to spot from the street today. Unlike Lizzie's early neighborhood, French Street retains its turn-of-the-century architecture, although many houses have been split into apartments or small businesses. Maplecroft is an exception to the trend. The home is owned by an insurance adjuster, who maintains his business on the first floor and lives upstairs. Again, the owners turn down requests for tours. Fall River, about 50 miles south of Boston, was founded in 1659 by-Pilgrims who migrated from Plymouth, about 30 miles away.' It derives its name from the Quequechan River— "quequechan" is the Pocasset Indian word for "falling water" — which cuts through the city and spills into Mount Hope Bay. During the 19th century, the waterway powered the mills that made Fall River the world's textile capital. The city was at the height of its prosperity during Lizzie Borden's lifetime, when the mills attracted workers from all over the world, pushing the city's population to 120,000 people. At one point, 30,000 men, women and children worked in 101 mills for as little as 25 cents a day. The decline began before the Great Depression, In 1928, the year after Lizzie Borden died, an enormous fire devastated much of the mill district Later, most of the mills were shut down, and the city's population gradually dwindled to its current 92,000. For decades, Fail River residents tried to disown the ghosts of the city's most famous family. "If you considered yourself in any way a good, decent, respectable person, you didn't discuss it," says Michael Martins, curator of the Fall River Historical Society. But Fall River appears to have made peace with the Bordens,'-in much the same , way that another famous Massachusetts city, Salem, has acknowledged — and begun to trade on — an embarrassing chapter in its history, the witchcraft trials of 1692. Lizzie in the barn and Bridget following Abby's instructions to wash the outside windows. Between 9 and 9:30 a.m.. according to medical estimates, somebody smashed in Abby's skull as she made up a bed in a second-floor guest room. Neither Lizzie nor Bridget heard a struggle or a cry, according to the testimony. Nor did they hear Abby, who weighed more than 200 pounds, hit the floor. She would lie undiscovered for two hours. Andrew.Borden, who had left for work after breakfast, arrived home unexpectedly between 10:30 and 10:35 a.m. Bridget unbolted the triple- locked door to admit him. Within 30 minutes, he, too, was dead, his head hacked to pieces as he napped in a first-floor sitting room. Again, no one claimed to have heard a thing. Lizzie found Andrew's bloody body shortly after 11 a.m. as she returned from the barn, where, she said, she had snacked on some pears and looked for weights for a fishing line. She shouted to Bridget, and both ran next door for help. They returned a few minutes later with neighbors and Dr. Seabury Bowen, the family physician, whose office was across the street. As they clustered around Andrew's body, waiting for the police, someone asked about Abby. Earlier, Lizzie had told Bridget that Abby had gone out visiting after receiving a note from a sick friend. But now, Lizzie said, she was certain she'd heard her stepmother return. She told the maid to look for Abby upstairs. Bridget and a neighbor climbed the stairs. They started to enter the guest room, then stopped. "Is there another?" someone called up. "There's another," the neighbor replied. Over the next week, during an intensive police investigation, the case captivated an international audience under headlines such as "Double Horror on Second Street," "Tragic Affair" and "Murder Most Foul." Lizzie was a suspect from the start. With no nesses, the evidence against her was circumstantial; and those first on the'scene saw no blood on skin or clothes. • But Lizzie was unable to produce the note Abby supposedly received before going visiting. The was never found — by some accounts, Lizzie she had burned it — and the friend never identified, despite newspaper ads asking the sender or messenger to step forward. During an inquest, Lizzie made vague and contradictory statements. And then there was the dress. Three days the murder, Lizzie burned a garment in the kitchen.; stove. She did so in front of Emma and a Alice Russell, saying that — despite the oppressive' heat— she wanted to get rid of an old frock stained: by paint. The odd timing raised questions amona Lizzie's supporters. "I am afraid, Lizzie, worst"thins you could have done was burn dress," Alice Russell would later testify that told her friend, • Investigators also learned the Borden household; wasn't a happy one. Several years earlier, upset; because Andrew had deeded properly worth $1,500; to his wife, Lizzie stopped addressing Abby "Mother" and began calling her "Mrs. Borden." daughters dined apart from their parents. And family members, who already triple-locked house's outside doors, began locking their rooms, bureaus and closets against each other. A week after the murders, Lizzie was arrested. She remained in jail until her trial the following June. Lizzie Borden Took An Ax...Or Did She? FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Crime reporter Edwin Porter won the race to publish the first book on the Lizzie Borden case. His "Fall River Tragedy" appeared in 1893, just months after Lizzie was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother. Porter laid out a case for Lizzie's guilt, rattling the 32-year-old spinster so much that she bought up all the copies and burned them. But a dozen or so survived, and the book was republished in 1985. In the 99 years since Porter's account, the unsolved mystery has inspired at least 30 other books, short stories, plays, poems, songs, films, movies, an Alfred Hitchcock episode, an opera, a ballet, and countless newspaper, magazine and legal articles. Mystery fans can expect to see more Lizzie lore before August, when the city marks the 100th anniversary of the double homicide with a conference, performances and exhibits. Here is a sampling of existing works on the case: Books— "Trial of Lizzie Borden," by Edmund L. Pearson. This 1937 book, dedicated to prosecutor Hosea Knowlton, blames Lizzie. "Lizzie Borden: The Untold Story," by Edward Radin, 1961, shows how Lizzie or the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, could have committed the crime. "A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight," by Victoria Lincoln, 1967, claims Lizzie had an epileptic-like disorder that triggered the tragedy. "Lizzie Borden: A Dance of Death," 1968, by choreographer Agnes de Mille. "Goodbye Lizzie Borden," by Robert Sullivan, 1974. Sullivan, a state Supreme Court justice, argued that if the trial judge had allowed inadmissible evidence, Lizzie would have been hanged. "Lizzie Borden: A Case Book of Family and Crime in the 1890s," by Joyce G. Williams, J. Eric Smithbum and M. Jeanne Peterson, 1979. Without naming a suspect, the book analyzes the social environment and reproduces newspaper reports, transcripts and even Lizzie's will. "Lizzie," by Evan Hunter, 1984. This novel suggests that Lizzie killed her parents after being caught embracing the maid. "Lizzie," by Frank Spiering, 1984, argues that Lizzie's sister, Emma, committed the murders. "Lizzie Borden: The Legend, the Truth, the Untold Chapter," Arnold R. Brown, 1991. Brown, Fall River native, blames the murders on Andrew Borden's illegitimate son, William. Performances "Fall River Legend: A Ballet," 1948, choreographed by Agnes de Mille, presented at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. "A Family Portrait in Three. Acts," 1965, an opera by Beeson. "Fall River Legend," a 1974 television docudrama starring Elizabeth'. Montgomery. "Blood Relations," 1981, Sharon Pollock. "Slaughter on Second Street," new play by David Kent, to be duced in Fall River during the tennial conference.

Clipped from
  1. Logansport Pharos-Tribune,
  2. 29 Mar 1992, Sun,
  3. Page 18

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