Category Archives: Descendents & Relations

Genealogy, reports from descendants.

The Gardners of Swansea – Emma Borden’s Surrogate Family

(Recycled from 2010)

Long  before Emma Borden abandoned her sister, Lizzie, in late May of 1905, she had very close ties to many Gardners in Swansea, Ma.   But after she split from Lizzie, some of those Gardners  became a surrogate family to her.

The progenitors of those that Emma would embrace, socialize with, attend major family events, and help financially in trusts and her will, are those in the oval picture below (click it to enlarge).

The births, marriages and deaths of these people were recorded in William  Gardner’s family bible:

Why were these people and their children, and even some of their children’s children important to Emma?  Well, the  genealogical link was addressed in this blog post.

If you’re interested, study the names and who married who….there’s more to come about events she attended.

The direct line of Henry Augustus Gardner is the most important – and closest – to Emma.   Much of the information I have obtained was from his estate records and from direct descendants.

As for Lizzie, well she was pretty much written off by these Gardners around early 1897 due to two hugely embarrassing incidents to this quiet, salt of the earth, family entrenched group.

Lizzie had her servants, dogs and a few loyal friends.

But Emma had family.


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Emma Borden’s Death & Wake at Riverby

(Repost from March, 2013)

Emma Borden died in the early morning hours 9 days after her sister, Lizzie.  Members of her surrogate family saw to her funeral/burial wishes.  Her wake was held at Henry and Caroline Gardner’s home. Unlike Lizzie, family and friends gathered to pay their respects and the details of how things were handled was published in these papers.  (Click for larger views).

Seated left is Henry Augustus Gardner and his son Orrin to the right.  In the back is Hamilton Gardner (raised by Orrin since he was about 10 years old) and his best friend “Buck”.  These 3 Gardners, and many more, were at her Wake.

Where we read that Emma had made her wishes known to “Mrs. Gardner”, that would be Caroline Cole Mason Gardner who died in 1918, just seven years after celebrating her 50th Wedding Anniversary with Henry, an event which Emma attended.  (Henry would go on to live until 1931).  It was Caroline’s sister, Susan Francis Mason who had married Sarah Morse Borden’s brother, William Bradford Morse (they moved to Minnesota and lived all their lives there).  That marriage began the bloodline connection to Lizzie between the Morses and the Gardners and the Bordens (still with me here?).

In the article below it states Emma’s wishes were to be buried by her father and stepmother.  She is, in fact, buried right along side her sister which can  be seen in the image of the family plot at the end of this post.   It’s somewhat curious that Emma did not specify “beside my mother”.  Emma had been informed of Lizzie’s death by Orrin Gardner but due to her weakened condition did not attend her burial.  Unless the sisters spoke of the exact placements of their own future graves prior to Emma’s 1905 departure from Lizzie, Emma would not know of this layout.   (Note:  Lizzie, in her funeral instructions, requested to be buried at her father’s feet).

In this next article we note that Jerome C. Borden and his family attended the wake.  Jerome, of course, was the son of Cook Borden who was Andrew’s uncle.  Andrew’s father, Abraham, and Cook were brothers.  Jerome, Andrew’s nephew, had several daughters several years younger than the previously departed Lizbeth of Maplecroft.  Two of those daughters were close cousins withGrace Hartley Howe, Jerome’s sister’s daughter and thereby his niece.  (No mention if Grace was present at the wake though I doubt it as her husband,Louis McHenry Howe was absorbed in pursuits to get Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected President).  (I wonder if Jerome thought maybe Emma might have left him some money or property since Lizzie left plenty to his niece Grace as shown in her will which had been printed in the papers just that week).   But she didn’t leave anything to Jerome who had been a staunch supporter of Lizzie during the Trial.  She left plenty for the Gardners, though whereas Lizzie left them nothing.

The State of New Hampshire’s Record of Death for the year ended December 31, 1927, has a July 1, 1927 entry recording her death on June 10, 1927 and internment on June 13th at Oak Grove Cemetery.  The cause of death is “chronic nephritis” and “duration 2 years”.  Indicated as the cause is “senility” and “unknown duration”.  No mention of any fall.  Note that under “Occupation” is written “Retired”.   Indeed.

George H. Towle was the physician who pronounced her dead and reported the death.

Then in 1992, comes this record of death from the State of Massachussetts showing the causing of death as both Chronic Nephritis and senility with no indication of the duration of either.

Below:  Riverby (pronounced River”bye”) as it looked in the late 1920’s.

Then:                                                                                  Now:

This property was originally in Caroline’s family but she and Henry lived there most of their lives operating it as a successful farm.  It passed on to Orrin then to Hamilton Gardner and was sold and subdivided in the 1950’s.  Few of the extra out-buildings remain.  The current owner of Riverby has partitioned off several rooms, making them into apartments although the neighborhood is not zoned for that.  An artist lives on the first floor, a couple on the second and a musician on the 3rd floor attic rooms.

Lizzie is foot-to-foot with her father; Emma is foot to foot with her mother, Sarah.  Abby is next to Andrew on the outside.  The overall layout has a certain symmetry that seems almost poetic.


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What Happened to Emma’s Stuff?

Recycled from 2011


Emma Borden, Lizzie’s sister, left most of her personal property to Orrin Gardner.  He, in turn, gave much to his nephew, Hamilton, son of Orrin’s brother.  Before we go further, please note I’ve written about the Gardners of Swansea many times and you should review these posts HERE and HERE.

Young Orrin Gardner

Young Hamilton Gardner, son of William Gardner

The following images of letters and notes gives us a glimpse of what happened.  Indeed, the recently discovered portraits of a young Andrew and young Sarah were donated to the Swansea Historical Society by Hamilton Gardner.   (You’ll remember those portraits, possibly done at the time they were married – a true love match.)


You have to wonder if these portraits hung at Maplecroft and if Emma took them when she left Lizzie in 1905.  Anyway….as to her other stuff, read these:

So we can begin to understand how so much of it got scattered when Bailey most likely sold them in his store.

I sure would like to see that photo of Emma “with a girlfriend at church bazaar”  Maybe it’ll be in Parallel Lives).

(Scanned documents from the Swansea Historical Society)


Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Descendents & Relations, Swansea


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Providence Journal on 120 Years Since Lizzie Borden Acquittal

It”s been 120 years since Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother, so it’s no surprise the media would exploit this case once again.

The Providence Journal  is doing an extensive article running six consecutive days.  This little piece is a “teaser” for the 1st installment this Sunday, June 23.

shelley3Shelley Dziedzic poses on floor between bed and dresser where Abby Borden was found with 19 blows to the head on August 4, 1892.

Until last summer, Shelley Dziedzic, whom I’ve known for many, many years was a tour guide at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum.  She is the one who used to produce those annual August 4th re-enactments at  the B&B.   Shelley has added “historian” to her credentials, and aptly so, as she is extremely well informed on the case.  Her favorite smells are the hatchet cookies made at the B&B and, of course, the ever predictable rose.

The Lifetime Movie Channel’s Lizzie Borden is sure to exploit the slash and slice aspect of the case.  I’m fairly certain the Providence Journal will not, but we will see.

Meanwhile, check out my Facebook page:    CLICK HERE


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Anna & Laura Tirocchi – Dressmakers to the Elite

(Recycled post)

The Prentice Mansion at 514 Broadway, Providence, site of the shop operated by sisters Anna and Laura Tirocchi from 1915 to 1947.

Anna Tirocchi

Anna & Laura Tirocchi were a famed and successful dressmaking sister team I  happened to come across because of my interest in a British t.v. series called The House of Elliot (apparently, partly based on the Tirocchis).

What a complete surprise it was to find her business was patronized by some  Braytons,  Mrs. Dwight Waring (daughter of  Lizzie’s defense attorney, Andrew Jennings) of Fall River.  And from Providence, we have Preston Gardner’s wife Mary, and daughter, Maude, all of whom received considerable money and jewelry from Emma’s Will.

Another notable from Providence is Mrs. William G. Thurber, whose husband was Vice President of  Tilden-Thurber, the store where Lizzie shoplifted two paintings on porcelain only 4 years after her acquittal.  An incident in which Preston Gardner came to the rescue and an action for which Emma Borden was eternally grateful.

Anyway, back to the Tirocchi sisters. They operated a shop in Providence from 1911 to the mid 1930’s.  The stock market crash was the beginning of   it’s demise.  Anna said that 1927 was their “best year ever.”

If you’ve already read the basic background linked above, consider their elite client list that reads like a Who’s Who of  Fall River’s and Providence’s upper crust.

When you click on Client list you can then click on a woman’s name.  You then find out who her husband was.  Then you can click on “Transactions” for what she purchased (keep in mind that a dress costing $200 had the equivalent purchasing power of nearly $2,400 in today’s money), and “Correspondence” for letters she wrote and/or received.

Tirocchi’s  clientele is addressed   HERE. (then click “The Clients”)

One notable is Jessie Brayton – John Summerfield Brayton, Sr.

It was Jessie’s husband who was the recipient of  the well known letter written on August 31, 1900 by Lizzie Borden about his  noisy bird that crowed so loudly and made her nervous.  My, my.  Talk about dress threads that bind!

Her grandson was extremely accomplished, and it was his father, John Summerfield Brayton III, who was the discoverer  of  that above mentioned letter.

Not only did Anna keep precise records of sales and who these women were married to but she had all their measurements – not surprising for a dressmaker but enlightening to Borden researchers. Here’s the one for Mrs. Elizabeth Brayton.

This entire website is a marvel to explore and a person can spend a good two hours finding out who these women were.  I was getting visions of that film “The Women” directed by George Cukor – the early scenes of the ladies in the dressing rooms ….  but I digress.

Anna Tirocchi in the Butler Exchange workroom, making the final adjustments to a dress; ca. 1914.

The contents of the Tirocchi dress shop at 514 Broadway was offered to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum by sister Laura’s son, Dr. Louis Cella, Jr.   No wonder the staff, inventorying for over year,  was thrilled with what they found!!  Indeed, so was I.

And a big THANK YOU,  DR. CELLA!!!

P.S.  If Lizzie had an account there, she certainly didn’t  use her real name.


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Another “This belonged to Lizzie Borden” eBay Offering

“Antique Upholstered Lincoln rocking chair – chair From Lizzie Borden estate!”
More outrageous claims on eBay regarding stuff that belonged to Lizzie Borden. This “Abbie” Potter WAS a niece of Abby Borden, but Lizzie didn’t leave her ANYTHING in her Will, let alone this chair.
Here is the full item description on eBay:
“Available for you is this antique Lincoln rocking chair with an interesting history.I inherited this rocking chair from my mother several years ago. My mother inherited the rocker from Mrs. Abbie B. Potter from Providence in the 1960s. Abbie Potter was Lizzie Borden’s niece. After Ms. Borden’s death her house hold furnishings were disbursed to her family. Abbie inherited the chair herself Lizzie Borden estate. My mother came to know Abbie during World War II where she rented a room from her while my father was in the service. They became lifelong friends. When I was a child I went to Abbie’s house with my mother and I happened to see pictures that Abbie was showing my mother discreetly. I saw pictures of a skull with large holes in it. They scooted me away but I always remembered that afternoon.I cannot prove with documentation that this chair was actually from Lizzie Borden’s home but the preponderance of evidence has convinced me. I always thought of contacting the History Detective TV show but never had the time. In any event there is a terrific story about the chair, it is not haunted! The chair itself needs to be reupholstered and restored to bring it back to its prime shape it is now somewhat fragile. Usable and will display nicely. Available now Halloween is coming.”

From my blog under the category of Urban Legends, is this post about Abby Whitehead Potter with a newspaper photo of her.

This is the woman that the eBay seller asserts inherited that rocking chair from Lizzie Borden. Not likely.

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New Photos of Bridget Sullivan – Lizzie Borden’s housemaid

UPDATE:  According to today’s (4/9/12) follow up article written by Debbie Alard, the donator of the two Bridget Sullivan photos was her “grand niece by marriage”.  I learned this yesterday from Donald Woods, co-owner of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast.  Well, of course by marriage…but the sad news is it is NOT one of the daughters of the 3 nieces named in Bridget’s Will.  Turns out to be a Dianna Porter and from her statements in the article she doesn’t know anymore about Bridget’s post Trial life than we do.  Oh well, so much for the pricking of our happy balloon, let alone the hot air ascendancy of Stefani Koorey’s blog post claim.  lol   Here’s the FRHN article:  CLICK HERE.  (Also, check out my Facebook page for more info.)

Until now, this was the only known photo of Bridget Sullivan:

Now, we have these two:


Just as we were all excited about looking at never before seen photos of Lizzie Borden in her 60’s, now we see Bridget Sullivan in her 70’s.  Check them out:

This is especially cool since we only have the one known photo of Bridget taken back circa 1892.  The niece who donated the pics was the major recipient in Bridget’s Will.  Bridget was blind when she died.  Whatever she knew, she took it with her.

When the niece visits, Lee-ann will have an excellent opportunity to learn first hand what, if anything, she had to say about Lizzie and the case in general.  I don’t believe the niece has ever been interviewed.

Note:  The above certificate, first page to her Will, states she was 69 at the time of writing her Will.  I have images of her complete Will if anyone wants to see it.  :

Here is Bridget’s Will in toto.  Note she cites 3 nieces as legatees:  Margaret McLeod, Mary Sullivan, and Kate Moriarity – all of Butte, Montana and all through the bloodline of her husband’s relatives.  Also note Julia O’Donnell from Anaconda, Montana as the major legatee who inherited all of Bridget’s personal effects.  So this grand-niece must be the daughter of Margaret, Mary or Kate and if she got the photographs from her mother, then Julia didn’t grab fast enough – but then again, she was an out-of-towner.  ;)

(Click on images for larger view – use your little magnifying glass feature.)


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Emma Borden Not Such a Recluse

The following Recycled post will be of added new interest to those who purchased Parallel Lives.  Indeed, as we’ve learned from that book, Emma was no recluse.  Beginning on page 748, I believe, the writers go into depth of the Gardners from the Henry Augusta Gardner line.  Enjoy.


One of the urban legends in the Borden case is that Emma Borden became a recluse, rarely went out, and had no family after departing from her infamous sister, Lizzie.  Not true – at least not until the final few years of her life, when she was infirm and senile.

I’ve written before of the Gardners of Swansea who became a sort of surrogate family to Emma Borden when she departed forever from her sister, Lizzie in 1905.

On December 11, 1914, Henry Augustus Gardner (the patriarch of the family) and his wife, Caroline Cole Mason Gardner, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their home “Riverby” in Touisset.  They had put together this little commemorative booklet (from my collection) for each of their guests which included Emma Borden as she attended and received such a booklet.

(Click on all images below for larger views)


Emma attended this event and her signature can be seen 4th down on the left side.  Little Hamilton Gardner, son of William, left his “mark” on the bottom of the right side.  At the top you see Doris Gardner’s name and her mark.  Having parallel lives, she and Hamilton ended up husband and wife.  More on her later.

William Wilson Gardner and son, Hamilton

(and was he a little cutie or what?)

When Hamilton’s father died, he was raised by his uncle, Orrin Gardner.  Emma was particularly fond of and close to Orrin.  And from evidence of her including him in an income trust and mentions elsewhere, she was also fond of Hamilton, who was a teenager when Emma died.

Emma, in fact, attended birthday parties, clam boils, weddings, funerals, and holidays with many of the people and their children shown in the oval picture below.  If you study the names and compare it to the guest signatures above, you’ll note most of them attended this event, as well as many of their offspring.

Father William Gardner (standing), Grandfather Henry Augustus Gardner, and Grandson Hamilton Gardner

“Riverby” about 1914

Here is a full account of the event as reported in the newspaper.

The quote of Henry Augustus speaking of how the area was when he first moved there to the “present” (i.e. 1914) is particularly interesting.

As stated above, this was not the only Gardner family event Emma attended.  My collection includes other documentation of Emma’s surrogate family and travels.  She spent a lot of time with Preston Gardner’s wife, Mary and their daughter, Maude, all of whom she favored in income trusts and her will.


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Did She or Didn’t She? Emma Borden and the Boston Sunday Post Interview

Click on image for larger view

Emma Lenora Borden, sister to our gal Lizzie, has long been cited as the subject of an interview in the Boston Sunday Post of April 13, 1913.  The by-lined reporter, one Edwin Joseph McGuire, however, has never been confirmed as a reporter, let alone the validity of the interview itself.  The interview came just one week after an extensive article by Gertrude Stevenson of the Boston Sunday Herald who wrote of what life was like for Lizzie twenty years after the crimes.  It has been speculated *that* article encouraged Emma to come forward from her self-imposed exile and speak for the very first time, ever, publicly – and “Lucky” McGuire got the gig.

Reference to this astonishing interview with Emma was, however, flatly denied by her through the “Buck family”.   The Buck family (once headed by that revered Reverend Edwin Augustus Buck who had died a decade before on March 9, 1903) was apparently now led by his spinster daughters, including Alice Buck, who was the closest to Emma.

Click on image for larger view and to read inserted article.

We don’t know for certain if it was Alice Buck who was the member of the Buck family who said the McGuire article was “not authentic”, though it very well could have been.  But the point is this:  McGuire’s article is mentioned in so many books of the “first generation” authors and so little is mention, even with contemporary authors on the case, as to the subsequent denial of its authenticity.

Why in the world would Emma agree to such an interview after more than 2 decades of silence?   Were there events before or close in time to the interview that influenced or motivated her?  Let’s check.  Let’s go back to a little more than one year previous:

March 1, 1912 John Vinnicum Morse dies in Hastings, Iowa at the age of 79.
April 15, 1912 White Star liner Titanic sinks on her maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg; 1,500 die.
June 10, 1912 Grisly axe murders of 2 adults and 6 children, all while they sleep, in Villisca, Iowa.
July 19, 1912 A meteorite with a mass of 19,000 kg landed in the town of Holbrook, Navajo County, Arizona.
July 29, 1912 Lizzie writes letter to Stomell & Co. requesting “B” be engraved on her suitcase “toilet items”.
December 30, 1912 Rufus B. Hilliard (FR Chief of Police) dies.
1913 Woodrow Wilson is President of the United States.
1913 Ford develops first moving assembly line.
1913 Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union to work toward the passage of a federal amendment to give women the vote. The group is later renamed the National Women’s Party.
March 10, 1913 Harriet Tubman dies of pneumonia in Auburn New York.
1913 Louis McHenry Howe becomes Chief of Staff to FDR who is appointed Asst. Secretary to the Navy.
April 6, 1913 Boston Sunday Herald special edition: “Lizzie Borden 20 Years After the Tragedy” by Gertrude Stevenson.
April 13, 1913 Boston Sunday Post publishes interview with Emma Borden by reporter Edwin Joseph McGuire.   (Was this a hoax?

The little article above about McGuire’s article not being “authentic” was included in a packet of material on the case from Orrin Augustus Gardner.  Contents of the packet can be found in the Swansea Historical Society’s research nook at the Swansea Library.  Orrin Gardner was a close to Emma all her life and was a major legatee in her Will.

This image shows Orrin Gardner far left, wearing hat, on outing with school boys and was taken about the time he donated that package.


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Yearbooks & Obituaries – Fall River Notables

Although Lizzie Borden never attended BMC Durfee High School (built when she was 27 years old), we can search through the yearbooks and find plenty of contemporaries and decendents of those who factored in her life.

The original structure of BMC Durfee High School was built as a donation from Mrs. Mary B. Young to the people of the City of Fall River, in memory of her son Bradford Matthew Chaloner Durfee, who had died at a young age in 1872.

Image by Marcfoto on Flicker

The Yearbooks of BMC Durfee H.S. can be found online through the Ambrose F. Keeley library.   I’ve been to this library (and online site) many times over the years and it’s resources are wonderful for studying the history of Fall River.

Ambrose F. Keeley Library at BMC Durfee

If, like me, you enjoy looking over very old yearbooks you will love looking at the ones for BMC Durfee.

The 1922 Yearbook had Victoria Endicott Lincoln Lowe as it’s editor. “Vicky” was the author of  A Private Disgrace, Lizzie Borden by Daylight. Her father was Jonathan Thayer Lincoln who wrote City of the Dinner Pail, and her grandfather was Leontine Lincoln, a very prominent member of the Fall River community.

Leontine Lincoln

The 1927 Yearbook was dedicated to teacher Gertrude Baker.  It was probably in the hands of the graduating students before they (and Gertrude) learned Lizzie Borden had died on June 1, 1927.  A founding member of the fall River Animal Rescue League, Gertrude received $1,000 in Lizzie’s Will.

A listing of the yearbooks can be found HERE. But the most interesting one is this one 1914 Durfee Record.

Several pages have newspaper clippings of the obituaries of these graduates.  From those we learn who their parents were, what they pursued as a career, where they may have moved to, how they died and where they are buried.  Obits are always facinating and a great research resource, but you don’t often find them inside a Yearbook.  Here, one moment you are reading a high school blurb written of those born in the Edwardian age and the next moment you’re reading of their death in the 1970’s and 80’s.

In this yearbook we find Dr. William Dolan’s daughter, Mary, and 3rd generation funeral director James Edward Sullivan, Delmar Alexander Milne, grandson of the publishing magnate, etc. etc.  And of course a Durfee was class President.

It’s a fun trip so enjoy!

Shout out to Roy Nickerson:  Check out page 40.


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Florence Borden and the Masquerade Party


When Lizzie Borden was in her teens and early 20’s she did attend parties with her contemporaries. She may have attended a party not unlike the one described in the handwritten letter below by Florence Borden, daughter of Spencer Borden. Flushed with the excitement of the evening’s events, the 15 year old Florence wrote “November 30, 1896″ at the top of the letter, but the postmark shows when it was mailed the next day, “December 1, 1895″.


Shortly after acquiring this letter for my collection, I took it with me on my next visit to Fall River and left a photocopy for Fall River Historical Society Curator Michael Martins to help me identify those named within the letter. He wrote a 9-page response and I include the first two pages here to save me time (and space) in providing background and identification particulars of a few mentioned:  (Click on all images for larger view)



Page1 Page2

Page3 Page4

Note:  Parker Hooper (born 1877) was the son of  William S. and Isabella Hooper who resided on French Street, three houses east from Lizzie.


Page6 Page7

Bertha Borden (born 1882) was the 15 year old daughter of Jerome Cook Borden & Emma Borden.  Jerome was Lizzie’s cousin who supported her during her Trial.

Page8 Page9


Page11 Page12

Young Florence is clearly thrilled with the costumes and those attending.  Her letter reflects an almost giddiness in her descriptions.  She lived in one of the two grandest homes in Fall River:  Interlachen


……and she spent that night with Marion Osborne at the other grand house:   the Carr-Osborne House


One generation behind Lizzie, these young ladies and gentlemen were the sons and daughters of Fall River’s elite society on “The Hill”.  And while they were only around 8-12 years old when the Borden murder case exploded upon the Fall River scene, they would know of Lizzie all their lives.   (Most would live long enough to have read Edmund Pearson, Edward Radin and even a fellow B.M.C. Durfee High School graduate, Victoria Lincoln.)

It would be less than two years after this party that Lizzie would be trumpeted again on the front pages:   the Tilden-Thurber shoplifting incident.   An oh, how these fine, cultured young people must have gossiped about that at other parties.

Note:  Florence doesn’t tell us if any of the ladies came dressed as Lizzie Borden with a hatchet sewed onto their skirt.  That would have been shockingly inappropriate.  Never would have happened.  But today?  Hell yes.


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Lizzie Borden Link to JFK and Harry Truman

And there she is, the link – well, sort of a link:   Grace Hartley Howe, cousin to Lizzie Borden, sitting behind John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman.   1st Row: Governor Paul Dever, JFK, Truman, Eddie Doolan; 2nd Row: Tom Kitchen, Mary Kane, Grace, City Councilor John Arruda, and David Talbot.  This photograph was taken in Fall River in 1952 during JFK’s campaign for the Senate and is on display in the dining room cabinet at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/Museum.  Grace died in 1955, three years after this photograph was taken.

Grace lived her last years at this cottage on Martha Street in Fall River.

It has a lovely view of the Taunton River, which would have been even more exposed in her time there.

When a boy, Fall River author Leonard Rebello (Lizzie Borden Past & Present) used to deliver papers to Grace here.  He never knew her connection to Lizzie Borden until he was doing research for his book.

Oak Grove Cemetery grave site of Cook and Mary Borden – Grace Borden Hartley Howe’s maternal grandparents.  (Right click for larger image)

Grace’s grandfather, Cook Borden, was a brother of Abraham Borden – Andrew Borden’s father.  Grace’s mother, Mary Borden Hartley, was named after Grace’s grandmother (Cook Borden’s wife).  Grace’s own daughter, Mary Hartley Baker, who died many years before Grace, was also named after *her* grandmother.  Mary’s son, (Grace’s grandson) Robert Baker, inherited family property in Westport and also much of Lizzie’s personal property – as did Grace’s own son, Hartley, which Grace had inherited from Lizzie.  When Hartley died in 1996, some of what *he* had was left to his wife, Rosella Hartley Howe.

Grace is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery with her husband, Louis McHenry Howe (d.1936)


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On the Lizzie Borden Case, Have You Ever Wondered…


Have you ever wondered why:

Winnie French was so adamant to testify on behalf of Grace Howe & Helen Leighton at the Probate Hearing against Charles Cook’s claim of ownership of the Henry House?

Orrin Gardner had so little tribute in ink when he died, although it was highly deserved?

What specifically Bailey Borden sold of Lizzie & Emma’s possession in his Fall River store acquired from Hamilton Gardner?

Why there was so little reporting of Lizzie writing a blank check to Ernest Terry as she lay dying on her last day of life?  (All those people at the bank knew.)

Why Charles Cook parked his car in Lizzie’s garage and then charged the heating to her estate?

Why Ernest Terry went to work for Charles Cook after Lizzie died?

Why Grace Howe, with a keen eye for antiques, left so much of it?

Why so many of Lizzie’s good books ended up with Marian Reilly?

Well, I hope to have answers to some of this to post later.

Back home and much to catch up with.


Note:   Some people wonder the same thing as stated in this comment I received from “Norman Pound”:

“Inquisitive thirst comes on strong as I wait for your book and/or screenplay! This theatrical passage is evidence that it is impossible to endure another year without the pleasure of your literary talent and aptitude for investigation collected in manuscript form. Us Lizzie lovers await, chatting numerously, “When Phaye? When?””

The answer is:  “I don’t do things in a hurry.”   ;)

There’s much to wonder about in the Lizzie Borden case, whether at its core or on the periphery.  Here’s just a few things:

Have you ever wondered if Lizzie knew Nance O’Neil had married Alfred Devereaux Hickman in 1916, becoming his second wife?   (A widower for only one year, his first wife died in 1915).

And, have you ever wondered if Lizzie went to any of those movies Nance O’Neil was in?  She certainly lived long enough to read, if not actually see, Nance’s transition from the theatre to the silent screen and then in speaking roles.

And – as to those movies – here’s an interesting tidbit:

John B. Colton (1889–1946),  was a New York dramatist whose plays include Nine Pine Street (1933), based on the Borden murder case.  (He also co-wrote Rain (1922), based on a Somerset Maugham story).   But here’s the thing – Colton co-wrote “Call of the Flesh”, a film featuring Nance O’Neil released August 16, 1930.  And less than 3 years later on April 27, 1933, Nine Pine Street premiered at the Longacre Theatre and starred Lillian Gish as “Effie Holden.”  It played for 28 performances and closed in mid May, 1933.  Do you wonder if  Colton spoke to Nance about Lizzie Borden and was thereby inspired to write Nine Pine Street?  Something to ponder.

Here’s what was going on around that time:

February 18, 1933 New York Magazine article on LMH “the mysterious alter ego of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
March 24, 1933 4th & Final Probate Court acctg. filed by Cook on Lizzie’s Will – period Nov. 28, 1932 thru March 3, 1933.
March 3, 1933 Grace Hartley Howe & Helen Leighton sign 4th & Final Account of Probate.
March 4, 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd U.S. president.
April 13, 1933 Emma’s estate sells Maplecroft.                                        (LR561)
April 27, 1933 The play: Nine Pine Street opens on Broadway at Longacre Theatre starring Lillian Gish as Lizzie Borden.

And here’s something else I have always wondered about:

Why didn’t Abby have Bridget fix eggs on that August 4, 1892 Thursday morning instead of the 5 day old cold mutton and mutton soup?  After all, Uncle John Morse had picked them up from Frederick Eddy at Andrew’s farm in Swansea just the evening before and brought them back per Andrew’s request.  Those eggs were most likely in the kitchen pantry Wednesday night and Thursday morning.  I wonder if Abby asked Andrew what he wanted for breakfast and suggested the eggs.  I wonder if Andrew, with both testeronic and assertive dominance said: “No.  I’ll be selling those eggs.  Serve the mutton.  Waste not, want not.”   If so, one cannot help but wince and sigh yet again for poor Abby.

Too bad Lizzie didn’t get up earlier.  Abby might have asked her what she wanted for BREAKFAST instead of (according to Lizzie’s Inquest Testimony) what she wanted for dinner, i.e., the noon day meal.  I wonder if Lizzie would have stomped her foot and said: “Mutton?!!  No!!! I want eggs!”

Just a few things to wonder about.  There’s more, but I’m out of time and American Idol is on with the results of the next four to get booted off.

Hmmm, something to ponder.


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John Morse – Echo Post 1909

Often named as complicit in the murders of Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother, Uncle John Vinnicum Morse is pictured here in this article posted before.  Morse was the brother of Lizzie & Emma’s mother, Sarah Morse Borden.

The Vinnicums and Morses‘ were the genealogical link to the Gardner family.   Most of those pictured, and their offspring, were a major part of the Borden sisters lives, particularly Emma Borden when she split from Lizzie in 1n the spring of 1905.

Emma left much of  her estate, including personal property toOrrin Gardner.

When Orrin died, Hamilton Gardner (pictured below) son of Orrin’s brother William whom Orrin raised, inherited what was left of Emma and Lizzie’s possessions which were at the “Riverby” home.

When Hamilton died, his son, now living, received and still keeps these possessions.  (The scattering of their property near the time of Orrin & Hamilton’s deaths will be addressed in the next post).  These included the  “missing” photo albums of the 9 known to exist, 7 of which are resident with the Swansea Historical Society housed in their alcove at the Swansea Library.

Anyway, I don’t think old Uncle John had anything to do with the murders.  But I think he came to suspect  it was Lizzie.   An observant and cautious man, he knew when best to keep secrets known to himself.

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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Descendents & Relations, Swansea


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Letter Written by Lizzie Borden in 1894

It’s been mentioned that when word got out about Parallel Lives, people from all over – including the UK, offered up remembrances and items pertaining to Lizzie. Perhaps the woman in this YouTube video shared this letter with the Fall River Historical Society and we’ll learn more about it when their book comes out early next year.

I believe the letter to be authentic, even if the woman who owns it (supposedly a relative)  got  many  facts wrong.

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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Collectibles, Descendents & Relations


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ANSWERS TO: Who, What, Where Am I? The Lizzie Borden Connection Quiz

THE WINNER IS KEITH JUDSON OF RENO, NV. He answered 21 of 25 questions correctly.  He wins a copy of the Knowlton-Pearson correspondence.  Prior to publishing his first essay on the case, Edmund Pearson was given entre’ to the private correspondence of D.A. Hosea Knowlton by his son, Frank Knowlton.  Frank also arranged for Pearson to meet many of those still living in Fall River who knew Lizzie or were in some way involved in the case.  This is a seldom made available and most interesting collectible.


Can you identify these images?  Can you tell what they are, where they are or who they are and their relevancy to Lizzie Borden?   If so, email me.  If you get a minimum of 12 of the 25 correct, I’ll send you a prize – a Bordenia collectible – valued at $25.00.


Known as the “Sanford House”, this Victorian beauty is on Lincoln Avenue in the Highlands.  It was the home of Arnold B. San ford, Treasurer and President of the Globe Yarn Mills and San ford Spinning Company.  (Sanford had his headstone at Oak Grove Cemetery constructed to look like his mill building).


This is the ceiling of the Fall River Public Library on Main Street.


Matthew Chaloner Durfee Borden (aka “MCD Borden”), a bloodline relation to Lizzie.


The old Fall River City Hall bells taken down when City Hall was demolished for the I95.  They are now in the rear of the “new” city hall.


William Wilson Gardner, brother of Orrin Gardner.  He married Josephine Cobb of New Bedford and they were the parents of  Hamilton Gardner.  Born in 1875 he died shortly after his wife in 1911, and his son was raised by brother Orrin.


Interior of the former “Abbey Grille” once housed inside the now vacant former Central Congregational Church on Rock Street (Lizzie’s church).


The original cellar door (and probably hardware) at 92 Second Street.


“Louis Howe next to Eleanor Roosevelt : he’s the husband of Grace Hartley Howe (inheriting half of Lizzie’s share of Maplecroft . Grace’s grandfather was Cook Borden and a brother of Lizzie’s Grandfather. Louis McHenry Howe was chief advisor and political strategist to President Roosevelt. In 1926 the Howes lived within walking distance of Maplecroft.”  (Precise and correct answer from Dan).


The garage at “Maplecroft”.


Print of “The Village Elms” which hung on the wall over the sofa in the sitting room of 92 Second Street.  The image was tracked and identified by Leonard Rebello from in-situ photographs of the slain Andrew.


Autopsy photo of Abby Borden.


Cemetery office/vault building at the Old North Burial Ground off North Main Street.


153 Belmont Street around the corner from Maplecroft.  Edith May Buffinton Gardner and husband the Rev. Frank Gardner (he was brother to Orrin Gardner) once lived there.  The below image of “Maplecroft” shows a portion of that house – the torquise one in back.


Wedding photo of Frank Henry Gardner (brother of Orrin and William Gardner) and Edith May Buffinton.  Born in 1869, he was ordained in 1893.  Frank and Edith’s daughter, Doris, would grow up with – and eventually marry – Hamilton Gardner.


The old Central Police Station on Bank Street which also housed the Second District Court.  Both the Coroner’s Inquest and the Preliminary Hearing were held here.


This portrait of District Attorney Hosea M. Knowlton is on the wall of the second floor courtroom of the New Bedford Superior Court where Lizzie’s Trial was held.  Knowlton became Mass. Attorney General following Pillsbury.


Ron Evans and Martha McGinn who inherited the structures, land and business of Leary Press from her grandfather.  It was Ron Evans idea to convert the house into a B&B.  He was like a surrogate son to John McGinn and died in the late 90’s.


Interior of part of the Gift Shop area in the “barn” at 92 Second Street.


The lunch/dinner pail used to transport Lizzie’s special restaurant meals while she was incarcerated in the Taunton Jail awaiting Trial.  Once displayed in the kitchen (gift shop area) of the Fall River Historical Society, it is no longer on regular display with other Lizzie artifacts.


Abraham Borden, father of Andrew Borden and brother of Cook Borden.


John Vinnicum Morse, brother of Sarah Anthony Morse Borden and uncle to Lizzie and Emma.  This image taken from a t.v. documentary during broadcast.


Unidentified woman long purported by the Fall River Historical Society to be Sarah Anthony Morse Borden chiefly due to the fact that when it was donated to the FRHS, the donor identified it as her.  Clearly it is not.  The FRHS has yet to identify her.  The image has been printed in some books on the case.


Attorney John W. Cummings, prominent attorney and former Mayor of Fall River.  He was introduced to Edmund Pearson by Frank Knowlton, son of Hosea Knowlton.  See article below.


This photograph taken the day after Lizzie died when her grave was paved over, per her wishes, at the family grave site at Oak Grove Cemetery.


Florence Cook Brigham, beloved past Curator Emeritus of the Fall River Historical Society who died January 22, 2000, at the age of 100.


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eBay Auction on Orrin Gardner Photo

A little over a week ago I spotted this assortment of cabinet card photos on eBay and recognized Orrin Gardner, Lizzie & Emma’s cousin from Swansea who was a primary legatee in Emma Borden’s Will.  The Seller said she got it at a flea market many years ago where there were dozens in a box and she picked these out at random.

I didn’t bid because I already have it and had included it in a previous blog. It is, in fact, Orrin’s high school graduation picture.  Original issues are in a Gardner family album archived at the Swansea Historical Society in Swansea, MA.

Perhaps a cabinet photo of Lizzie, many years post Trial, is now residing in a box or tray on some dusty shelf at an antique store still unrecognized by the many eyes who finger through it.   Oh well, we’ll have plenty to salivate over when the Fall River Historical Society’s Parallel Lives is published.

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Posted by on October 4, 2010 in Descendents & Relations, Swansea


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Lizzie Borden’s Will & the Robinson Brothers

Lizzie Borden’s Will left money to four of her relatives:  her second cousin Grace Hartley Howe, and three of the four Robinson brothers.  The Robinson brothers have such a thin bloodline link to Lizzie that I’m just not sure how to state them as cousins.  (Grace was, of course, a second cousin as both she and  Lizzie had grandfathers who were brothers).

Lizzie’s 21st, 22nd, and 23rd bequests are stated as follows:

“21. To my cousin George E. Robinson, of Swansea, Massachusetts, the sum of one thousand dollars.

22. To my cousin Edson M. Robinson, of said Swansea, the sum of one thousand dollars.

23. To my cousin, Percy V. Robinson, of said Swansea, the sum of two thousand dollars.”

I found the connection while researching the Vinnicum files at the Swansea Library in the small back room where the Swansea Historical Society keeps their archives.

On December 31, 1945, Mabel L. Vinnicum penned a multi page handwritten letter to the then curator of the Swansea Historical Society, the formidable Marion Riley who passed away several years ago.  Mabel had given the Swansea Historical Society a photo album of the Vinnicum-Morse families in October of that year and was now writing about their genealogy.   I found two specific pages relevant to identifying the lineage of the Robinson brothers and that can be seen by clicking here——> JohnVin1st and here —–>Vinnicum-Robinson

Okay, I’ll try and sort this out and keep it simple.  Remember, we’re addressing the Vinnicums and Masons of Swansea, Mass:

Susannah (aka Susan) Vinnicum (b. March 1807, died August 29, 1895) and Sally Vinnicum (born March 14, 1809, died March 16, 1888) were sisters. Their parents were John Vinnicum the 2nd and Bethany Kinnicutt (his second wife) who married on January 11, 1805.

Susannah married Zephaniah Mason and they produced 3 children:
Caroline Cole Mason, Ann Francis Mason and William Mason. Caroline Cole Mason married Henry Augustus Gardner (they produced Orrin, Frank and William).  Caroline’s sister, Ann Francis married William Morse who was brother to Lizzie & Emma’s uncle John Vinnicum Morse who was himself brother to  Sarah Anthony Morse who was, of course, to marry the doomed Andrew Jackson Borden.  Anyway, Ann Francis Mason Morse and William Morse, by their marriage, contributed to the Vinnicum-Mason-Gardner-Morse-Borden connection and then  moved to Minnesota where they lived all their lives.   Whew.  I’m tired already.

So now we turn to Susannah’s sister Sally Vinnicum.  Sally married a man named Benjamin Mason, son of Job Mason on March 25, 1830.  Before Benjamin died on March 10, 1878, they produced Edson, Lemura, and Hannah Francis.  Okay, now we’re gettin’ somewhere.  The youngest daughter, Hannah Francis Mason married Rufus Robinson.  Hannah and Rufus had the following children:

George Ernst Robinson, born November 22, 1872, died November, 1944.

Edson Mason Robinson, born May 19, 1874.

Charles Luther & Clara Wheaton Robinson (twins) born April 5, 1876.  (Clara died on August 16, 1876).

Percy Vinnicum Robinson, born September 25, 1878.

So there’s the lineage of the Robinson brothers.  Why brother Charles was not mentioned in Lizzie’s bequests can only be speculated upon.  Perhaps he died before Lizzie wrote her Will.  Perhaps he displeased her.  Who knows.  But apparently the other brothers George, Edson and Percy did not.  Percy received $2,000 whereas his brothers only received $1,000.  Perhaps Lizzie favored the youngest.  Who knows.  But why these cousins and not the Gardner cousins?   And why did Emma favor the Gardner cousins and not these cousins?  Who knows.  (Am I getting redundant?)  Who cares.

At the time of the Borden murders George was 19, Edson was 17, and Percy was 14.  At Lizzie’s death, George was 55, Edson was 53, and Percy was 49.  See how time flies?

And for what it’s worth, which probably aint much, none of the three brothers ever married.

These three Robinson brothers lived at the farmhouse on Birch Swamp Road in Warren, Rhode Island, just as their parents had, and just as *their* parents had. (Perhaps when Lizzie took long drives into the countryside she visited these three bachelor cousins).

P.S.  You may have caught the name Tripp in the genealogy.  Tripp was the maiden name of Susanna who married John Vinnicum the 1st.  It might turn out that the Tripps whom Lizzie visited just a few days before the 1892 murders were relations as well!  So much breeding.  So few surnames.  Circle of life.

Peace out.

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Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Descendents & Relations, Swansea


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Maplecroft Neighbors: Lizzie on French Street

(Recycled post)

Here’s a question I’ve pondered from time to time: Of those French Street and nearby neighbors, who might have visited Lizzie Borden that last year of her life? Weak and not recovered from her gall bladder operation, who went a-calling? No mystery in finding out who lived nearby; more difficult is assessing which neighbors would have visited her. One can only speculate. Here’s a scan from my 1926 and 1927 Fall River City Directories. Let’s take a peek at a sampling of those neighbors


Directly across the street from Lizzie at 309 French was Mrs. Emma Lake. Her son, Arthur Lake praised Lizzie in Joyce Williams’ Casebook, but there had been a property dispute between Lizzie and Mrs. Lake after Lizzie acquired half a lot adjacent and wanting it for an open park. It would seem Lizzie and Mrs. Lake ended their friendship on ugly terms. Perhaps Arthur was never made aware of that dispute.

Lizzie’s nearest neighbor to the east would be at 328 French Street, shown above. The 1926 Directory shows this house as apartments with Edwin Belcher a tenant and school teacher Harriet E. Henry (listed in the Directory as “Hervey”). By the time of printing of the 1927 Directory, Edwin Belcher is no longer a tenant. This property was purchased in 1925 by Harriet and then sold to Charles C. Cook, Lizzie’s business manager, in trust for Lizzie about 7 months before Lizzie’s death. That particular transaction would end up being reviewed by the State Supreme Court, but we’ll skip the details for now. This property is alternately referred to as the Henry House or the Davenport House (a previous owner and relation to Harriet). Note: The rod iron spiked fencing separating the properties was installed by Lizzie.

Lizzie’s nearest neighbor to the west, 324 French, would be John T. Swift. Swift was the lawyer Alice Russell, her conscious weighing heavily, first told of the dress burning incident. Had Swift not advised Alice to tell it to District Attorney Hosea Knowlton, we would not even know who Lizzie Borden was 115 years later. Shown here left to right is the Swift house, Maplecroft, and the Henry/Davenport house. Photo taken in 1998.

The next house east is 344 French where the widow Mrs. Isabella Hooper lived. Perhaps she and Lizzie visited? Exterior re-hab has been going on for years with this house and it looks much better in 2007. This photo was taken in 2005.

Across the street and slightly east from Maplecroft, this structure existed in 1926 but I’m unable to locate the number from the 1926 or 1927 Directory. It is now a commercial property and often referred to as the “Baker” lot. Lizzie bequeathed to Charles Cook “my so-called Baker lot on French Street across from where I live.” I took this photo in 1999.

At the southeast corner of French and Belmont was John Summerfield Brayton, Jr., a BC&C (Big Cheese & Connected) whose crowing bird annoyed Lizzie and made her nervous over a quarter century before she died. Did John and Mary Brayton visit Lizzie? I don’t think so.

At 257 French was Everett M. Cook, Vice President of BMC Durfee Trust Company. Another BC&C, like so many on French Street.

At 243 French was Elizabeth J. McWhirr, widow of Robert A. McWhirr, who may have been related to the great McWhirr department store. Did she go a-calling on Lizzie? I don’t think so.

At the southeast corner of French & June at 421 June was Marion Jennings – the daughter of attorney Andrew Jennings. It’s safe to say she did not call upon Lizzie. It’s further safe to say Marion had no knowledge of what lay inside an old hip bath covered with a tarp up in the attic of this house. Most likely, neither did Lizzie.


Carrie L. Borden is listed in 1926 at 492 Rock Street, but in 1927, only her sister Anna H. Borden. These ladies went on the Grand Tour with Lizzie in 1890. It is my educated guess that they were the two sisters that spoke in confidence to author Edmund Pearson when he was writing his long, first essay on the Borden case in Studies in Murder. It’s highly doubtful these ladies went a-calling to Miss Lizbeth of Maplecroft.

At 618 Rock was Jerome C. Borden, son of Cook Borden and Grace Hartley Howe’s uncle, and strong supporter of Lizzie in 1892-93. Jerome succeeded Andrew as President of Union Bank, but it’s doubtful Jerome ever presented his calling card at Maplecroft during Lizzie’s last year. While most genetic threads were woven tightly, some weaves became irreparably tattered.

At 451 Rock Street was the formidable Elizabeth Hitchcock Brayton, whose nephew, having inherited this stately granite beauty, donated it to the Fall River Historical Society in 1935.

Actually, the 400 thru 700 blocks of Rock Street in 1927 reads like a Who’s Who of Fall River. However, after Lizzie died, Fall River had about one good year remaining before its economy and stratified society would fade and dissolve like so much smoke drift from the iconic mill chimineys that marked its once great prominence and vitality.


The interesting thing about French Street is that at #96 French Street, just west of Rock Street, we find Gertrude M. Baker, long time English teacher at BMC Durfee High School. ( The 1927 Fall River High School Yearbook, “The Durfee Record”, is dedicated to Gertrude Baker). Gertrude owned a summer house on the beach in Linekin, East Boothbay, Maine. She was a friend of a later friend of Lizzie’s, Miss Helen Leighton (we’ll get to her in a moment) but the important thing is through this thread that bound, Miss Baker was a founder and Treasurer of the Fall River Animal Rescue League from 1914-1930. It seems more a gratuitous gesture for service rendered than one steeped in a personal friendship that Lizzie left Gertrude $1,000 in her Will. Miss Baker never married and when she died she left her money to her close friend, Helen Leighton, along with her beach house in Linekin. Lucky Helen.

Helen Leighton struck half of the mother lode upon Lizzie’s death being one of two primary legatees. Seven years younger than Lizzie, Miss Leighton graduated from nursing school in Fall River a month before Lizzie went to Trial for the double hatchet homicide. Helen had been nurse and companion to Eudora Borden Dean, daughter of that very wealthy Captain of Fall River Industry, Jefferson Borden. Smart Helen. In 1913, she had successfully solicited money from Lizzie to start the Fall River Animal Rescue League of which she became its President. Clever Helen. She moved to Boston in 1919 and Lizzie visited her there, taking in galleries and the theatre. She moved to Brookline, MA. in 1924, and when she died in 1947, newspapers reporting on the Borden case were found stuffed inside the walls of the Linekin beach house.

So there they are: Gertrude, Helen, and Lizzie – they could have all three been sisters judging by how they looked in these photographs. It’s anyone’s guess as to who introduced who to whom in this three-some, a constellation in orbit around Lizzie’s moon. These dames were really out of the same mold. Same hair styles, same glasses, same kind of dresses. I can almost visualize them at the Animal Rescue League Board of Directors meeting or even taking their time walking through some museum in Boston or New York. Not exactly your party-hardy type broads. Uh uh. But oh so very proper, yes indeed. Decorum, decorum, decorum. All were proper spinsters who loved animals. None ever married or had children of their own to enrich their lives, to nurture, to enjoy, to love, and who would return that love.

Grace Hartley Howe hit the other half of the mother lode, inheriting half of Lizzie’s half of Maplecroft, furniture, jewelry, books, carpets, personal effects, etc. Grace’s grandfather was Cook Borden, a brother of Abraham, Andrew’s father. In 1926, Grace and her husband Louis are in the 1926 Directory as having a residence at 636 Rock Street, but in 1927 Grace is living at 464 Locust. Louis McHenry Howe was chief advisor and political strategist to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt but lived in the White House, visiting his family at their Westport residence in Horseneck Beach. (Louis would die in 10 years and be buried at Oak Grove with FDR attending his funeral.) But here we see Grace was literally in walking distance to Lizzie in 1926 and 1927, and surely she must have visited her. I have long believed Grace was called by the Reverend Cleveland of the Church of Ascension and was at Maplecroft when Lizzie died. She would have been, after Emma, the next and, literally, nearest of kin. Ten years after Lizzie’s death, two years after the final probate of Lizzie’s Will, and one year after her husband died, Grace was appointed Postmistress of Fall River by President Roosevelt.

Of these three women, Gertrude, Helen and Grace, two (Helen and Grace) gave newspaper interviews in the week after Lizzie died. One other woman, definitely not neighbor nor friend of Lizzie’s when she died, also gave an interview – Nance O’Neil. Nance met Lizzie in 1904. By 1927, Nance had successfully transitioned from the stage to motion pictures. In the newspaper interview she remarked on Lizzie’s kindness, refinement, and intelligence, downplaying their relationship and characterizing it as “ships passing in the night.” She was not named in Lizzie’s Will. Nance lived long enough to have read several books on Lizzie published prior to 1965. Her ashes are entombed with her husband, Alfred Hickman at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California.

I think Lizzie was probably always ladylike and refined and masked her inner angst and depression when in public. We know she let that mask down with Miss Leighton, who, after Lizzie’s death, commented so definitively on Lizzie’s loneliness and depression in her later years. The Roaring Twenties, shorter skirts, bobbed hair, Lindberg racing across the Atlantic through the skies while she, Lizzie never did anything in a hurry. The “Flapper Age” must have come on like gangbusters and not suited her at all, much like the sexual liberation of the 1970’s to the Born Again Christians. No, I don’t think Lizzie liked the changing times. She was nervous and depressed enough and now all this fast living. (Mammy to Scarlett: “It ain’t fittin’, it just ain’t fittin’).

I can envision her, in her last year of life, sitting on her window box seat in her summer bedroom in Maplecroft. More alone and isolated than ever with only a tiny few who ever came a-calling. Dressed in a stylish lounging gown, too weak to go up and down the stairs every day, she would have spent much time wistfully looking at the houses below and at the young people coming and going. Perhaps a young man honking the horn of his tricked out Model T Ford for his girlfriend to come out. Twenty Three Skid-doo. I envision one of Lizzie’s dogs in her lap feeling the gentle strokes of her hand as she remembers a quieter time of proper deportment. The era of when ladies were ladies and conducted themselves accordingly was gone forever. Stroke…….Sigh……Stroke.

No wonder our “Lizbeth of Maplecroft” preferred Dickens and Trollup over F. Scott Fitzgerald.


1926 & 1927 Fall River City Directory

Unveiled: Miss Helen Leighton by Leonard Rebello, Lizzie Borden Quarterly, October 2000, Vol VII, #4.

1927 BMC Durfee H.S. Yearbook.

Last Will and Testament of Lizzie Andrew Borden.

Knowlton-Pearson Correspondence, Fall River Historical Society.

Famous Actors and Actresses on the American Stage, vol. 2, by William C. Young, 1975.

Lizzie Borden- Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Alzack Press, 1999.

Conversations with Robert Dube, owner, at 306 French Street, August 3 & 5, 2007.



So now, anyone who Googles Swansea Historical Society, Lizzie’s chairs, Swansea farmhouse, etc. and live a remote distance from Swansea will hopefully land here and get a FREE peek at the chairs and inside the Luther’s Museum. But nothing beats being there, absorbing the ambience and touching these historical artifacts so indigenous to early American history and specifically the history of Swansea and its farming families.  (Additional info follows with the link at the end of the slide show).

On August 3, 2007, Kristin Pepe and myself went to Swansea to visit Luther’s Museum at Luther’s Four Corner’s. For over 20 years I’ve been going past 160 Old Warren Road often stopping to take exterior pictures but never inside. Carl Becker, who lives only a block or two away, offered to open it up any time during my 5 day stay in Fall River.

The historical significance to Borden buffs is that Uncle John Vinnicum Morse stopped off at “Luther’s” after getting some farm fresh eggs at Andrew’s upper farmhouse at 217 Old Warren Road. (And hey, if they had farm fresh eggs on Wednesday night, why did Abby order 5 day old mutton for breakfast? Maybe Andrew wanted them to peddle for a penny more on the street.)

Hearing Mr. Becker relate the history of the area and the people over the decades who came to this store to talk and exchange information, purchase and trade necessities, Swansea comes alive with it’s rich history of the Gardners, the Luthers, the Braytons, etc. It’s much bigger inside than it looks from the outside….the second story is loaded with old furniture, tools, sewing machines, antique photographs and paintings of prominent families of eras gone by.

It is said that the two cane seat and wood chairs pictured here once belonged to Lizzie Borden, but the provenance is a little weak. I have a letter from a minister who knew the Borden girls obtained from his copy of an original Porter (Fall River Tragedy, 1893). In the letter he remarks about Lizzie, post 1905, going to the Swansea farm to see the horses, afterwards sitting in a chair for a while before her driver would take her back to “Maplecroft”. Pretty slim. But maybe they are. I was more impressed with the chair President George Washington sat in, as well as many other objects housed in this unique and wonderful museum operated by the Swansea Historical Society. THANK YOU MR. & MRS. BECKER!

Next time visiting Fall River or the area be sure to visit Luther’s.

(Slide cursor over image for comments. Pause by clicking pause icon.)



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