Declining Property Values in Lizzie Borden’s Hometown

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Declining Property Values in Lizzie Borden’s Hometown

Click on this page link and play around with the GPS imagery.


Property values have declined steadily in the past 20+ years in Fall River.  This property, next door to “Maplecroft” (Lizzie Borden’s post-Trial home) on French Street, was assessed at $258,500 in 2013.

The declining property values  are a result of Fall River’s declining economy and has put many homeowners “underwater” in their loans, i.e., they owe the bank more on their mortgage than the property is worth.

The hot topic in Fall River today concerns a possible mega resort/casino proposed by Foxwoods and the positive or negative effect it will have on the economy; those for it scream “we need the jobs”, those opposed yell “property value will decline”.  The mere mention of a casino being built in Fall River has the Bank of America sending out “heads up” letters that – from their POV -, the property that is the subject of this letter is worth only $222,491 in 2014.  In any event, it has some people waiving the letters and hollaring: “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!  Stop the casino!”

Frankly, Fall River is on a path to being a sister city of Detroit if it doesn’t do something soon.


Interactive Aerials of Where Lizzie Borden Lived 1st & 2nd Halves of Her Life

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Here’s some fun stuff to play around with via Bing Aerial Maps.  Be sure to note other Fall River locations to the left.
This is 230 Second Street, Fall River, Ma.; otherwise known as 92 Second Street, otherwise known as The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum. This aerial image was taken in around 2001-2002,  My Fall River Lizzie friends and Lizzie Borden case experts will be able to name everything shown here in a two block radius – and maybe more. Lizzie lived here from the time she was 12 in 1872 until after her Acquittal in July, 1893.

Built by Southard Miller in 1845, the house has remained in the same location and virtually unchanged for nearly 170 years.  Since this aerial was taken, however, the house has changed ownership, been painted green, the L-shape Leary Press has been demolished, the bus terminal directly across the street has been relocated and an architectural monstrosity known as the Superior Court towers in its place,  Subtle symmetry?  Perhaps.

Shown here is the French Street home, (otherwise known as “Maplecroft”)  that Lizzie and her sister moved into several weeks after her acquittal in 1893. This aerial was taken around 2001-2002. The house in the bottom of the frame, partially cut off, was also owned by Lizzie and is now owned by Michael Brimbau (author of Girl With the Pansy Pin). Stefani Koorey, Mr. Brimbau’s girlfriend, moved in to this house in 2006, Interestingly, neither one have ever been inside “Maplecroft”, which has been owned by Robert Dube’ since 1980.
Lizzie lived here the entire second half of her life until she died in 1927.


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Sex, gore and schlock rock ratings. The Lifetime Movie Network airing of Lizzie Borden Took an Axe should have good ratings tonight (January 25th) – at least in the New England market. I find people here on the west coast, either haven’t heard about it, don’t care, or wouldn’t watch it anyway.  The current Lizzie Borden hype is more regional and of more interest (as to the accuracy of this production) by case experts than it is to the general public.

When anything airs about Charlie Manson and the Manson murders, it gets huge ratings here in SoCal because SoCal is where it happened.  People in Fall River don’t care that much about it.  And most of them in Fall River don’t care about Lizzie Borden.  It’s the sex and gore that attracts.  Always does.  Can you say “Jody Arias”?

However, I’m still kaphitzed about how this kind of crap perpetuates all the myths and misinformation and I’m certain this airing will move to the front of the line tonight in that regard. I hope when it begins showing there is a caveat in front of the Title feed that says: “Any resemblance to the real Lizzie Borden or consistency of facts is purely unintentional.” LOL

I think the curators at the Fall River Historical Society have shown their usual professional restraint and class in not seeking out to be interviewed in connection with this grossly inaccurate production.  Another person, however, has aggressively pursued being quoted or interviewed and is planning to strategically place herself in a local Fall River bar which will be airing the program and where the local print media will be showing up to interview customers – again planning to be one of them. .  Some people just LOVE getting their names in the paper – it serves to self-validate who they are and their own self-worth.  Sad.

One of my friends in Fall River said: “Faye, I’ll Skype you and you can watch it with me on my TV here 3 hours earlier!”   I said, No, that I was gonna record it and wouldn’t be near a TV anyway between 7 an 10:30 tonight.

Anyway, as to the quality and accuracy of LMN’s rendition of the Lizzie Borden case,  I don’t need to see two trains going head to head on the same rail to know the result.   Excuse them, Lizzie, for know not what they do.  Uhhh.  Scratch that.  They know exactly what they’re doing.  ;)

I, myself, am capitalizing on the thousands of Google searches that will undoubtedly follow the airing so as to sell off some of my overflow collection on eBay.  HERE, HERE, and HERE.

As to the REAL facts of the case, here’s a terrific 13 minute video by the Fall River Historical Society.  Please do yourself a favor and watch it!


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This is Lizzie Borden in 1922. This image appeared for the first time in the magnificent book: Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River – written by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, Curator and Assistant Curator of the Fall River Historical Society. I snatched it from Pinterest, as posted by Stephen Martin. Lizzie died in 1927, just short of her 67th birthday.  If you really want to know about Lizzie, buy the book. 

PLWide    dennis-michale

Lizzie Borden’s Will and Who Got the Cars

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Recycled from January 5, 2011

Recycled again.

Lizzie Borden died on June 1, 1927.  Her highly publicized Will was probated for six years.  We learn much from those probate proceedings.  For example, Undertaker Winward charged $696.70 for her funeral arrangements.  We learn that Lizzie’s two cars, which were not listed among her bequests, were subsequently given away to her chauffeur, Ernest A. Terry,  and business manager, Charles C. Cook as assigned assets disposed of in the 4th and Final Probate Accounting.

Conformed Copy of the original of Lizzie Borden’s Last Will and Testament.

(Right click images for better viewing)

There were 4 Probate Hearings as follows:

Proceeding Inclusive Dates Held
1st Accounting June 24, 1927 -May 1, 1929 October 2, 1931(Fall River)
2nd Accounting May 2, 1929 -Jan. 1, 1932 February 17, 1933(Taunton)
3rd (Substituted)Accounting Jan.1, 1932 -Nov. 28, 1932 February 17, 1933(Taunton)
4th FinalAccounting Nov. 28, 1932 -March 3, 1933 March 24, 1933(Attleboro)

Conformed Copy of the original probate documents as filed with the probate court in Fall River.

As executor of Lizzie’s Will, Charles C. Cook had listed his services at $10,000.  That was reduced to $5,000.  There was also the initially unreported sale of the Henry house (for $10,000 on April 14, 1928) adjacent to Lizzie’s that was contested by the primary “human” heirs, Grace Hartley Howe and Helen Leighton.   As if the money and the “so called Baker lot” were not enough, Mr. Cook ended up with the car below.   He had served Andrew Borden in his business interests and then Lizzie and her sister for the past 35 years.   He had earned Lizzie’s respect and gratitude for his loyalty and discretions.  Perhaps, like Lizzie, Charles had his own sense of entitlement.

The vehicles pictured below are for illustrative purposes and not the actual cars.

1923 Lincoln Sedan went to Charles C. Cook.

Charles C. Cook was born March 28, 1854, and died on  September 28, 1934, only 18 months after the final probating of Lizzie’s Will.

1924 Buick Sedan went to Ernest A. Terry

Ernest A. Terry was born January 26, 1886,  and died October 11, 1955.

Both these cars would have been garaged in the special structure Lizzie had built for her first automobile in 1913.  It still stands on French Street but is used for storage.  Robert Dube, owner of “Maplecroft” tells me that when originally constructed there was only the center doors.  The doors on both ends were added years later.  Dube showed me the original drawings.

Rear of Maplecroft showing the area behind the Swift residence to the right.  This shows the pathway on which Lizzie wanted to have a driveway built to her garage with it facing towards Belmont Street.  Due to restrictions set forth in the sale at the time, she was not able to build where she wanted.

Besides Ernest and Charles and the cars – both Grace and Helen gained from the “residuals” of the estate.  In addition to the furniture, carpets, books, jewelry, silver, glassware, etc., they were given cash payouts earned from interest on properties and stock dividends earned since Lizzie’s death to the final accounting – a period of 6 years. Grace was in Fall River on March 3, 1933 to sign (along with Helen Leighton)  the Fourth and Final Accounting of the Probate of Lizzie’s Will, wherein they both received $6,000.  That was a chunk of change to receive in the middle of the Depression.

The very next day Grace Hartley Howe, cousin to Lizzie Borden and wife of the private secretary and chief political strategist to Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  was in Washington, D.C. for the inauguaration of the President of the United States of America.  She and Hartley took the train.

Why she and Helen chose not to keep these cars is a puzzlement to me.

Alone Painting Part 3

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For the latest update with additional information and photos, click HERE

If you missed Part IV, you’ll find it HERE.

And yet another “Alone” painting surfaces – the same girl-in-the-boat-at sunset scene that Lizzie Borden gave to a handy man.   Thanks to a comment submitted to this blog we have the name of another artist, Heinrich Vosberg, who painted an original of this scene.      The commenter had this to say:

Bo Says:
July 26, 2009 at 2:38 pm e

“I have a copy as well. It was found in the attic of my girlfriend’s great grandmother. She had it framed. It looks to be oil paint and the canvas has large blank edges with writing on it. It is signed H. Vosberg 1887 on the bottom left. Send me your email and I will send you a pic.”



I “Googled” Vosberg and discovered a load of sites about him, including this “Best Answers” forum that poses the question of value of this painting by Vosberg – I have to assume it’s the same person who wrote me.   Otherwise, logic presumes two people have two original originals.  The entire exchange is quite interesting, but here are some extracts:

Hi! Heinrich Vosberg was born in Germany in 1833, and lived until 1891. One of his paintings, Lake with sunset, Herrenhausen (1876), is even in the Royal Collection of artwork of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth  II. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGalle… His work is also highly regarded in the International community, so I would urge you not to be in a hurry to sell this painting, but to throughly research all of the information I have given you above, without making any commitments to anyone regarding a possible sale, until you have the big picture of information regarding the painting you own.”

So we learn this painting was actually entitled  “ALONE AND FORSAKEN” – at least by artist Vosberg.  Get this:  A small print can be had for $1.50.  That’s right.  Click HERE and scroll down until you come to image “SIG425″.

It remains a mystery who actually painted the original-original of this girl-in-a-boat-at-sunset scene but what we do know is that it was so popular that countless prints were made and apparently easy to come by.  Actual oil on canvas original paintings that have surfaced here so far were painted by:

1.  Herman Alfred Leonard Wahlberg (1834-1906) – and was given by Lizzie to a handyman.   (Provenance describes it as a “picture” so it may not have been an original painting but a print of Wahlberg’s original).

2.  Father Arnold Janssen, or Janseen (1837-1909) who was canonized and previously featured in this blog  HERE.

3.  Heinrich Vosberg (1833-1891) – his paintings are still sold through various art auction houses.  He named this one “Alone and Forsaken”.

Slide cursor over image when it comes into full view.  (There’s music).

One of those untold number of prints sold for less than $30 on eBay just recently.  The cherrywood frame, circa early 1900′s,  and the newsprint behind the frame were worth more than the print.

I’ve become less interested about the fact Lizzie gave this painting to a handyman than I am about the genesis of its original creation.  Perhaps more readers out there will come forward with *their* original “Alone” painting.

Teapot given to Historical Society offers piece of Lizzie Borden story

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Gertrude May Russell (above) received the teapot shown below as a gift from her friend Lizzie Borden.  The rare piece is now on display at the

Above:  Gertrude May Russell and the teapot her grand-daughter donated to the Fall River Historical Society.

From the Fall River Herald News comes this article by Deborah Allard:

“Borden had given ceramic teapot to hired companion about 100 years ago”



Herald News Photo | Jack Foley

“This photo courtesy of the Fall River Historical Society shows Lizzie Borden at Maplecroft, her French Street mansion, a few years after she employed Gertrude May Russell as a paid companion to accompany her on travels.”

“A cunning little ceramic teapot for one with a cobalt blue design was recently donated to the Fall River Historical Society.The tiny teapot came to curator Michael Martins with a big story.It was given by Lizzie Borden to her hired companion, Gertrude May Russell, as a present about 100 years ago.“It was hand-turned, hand-painted,” Martins said. He opened the lid and revealed a ceramic infuser, still intact. “It’s a sweet little teapot.”Martins said some research is still necessary to determine the teapot’s country of origin. It is completely unmarked. He said his first thought was that it might be from Asia, but he said it has a “decidedly European shape.”The teapot was donated to the society by Russell’s granddaughter, who is a member of the society, lives in Maine and wants to remain anonymous.Martins said the teapot came with a “good paper trail,” unlike some items that can be found online with no documentation.He said such donations are “few and far between.” But the society has recently collected more items than usual because of the contacts made by Martins and assistant curator Dennis Binnette while authoring “Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and her Fall River.”“A great deal more material has come to the surface,” Martins said.Russell, known as “Trudy,” worked for Lizzie Borden from 1911 to 1913, according to Martins and an excerpt in “Parallel Lives” that features Russell.Russell was one of six children and was born in New Bedford. After her father died in 1894, her mother took the children to Boston and ran a boarding house on Beacon Hill.The family moved to Fall River in 1899 — just seven years after Lizzie Borden was tried and later acquitted of killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet in their 92 Second St. home.Russell went to the Lincoln School until 1905. She took a job at Kerr Thread Mills in 1909. Lizzie hired her as a companion in 1911.Russell moved into a third-floor bedroom at Maplecroft, Lizzie’s French Street mansion, in order to perform her duties. She was Lizzie’s traveling companion, and the two went to Boston and Washington and other destinations. They stayed in luxurious hotels, dined in fine restaurants and went to museums and the theater.Martins said it was likely that Lizzie purchased the teapot for Russell on one of these trips.While traveling once, they met a little girl named Virginia, and Lizzie told Russell that she should choose that name when she has a daughter someday.Russell, a young woman, in 1913 acted on impulse and left Lizzie’s employment to have more time for dancing and going out on the weekend.Lizzie was “perturbed” and found it improper that Russell would quit, and not to get married but to take work as a clerk in the R.A. McWhirr’s store downtown.Russell met a young man at one of her weekend dances and married him in 1914. When she had a daughter in 1923, she named the child Virginia.Russell wrote to Lizzie to tell her about her daughter. She received no response.Though there were obviously hurt feelings for both Russell and Lizzie, Russell told her granddaughter that she was a “silly young girl” when she quit her job with Lizzie, a job she said she enjoyed much. She said Lizzie had the “kindest blue eyes” she’d ever seen.“We feel that this piece really belongs here,” Martins said.The little blue and white teapot will be put on display at the Historical Society, 451 Rock St. The Historical Society offers tours, a museum shop and a large display of Borden memorabilia.The society is now open for the season. For hours and more information, visit lizzieborden.org.”

Lizzie Borden Letters on eBay asking $8,250!

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Well, this is a hoot. Two letters written by Lizzie Borden up for bid on eBay at $8,250. One would do better to purchase “Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River” by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, curators of the Fall River Historical Society. Their massive work (over 1,000 pages) includes these letters. Not only that but the book has the full story about the “Kenney” house and Mr. & Mrs. Kenney “.  The house was just east house (which was just east of her home “Maplecroft”, the subject of one letter, AND a picture of the dog which is the subject of the second letter. And here’s the best part – Parallel Lives can be purchased for $79.00 directly from the Fall River Historical Society. Or, if you have an eBay account, you can up the bid to $8,500 dollars. LOL



For Those Still Goo-Goo, Gaa-Gaa Over Lizzie Borden

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If you’re still one who salivates over anything that might have been owned by, touched by, seen by, walked passed by, yaddayaddayadda on Lizzie Borden, check this out:



Scroll thru and take particular note of the “Lizzie Borden as a baby”, and “Lizzie Borden’s compact”, complete with her L.A. B. initials.


I swear, this feces never stops.    I would be curious, however, to know how much the “baby lizzie” framed image went for.

BTW, I have a pansy broach that belonged to Lizzie, inscribed “Daphne”.

That’s an inside joke if you’ve read Parallel Lives;)

Lizzie Borden Ponderables

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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.

Lizzie Borden & The Dead Files

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Upate:  Whoa.  This isn’t related to The Dead Files – it’s just an eBay offering, but appropriate to show here as another example of how people GET THINGS WRONG. 

I’ve been busy in California with my grandson and haven’t written anything new in a while.  Thorry.  (And excuse my lipsth).  Anyway……

The home Lizzie Borden lived in the entire second half of her life and where she died in 1927, is again for sale. .

If you watched that gawd-awful episode on Lizzie Borden on The Dead Files last week you’ll  be interested in these comments from Lizzie case experts:  They were posted to MondoLizzie on Facebook.  I posted the photos in question on my own Facebook page,

The remarkable aspect of these posts is the three people (“MondoLizzie”, aka Stefani Koorey, Shelley Dziedzic, and me, Faye Musselman, who come together to post their insights and opinions about which they are all experts and scholars in the case.  It’s rare to see  “we three” posting together anywhere.  The following comments are worthy of your reading:

Michael J. ShogiYeah, it’s absolutely unbelievable that they try to pass this off as fact – and some people will, unfortunately, believe it. That’s entertainment, I guess.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenYou can’t call it entertainment and an investigation. IMHO.

  • Faye MusselmanI, too, think the photo thing is FRAUD, but those shows ARE for Entertainment. The so called psyhics are paid to “entertain” not do research. I posted on the LB B&B Friday night. Here it is.: Lizzie & Emma sexually involved with each other. Now there’s a new one. You see kids, these shows are all about ENTERTAINMENT AND MONEY. Or, if you prefer: MONEY AND ENTERTAINMENT. Like books with hooks, each new so called paranormal investigator needs to have a “new discovery”…this one is the sisters as lovers. The hosts, like that muscular hunk from Ghost Adventurers, aren’t paid to do research, they are paid to Entertain. It’s like all the “reality” shows like “Housewives of (name yoru city or sport)” – they get ratings and that means sponsors and that means money – money for the station owners (Travel Channel), money for the producers, money for the sponsors (viewers buy their products/services), yadda yadda yadda. IT’S NOT FACT, FOLKS, SO KEEP THAT IN MIND. IT’S ENTERTAINMENT. And that picture of “Lizzie” well, the face was sooooooooooo doctored as to be laughable. The Fall River Historical society’s book PARALLEL LIVES has pictures of Lizzie in her senior years and one in which she wheres a white dress like that holding a cfane like that but looks nothing like she did in that photograph when she was in her 30′. This Dead Files episode stooped to real lows on that one – faking a photo just to give credibility to the psychic (read “paranormal entertainment hostess”) saying she saw that image. Lordy, Lordy, do they really think we are all that stupid? Apparently so because these shows keep on a comin’. Lizzie and Emma. Good Lord. What’s next? John Morse was a transvestite? No, Bridget was. No, wait, Jack the Ripper did it…he was the man Lizzie saw at the side of the house a couple nights before. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Seems these shows attract viewers and I mean that literally = they don’t attract readers. Read the material that’s out there…the books, the legal proceedings, anything….People know the ditty (that inaccurate quatrain); they know the Elizabeth Montgomery movie and they know all these “ghostly” investigations. Because they viewers. Please READ A BOOK! Lizzie and Emma. Good Lord. Save me now.

  • Shelley Dziedzic I did provide Steve with all of the source documents from witness statements to transcripts several weeks before the taping and pre-taping we had some lively discussion about the material. The tech crew was great, the director was wonderful. Emails flew back and forth full of useful info,links, photos etc. On the day of the taping we were very impressed with Steve, his questions and approach and still, in the end, I was told the editors would have the final say and probably 98% of the many hours of interviewing would end up on the cutting room floor.They had loads of great material and even a few ghostly tales which were entertaining for those who like that stuff. None of us met Amy or had any idea what she would come out with. I think these people all watch each other’s paranormal shows and dream up ways to top the last one. A great opportunity was once again lost to do a good program. The audience was once again- underestimated. The TOTAL dumbing down of America. This was a mammoth disservice to history and a revolting assault on the Borden family which I think has backfired.
    3 minutes ago · Like.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenShelley, who was “frank”? Is that Frank Knowlton, Jr? He looked familiar but I don’t think I have ever met him.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenShelley, I realize that a lot of work and conversations went into this production, however, if Steve is so reasonable and his reputation is on the line, why wouldn’t he exert more control? In addition, he is the one who at the end claimed to have discovered this new image of Lizzie. That image was photoshopped. He must have known. And why no last names on the “experts” ? I think this show made the entire study of this case look loony.

  • Michael J. Shogi‎”I think this show made the entire study of this case look loony.” Perhaps, but I think most people realize that it’s just TV and that these so-called “psychics” have no credibility anyway. IMHO, of course.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenI wish what you said is true Michael, but the fact is that there are a LOT of people who love this stuff, eat it up, and believe it too. Especially when it comes to a detective speaking about what he discovered.

  • New England BitesGreat post, and I completely agree with Faye and Shelley.

  • Shelley DziedzicSad to say, a lot of people come through the house and parrot the garbage from these shows like holy gospel. The number who think Wikipedia, YouTube, personal blogs, and TV reality shows must be presenting accurate info is dismaying. I imagine sooner or later some new trendy thing will come along and this type of program will be replaced by something else- hopefully less sensational and fraudulent.

  • Shelley DziedzicAs far as Steve exerting control- the director said they had no control over the editing. Steve is a hired and paid employee- not the producer, editor or network programming content honcho who decides which direction a program will go and what part gets air time and what hits the cutting room floor.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenI realize that about Steve, however, I don’t understand why someone as substantial as him would not have some sort of control over what happens on the show because of his reputation. I would insist on that to some degree. And it was him, not the editing, that showed that image that he said he found, which he didn’t find. So he lied, right? Not cool.

  • New England BitesPerhaps after this debacle, the owners of the Lizzie house should be a bit more selective as to what happens there. I’m sure no one expected The Dead Files episode to be full of BS, but I would hate to see the whole Lizzie story turn into a joke. Just my opinion. :)

  • New England Bites‎**Regarding the comment I just made, I talked with the fabulous Faye Musselman – Lizzie expert extraordinaire – and she explained that the owners have to sign a waiver excluding them from having a say in what gets produced. How unfortunate if the show is a bust (like this one). I wish that a show would come along that would highlight the Borden family story rather than just focus on a house that may or may not be “haunted”.

  • Shelley DziedzicWell I told him about Parallel Lives of course.So he was aware of all of those photos and he went to the historical society too. I will have to listen again to that part about finding the photo. I cannot recall exactly what was said. And I am not sure, not having been there, if he said he found an image and had more comments about its origin- then some editing was done on the rest of his comments. I am not defending anybody, Steve included.But I know what I said and two different sentences of mine were isolated, segmented and spliced to make one thought which imparted INCORRECT information. All of us in the Lizzie community at one time or another have been involved to various degrees in what turned out to be silly, over-hyped, loopy, inaccurate, and even VILE TV and radio shows where we go with all good intent, are not paid ever, prepare, and give our all only to be sacrificed to the editing room God who could give two figs about history, our reputations, or the Borden family.My advice to anyone who was offended and outraged, write to the Travel Channel and complain that you thought this last program was beyond the pale, a fraud, and unworthy of the network. It probably will do no good, but you may feel better. And for those of us who appear on these programs frequently, well, when you sign your release form, you lose control over what gets done to you. We can either keep trying to fight the good fight or stop appearing in them. You can’t win if you don’t play as they say at Foxwoods. I am always hopeful something intelligent might make it to the final cut- lately the tripe served up has been more than disturbing.

    Sunday at 9:46pm · Unlike · 4
  • New England BitesYou’re right. I’m sure no one signs up for a show thinking that it’s going to be full of false information and twisted words. It must be so hard for the people involved to see what they thought was going to be a good thing turn into something like this. I will complain to the Travel Channel, Shelley. I had a bad feeling about that show from the start.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenThe historical society doesn’t sign contracts like that. They make them sign contracts. So if Lee Ann and the B&B is working for them, at the whim of them, then that is really backasswards, IMHO.

  • New England BitesMondo Lizzie Borden: Do you blame the B&B owners for allowing this to take place?

  • Shelley DziedzicYou will have to ask the owners just what they sign, I do not know for sure, or if every case is identical. Various programs contact the house, just like Ghosthunters U, and a facility usage is arranged. As far as I am aware, the B&B house museum does not endorse any program and it is all pretty detached in that regard- and yes, of late, the thought of requesting or demanding a preview before airing has been floated- or a disclaimer that, as the old saying went “The material disclosed in this program does not reflect the views of the management nor is endorsed by same.” The dubious psychic who came up with the crackpot findings might just as easily have rampaged on in a similar vein in Oak Grove, standing on one foot in the Second Street parking lot, or with a bag over her head in the cellar. My concisely worded commentary is already winging its way to the Travel Channel. And now, I think to give it any more of my attention is to give the entire production far more importance and limelight than it deserves. Rotten eggs should be thrown out.

  • Faye MusselmanThe focus these posts are losing is that these programs are not about truth or accuracy. They are about ratings and ratings translates into MONEY. Paranormal and ghost-chasing programming has gone thru the roof in terms of ratings. That’s why they have multipliled like amoeba. They have become highly competitive. Successful “pitching” for a concept of a new show in this genre requires a hook – something new to be discovered. This time it was the seeping-from-the wall image and the “newly” discovered photo (if the FRHS gave them rights to use that photo I bet they are more than just a bit chagrined at the outcome), as well as the Big Bomb, i.e., Lizzie and Emma being incestuous. No matter. It was something new. After all, you don’t want your viewers saying: “Awww shucks. I saw that already in another show. That ain’t new.” Once again I stress, we have an 18-36 demographic that buys into this stuff. If you doubt me, just read the posts on the Dead Files FB page or the multitude of chat boards on the web for these shows. Gotta agree with Stefani here on that – and Lord knows we don’t agree on much. But it’s a phact. If the FRHS did give the rights to use that photo in a signed “contract” (wrong word, Stef) I hope they had a caveat that prohibited anyd alterinmg or false representation. If so, I say, sue the bastards. Alas, and alack, more of these shows are coming…and each new one has to do the LB B&B because it has morphed into this ghostly haunted house. I liked the days before reality t.v. when 92 Second Street was just known more as an historic edifice where one of America’s most baffling murder cases took place. Adieu old 92, adieu.

  • Shelley DziedzicGhostchasing shows have already reached the saturation point with the young to young adult demographic. It has been done to death which is exactly why desperate ratings seekers are coming up with the most ridiculous and bizarre hooks to grab viewers. I can’t wait for the pendulum to swing the other way. Like the Twilight book series- vampires were red-hot until they were everywhere. Ditto Harry Potter witches and wizards and currently Hunger Games. Too bad things of quality seldom get red-hot or stay so for very long. American audiences have a short attention span thank God- so something new should be coming along soon. Hopefully for me- it will be History Nerds.

  • Heidi KinsI was absolutely sickened by the thought of Lizzie and Emma having innapropriate relations. At that moment I knew something wasn’t right here! The nail that sealed the coffin for me was Lee anne’s reaction during the reveal! She was NOT a happy camper, unfortunately there are so many people that believe everything they see on those shows. So now what do we do about damage control? These untruths are not going to be forgotten any time soon! That “psychic” spoke about “dirty sex” well I think she does “dirty TV”! I also believe she knew exactly where she was and took advantage of the situation at hand!

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenShelley, who is Frank?

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenShelley, it is all well and good that you want to end this conversation, but really and truly, it shouldn’t end. This show and its fraud touches us all. We are all affected by it. I have to disagree completely with you on your belief about saturation. That will never happen with the paranormal IMHO because these shows satisfy two hungers: those who want to be scared and those who want to know what happens to them when they die. The paranormal bent started long before LeeAnn took over the B&B, so she is not to blame for that, but, and as much as I love her, I have to say that she does believe in this (well maybe not this show’s findings exactly) but she does believe. She relates her personal experiences to anyone who asks. My sentiment is that if it keeps the house open, I gladly look the other way. But this show went way to far and this show is the now the new benchmark. The house HAS to take some control. The Historical Society always has. The Lizzie Borden B&B is a business in this city. Pays taxes, has neighbors, works well with others, etc. But shows like this will DESTROY their local reputation. They might get some more ghost hunting types in, but it will kill what little regard the city has for them in the first place. This is a city that barely tolerates Lizzie to begin with. So my point is that unless the B&B takes control of what goes out about them, and they most certainly can, we will forever be sliding down this rabbit hole THAT WILL NOT END.

  • Mondo Lizzie BordenIt is better to be a history spot than a freak show. Isn’t it?

  • Al Rauberok, anyone who cares about preserving their reputations in ANY field that they are representing will not allow a production company free reign over their work. Unfortunately, there are way too many Steves out there who are there only to see themselves on TV and collect a paycheck. This is why, when my partner and I were the first ones approached to do Ghost Hunters, I refused the show as the production company told me they might have to spice up the show from time to time to keep their audience. I’ve since refused to guest on Paranormal State and a few other ridiculous excuses for serious shows on the paranormal for the same reason. Obviously, there are many, many more in the field who would rather collect a paycheck than uphold a reputation. But, that said, these are people who really don’t have a solid reputation in the field to uphold anyway so I guess you really can’t blame them for taking the money. I doubt that any serious researchers in the field had heard of either Steve or the psychic before this show. Finally, there is no excuse for bad research or for misleading the viewers. No one is going to convince me that the psychic never saw that photo of Lizzie before she sat with the artist.

    20 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Mondo Lizzie BordenAnd I argue that this goes also for historians. You cannot defend those who take the truth and photoshop it. This show really draws a line in the sand for both the paranormal investigator and the historian.

    20 hours ago · Like
  • Faye Musselman‎@Stef: Shelley neverr stated nor even implied that *this* conversation should end. She was talking about the paranormal stuff in context of being a “trend” and comparing it to otther entertainment, i.e. popular movies, books – i.e., wizzards, goblins, vampires. etc. Also, the FRHS is a non-profit. Comparing em in any way whatsoever is like oil and water – it just doesn’t miix. With reference to Lee-ann and her buying into all the paranormal activity at The House – one’s perception is one’s reality. Indeed, I think working as hard as she does – and often to the point of total exhaustion – and practically living there 24/7 – she is bound to have some sort of unexplainable experiences. Don’t forget, Martha McGinn was the first to make public of such unexplained activity and she lived there, too. Besides, it’s far too late to alter the minds of that demographic I mentioned – they are into it….age and life’s experiences may alter their current perceptions and pasttimes – but for now they “would love to spend the night at the Lizzie house.” The Dead Files will have a short life, IMHO, because it is produced so poorly. There’s no accounting for taste, but there’s some accounting for being duped. And there’s been enough comments around FB and otther web chat boards relative to that very fact concerning this “entertainment” program that many people are pissed enough they longer plan to watch it. If the producers had hired John Edwards as the investigative law enforcement officer and a bona-fide psychic – we might have had a different caliber show. Finally, I think what I like least about ALL OF THIS, is that 90% of t.v. programs, documentaries, etc. on Lizzie and the case have demonstrated the creators spent very little time in research. In the minds of the majority of the populace who know “of” Lizzie, she remains that one dimensional persona of a psychopath wielding a bloody hatchet. And so she will remain, unless Ken Burns deciides to do a multi-part doc on it all. :)

    18 hours ago · Like
  • Faye Musselman‎@Shelley: In the 1970′s I used to think WWF (Worldwide Wrestling Federation) fights were just a trend. Then I used to think ( a couple decades ago) that Rap music was just a trend. So I’ve given up hoping the Kardashian franchise is just a trend. Like I said, there’s no accounting for taste.

    17 hours ago · Like
  • Shelley DziedzicI don’t care if this conversation ends or not and was not suggesting it. This is not my Facebook page. As the only person here commenting who had anything at all to do with the program and its crew and detective, I thought I might shed some light on some things. For days after in post-filming, I got call after call wanting to know how they could get permission to use that photo of Lizzie on the porch at Maplecroft with the dog. I referred them to the Herald and FRHS- apparently they did not get permission. I spoke to a lawyer friend of mine recently, as I was also steamed about the photoshopping of that photo, and not being an expert myself, drastically altering a public domain photo to the point where it looks like entirely a new image can sometimes slip under the door without repercussions. And as for the ghostbusting biz, even Chris Moon is not packing them in at Lizzie’s like he used to- the last few Haunted U weekends cancelled for lack of full bookings. One hopes the era of grown men in tight black tees flexing their pecs with eyes glowing in the dark while squealing like girls and drama queen psychics growling and spouting nonsense may soon be over. Commercial ventures like the B&B which rents out the facility should have a disclaimer I think, and that notion has been well-received. If there is a backlash of negativity falling out after the airing of this particular program toward the management of the house, future bookings of a similar nature might be handled differently. The people to write to are the owners. As for the Dead Files, I would vent to the network, and have done so myself. If I were the owner of that photo, I would call my lawyer and see what could be done. As rotten egg programs go- this one was a stinker.

    15 hours ago · Like
  • Shelley DziedzicI have no earthly idea who FRANK was. He was never at the house.

    15 hours ago · Like
  • Mondo Lizzie BordenHow did they find him then? He looked familiar. Like he was Frank Knowlton jr? No credits at the end of this show made for frustration!

    14 hours ago · Like
  • Mondo Lizzie BordenShelley, when you said this: “And now, I think to give it any more of my attention is to give the entire production far more importance and limelight than it deserves. Rotten eggs should be thrown out” it sounded like you were ending the conversation. That is what I read into it. Sorry for misunderstanding you. I hate the lack of tone and pitch in the written word!

    14 hours ago · Like
  • Shelley DziedzicLaughable was the notion that Amy did not know where she was according to the intro. They walk her right up the front steps with the huge B&B sign shining in the streetlight, then she slips once and says “So this is where it happened,” pointing to the black sofa. Unless she has been living in a cave under a rock, the psychic community has milked every single scream out of this venue and Amy has probably viewed many of her competitors’ programs. I would be more impressed if the psychic were blindfolded from the minute they land at Green Airport or Logan and deliberately driven all over in various directions before pulling up at the house. Not to mention those psychic kids who drove from Providence over the Braga with Fall River signs all over the place.

    13 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Mondo Lizzie BordenThey turned the photos around, they said, and showed. However, I too saw that big sign there as she came inside ad thought the same thing. Plus didn’t they have that painting of Lizzie by the piano in the parlor still visible the whole time?

    13 hours ago · Like
  • Shelley DziedzicYes- and the one in the hall. Not to mention the very distinctive black sofa which is a dead ringer for the real deal from 1892 and has become almost an icon for the case. The poison and family sickness segment was cut from the program, although it was on the site as a teaser. Funny thing was Amy’s revelation that women were being sick and throwing up- on the third floor in what is now known as the Knowlton room or chimney room, which would have been in 1892 just a storage room. Listening to psychics for many years, I have always wished they would do a little homework on a venue and at least get most of the small verifiable details correct before they expound. They would then have a chance of sounding more believable.

    6 hours ago · Like
  • Mondo Lizzie BordenHa ha ha! Are you saying that if they did their research they could trick people better? Too funny!

    4 hours ago · Like
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See also:




My stepbrother (who was so cool to give me a brand new Garmin GPS tracker for Christmas) was looking over my blog today and came across this entry and said: “Hey! I know that artist!” Well it turns out its Herman Alfred Leonard Wahlberg, a Swedish artist born in Stockholm February 13, 1834 and died October 4, 1906. Nordic landscape painting was popular during those years, and this Swedish landscape is typical of the Dusseldorf version of wilderness paintings. Known as just “Alfred Wahlberg” you can see a picture of him here. Like many of those artists of that style during that period, prints of his paintings are still available.

(Original post follows):

There are numerous known and unknown people all over Fall River and environs who have “stuff” that belonged to Lizzie. On my last visit while shopping at an outlet store at the Durfee Mills I chatted with the store owner who told me she had an old rocking chair that belonged to Lizzie and if I came back she’d show me a picture of it. I never made it back but we did exchange addresses and I’ve yet to write her. Meanwhile, here’s something I can relate and show now.

(Original post from 2007)

Some months ago, Jeff Masson of Somerset, MA noticed an elderly gentleman admiring the house he lives in and Jeff, his mother and this man got to talking. Eventually the subject of Lizzie Borden came up (Jeff is a frequent visitor to the Lizzie Borden B&B and has a keen knowledge of the Bordens and others buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River.) During the conversation the gentleman, Elliott Barrows of Somerset, related that he had a painting that was given to his grandfather by Lizzie Borden. The story goes that Lizzie had some work done at her house she named “Maplecroft” #7 French Street (now 306) in Fall River, and it was Mr. Barrows’ grandfather who did the work – “handyman” kind of work, not major construction. The painting below apparently hung in Lizzie’s house and Lizzie, so the tale goes, gave Mr. Barrows the painting as partial payment for his labor. Just exactly when this occurred is not known.

Mr. Barrows subsequently brought the actual painting back to Jeff’s house and allowed him to keep it for a while and to photograph it, which are the images you see here. Remarkably, Mr. Barrows stated the painting had been appraised for $8,000.

The handwritten notation on the back of the painting reads as follows:

“This picture framed for the house of Lisbeth and Emma Borden, 306 French St. Fall River, Mass whose father Andrew Jackson Borden and stepmother, Abby Durfee Gray Borden were murdered at their house, 92 Second St., Fall River, Mas, Aug. 4, 1892. The trial was held in June 1893.

Art Supplment to the New York Recorder Sept 30th, 1894, The Knapp Co., Sttr. N.Y.

Famous Paintings of Europe; “Alone” by (unreadable)”

It is very hard to distinquish the lettering in the name of the artist but it appears to be an “L” or “F” and then “V” and Rberg or Aberg. I believe this is a swedish artist. There is a rather famous painting by Dawn Parkinson titled “Alone” showing a lone seagull soaring past a white chaulked cliff. Searching through various artbooks, Googling the name in assorted variations yielded no results. Unfortunately Mr. Barrows was not available for an interview on my most recent visit to Fall River. I’m currently awaiting follow-up from “Cemetery Jeff”. I know several people pursuing this find further as well, so maybe more information will be forthcoming.

The painting certainly evokes meloncholy sadness and makes us wonder what it meant to Lizzie. I can not think it meant a great deal because to just give it away as partial payment to a handyman is not what one would do with a piece of art for which they had a strong emotional attachment. Perhaps this painting was a gift she received rather than a purchase made. Perhaps gazing upon it evoked emotions for an already sad and depressed woman to be even sadder. Maybe it clashed with that garish wallpaper of Victorian times. Who knows. But it’s a great little story, isn’t it?

Lizzie Borden’s Dying Act of Kindness

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Lizzie Borden died 84 years ago today.  She died at 8:30 pm on June 1, 1927  (a Wednesday) in her home in Fall River, MA.  She had been lingering all day, surrounded by her chauffeur and two servants:  Ernest Terry, Ellen Miller, and Florence Pemberton.  There were others who came to the house as well.

The Reverend Cleveland from the nearby Church of Ascension – a few doors down from Central Congregational  Church on Rock Street – would execute the wishes Lizzie had written out on March 31, 1919.   Vida Turner would come in and be instructed to sing “My Ain’ Country”, tell no one she had been there and then leave immediately.

The reporting a few days later of Lizzie’s Will was regional front page news and appeared in many newspapers across the country recounting the horrific hatchet murders of August 4, 1892, and Lizzie’s subsequent arrest, trial and acquittal.

Her Will was probated for 6 years with four separate Probate Court Accountings submitted by the executor of her estate, Charles C. Cook:

Probate of Lizzie’s Will.

Proceeding Inclusive Dates Held
1st Accounting June 24, 1927 – May 1, 1929 October 2, 1931(Fall River)
2nd Accounting May 2, 1929 – Jan. 1, 1932 February 17, 1933(Taunton)
3rd (Substituted)Accounting Jan.1, 1932 – Nov. 28, 1932 February 17, 1933(Taunton)
4th FinalAccounting Nov. 28, 1932 – March 3, 1933 March 24, 1933(Attleboro)

The primary reason for the long probate was Mr. Cook’s failure to include the house/property at 328 French Street known as the “Henry House” which was situated directly east of “Maplecroft”.

Mr. Cook claimed the house was his as a gift from Lizzie.   However, Grace Hartley Howe and Helen Leighton, the two major legatees in Lizzie’s Will, were having none of it.  They claimed fraud and the matter went to court – Probate Court – in several sessions.   The testimony in those proceedings are rich in insight into Lizzie’s character as gleamed from those who testified, including Winifred F. French, who was to receive $5,000 as a bequest from Lizzie.  What the witnesses on behalf of Grace & Helen had to say was insightful, but the most provacative was this:

So here we have Lizzie dying and she knows she is about to die but what is on her mind?  She is remembering her promise to Ernest Terry to pay for his house repairs and tells him to write a blank check, which she signs and which he takes to the bank.  She may or may not have remembered she left him and his wife money in her will, but she wanted this to be extra.   A blank check – reluctantly approved by Cook, but cashed at the bank.    And Cook, dear man, tried to convince Mr. Terry that that check of $2,500 was to be considered part of the $3,000 cash bequest from Lizzie.  What a guy.

Ultimately the court ruled in favor of Helen & Grace and the proceeds from the sale of the property was considered a part of Lizzie’s estate.  Although he was judged not guilty of fraud or had bad faith in carrying out the terms of the Will, Judge Mayhew R. Hitch of the Probate Court made Cook accountable for that $10,000 (which was the amount he had sold it for but not yet pocketed) plus interest.   Cook made this right in the Final Accounting.  I find it amusing that he also included the cost of services from the attorney who represented him, Arthur E. Seagrave.  The court approved it.  His submittal of the heating bill for the Maplecroft garage where he parked his car, however, was not approved.  (Good try but too bad, Charlie).

So as she lay dying on this day 83 years ago, Lizzie Andrew Borden made no deathbed confession (and had she, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog) but she was focused on a potential financial hardship to her faithful driver and friend, Ernest Terry.   Her last documented act was to issue a blank check.

Yes, there were many acts of kindness that Lizzie Borden did throughout her life, particularly the second half of her life when she had the money to use as she wanted.  We will most likely read more about them in Parallel Lives and perhaps finally see a photograph of Ernest Terry (I’ve never seen one and the book is to have well over 500 photographs – yep, you read that right).

I would like say, on this day:  “Rest in peace, Lizzie Borden.”

But we all know that ain’t gonna happen.

Helen Leighton and Her Sister, Mary

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In her Will, Lizzie Borden left much of her estate to her cousin, Grace Hartley Howe and her closest friend, Helen Leighton. But there are 21 other specifically named individuals to whom she left other real estate, personal property, jewelery, and/or money.  It’s always a rewarding challenge to find out more about who the lesser known recipients were.

Xerox copy of Lizzie Borden’s actual Will (Right click for larger image)

Helen Leighton was born 16 Jun 1866 in Columbia (near Millbridge), ME.


Helen’s parents were John Calvin Leighton and Susanna T. Jacobs who were married on March 10, 1865 in Milbridge, ME. (about 10 miles from Columbia). Her father went by his middle name, “Calvin”.   (Susanna may also have been known as Lucy Therese Jacobs but she was named Susanna on their marriage license.)


John Calvin Leighton was born at Columbia, ME, about 10 miles from Milbridge.  At age 94, his father Harrison Thatcher was interviewed by the Boston Sunday Globe 8 Dec 1895 concerning his recollections of day-to-day life in the past.


When Helen was  5 years old, her mother, Susanna, died at age 32 in Portland, ME. Three years later, Helen’s father married Hannah D. Robbins at Portland, ME on 8 July 8, 1874.  So, Helen also had a stepmother by the time she was 9 years old.  Then, two years after this second marriage when Helen was a month shy of her 11th birthday, her father and stepmother had a little girl, Mary Woodbury Leighton, born May 14, 1876.  From all accounts it appears Helen and her younger sister were close and remained close for most of their lives.


In May of 1893, at the time Lizzie Borden was languishing in the Taunton jail awaiting her role in the Trial of the Century, Helen, about to turn 27 years old, was just graduating from the Fall River Nursing Training School. And on Sept 9, 1904, Helen’s stepsister, Mary W. Leighton married Henry L. Orters.

Thus, she became Mary Orters. For a few years their household included Helen.

As close as Lizzie Borden and Helen Leighton were, Lizzie undoubtedly met Helen’s younger sister and her husband Henry.  She must have been fond of both of them, or at least Mary (perhaps being told by Helen:  “Be good to her, she’s rich!”) endeared herself to Lizzie, because this Mary – Helen Leighton’s sister, is the subject of bequest #12 in Lizzie’s Will:

12. To Mrs. Mary L. Orters of Sharon, Massachusetts, the sum of five thousand dollars; if she shall not be living at my decease I give the same to her husband, Henry L. Orters.

Now, besides this stepsister thing, Helen can trace her ancestors to Thomas Leighton born about 1604 and died at Dover, NH 22 Jan 1672.  Thomas was among the planters of Dover (then known as Northam) with significant land holdings in the area.  A monument was erected to him along the west side of Back River Road in Dover. So Helen’s ancestor, Samuel Leighton, was the pioneer founder of Columbia, ME.  In 1763, and was active during the Revolutionary War defending the coast against the British.

Gee, fellow historians, is this ringing any bells about Lizzie Borden’s ancestors?   Can one imagine Lizzie and Helen conversing of what they had in common beyond the love of animals?  For example, much like Lizzie, I’m sure Helen was very much aware of her own roots.  Perhaps SHE had her own sense of entitlement.

Helen certainly came out ahead financially from being a nursing companion to one Borden (Eudora Borden Dean), being a close friend to another (Lizzie), and companion to a long time friend (Gertrude Baker).

It’s nice to know Helen – having prior experience – was savvy enough to see to it her stepsister got a “piece of Lizzie” (estate) as well.  :)




  • Leighton Genealogy, CD, 2001 pg. 501


  • Genealogical Record 9 [1898]:86-9, 221-3, Autobiography of Levi Leighton [Portland, 1890], 9-11; and in


  • Levi’s Centennial Historical Sketch of the Town of Columbia, 1796-1896 (Machias, 1896].



  • Julia Cornman and Perley M., A Leighton Genealogy, Descendants of Thomas Leighton of Dover, NH, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2 Vols., Boston, 1989.
  • Leonard Rebello, Lizzie Borden Past & Present, Alzack press. 1999. pp330-332.
  • Conversations/emails with Mary Leighton Proebstle.






Maplecroft – Through the Years

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Maplecroft, aka 306 French Street, Fall River, was the much loved  and prideful residence of Lizzie Borden.  She lived there the entire second half of her life.

The interior is well preserved by its current owner, Robert Dube.

The Mass. Historical Commission has incorrect information.  The document states the Borden sisters moved there in 1894.  In fact, Lizzie and Emma purchased the home not long after Lizzie’s Trial:

June 18, 1893 – Lizzie declared Not Guilty

August 10, 1893 – Deed recorded for (then) 7 French Street in Lizzie and Emma’s names.

September 2, 1893 – Lizzie & Emma move into (later named) “Maplecroft”

(circa 1974)




(Notice “Bed & Breakfast” sign bottom of lower right window).

(For a short while, Mr. Dube covered up where the top step is carved “Maplecroft”)


There are certain places in Fall River that are photographed repeatedly by tourists and visitors: 92 Second Street (specifically, the living room sofa); Oak Grove Cemetery (specifically Lizzie’s grave); and her French Street home (specifically the carved “Maplecroft” step).




Lizzie Borden’s Will and Who Got the Cars

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Lizzie Borden died on June 1, 1927.  Her highly publicized Will was probated for six years.  We learn much from those probate proceedings.  For example, Undertaker Winward charged $696.70 for her funeral arrangements.  We learn that Lizzie’s two cars, which were not listed among her bequests, were subsequently given away to her chauffeur, Ernest A. Terry,  and business manager, Charles C. Cook as assigned assets disposed of in the 4th and Final Probate Accounting.



Conformed Copy of the original of Lizzie Borden’s Last Will and Testament.

(Right click images for better viewing)


There were 4 Probate Hearings as follows:


Proceeding Inclusive Dates Held
1st Accounting June 24, 1927 - 

May 1, 1929

October 2, 1931 

(Fall River)

2nd Accounting May 2, 1929 - 

Jan. 1, 1932

February 17, 1933 


3rd (Substituted) 


Jan.1, 1932 - 

Nov. 28, 1932

February 17, 1933 


4th Final 


Nov. 28, 1932 - 

March 3, 1933

March 24, 1933 


Conformed Copy of the original probate documents as filed with the probate court in Fall River.

As executor of Lizzie’s Will, Charles C. Cook had listed his services at $10,000.  That was reduced to $5,000.  There was also the initially unreported sale of the Henry house (for $10,000 on April 14, 1928) adjacent to Lizzie’s that was contested by the primary “human” heirs, Grace Hartley Howe and Helen Leighton.   As if the money and the “so called Baker lot” were not enough, Mr. Cook ended up with the car below.   He had served Andrew Borden in his business interests and then Lizzie and her sister for the past 35 years.   He had earned Lizzie’s respect and gratitude for his loyalty and discretions.  Perhaps, like Lizzie, Charles had his own sense of entitlement.

The vehicles pictured below are for illustrative purposes and not the actual cars.



1923 Lincoln Sedan went to Charles C. Cook.

Charles C. Cook was born March 28, 1854, and died on  September 28, 1934, only 18 months after the final probating of Lizzie’s Will.



1924 Buick Sedan went to Ernest A. Terry

Ernest A. Terry was born January 26, 1886,  and died October 11, 1955.

Both these cars would have been garaged in the special structure Lizzie had built for her first automobile in 1913.  It still stands on French Street but is used for storage.  Robert Dube, owner of “Maplecroft” tells me that when originally constructed there was only the center doors.  The doors on both ends were added years later.  Dube showed me the original drawings.


Rear of Maplecroft showing the area behind the Swift residence to the right.  This shows the pathway on which Lizzie wanted to have a driveway built to her garage with it facing towards Belmont Street.  Due to restrictions set forth in the sale at the time, she was not able to build where she wanted.



Besides Ernest and Charles and the cars – both Grace and Helen gained from the “residuals” of the estate.  In addition to the furniture, carpets, books, jewelry, silver, glassware, etc., they were given cash payouts earned from interest on properties and stock dividends earned since Lizzie’s death to the final accounting – a period of 6 years. Grace was in Fall River on March 3, 1933 to sign (along with Helen Leighton)  the Fourth and Final Accounting of the Probate of Lizzie’s Will, wherein they both received $6,000.  That was a chunk of change to receive in the middle of the Depression.

The very next day Grace Hartley Howe, cousin to Lizzie Borden and wife of the private secretary and chief political strategist to Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  was in Washington, D.C. for the inauguaration of the President of the United States of America.  She and Hartley took the train.

Why she and Helen chose not to keep these cars is a puzzlement to me.

New Photo of Lizzie Borden

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Here’s Lizzie in her senior years reflecting on Christmas past.

Well, not really.  It’s Alice Bonney and I snatched it from the internet.  But I’m hopeful we’ll see many images similar in the Fall River Historical Society’s Parallel Lives due out early this year.

We are going to think of Lizzie Borden differently when we read Parallel Lives

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Here’s an article from the Boston Globe regarding the Fall River Historical Society’s new book

Since some of the content has been shared with me, I’m already thinking of her differently.

What if these were the truest words she ever spoke?  What if she were absolutely serious in that statement?  What if she had resolved, deep within herself, that she would, indeed, bear it bravely?  What if, for all the years she remained in Fall River, bore the brunt of the vicious annual re-visits of the crime in the Fall River Globe?  What if, for the rest of her life, she endured the stares, the innuendos, the belief by her peers of a guilt that was not hers?

Consider the life she endured.  Her only safe harbor was inside the walls of “Maplecroft”, protected by those that served her.  Within that house she had all the comforts – the books she loved, her pets, her loyal friends, and servants who loved and looked after her.

But she was still a pariah in the eyes of the social elite – in the eyes of the Borden relatives.  She was not accepted.  She was not to be spoken of except in the huddled and hushed groups of men in their clubs, or women in their intimate, cloistered gossip gatherings.  Consider that stressful existence.  Imagine knowing you were innocent and enduring an entire second half of your life that way.

Were these the honest words of Lizzie Borden?  Or where they the hollow words of a crafty woman wanting to project an entirely different image?

Her legacy has leaned to the latter for she has been mostly portrayed as a manical, axe-wielding demon based on an inaccurate quatrain.   For generations the public acceptance of her unproven guilt has far outweighed the possibility of her innocence.

Consider again if those words quoted were truthful words.  Consider that they were, in fact, prophetic because guilty or not, she did bear it bravely.  She endured it.  We must give her that.

Conveyance of the French Street Property to Lizzie & Emma

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Lizzie Borden’s Trial ended with a Not Guilty verdict on June 20, 1893.  By July 12 it was reported in local papers that Lizzie and Emma had purchased the French Street house.  They had first considered the “Butterworth” house but the deal didn’t go through.

The papers had been filled with articles about the sisters, the case, the verdict, the upcoming election for Attorney General, Lizzie’s visit to Taunton, the “bombshell” about a new suspect never brought foreward in court (will post soon), challenges to the FR Police to begin a new search for the killer, etc. etc.

Less than two months after the Trial, Lizzie and Emma were purchasing the property at (then) 7 French Street.

On August 10, 1893 the below document conveying the property from Charles W. Allen and his wife Atta was written in the hand of Charles C. Cook, Lizzie and Emma’s property manager.  (Cook had served their father for years, became Executor in Lizzie’s will and was a subsequent legatee in both their wills 34 years later.)

Click on images for larger view.

This Deed was written only 6 days after the first of the Fall River Globe’s anniversary articles on the Borden murders.   Reports of Lizzie and Emma’s move into the so called “mansion” didn’t circulate until wagon loads of their furniture and other possessions were observed being moved out of the 92 Second Street property.   There were raised eyebrows and wagging tongues within the society on the Hill about the speed in which the girls moved there.

The article below is from the New York Times, most likely read by Julian Ralph, Sun Reporter who wrote about the girls post Trial on September 24, 1893.

Well, that last sentence sorta says it all, doesn’t it?   Also, if it was true that as Executrix of Andrew’s estate, Emma was required to do those filings to account for it, where are they?   Hmmm.  Good job, Mr. Jennings.   ;)

Julian Ralph – The Sun Reporter & Lizzie

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Photo from eBay auction

Julian Ralph was a reporter with The Sun newspaper in 1893 and covered the Lizzie Borden trial.  He wrote on the proceedings with a bent favorable to Lizzie and was invited to the small reception Mrs. Charles Holmes gave at her Pine Street home the evening of the acquittal.  About two weeks after Lizzie and Emma purchased their home on French Street, he wrote this follow-up article.  He does not say he took tea with her or was invited to their new home.   He most likely had been sent by his editor to do a follow-up because “Lizzie Borden” was still a hot topic, but if he had made contact with her for an interview, he didn’t get it.  Wish that he had!  Instead, the article reads like a reporter getting his sources from other newspaper reports and talking to those who wished not to be identified.   He avoids expressing the general sentiment that the people of Fall River, particularly those of Lizzie’s own peers, had already pretty much figured Lizzie had done the deed and gotten away with it.

“New York Sun
24 September 1893


She And Her Sister Have Come Into Their Money.

Neither One Has Put on Mourning Garments- Escape from Public Scrutiny During a Visit to Newport- Nerves of Steel.

If Lizzie Borden ever tried to live so as to satisfy her critics, she has given it up as a hopeless task. They found no end of fault with her as long as she lived in the old house on Second street, Fall River, where the murders were committed, and now that she has moved into another dwelling in a better part of the city they say that she has come into the money of her murdered parents and is making it fly. Among the sensational stuff that has been published about her recently is the news that she refuses to wear mourning and goes tearing through the streets in a buggy beside her sister Emma in a very light dress while Emma dresses in deep mourning. The fact is that she has on two occasions hired a livery team and gone out for a ride, her own and only horse being busied by the work on the farm, beyond the city limits. She has, indeed, worn a light gown- one of the old ones that the detectives pulled over as they hung in the girls’ closet in the old house after the murder. But Emma has not accompanied her in deep or any other kind of mourning, for the simple reason that neither of these original and interesting women believes in wearing mourning. They did not go to the burial of the elder Bordens in that attire. They did not wear mourning in court when Lizzie was tried for the murders. Lizzie wore a crepe dress part of the time, but had a purple feather in her hat. The rest of the time she wore her black lace dress, with the same hat- but, according to the rulings of fashion, lace would not have been considered mourning, even had the hat been different. Miss Emma Borden has recently had a new dress made, the first notable purchase of the kind made by either of the women since the murder. Their neighbors watch them pretty closely, and know all that they do. This new gown is decidedly not mourning. The feminine readers of The Sun will know what sort of a dress it is when they are told that the name of its stuff sounds like “shallee de lane.” It is black with a green figure in it. The light gown that Lizzie is criticized for wearing is a light drab with blue threads in it. The neighbors- both the friendly and the unfriendly- say that the testimony at the murder trial created a false impression as to the way the Borden girls dressed. They never made any show, but always dressed very well indeed, in clothes of good material and plenty of them. They had their own means, in money and mill stocks, and they made good use of them, paying as high as $10 a yard for trimmings, each wearing silks, and each possessing an elegant sealskin jacket. Both always had their shoes made to order.

There is equal misconception, not as to how they lived, but as to the style of their home. The parlor was newly and stylishly furnished for the use of the young women, and the rest of the house was set with substantial but not new furniture. All through, the carpets were of the best. Any one may judge the style of the appointments from the fact that the girls have moved the material bodily into their new home in French street, on the hill. There will not be much to call the stepmother to mind in the new house, as Miss Emma gave all Mrs. Borden’s things to that lady’s sister, Mrs. Fish of Hartford. This is the elder sister. Mrs. Whitehead, the younger one, who lives in Fall River, is yet almost a girl, and would have found less use for them. But in the new house in the select residence part of the town the young women will live as they never were able to live in their old home, because their former home had practically none of the modern improvements. The old couple were satisfied without them, and the girls were far more anxious to leave that neighborhood of stores and tenements than to have the old house modernized. They moved into their new home, with its modern lighting and plumbing arrangements two weeks ago last Thursday, and immediately the workmen whom they employed took possession of the old house and began to make it fit for rental.

It would scarcely be thought that any one would be found who would wish to live in that house of horrors, but the women have already had applicants for it and can easily keep it rented. They will only rent to persons suitable to the neighborhood, that is to say, satisfactory to their old neighbors with whom they lived twenty years. Those neighbors have had an unenviable time since the murders. There is never a day that sightseers do not linger around the old house staring at it as if, by watching, they may be able to solve the mystery it once enveloped. Usually they stare at the right house, easily picking it out because of the barn behind it, but once in a while a man or a woman will stand for half a day studying the wrong house and the people who go in and out of it. The neighbors who own their homes do not criticize the Borden women for moving away. They would do so if they could. When they moved there the street was like a pretty residence street in Brooklyn, with blooming dooryards and tree-lined curbs. Now it is just such another street as Varick street in this city- a medley of business and tenement buildings. It turns out that the elder Bordens wanted to move away, and would have done so ere this had they lived. They waited for Mr. Borden to find just what he wanted in a better part of town. He had looked at the old Mason house on Main street and at one other. The other residents, of the older set, are remaining there in the belief that when business gets firmly entrenched in the street the property will fetch high prices.

It was rumored that the Borden sisters were going to turn their old home into a storehouse and office building, but it is more profitable to rent it as it is. Its recent history is of interest. Emma did not live alone there at any time. Her uncle Morse stayed some months and the hired woman and the farmer man afterward lived with her there. While her sister was in duress in Taunton Emma visited her during two days in every week. She never was as solitary there as Lizzie often was, for that young woman at one time made it a practice to stay alone in the big house while Mr. and Mrs. Borden and Emma spent the hottest weeks at the farm. This she did until Emma decided that it was not right and that she should remain with her. After that only the old folks went away. When Lizzie was discharged by the court and came back there to live she seemed to bear no grudges against those who had been obliged to testify during the trial. With the exception of Miss Russell, her old companion, all the friends were taken up again. Miss Russell is the girl who told about the burning of the Bedford cord dress. She is much to be pitied, for she was rudely dealt with in the Massachusetts press at the time, although she only told the truth, and yet she suffered an agony of mind because she had not done so at first and because she feared she might harm her old friend. She was so nervous on the witness stand that, as she said afterward, she could not have told her own age if she had been asked.

One other incident in the old house was the visit of Bridget Sullivan, who was the family servant at the time of the murders. She called on the day that Lizzie reached home. It was a short call, and has never been repeated.

Very much that is utter nonsense has been published about the fortunes that the sisters have come into. The “fortune” of the stepmother consisted of about $1,700 in cash and half of a tenement of the value of, possibly, $2,000. This property the Borden girls gave to the sisters of their stepmother, Mrs. Fish and Mrs. Whitehead. It will be remembered that this tenement was referred to in the testimony at the murder trial. Mr. Borden had given the property to Mrs. Borden, and as it was apparently to the advantage of Mrs. Borden’s relatives, the sisters were vexed with their father and his wife, but particularly with her. It was after this that Lizzie ceased to address Mrs. Borden as “mother.” Emma had never called her anything but Abby. It is not true that the sisters of Mrs. Borden threatened to sue for more than has been given to them, or for any part of the estate. The method of the murderer of the old couple rid them of all title as heirs, because it was proven that Mrs. Borden was murdered first. Her property, therefore, went to his heirs, and, when he was murdered next, his property went to his daughters. Mrs. Borden’s sisters had this explained to them, and had no intention to bring suit for a share in the estate. The gift to them of their dead sister’s little belongings was an unforced kindness on the part of the Borden girls. They have taken their father’s estate, which is commonly spoken of as the value of $400,000. It is probably less than that, but is of a nature to increase greatly as time goes on. On August 5, Emma Borden filed a petition with the Clerk of the Probate Court in Taunton and qualified, with a bond of $50,000 to act as administratrix of her father’s estate. The bond filed with the court by Lawyer Wood, as administrator of Mrs. Borden’s estate, was one of $500 only. Miss Emma Borden is now in control of the estate for her own benefit and that of her sister Lizzie. She has not yet filed a schedule of the properties which compose her trust, but must do so within a few weeks, and must thereafter report her operations as administratrix once a year. The cruel and gratuitous insinuation that there may have been a will, and that there was talk of forcing the sister into court again in order to air this supposition, has no basis. If Mr. Borden had made a will, he would have kept it where he kept all his papers, in the vaults of the financial institutions with which he was connected. It was said that he was about to make his first will at the time he was murdered, but that was not brought out on the trial.

The new home of the Borden girls on French street is not on the best street in the town, but it is in a good neighborhood and near the most fashionable avenue. It was occupied by a man of means and good social position, who sold it because he wished to live where he could enjoy the fine prospect that is to be had from another point on the same hill. It has been said that the sisters paid $11,000 for the place, and that may be the fact, though the house scarcely warrants a belief that such was a true figure. French street is a modern thoroughfare, set with pretty villas, generally wooden, in open grounds with a showing of neat lawns, a few vases and flowers, and plenty of shade trees. The houses are small, and of the type of dwellings with which most of the smaller suburbs of this city are built up. The new Borden dwelling is a yellow and brown frame house, with a little pointed tower on one corner of the roof and a porch in front and partly on one side. The house might have cost $3,000 to $4,000 to build. It is not as fine as several neighboring cottages. It is said that the sisters employ only one servant, as they did in the old house down town.

Few of the overcurious ever get there to disturb the women with their staring, and, so far as that goes, the change is a delightful one for both of them. But it will be a long while before either of the sisters will be allowed to resume the privacy that others enjoy. Whenever they go shopping or to market they are stared at, watched, and followed. Lizzie got her first welcome respite from this constant, though unintentional, persecution when she went to Newport quite recently. There she stopped with old friends in a private house and remained unidentified by the townspeople. She walked on the famous cliff walk and about the old town, and even went to church, feeling such a sense of freedom as she had begun to believe must only be known to the birds. She had a less successful experience during a visit to the town of Warren. One of the Boston newspapers put her in a pother recently by establishing a most-popular-candidate contest, in which she led for a long time. Altogether she got something like 96,000 votes, and the editors- if that is what contest managers are called- notified her that she was about to win and would be entitled to a free ticket to the World’s Fair. Her very able counselor, Mr. A.J. Jennings, courteously requested the “editor” to give the prize to the next person on the list- but just then the friends of somebody else made a rush with their votes, and the prize went to their candidate. The jurors who acquitted Lizzie next had their pictures taken in an impressive group, and dispatched the New Bedford juror with a copy of it to Miss Lizzie Borden with their compliments, doubtless fancying that if she possessed a copy it would complete her happiness by enabling her to frame it and hang it in her sitting room as a constant reminder of an episode in her life which she might otherwise forget. Unfortunately she was out and could not personally thank the jury for its thoughtfulness. She has had a narrow escape from breaking her decision never to be interviewed. She made the decision as part of her plan to contribute nothing that would lengthen her notoriety or increase it. But soon after her return to Fall River a woman who had been kind to her in her trouble sent an interviewer to her with a written plea that he be given what he wanted, This was hard to refuse, but she kept firmly to her decision.

Lizzie bears up extremely well after her remarkable experience: indeed she appears to be as well as she ever was, and stouter and better looking. The case is different with the older sister. The family affliction, the horrors of the murders, and the long strain during Lizzie’s trial, were more than her nerves could endure, and she is nothing like the woman she was. Her health is far from robust, and she frequently has to give up, or, rather, to break down. Lizzie says that she made up her mind not to allow her troubles to get the better of her, and she has had will enough to remain proof against all that has happened. At the trial the lawyers on both sides declared her to be a most remarkable woman, and people are generally coming to the same conclusion.”

Insoymada's Weblog

Rants, Raves, Opines & General Fluff

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Musings, reflections and sharing on this enduring fascination. copyright 2007

Insoymada's Weblog

Rants, Raves, Opines & General Fluff

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

Musings, reflections and sharing on this enduring fascination. copyright 2007


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