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Lizzie & Emma’s Wills

10 Jan

Unrelated News: eBay has a diary of a contemporary to Lizzie’s that has a reference to “Caroline Mason”, who could be Caroline Cole Mason who married Henry Augustus Gardner.  One of their children was Orrin Gardner, a major legatee in Emma’s Will.

On a Lizzie chat forum there seems to be surprise that in the above mentioned diary for the date of August 4, 1892 the writer, Charitta Sanford, says Lizzie probably did it.  But this sentiment among Fall Riverites was noted back in the 1960’s with Victoria Lincoln’s  book,  A Private Disgrace, that suspicion of  Lizzie by those that knew the Andrew Borden family came about as soon as the murders were reported. The link to the auction is HERE.

The same seller sold another diary of this same woman wherein she wrote everything in rhyme.  Very clever.  That can be seen HERE.


The Wills of sisters Lizzie and Emma Borden, including the probate of Lizzie’s Will and the Codicil to Emma’s Will, can be seen as separate pages on this Blog – simply click above.

Lizzie’s Will, signed by her hand on January 30, 1926, was simple and straightforward in its bequests – primarily to those individuals whose loyalty and friendship she valued, with the largest cash amount to the Fall River Animal Rescue League.

Their Wills tell us something about their post-separation relationship when it comes to the property on French Street in Fall River known as “Maplecroft”.

From Emma’s Will pertaining to sister Lizzie:

“SIXTH: If my sister, Lizzie A. Borden, shall survive me and I shall own an interest at the time of my death in that tract of land with the dwelling house thereon situated on the northerly side of French Street, in said Fall River, and being the same premises now occupied by my sister and which were purchased by my sister and myself of Charles M. Allen, then I give, devise and bequeath all my right, title and interest in and to said tract of land and the improvements thereon, to my said sister, Lizzie A. Borden, and all my interest in and to the household furniture in said house or upon said premises.  If,  however, at the time of my death I shall have disposed of my interest in said tract of land located on French Street and in the contents of the house, and my said sister, Lizzie A. Borden, shall survive me, then I give and bequeath to my said sister the sum of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000).”

-Signed by Emma Borden –  November 20, 1920

By significant contrast, we have this from Lizzie’s Will:

“28. I have not given my sister, Emma L. Borden, anything as she had her share of her father’s estate and is supposed to have enough to make her comfortable.”

– Signed by Lizzie Borden –  January 30, 1926

(A few days later, on February 2, 1926, Lizzie would enter Fall River’s Truesdale Hospital for a gall bladder operation from which she would never fully recover.   She had only one year and four months left to live.)

It would seem Lizzie never forgot a kindness and never forgave a betrayal.

Whether the following events had any influence on Lizzie’s Will, we don’t know:

May, 1923 – Emma Borden seeks court authority to divide value of Borden Building between herself and Lizzie.

December 3, 1923 – Emma sells her 1/2 interest in the A.J. Borden Building.

April 14, 1924 – Lizzie forms a partnership with Jacob Dondis in her half share of the AJ Borden Bldg on So. Main.  (LR56)

1924 – Studies in Murder by Edmund Pearson is published.

1926 – Murder at Smutty Nose by Edmund Pearson is published, contains essay on the Borden case.

What we DO learn from these Wills is that Lizzie was the primary guiding hand in determining to whom and how her money and property was to be distributed.   The guiding hand for Emma was clearly her cousin Preston Gardner who benefited in every possible way, particularly in how her money was designated between the BMC Durfee Trust and the Rhode Island Hospital Trust with whom he was a Director and later Vice President.

After Emma’s Will and the Codicil (where she remembered her other Gardner cousins), Preston crafted for her a separate Trust of $45,000 designated for specific individuals, himself included.  (More on this later).

I think these Wills say a lot about the relationship of the two sisters after early June, 1905 when Emma moved out of Maplecroft.  Rendering a kindness to Lizzie was still in Emma’s mind when it came to her Will.  For Lizzie, time had not healed the wounds of her perceived betrayal and abandonment.

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