Lizzie Borden and an Unhappy Family

05 Sep

(Recycled from 2008)

The period immediately after the crime up through the end of the Preliminary Hearing has always been of more interest to me than the Trial itself. So many clues into the twisted fabric of this enigmatic case can be found in that span of time.

This particular New York Times article of August 24, 1892 has always been one of the most interesting to me because it is so generously sprinkled with the seeds from which grew so many speculative theories on this case. First, read the article about Lizzie’s letter.

While Lizzie testified to writing such a letter to Emma, it embellishes beyond that to which she actually testified at the Coroner’s Inquest held August 9th thru 11th, 1892. The day following the NYT article, the Preliminary Hearing began and, of course, Lizzie did not testify nor Emma. Keep in mind that it was the day before the Preliminary Hearing in which the incident of Lizzie and Emma having an argument where Lizzie alledgedly said “You have given me away, Emma” and “I won’t give in one inch” as Matron Reagan testified. If you believe Matron Reagan, and I do, what was the issue?

Clearly tongues were wagging freely to investigative journalists and neighbor to neighbor up to the Preliminary Hearing. Comparatively, the period from the Hearing to the Trial, people who would later testify were more circumspect, especially in reference to harmony or disharmony within the Borden household.

Two weeks before the murders Andrew bought back the Ferry Street house, giving Emma and Lizzie a tidy $2,500 each (considerably more in 1892 purchasing power). Suddenly, “the girls” were flushed with cash. Lizzie and Emma immediately left town and that house and traveled to New Bedford and Fairhaven, respectively.

But there was much more going on in that two weeks leading up to August 4th, 1892. More information came out in the newspapers about the family background, trouble in the household, and even speculation of how the dastardly deed could have been done. The murders were all that anyone was talking about and soon they would be reading what people sworn to the truth would be telling the court.

It was during that period between the crimes and the Preliminary Hearing that we learn about things Lizzie said of her stepmother, Abby, and of various observations of the personal dynamics within that home. Most everything that the Government would gather to build their case on motive was during this period. As to means, something new would have to wait until the end of November when Alice Russell’s conscience (bless her soul) got the best of her. You won’t read about the “dress burning” incident during this period. But could it actually have been the issue, been the topic, to which Lizzie and Emma had words which Matron Reagan overheard? Did Emma tell Attorney Jennings Lizzie had burned a dress the morning after she was told she was suspected and Lizzie was determined to deny it?

Back to more snippets of unhappiness in the household is this article from the Fall River Daily Globe, August 24, 1892, page 7: Edwin Porter was the Globe reporter who wrote The Fall River Tragedy (George R. H. Buffinton, Press of J. D.Munroe, 1893) published immediately after the Trial. Within this article is a portion typical of the veiled sarcasm when speculating the scenario of the murders and how the “intruder” did it that one cannot help but consider Porter as the unknown “Todd Lunday”. (The Mystery Unveiled: The Truth about the Borden Tragedy: Fresh Light That Must Be Convincing to All Readers. Providence: J. A. & R. A. Reid, 1893). Or, maybe Lunday was the paper’s editor, James O’Neil, who penned those god-awful anniversary articles which were so anticipated and popular by the working class “below the Hill.” In any case, there are clues a-plenty to that unhappy family here.

The following article gives us more clues about unhappiness within the Borden household.

Draw your own conclusions. By the way, just what is YOUR idea of cordiality? 😉


3 responses to “Lizzie Borden and an Unhappy Family

  1. Elizabeth Bernette

    March 7, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Wow what an interesting blog you have. This was really, really, good piece and had me thinking about stuff on many levels. I spent two hours looking at older stuff. Now I am definitely going to save for the Historical Society’s book. Thanks, Phayemuss, this was terrific!


  2. phayemuss

    September 6, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Thank you. If you have Facebook, check out the Fall River Historical Society’s page re Parallel Lives updates.

  3. Mrs.C

    December 15, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    It would be nice IF I could but read it. Zoom only made the blur worse.


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