The Daylight Robbery – Something New Revealed

04 Aug

On this date, August 4, 2020, the 128th anniversary of the Borden murders, the Fall River Historical Society has posted something new on the case on their Facebook Page. It is a stunning revelation that puts a different light on who was in the house doing what when it happened. You can read it all


If you cannot access Facebook, here it is in it’s entirety.

The Daylight Robbery As Recalled By Emma L. Borden:

In recognition of the 128th Anniversary of the Borden murders, the FRHS is releasing this interesting tidbit of new information … the story continues to get curiouser and curiouser!

In 2011, two red leather notebooks were bequeathed to the FRHS; the volumes are extremely fragile. The first is a journal of defense team notes, with excerpts culled from interviews with various individuals conducted in 1892, recorded in preparation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie A. Borden. The second is a collection of newspaper clippings, marked in ink with cross-references to the journal.

Time-consuming research and transcription in preparation for publication by the FRHS is ongoing.

The volumes descended in the family of Andrew Jackson Jennings (1849-1923) a prominent Fall River attorney and a member of the defense team for Lizzie Andrew Borden (1860-1927). Following Jennings’ death, they passed to his daughter, Mrs. Marion (Jennings) Waring (1887-1973), and then to her son, Edward Saunders Waring (1924-2011), who bequeathed them to the FRHS.

Following is an interview with Emma Leonora Borden (1851-1927) regarding a burglary that occurred at the Borden house on June 24, 1891. The text has been slightly edited for readability, as indicated in square brackets.

The Burglary at Borden House –

“$75 or 80 in money [and] some horse car tickets [was] the only thing of fathers [that was stolen,] – though his desk was ransacked. Good watch & chain, breast pin & earrings [of] plain Roman gold, no stones, shawl pin with ball at each end, & some other little things [that belonged to Mrs. Borden].

[The] first I knew of it I was sitting in front room. Heard father knock on door of my [bed]room – now Lizzies – he called me. I unlocked [the] door & went in – everything was thrown about. He said he found [the] door to hall open & [a] nail in [the] lock. Put it in hands of officers – asked us to say nothing about it. We talked about it.

[I] remembered we were all shelling peas in [the] dining room in [the] morning, L[Izzie] & father & [my]self, with dining room [doors] shut.

Officer took up piece of chain [and] showed [it] to Mrs. B[orden, and she] said it did not look like hers.”

Why is this important?

The “daylight robbery” at the Borden house was brought up at the trial of Lizzie Borden as an example of an event where someone snuck into the home and left without anyone in the family, or neighborhood, knowing about it. Such a situation might work to Lizzie’s advantage as she claimed innocent of the charges and if true, someone came into the house that day and murdered two people without notice.

The report filed by Captain Dennis Desmond Jr. (1854-1926) and relayed to District Attorney Hosea Morrill Knowlton (1847-1902) in preparation for the trial relates details of this incident (The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie A Borden: The Knowlton Papers, 1892-1892, Fall River Historical Society, 1994, page 74-75, see below). This document is a bit at odds with Emma’s statement to Attorney Jennings above. Additionally, it is believed by some that Andrew and Abby had been at the farm in Swansea that day and only discovered the burglary upon their return home. Emma’s recollection differs in this regard, which could very well lead us to a different context for this crime, occurring the year before the murders.

Interesting? We think so.

Captain Desmond’s report.
The following is transcribed from the original document and has not been edited.

On or about the 24 of June 1891 I was called into City Marshal’s office. Marshal Hilliard said “Mr Desmond, Mr Borden says his house has been robbed. You go with him, and see what there is to it.” Mr Borden and myself left the office and went direct to Mr Borden’s house Second St. I found there Mrs Borden, Emma Borden Lizzie Borden & Bridget Sullivan.

On the 2nd floor in a small room on north side of house I found Mr Borden’s desk. It had been broken open. Mr Borden said “$80.00 in money with 25 to 30 dollars in gold, and a large number of H,car tickets had been taken. The tickets bore name or signature of Frank Brightman.” Brightman was a former treasurer of Globe St. railroad co. Mrs. Borden said “her gold watch & chain, ladies chain, with slide & tassel attached, some other small trinkets of jewelry, and a red Russia leather pocket-book containing a lock of hair had been taken. I prize the watch very much, and I wish & hope that you can get it; but I have a feeling that you never will.” Nothing but the property of Mr & Mrs Borden reported as missing.

The family was at a loss to see how any person could get in, and out without somebody seeing them. Lizzie Borden said “the cellar door was open, and someone might have come in that way.” I visited all the adjoining houses, including the Mrs Churchills house on the north, Dr Kelly’s house on the south, Dr Gibbs house & Dr Chagnon’s house on the east, who might have seen someone going, or coming from Mr Borden’s house; but I failed to find any trace.

I did get a 6 or 8 penny nail which “Lizzie Borden said she found in the Key hole of the door,” leading to a sleeping room on 2nd floor, east end of building. So far as I know this robbery has never been solved.

P.S. Mr Borden told me three times withing two weeks after the robbery in these words “I am afraid the police will not be able to find the real thief.”

(Note: “Capt. Desmonde” and “Robbery Case” handwritten in lead and ink respectively on reverse side of document.)


Officer Desmond’s report is shown here in the FRHS “The Knowlton Papers”. Now, just pause and think about all the subsequent books stating “Andrew and Abby” were at the Borden farm in Swansea. Well, if Emma was telling the truth, Andrew was not in Swansea at all.

Andrew, Lizzie, and Emma sitting at the dining room table shucking peas. What an image. And that “knock, knock” by Andrew on the door leading from (then) Emma’s room to he and Abby’s room. Fraught with dramatic tension. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I were writing a whole new screenplay. I’ve expressed my gratitude to Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, curators of the Society, for making this gem public at this time.

Oh, the jewels they must salivate over in those private donor archives.


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One response to “The Daylight Robbery – Something New Revealed

  1. Frederick

    August 4, 2020 at 6:07 PM

    Think Lizzy set that up to the prelude to the murders.


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