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The House That Lizzie Owned – 328 French Street

Next door to “Maplecroft” this house was  once owned by Lizzie Borden. This Victorian  is and always has been a three family home but was once known as the James Davenport House and was built in 1879 by the ninth mayor of Fall River.

Painted last summer with lovely new landscaping and planters added – among other improvements –  it  was listed for $315,000 last August but sold just before Christmas last year for $282,000.

See full information HERE.

Michael Thomas Brimbau

 I wrote about this last October but had wrong information.  Michael Brimbau, the owner since 1992 (and author of The Girl With The Pansy Pin) moved out to work on the charming fixer-upper he purchased on Charlotte White Road in Westport.   Stefani Koorey remained until it was sold.


One of those very old homes built with one bathroom on first floor but second bedroom on the second floor.  Improvements have been made.

Mr. Brimbau has also written a clever comedy By the Naked Pear Tree: The Trial of Lizzie Borden, actually a play in which two of the scenes had been performed at the Somerset Library by the Pleasure of Poetry Club .

And yes, that’s Stefani Koorey in the front.  The one with the moustache.   Judging by the photos on the link above, looks like this group had a lot of fun.  By the way, I highly recommend Mr. Brimbau’s book.  It is quite funny and very well written.



Did Edmund Pearson Hasten the Death of Lizzie Borden?

(I originally wrote this post back in 2010)

Edmund Lester Pearson (1880-1937)


Edmund Lester Pearson

He was a noted librarian and prolific writer on true crime.  In 1924 he began a correspondence with Frank W. Knowlton, son of Hosea Knowlton, the district attorney who prosecuted Lizzie Borden in her 1893 trial.   Known as the “Knowlton-Pearson Correspondence” it is a remarkable assemblage – rich in content it clearly shows the eagerness with which Frank accommodated Edmund’s request.  They were contemporaries, and Frank provided the author with “open sesame” to Lizzie’s contemporaries and others still living who knew her and/or were involved in the case.   Pearson had access to all of Hosea Knowlton’s papers on the case, and also the preliminary hearing and Trial transcript. (Knowlton was unsuccessful, however, in tracking down Bridget Sullivan’s inquest testimony – a document still missing after all these decades).

In any event, Pearson’s investigative research resulted in Studies in Murder, first published in 1924, three years before Lizzie’s death.  The book was a series of essays on notable cases, the first and expanded essay was on the Borden case.  This would be the first of many writings in subsequent books by Pearson on Fall River’s most notorious citizen.  But this first book was published while Lizzie still lived.

It is fairly certain that Lizzie Borden had read the very first book on the case published in 1893:  Fall River Tragedy by Edward H. Porter.  I think it further fairly certain she had read Studies in Murder. In the twilight of her years she was at least relieved of the awful annual editorials in the Fall River Globe commemorating the infamous crimes with their consistent innuendos that she had gotten away with the double murders.

Her life had been lived quietly and with the refinement and deportment that were her hallmarks of character.  Her closest associates were her servants and a few loyal friends and relatives.  But now came this publication.  It must have been the talk of the town when it came out.  Knowledge of Pearson’s meetings and inquiries with Lizzie’s contemporaries had proceeded the book itself, and those that assisted Pearson must have discussed it with their own associates.  Perhaps it had been talked about in hushed circles long before its publication and perhaps Lizzie had heard as well through reports of who was talking to whom.  The long essay left no doubt in the minds of the reader that the deed must have been done by Lizzie and only Lizzie.

Think for a moment how this must have affected her.  Guilty or innocent, it must have been a devastating event to have this book circulating in Fall River, the region and all over the country, stirring up painful memories of a horrible time while also serving to provide  interest to a whole new generation.   Lizzie had been described as nervous and depressed, unhappy with her decision to have lived all the rest of her life in Fall River – and now, this.

Could the book have hastened her demise?  Stress, nervous anxiety, depression.  Lizzie had always wanted to be accepted by her peers.  She lived her life kind to others and animals, generously giving and always thoughtful of the needs of others.  And now, this.   It must have played upon her mind and heart, a heart already long burdened and weakened by worry.    Not long after the book’s success and wide readership, Lizzie would be hospitalized for gall bladder surgery and never fully recover.

Hosea Morrill Knowlton

Knowlton, Hosea M., white, b. May 1847, 53 yr., b. Maine
Sylvia B. Wife, Jan. 1850, b. Mass.
John W. son, March 1874, 26 b. Mass.
Abby A. dau, mar. 1876, 24, mass.
Frank W., son Aug 1878, 22, Mass.
Edward A., son April 1883, 17, b. mas.
Helen S., dau. Aug. 1884, 14, b. mass.
Sylvia P, dau. may 1890, 10, Mass.
Benjamin H., son, Jun 1892, 8 yr, b. mass.

SYLVIA BASSETT, b. New Bedford, MA, 20 Jan 1852; d. Watertown, MA, 31 Mar 1937; m. New Bedford, 22 May 1873, HOSEA MORRILL KNOWLTON, b. Durham, ME, 20 May 1847; d. Marion, MA, 18 Dec 1902; son of Isaac Case and Mary Smith (Wellington) Knowlton.

Their children, all born in New Bedford were:

John Wellington Knowlton born February 28, 1874.
Abby Almy Knowlton born March 30, 1876
Frank Warren Knowlton born August 1, 1878
Edward Allen Knowlton born April16, 1883

The younger siblings were:

Helen Sophia Knowlton; August 1, 1885
August I. Knowlton;
Sylvia Prescott Knowlton born Ma7 29, 1890
Benjamin Almy Knowlton born June 13, 1892

Frank Warren Knowlton

Attorney General Herbert Parker is not only included in this correspondence but was also one of Pearson’s primary sources for his last essay in his book, Studies in Murder, titled “The Hunting Knife” concerning Mabel Page.

Herbert Parker, a very handsome man

Frank Warren Knowlton, Jr. donated his grandfather’s papers to the Fall River Historical Society in 1989.  (He died in October 11, 2002).


The Kelly House – Lizzie’s Next Door Neighbors

(This is a recycled post….originally created and posted on:   Published on: Jun 30, 2009 @ 16:24 Edit)

Lizzie Borden’s neighbor, Caroline Cantwell Kelley age 31, was the last person outside the family to see Andrew Borden alive.   She lived with her husband, Dr. Michael F. Kelly, age 36,  in the house just one door south of 92 Second Street – the house previously occupied by Alice Russell. It is from Mrs. Kelly’s third child, her daughter, pictured below, that we have learned some of the things said (and surely speculated upon)  about Andrew and the Borden family by those who did not refrain from discussing “that awful business.”

Eva Kelly Betz 1897-1968

Conjecture Cover2

Caroline, pregnant with their first child (Christopher Cantwell Kelly, 1892-1919), was heading for a doctor’s appointment when she saw Andrew coming from the east side of the house to the front door.

It would only be about 20 minutes later that the first call for help would go out – Lizzie telling Bridget she must have a doctor and sending her across the street to Dr. Bowen’s.   She knew there was a doctor living next door but she didn’t send Bridget there to fetch him.  Like Bowen, Dr. Kelly may not have been at home either.

Second StreetThe Kelly house has had so many changes to the exterior over the past century that it’s hardly recognizable.   However, if you look through the front door as shown above you can see the original steps and front door to the Kelly house as it was in 1892.

Dr Kelly house sitePart of this structure was a Bed & Breakfast even before 92 Second Street became a Bed & Breakfast!  It most recently was a dwelling and hair salon with a paint shop adjacent.  The paint shop was an add-on in an “L” configuration, must like the Leary Press.

Kelly-RearThis is a view of the rear of the Kelly house as it is today with St. Mary’s in the background.

Rear Views Dr Kelly house wSt mary's

1977The so-called Kelly house has been on the market by an unmotivated seller for over a year.  The owners of the LBB&B next door have been inside and concur the old Paint shop business is laid out much like the old Leary Press.  As for what will happen to it, perhaps Bristol County will buy it, tear it down and use it for in-close parking for the new Court House – accommodation for the judges and attorneys.   Wouldn’t suprise me.

demilleBack to Eva Kelly Betz.  We first learn of her from Agnes DeMille’s highly collectible book above, published by Little, Brown & Co., 1968.   (Review of Dance of Death).  It was from Eva that Ms. DeMille obtained so much of the information she used in her book about the Borden family.  Eva remembered growing up there, and while the founding families didn’t talk about the infamous Borden case, the Irish Catholics certainly  did.

Agnes DeMille and Senator Joseph Welch ventured to Fall River in their research of the case, primarily for input for Agnes’ ballet, Fall River Legend, which still plays in New York every year.  While there, their chief hostess was Eva Kelly Betz.  They also met with the granddaughters of the Defense attorney Jennings and District Attorney Knowlton.  The first half of the book deals with the Borden case and the second half with planning and execution of the ballet.  Quite a wonderful book and another collectible.

Both Eva Kelly Betz and author Edward Radin (The Untold Story, Simon & Schuster, 1961 – he believed Bridget did the murders), were invited guests of DeMille’a at the premiere performance of the ballet.

(Click on images below for larger view).




If, as Eva states above, Andrew had some of his first wife’s jewelry “but no one in the family knew about it”, it must have been a startling surprise to Lizzie and Emma.

Although Eva Caroline Kelly Betz was born 5 years after her brother, Christopher Cantwell Kelly, she lived until 1968, nearly 50 years more after his death at the age of 27  in 1919.  Her best known book, William Gaston:  Fighter for Justice was published in 1964, and is considered a collectible.    She mentions she taught school in Fall River and while there is an Eva Kelly in the 1921 FR Directory (she would have been 24), her mother, Caroline, is not listed.  I can’t help but feel sorry for Caroline, having lost first her husband and then two years later her son.

By her own accounts, the Kelly’s were readers and writers.  (You’ll note she does not mention in this piece that growing up she lived next door to the infamous Lizzie Borden).   She characterizes her parents as “intellectual” (unlike Ellen Egan – sorry, had to slip that in).

Michael F. Kelly, M.D., 1856-1916
His wife, Caroline Cantwell, 1861-1951
Their son, Christopher Cantwell Kelly, 1892-1919
Eva Kelly Betz, 1897-1968
Joseph P. Betz, 1895-1965
Peter Betz, 1924-1959

All of the above are buried at St. Patrick’s cemetery in Fall River.


The Fall River Tragedy – Rare Book FREE Online

(Recycled from March, 2009)

The first book to be published on the Lizzie Borden case was right after her Trial in 1893 by Edwin Porter, a reporter for the Fall River Globe and a chum of some of the police officers who provided some inside information.

BK-FRTragedy-multi pages

The first edition, the original, is not easily found and when it does appear, such as on eBay, usually sells for $300 or more.  Some antique book dealers list it as high as $2,000.  The book itself is really not all that rare.  I addressed this issue in detail in a previous blog which can be found by clicking HERE.

Lizzie’s lawyer, Andrew Jennings, on behalf of the Borden sisters and John Morse,  threatened Porter and the publisher with legal action if any pictures of “the family” appeared.  Well, pictures of the “dead family” appeared and no suit followed.

When the book was first published, it was sold on subscription, and one of the “Lizzie Legends” is that Lizzie bought out the printer and had the copies burned.  Not true.  A goodly number were purchased – and to some Fall River notables at that. The one found AT THIS SITE was owned by Charlotte Brayton and she donated it to the Harvard Library.   The Braytons were one of the prominent founding families of Fall River.

By clicking to advance the pages , you will immediately see the handwritten inscription on the inside cover:  “Israel Brayton”.  This particular Israel Brayton* was born in 1874 and died in 1961.  He married Ethel Moison Chace (1880-1960), and they had three children, including Charlotte Brayton (1913 to 1994).  Charlotte never married.  For whatever reasons, Charlotte preferred to donate her father’s copy of The Fall River Tragedy to Harvard rather than the Fall River Historical Society.  Lucky thing for us she did.

The book is rich in photos of key players not found in other books and includes the old “Ferry Street” homestead, the house Andrew deeded to the girls over the Whitehead fiasco.  Well, that house was practically a prototype of the home he purchased in 1872 at 92 Second Street.  Greek revival, two-family home.  Andrew was worth a small fortune by 1872 but he didn’t exactly move “up”.   Anyway, here’s a picture of both houses:



Virtually, the same house.  Two stories and an attic built for 2 families with identical floor plans on the first and second floors.   Lizzie was 12 when they moved and she could not have been too impressed.  The only difference was after a short while they had “the whole house”.  So that was different.



*Source: The Braytons of Somerset and Fall River by Roswell Brayton, page 34. (Note: Charlotte is pictured with several generations of Braytons in this book; also pictured are her father and mother.)


“Auntie Borden” in Movie “Sleuth”


Lizzie Borden is occasionally mentioned in a film or TV show but seldom is she referred to by the name many of the children of her friends called her long after the infamous trial of 1893.  Those children called her “Auntie Borden”, so we have learned from the magnificient book, Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall RiverIndeed, only those who have read this book learn of that fact as it was revealed for the very first time when the book was published in November of 2011.  Imagen my complete surprise when I heard it mentioned while watching the 1972 movie “Sleuth”.

“Auntie Borden” in her later years.

About 35 minutes into the film, Lawrence Olivier (as playwrite Andrew Wyke)  is attempting to find a costume for Michael Caine  (Milo Tindle) to pretend to be a burglar in their plot to have Michael Caine’s character steal a cache of jewels.  Olivier steps on a floor button and up pops a female skeleton to which Olivier says:  “Oh, there you are Auntie Borden”.   I cracked up and immediately Googled the playwrite.

Anthony Shaffer  was born just one year before Lizzie Borden died (1926), but it is likely as a young adult he heard of the Borden case and when he came to write Sleuth included the subtle reference to one of America’s most notorious unsolved crimes.    He was fond of true crime as we learn from his tribute web page, and he may have read the books on the case published up until his death.

Anyway, it made my ears perk up to a film I had seen 3 times previous but never caught the reference.  I shall look for it in subsequent “Sleuth” films.  Michael Caine, dear man, and a wonderful actor, enhanced his own career by playing both parts in different screen adaptations of the play “Sleuth”.

And that’s all, Auntie Borden.   🙂


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Lizzie Borden Ponderables

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.



“Funding Unsuccessful” for Lizzie Borden Editor

UPDATE 8/7/2012:  From today’s Fall River Herald –Here’s some wonderful Kickstarter results from a guy who seems to care more about Fall River than his own self interests.  Judging by the amount of money he raised in the first few hours there are plenty of others who like his idea and the donation rewards given to the contributors.  Kudos to Furtado!

Check out his video HERE for his slide show with great pics of Fall River and his telling of why he’s doing this.

UPDATE 8/4/2012:

While at the Fall River Historical Society today, August 4th, a FRPD Officer gave me a copy of a “Harrassment Notice” filed by Stefani Koorey saying I should stay 50 feet away from her. Apparently she was waiting for me to show up, then called the FRPD to say I was there. Does she really think I make these trips to harrass her? She’s not on my Agenda of people to see and places to go. But with her, it’s “all about Stefani”. Actually, I think it was retaliation for the below blog post:

Stefani Koorey was trying to raise over $13,000 to publish the next several issues of The Literary Hatchet via Kickstarter.  (In four years, she’s produced five issues). For a $5,000 donation you would be able to have your name on the masthead for five future issues, receive printed copies free, AND………wait for it…….”dinner with the editor”.  That’s right.  (By contrast, I donated $1,000 towards the printing cost for the Fall River Historical Society’s magnificent book, Parallel Lives and received a special Benefactors Edition, a primary collectible valued well over $1,000).  Anyway, back to Stef”s Fundraiser “FAIL”:

10 Backers.  3 Comments.  Read about it HERE.

I even donated twice – once in the name of my cousin (Sylvia Burton).

The Literary Hatchet, is a slick publication with excellent content, well edited and cheaply priced.  Thing is, nobody (well, practically nobody) reads them.  Same with her Forum.  It may be poor marketing or perhaps something a little darker and “popularity based”.

I personally think people were turned off by the manner in which she set up the donated contribution to the “rewards” distribution.  As I’ve stated before:

Some people are in serious need of radical Ego reduction surgery.

I was very surprised she received only 10 donors – well, 8 actually if you deduct the two I made.  She only raised $180, thus the project failed.  I had thought she would raise at least $252 – the same number of people who voted for her in the last Fall River mayoral race.

To her credit, however, she did edit and write the photo captions for Fall River Revisited, which is a neat little collectible on Fall River history.


Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Literature & Literati, Lizzie Art


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