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Category Archives: lizzie borden

Lizzie Borden’s Dying Act of Kindness

 (Originally published in June 1st, 2010)

https://phayemuss.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/image055.jpg?w=515&h=412

 

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 Clarke Cook (as shown below from Men in Progress-1896):

Scan_Pic0008 (2)                                     Photo credit (cropped):  Fall River Herald News

 

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.

                                                                                             xxx

 

Note:  Here’s the full article to that posted above as well as the follow -up explaining Charles Cook being exonerated of any fraud in that pesky purchase and sale of the Henry House next door to Maplecroft.  (Catherine MacFarland, btw, mentioned in this article, was also a beneficiary in Lizzie’s Will.)

Added Note:  More information on Charles C. Cook can be found HERE   (Representative Men and Old Families) and from Men in Progress 1896 HERE.

 

Borden Murders: Comprehensive Timeline May 9, 1892 thru August 4, 1892

(Originally posted August 2, 2016 – Be sure to click link at bottom left for “…..As It Happened” minute-by-minute Timeline of day of murders.)

 

vicinity

WS = Witness Statements (Fall River Police Dept.)

CI = Coroner’s Inquest (Second Distrct Court, Fall River)

PH = Preliminary Hearing (Second District Court, Fall River)

TT = Trial Testimony – Superior Court (New Bedford)

LR =  Lizzie Borden Past & Present (Len Rebello)

VV = Victorian Vistas – 3 Volumes (Philip T. Silvia, Jr.)

May 9-10, 1892 Painting of Borden house begins by John W. Grouard; Lizzie selects “drab” color.                           (LR32)
May/June 1892 Andrew kills pigeons roosting in the barn.  Morse visits end of June.
June 30, 1892 Morse spent 1 day at Borden’s; takes Butcher Davis daughter &Emma for ride.                      JohnMorse-older          (CI 96)
July 10, 1892 Morse again visits Bordens.  AJB asks Morse if  he knows of manto run Swansea farm.                  (CI 96)
July 11, 1892 Union laborers in Fall River celebrate new 58-hour workweek with giant parade.
July 18, 1892 Emma and Lizzie deed back house on Ferry Street to Andrew and receive $2,500 each.          ferrysthouse         (LR556)
July 19, 1892 Lizzie’s 32nd Birthday.
July 20, 1892 Grover Cleveland passes thru FR enroute to NYC for Democratic Convention.                             (VVII-326)
July 20, 1892 Lizzie supposedly sees a stranger at the back door when she returns from being out that evening.
July 21, 1892 Lizzie & Emma leave Fall River; Emma stopping at Fairhaven to visit the Brownell’s.
July 21, 1892 Lizzie travels to New Bedford, staying with Mrs. Poole and her daughter at 20 Madison Street.
July 23, 1892 Lizzie went on street alone (New Bedford) to buy some dress goods (gone from rooming house 30 minutes).    (WS31)
July 25, 1892 AJB writes letter to Morse to wait about getting a man to run his farm.                                              (CI98)
July 25, 1892 Lizzie visits the girls at Marion at Dr. Handy’s cottage.
July 26, 1892 Lizzie, Mrs. Poole & Mrs. Poole’s daughter ride to Westport to visit Mrs. Cyrus Tripp (old schoolmate).
July 26, 1892 Lizzie takes train from Westport to New Bedford to connect with Fall River.
July 30, 1892 Fall River Board of Health reports 90 deaths due to extreme heat, 65 are children under age 5.    (VVII-331)
July 31, 1892 Bridget prepares first serving of the infamous mutton.KitchenStove
August 2, 1892 Andrews tells associate there is “trouble” in the Borden household.
August 2, 1892 Swordfish is served for supper and served again warmed over for dinner.
August 2, 1892 Andrew and Abby vomit during the night.
 August 3, 1892  THE DAY BEFORE THE MURDERS 
8:00 am Abby goes across street to Dr. Bowen; tells him she fears she’s been poisoned.BowenMiller house
 9:00am approx. Dr. Bowen crosses street to check on the Bordens; Lizzie dashes upstairs; Andrew rebuffs his unsolicited visit.  ConjectureCover
10:00-11:30 am Lizzie attempts to buy prussic acid from Eli Bence at Smith’s pharmacy on  Columbia Street.          (PH310)
12:00 Noon Lizzie joins Andrew and Abby for the noontime meal in the dining room.
12:35 am Uncle John Vinnicum Morse leaves by train from New Bedfordfor Fall River.                                (CI98)
1:30 pm John Morse walks from train station & arrives at Borden house; Bridget lets him in front door.
2:00-4:00 pm John Morse and Andrew talk in Sitting Room; Lizzie hears their conversation.                           Front stairs top landing      (TT141)
4:00 pm John Morse hires horse and wagon at Kirby’s Stable and drives to Swansea in late afternoon.          (CI 99)
7:00 pm Lizzie visits Alice Russell in the early evening, states her fear “something will happen”.
8:45 pm Morse returns from Swansea, talks in sitting room with Andrew and Abby.                   Sitting Room from front entry              (CI99)
9:00 pm Lizzie returns from Alice Russell’s and goes upstairs to her room without speaking to father or uncle.
9:15 pm Abby Borden retires to bed.
10:00 pm Andrew and Morse retire to bed.                  (CI 00)

August 4, 1892

 THE DAY OF THE MURDERS  (Note: Times given are based on various testimonies taken primarily from the Preliminary Hearing  held  August 25-September 1st, 1892, and  are approximated

as close as possible).

 

6:15 am Bridget goes downstairs, gets coal and wood in cellar to start fire in kitchen stove, and takes in milk.  Stairwy2Bsmnt
6:20 am Morse goes downstairs to Sitting Room.
6:30 am Abby comes downstairs, gives orders for breakfast to Bridget
6:40-6:50 am Andrew goes downstairs, empties slops, picks up pears and goes to barn.Backyard
6:45 am Bridget opens side (back) door for iceman.
7:00 am Bordens and Morse have breakfast in Dining Room.  (Lizzie is still upstairs).
7:45-8:45 Morse and Andrew talk in Sitting Room; Abby sits with them a short while before beginning to dust. Sitting Room-Kitchen door
8:30 am Morse sees Abby go into the front hall.
8:45 am Andrew lets Morse out side door, invites him back for dinner.
8:45 am Morse leaves for Post Office and then to visit niece at Daniel Emery’s #4 Weybosset Street.
8:45-9:00 am Andrew goes back upstairs and returns wearing collar and tie, goes to sitting room
8:45-9:00 am Abby tells Bridget to wash windows, inside and out.
8:45-8:50 am Lizzie comes down and enters kitchen
8:45-9:00 am Bridget goes outside to vomit.rearhouse
9:00 am Andrew leaves the house.
9:00 am Bridget returns, does not see Lizzie, sees Abby dusting in dining room, does not see Andrew.
9:00 am Abby goes up to guest room.
9:00-9:30 am Bridget cleans away breakfast dishes in kitchen.
9:00-10:00 am Abby Borden dies from blows to the head with a sharp instrument.AbbyHeadWounds
9:30 am Abraham G. Hart, Treasurer of Union Savings Bank, talks to Andrewat Bank.1890's
9:30 am Morse arrives at #4 Weybosset Street to visit his niece and nephew.
9:30 am Bridget gets brush from cellar for washing windows
9:30 am Lizzie appears at back door as Bridget goes towards barn; Bridget tells Lizzie she need not lock door.
9:30-10:05 Andrew visits banks.
9:45 am John P. Burrill, Cashier, talks to Andrew at National Union Bank.
9:40 am Morse arrives at the Emery’s on Weybosset Street.
9:55 am Everett Cook talks to Andrew at First National Bank.
9:30-10:20 am Bridget washes outside windows, stops to talk to “Kelly girl” at southside fence.  house3
10:00-10:30 am Mrs. Churchill sees Bridget outside washing NE windows.
10:20 am Bridget re-enters house from side door, commences to wash inside windows.
10:29 am Jonathan Clegg (fixed time by City Hall clock) stated Andrew left his shop heading home.                (TT173)
10:30-10:40 am Joseph Shortsleeves sees Andrew.
10:40 am James Mather sees Andrew leave shop (fixes time by City Hall clock)
10:30-10:40 am Mrs. Kelly observes Andrew going to his front door.nORTHCUT
10:30-10:40 am Andrew Borden can’t get in side door, fumbles with key at front door, and let in by Bridget
10:30-10:40 am Bridget hears Lizzie laugh on the stairs as she says “pshaw” fumbling with inside triple locks.
10:45 am
10:35-10:45 am Bridget sees Lizzie go into Dining Room and speak “low” to her father.
10:35-10:45 am Andrew goes upstairs to his bedroom and returns in a few minutes, going to Sitting Room sofa.
10:45 am Mary Chase, residing over Wade’s store, sees man on Borden fence taking pears.                              (WS45)
10:45-10:55 am Lizzie puts ironing board on dining room table as Bridget finishes last window in the dining room
10:45-10:55 am Lizzie asks Bridget in kitchen if she’s going out, tells her of note to Abby & sale at Sargeants.
10:50-10:55 Mark Chase observes man with open buggy parked just beyond tree in front of Borden house.
10:55–10:58 am  Bridget goes up to her attic room to rest before preparing noon meal.
11:00 am Addie Churchill leaves her house for Hudner’s grocery store on South Main.                        92SecondFront                  (WS8)
11:00 am Bridget hears City Hall clock chime 11:00.
11:05-11:10 am Lizzie hollars to come quick.
11:10-11:12 am Lizzie sends Bridget to get Dr. Bowen.                                                                                                (TT245)
11:10-11:13 am Bridget rushes back across the street from Bowen’s, tells Lizzie he’s not at home.                           (TT245)
11:10-11:13 am Lizzie asks Bridget if she knows where Alice Russell lives and tells her to go get her.                     (TT245)
11:10-11:13 am Bridget grabs her hat & shawl from kitchen entry way and rushes to Alice Russell’s.                       (TT245)
11:10-11:13 am Mrs. Churchill observes Bridget crossing street, notices a distressed Lizzie and calls out.           (PH281-282)AdelaideChurchhill
11:10-11:14 am Mrs. Churchill to side door, speaks briefly, and then crosses street looking for a doctor.             (PH283)
11:12-11:14 am John Cunningham sees Mrs. Churchill talking to others then uses phone ay Gorman’s paint shop to call Police.
11:15 am Marshall Hilliard receives call from news dealer Cunningham about disturbance at Borden house.
11:15 am Marshall Hilliard orders Officer Allen to go to Borden house. (Allen notes exact time on office wall clock).
11:16 – 11:20 am Mrs. Churchill returns from giving the alarm.                                                                                     (PH284)Conjecture Cover2
11:16 – 11:20 am Dr. Bowen pulls up in his carriage, met by his wife, rushes over to Borden’s.                                  (PH 273)
11:16-11:20 am John Cunningham checks outside cellar door in Borden back yard, finds it locked.
11:18-11:20 am Dr. Bowen arrives at Borden house, sees Andrew, asks for sheet; alone with Lizzie for approx. one minute.ajbsofa
11:20 am Office Allen arrives at Bordens, met at door by Dr. Bowen.  Sees Lizzie sitting alone at kitchen table.
11:20–11:21 am Allen sees Andrews’s body at same time Alice Russell and Mrs. Churchillcome in.  (Where was Bridget?)
11:20-11:22 am Allen checks front door and notes it bolted from inside, checks closets in dining room and kitchen.
11:20 am Morse departs Daniel Emery’s on Weybosset Street, takes a streetcar back to the Borden’s.
11-22-11:23 am Officer Allen leaves house to return to station, Bowen goes out with him.Allen has Sawyer guard back door.

SideEntranceBH

11:23-11:33 am Dr. Bowen returns home, checks rail timetable, goes to telegram Emma, and stops at Baker’s Drug store.Telegram is time stamped at 11:32.                                                                                                    (PH274)
11:25 am
11:23-11:30 am
11:40 am Bowen returns to Borden house.   Churchill tells him they’ve discovered Abby upstairs.                (TT322)
11:34 am Bridget fetches Doctor Bowen’s wife, Phoebe.                                                                                 (T250)
11:35-11:40 am Officer Patrick Doherty & Deputy Sheriff Wixon arrive at house, see Manning sitting on steps, met at backdoor by Dr. Bowen, who lets them   Begin search..                                                           floorplan                                    (T447)
11:35-11:40 am Francis Wixon and Dr. Bowen check Andrew’s pockets and remove watch.
11:35-11:40 Officer Doherty questions Lizzie who tells him she heard a “scraping” noise.
11:35-11:40 am Officer Doherty views Abby’s body with Dr. Bowen,  pulls bed out to view her better.                 (PH330)
11:35-11:45 am Morse arrives at Borden house, first going to back yard.
11:37 am Officer Mullaly arrives.
11:39-11:40 am Officer Medley arrives at 92 Second Street.                                                                                        (T686)
11:42 am Doherty moves bed out 3 feet to view Mrs. Borden.                                                                 Abby on floor-with half man          (PH330)
11:44 am Doherty runs to Undertaker Gorman’s shop around corner and phones Marshall Hilliard.                (PH331)
11:45 am Doherty returns; Officers Mullaly. Allen, Denny, and Mr. Medley arrive
11:45 am Dr. Dolan arrives, sees bodies.
11:45 am Morse talks to Sawyer at side door, later testifies he heard of murdersfrom Bridget.
11:45-11:50 am Morse sees Andrew’s body, then goes upstairs and sees Abby’s body.
11:50 am Morse speaks to Lizzie as she lays on lounge in dining room.
11:50 am Asst. Marshall Fleet arrives; sees bodies; talks to Lizzie in her room w/Rev. Buck, says “…she’s not my mother, she’s my  stepmother”                                                                                                             (PH354)
11:50 am Morse goes out to back yard and stays outside most of the afternoon.Backyard
11:50 am –Noon Deputy Sheriff Wixon climbs back fence and talks to workmen sawing wood in Chagnon yard.      (TT452)
11:50-Noon Doherty, Fleet and Medley accompany Bridget to cellar where she shows them hatchet in box on shelf.
12:15-12:20 am Officer Harrington arrives at the Borden house.                                                                                    (WS6)
12:25 am Officer Harrington interviews Lizzie in her bedroom (she wears pink wrapper).                                 (WS6)
12:45 am Marshall Hillliard & Officers Doherty & Connors drive carriage toAndrew’s upper farm in Swansea.
3:30 pm Crime scene photographs are taken of Andrew & Abby.Andrew-Abby4PicDeath
3:40 pm Emma leaves on New Bedford train for Weir Junction to return to Fall River.                                   (CI107)
4:00 pm Stomachs of Andrew and Abby removed and sealed.
5:00 pm Emma returns from Fairhaven and arrives at the Borden house.                                                         (TT1550)
5:00-5:30 pm State Detective George F. Seaver arrives from Taunton.                                                                     (PH453)
5:30 pm Dr. Dolan “delivers” bodies of Andrew and Abby to Undertaker James Winward.                             (PH388)
6:00 pm Alice leaves 92 Second Street to return home for supper.                                                                    (CI149)
8::45 pm   Officer Joseph Hyde, observing from a northwest outside

window, sees Lizzie & Alice go down cellar.

The above is an extract from my Fall River/Lizzie Borden Historic Timeline

1620 – 2005.available in digital format ($10).  If interested contact me at phayemuss@gmail.com.

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“We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

(Originally posted in 2006)

(Think “We Love You, Conrad” from the movie Bye Bye Birdie.)

There was a great deal of sympathy and support for Lizzie Borden from the time of the murders to the time of her Trial – particularly during the time she was incarcerated at the ivy-covered Taunton Jail until June 3, 1893, when she was transfered to the New Bedford Jail.

While at the Taunton Jail, she gained sympathy from the “sob sister” style reporting of her jailhouse interview with Mrs. McGuire which appeared in print on September 20, 1892. In that interview Lizzie tells her of the flood of letters she has received from kind supporters. (Where ARE they? And who has any she may have written back to?)

Then on October 10th, the “Trickey-McHenry” journalistic fiasco by the Boston Globe so promptly retracted with apologies to Lizzie (and John Morse) garnered her more of the “that poor girl” image.

The papers reported the Government had a weak case but the critical revelation of the dress burning incident told by Alice Russell when the Grand Jury reconvened on December 1, 1893, was not published.

By April 1st, 1893, Lizzie was already a popular icon regardless of one’s belief in her guilt or innocence. Her popularity was evidenced by her name receiving the most write-ins for the below contest. The contest was for 5 tickets to the Chicago World’s Fair in 5 specific categories: (1) School Teacher, (2) Policeman, Letter Carrier or Fireman, (3) Mechanic or Gentleman Clerk, (4) Mill Hand, and (5) Lady Clerk – all to be residents of New Bedford. One simply had to cut out the coupon and write the name of the person they felt the most popular and designate which occupation.

Lizzie, a Fall River resident, won hands down for most popular “School Teacher”. Lizzie courteously rejected hers suggesting it be given to another, as it was. (It is believed, however, Lizzie subsequently attended the Columbian Exhibition towards its end run after her acquittal.)

How Lizzie must have relished in the glow of all this popularity. She had never been popular in school and so much wanted to be accepted among her peers. She played her “awful confinement” to the hilt.

Then, exactly one month later, on May 1st, 1893, there was the trumpeting of an “outraged” Mary Livermore at the police for their abuse and sheer adacity to even suspect this virginal Sunday school teacher who was the younger daughter of her long deceased friend, Sarah Morse Borden. And in this same article (below) we learn that even Emma received many letters of sympathy and support.

Lizzie’s Trial would begin on June 5th. She was still perceived as a victim. Her Inquest Testimony was disallowed. Her attempt to buy prussic acid was disallowed. She was acquitted. She was loved. “We love you, Lizzie Borden.”

Well, maybe not so much later.

By the way, just WHERE ARE all those letters Emma and Lizzie received, let alone those constituting their responses if they did correspond back? Emma, I would think, would have disposed of them. They certainly haven’t surfaced in the personal possessions she left Orrin Gardner. Lizzie, on the other hand, may have kept hers. If she did keep them, I have an idea where they might be. She was odd like that. For example, she had no fondness for Abby but she held on to that silver cup Abby gave her all her life.

I think Lizzie would have held on to the mementos that validated her popularity or when she felt loved.

So….

altogether now: “We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

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New Books on Lizzie Borden Coming This Summer

Coming this summer – new books on Lizzie!  We recently had Christine Verstraete’s Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, and Rebecca Pittman’s The History and Haunting of Lizzie Borden.     The former is fiction horror and the latter is non-fiction.  Christine’s book has been well received and highly praised in reviews by those of its genre, and Rebecca’s book reflects a rare discipline to combine in-depth research with a totally captivating narrative.

But now we will be treated with a few more before the end of the year and I point out the two below worthy of attention.

Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done is a gothic thriller described below.

                                                                                                      Sarah Schmidt

From the May 12, 2017 Critical Eye book reviews in The Guardian:

“Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel See What I Have Done takes a new look at the case of Lizzie Borden, who in 1892 was charged with the brutal murders of her father and stepmother. “A disquieting read,” wrote Antonia Senior in the Times. “There is an ambiguity here that reflects the endless, unanswerable speculation about what really happened that day. This open-endedness will irritate some readers; I loved it.” Jake Kerridge in the Sunday Express found it “dignified and sensual, as though Henry James had decided to tell the tale.  There are multiple well-characterised narrators and a dreamlike quality to the prose that enhances rather than detracts from the horror at the heart of the story.” For the Observer’s Hannah Beckerman, “Schmidt’s portrayal of Lizzie is haunting and complex, a deeply psychological portrait that forces the reader to question their preconceptions about what women are capable of – for better and worse. Both disturbing and gripping, it is an outstanding debut novel about love, death and the lifelong repercussions of unresolved grief.”

Another book to watch for is from an excellent writer who is to be commended for her equally excellent research abilities, Erika Mailman’s The Murderer’s Maid.  Here’s the cover art for that book.

                                                                   Erika Mailman

Erika has written several books:

Check out her website HERE. 

 

 

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McWHIRR’S DEPT. STORE – WHERE LIZZIE WENT A-THIEVING

RECYCLED FROM JULY 27, 2014  and FROM ORIGINAL IN 2008

Mea Culpa Notice:  I was in error. McWhirr’s Dept Store, as shown here was not inside the Cherry & Webb Building.   It was a separate structure subsequently torn down and another building in its place.  The Cherry & Webb building, however still stands as indicated below.

In Lizzie’s day this was McWhirr’s Department Store, an upscale department store where anybody who was anybody shopped. Shown in this photograph, the name “McWhirr” can be made out on the top of the white building in the background.

The Cherry and Webb Building (so stated on the front of the building) is located at 139 South Main and is now the UMASS-Dartmouth Professional and Continuing Education Center a learning center for professionals, night students and other students. On the ground floor is the Café Arpeggio. Bristol Community College has recently leased space for special courses for special needs. Baker Books, once there on the ground floor in April 2007, gone by August 2007. Darnit.

Previously “one of the city’s most underutilized downtown structures”, Mayor Lambert is credited with its current public use.When I spoke to security, building maintenance technicians, administrators and students, one of the things I learned is that this facility is being used to assist with GED education for a number of the nearly 900 employees who lost their jobs by the closing of Quaker Fabric. I also learned that the only interior “original” to this building is the grand staircase shown below.

There was a time when the building was known to all Fall Riverites as “McWhirr’s”. Imagine Lizzie in her blue India silk bengaline inside this store moving about amongst the crowd. Imagine Lizzie taking a five fingered discount of oh, say, a pansy broach and sliding it up inside her so conveniently fitted gloved hand. Then, with a casual grace and the deportment of “a Borden” strolling towards this staircase and ascending to the second floor.

Without batting an eye nor turning her head to see if she’s being followed, she would maintain a steady but lady-like gait as she faked interest in nearby displays of hats, porcelain figurines, and petite carved bottles of French perfume. With a skill only acquired from experience, she would be diligently aware of any store employee watching her from a near distance.

Her heart beating to the exhiliarating thrill of this familiar challenge and satisfied no one was following, she would turn back to the stairway and begin her descent, one lady-like step at a time. Below her she would survey the vast array of glass table top and standing shelved display cases, filled with products from near and abroad. Men, women and children busy shopping, strolling and admiring all the goods. Busy store clerks packaging purchases and preparing sales slips. Busy, busy, busy. She would survey it all, calmly determined in her objective.

One gloved hand on the railing, the other modestly angled upright, her fashionable cloth purse looped over it. Posture perfect, a lady of some stature, she would have looked straight ahead, a seemingly blank stare masking a steeled will. She would descend, slowly, each step measured with her resolve and comforted in the fact her broach not the least bit detected as it nestled securely inside her modestly priced but exquisitely stitched leather glove.

Pausing at the bottom step, brazenly she would hold up that gloved hand with its secret deposit and there she would act as if only adjusting the fitting. Only a moment, but pause enough to quickly ascertain once more with a quick scan if any authoritative and watchful eyes were upon her. They are not. Only a fresh-face counter girl who looks directly at her and says: “Good morning, Miss Borden”. She would respond with a tilt of the head, a forced, kindly smile, and she would begin her walk towards the front door. A slight turn to the left and she would be on her path, curving here, curving there passing the cases, dodging a small child, brushing skirts against other ladies. Closer, each step closer. The front door now in sight.

Only 32 paces,…. now 20, and the heartbeat accelerates,….. now 12, and the breathing more pronounced…..now 9, and a slightly fevered brow…..now 7 and a quivering chin….the uniformed doorman sees her approach… now 2 steps, two steps only as the doorman pulls upon the door and tips his hat…the step across the threshold…, now daylight. No arm upon hers. No hand upon her shoulder. Big exhale. The quivering chin ceases to quiver, the pulse rate subsides, the fevered brow cools in the bright sun. A liberating wave of relief engulfs her. She feels…. a profound sense of…..special achievement by way of genetic entitlement.

Actually, considering the fashions of the day, forget the broach. She could have concealed a Virginia ham under those skirts. And many of the “ladies who went a-thieving”, in fact, did just that. But not at McWhirr’s.

 

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The Impact of “The Greater and Lesser Bordens” on Andrew and Lizzie

RECYCLED

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AbrahamBordenAbraham Borden – first born son of Richard Borden and Patty Bowen Borden
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“In 1860, Colonel Richard Borden was deemed the richest man in town, worth $375,000, (the equivalent of $8,122,011 in 2006). His wife was head of Central Congregational Church sewing circle.” -Spinner Magazine
Just pause and think about that fact for a moment (which most people won’t get).  It’s the year Lizzie is born, 1860.    Andrew is still living on Ferry Street in one half of that double house his father owns.  His own sister and her husband live there too,  And he has this relative…this uncle of his own father.  The man who persuaded his paternal grandmother to give up her water rights and that mill…the man who influenced the court – the man who got her to settle for much less.  Consider that Andrew, at age 38, living next to his father, HAD to know the story and was keenly aware.  So keenly aware he had already vowed he would not be a poor relation as his father was.  So keenly aware he was already well on his path of accumulating money. 
Andrew was only 2 years old when his grandfather, Richard, died, but he must have smarted in his early years growing up, reading, seeing, hearing about all his wealthier relatives and how some of them got that way.  Bitter?  I think so.  .  Determined.  You bet.
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Young Andrew Borden fell in love with Sarah Anthony Morse of Swansea and they married on Christmas Day, 1845.  Before he began to make money in his later partnership with William Almy, Andrew worked as a carpenter.  At the age of 23, he helped Southard Miller build the Charles Trafton House located at 92 Second Street.  Twenty seven years later, in 1872, Andrew would buy that house for $10,000 and move in with his two daughters and second wife, Abby.
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Main-Almy-BordenBorden and Almy furniture business on Main Street near Anawan.

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And Emma surely knew and if Andrew didn’t pass the knowledge on to her then Emma did.  But they knew.  They knew what it meant to be a Borden and that they should have been a RICH Borden.  And then to know they WERE rich but didn’t LIVE rich.  Lizzie bitter?  You bet.  Yeah, that Colonel Richard Borden…he was something all right, and yet he is written in the annals of Fall River history as  a glorified kingpin of its mercantile growth and prominence.
Oh yes, how Andrew must have smarted.  And THAT attribute WAS passed on to his youngest daughter.
 

“What Is That Thing?” A Lizzie Borden Querry

Who knows what this is?

It is still inside the closet in “Bridget Sullivan’s bedroom” at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum.

Tim Weisberg‘s  Spooky Southcoast podcast episode entitled: “The Real Lizzie Borden” was broadcast shortly after the publishing of  Parallel Lives.  The featured guests on that episode were Michael Martins and Dennis Binette (curator and assistant curator of the Fall River Historical Society).  They help identify just what this is.

Advance to 46.10 to the relevant call in.

Here’s the link.

 

 

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