Category Archives: Swansea

The Gardners of Swansea – Emma Borden’s Surrogate Family

(Recycled from 2010)

Long  before Emma Borden abandoned her sister, Lizzie, in late May of 1905, she had very close ties to many Gardners in Swansea, Ma.   But after she split from Lizzie, some of those Gardners  became a surrogate family to her.

The progenitors of those that Emma would embrace, socialize with, attend major family events, and help financially in trusts and her will, are those in the oval picture below (click it to enlarge).

The births, marriages and deaths of these people were recorded in William  Gardner’s family bible:

Why were these people and their children, and even some of their children’s children important to Emma?  Well, the  genealogical link was addressed in this blog post.

If you’re interested, study the names and who married who….there’s more to come about events she attended.

The direct line of Henry Augustus Gardner is the most important – and closest – to Emma.   Much of the information I have obtained was from his estate records and from direct descendants.

As for Lizzie, well she was pretty much written off by these Gardners around early 1897 due to two hugely embarrassing incidents to this quiet, salt of the earth, family entrenched group.

Lizzie had her servants, dogs and a few loyal friends.

But Emma had family.


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Emma Borden’s Death & Wake at Riverby

(Repost from March, 2013)

Emma Borden died in the early morning hours 9 days after her sister, Lizzie.  Members of her surrogate family saw to her funeral/burial wishes.  Her wake was held at Henry and Caroline Gardner’s home. Unlike Lizzie, family and friends gathered to pay their respects and the details of how things were handled was published in these papers.  (Click for larger views).

Seated left is Henry Augustus Gardner and his son Orrin to the right.  In the back is Hamilton Gardner (raised by Orrin since he was about 10 years old) and his best friend “Buck”.  These 3 Gardners, and many more, were at her Wake.

Where we read that Emma had made her wishes known to “Mrs. Gardner”, that would be Caroline Cole Mason Gardner who died in 1918, just seven years after celebrating her 50th Wedding Anniversary with Henry, an event which Emma attended.  (Henry would go on to live until 1931).  It was Caroline’s sister, Susan Francis Mason who had married Sarah Morse Borden’s brother, William Bradford Morse (they moved to Minnesota and lived all their lives there).  That marriage began the bloodline connection to Lizzie between the Morses and the Gardners and the Bordens (still with me here?).

In the article below it states Emma’s wishes were to be buried by her father and stepmother.  She is, in fact, buried right along side her sister which can  be seen in the image of the family plot at the end of this post.   It’s somewhat curious that Emma did not specify “beside my mother”.  Emma had been informed of Lizzie’s death by Orrin Gardner but due to her weakened condition did not attend her burial.  Unless the sisters spoke of the exact placements of their own future graves prior to Emma’s 1905 departure from Lizzie, Emma would not know of this layout.   (Note:  Lizzie, in her funeral instructions, requested to be buried at her father’s feet).

In this next article we note that Jerome C. Borden and his family attended the wake.  Jerome, of course, was the son of Cook Borden who was Andrew’s uncle.  Andrew’s father, Abraham, and Cook were brothers.  Jerome, Andrew’s nephew, had several daughters several years younger than the previously departed Lizbeth of Maplecroft.  Two of those daughters were close cousins withGrace Hartley Howe, Jerome’s sister’s daughter and thereby his niece.  (No mention if Grace was present at the wake though I doubt it as her husband,Louis McHenry Howe was absorbed in pursuits to get Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected President).  (I wonder if Jerome thought maybe Emma might have left him some money or property since Lizzie left plenty to his niece Grace as shown in her will which had been printed in the papers just that week).   But she didn’t leave anything to Jerome who had been a staunch supporter of Lizzie during the Trial.  She left plenty for the Gardners, though whereas Lizzie left them nothing.

The State of New Hampshire’s Record of Death for the year ended December 31, 1927, has a July 1, 1927 entry recording her death on June 10, 1927 and internment on June 13th at Oak Grove Cemetery.  The cause of death is “chronic nephritis” and “duration 2 years”.  Indicated as the cause is “senility” and “unknown duration”.  No mention of any fall.  Note that under “Occupation” is written “Retired”.   Indeed.

George H. Towle was the physician who pronounced her dead and reported the death.

Then in 1992, comes this record of death from the State of Massachussetts showing the causing of death as both Chronic Nephritis and senility with no indication of the duration of either.

Below:  Riverby (pronounced River”bye”) as it looked in the late 1920’s.

Then:                                                                                  Now:

This property was originally in Caroline’s family but she and Henry lived there most of their lives operating it as a successful farm.  It passed on to Orrin then to Hamilton Gardner and was sold and subdivided in the 1950’s.  Few of the extra out-buildings remain.  The current owner of Riverby has partitioned off several rooms, making them into apartments although the neighborhood is not zoned for that.  An artist lives on the first floor, a couple on the second and a musician on the 3rd floor attic rooms.

Lizzie is foot-to-foot with her father; Emma is foot to foot with her mother, Sarah.  Abby is next to Andrew on the outside.  The overall layout has a certain symmetry that seems almost poetic.


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What Happened to Emma’s Stuff?

Recycled from 2011


Emma Borden, Lizzie’s sister, left most of her personal property to Orrin Gardner.  He, in turn, gave much to his nephew, Hamilton, son of Orrin’s brother.  Before we go further, please note I’ve written about the Gardners of Swansea many times and you should review these posts HERE and HERE.

Young Orrin Gardner

Young Hamilton Gardner, son of William Gardner

The following images of letters and notes gives us a glimpse of what happened.  Indeed, the recently discovered portraits of a young Andrew and young Sarah were donated to the Swansea Historical Society by Hamilton Gardner.   (You’ll remember those portraits, possibly done at the time they were married – a true love match.)


You have to wonder if these portraits hung at Maplecroft and if Emma took them when she left Lizzie in 1905.  Anyway….as to her other stuff, read these:

So we can begin to understand how so much of it got scattered when Bailey most likely sold them in his store.

I sure would like to see that photo of Emma “with a girlfriend at church bazaar”  Maybe it’ll be in Parallel Lives).

(Scanned documents from the Swansea Historical Society)


Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Descendents & Relations, Swansea


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Emma Borden Not Such a Recluse

The following Recycled post will be of added new interest to those who purchased Parallel Lives.  Indeed, as we’ve learned from that book, Emma was no recluse.  Beginning on page 748, I believe, the writers go into depth of the Gardners from the Henry Augusta Gardner line.  Enjoy.


One of the urban legends in the Borden case is that Emma Borden became a recluse, rarely went out, and had no family after departing from her infamous sister, Lizzie.  Not true – at least not until the final few years of her life, when she was infirm and senile.

I’ve written before of the Gardners of Swansea who became a sort of surrogate family to Emma Borden when she departed forever from her sister, Lizzie in 1905.

On December 11, 1914, Henry Augustus Gardner (the patriarch of the family) and his wife, Caroline Cole Mason Gardner, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their home “Riverby” in Touisset.  They had put together this little commemorative booklet (from my collection) for each of their guests which included Emma Borden as she attended and received such a booklet.

(Click on all images below for larger views)


Emma attended this event and her signature can be seen 4th down on the left side.  Little Hamilton Gardner, son of William, left his “mark” on the bottom of the right side.  At the top you see Doris Gardner’s name and her mark.  Having parallel lives, she and Hamilton ended up husband and wife.  More on her later.

William Wilson Gardner and son, Hamilton

(and was he a little cutie or what?)

When Hamilton’s father died, he was raised by his uncle, Orrin Gardner.  Emma was particularly fond of and close to Orrin.  And from evidence of her including him in an income trust and mentions elsewhere, she was also fond of Hamilton, who was a teenager when Emma died.

Emma, in fact, attended birthday parties, clam boils, weddings, funerals, and holidays with many of the people and their children shown in the oval picture below.  If you study the names and compare it to the guest signatures above, you’ll note most of them attended this event, as well as many of their offspring.

Father William Gardner (standing), Grandfather Henry Augustus Gardner, and Grandson Hamilton Gardner

“Riverby” about 1914

Here is a full account of the event as reported in the newspaper.

The quote of Henry Augustus speaking of how the area was when he first moved there to the “present” (i.e. 1914) is particularly interesting.

As stated above, this was not the only Gardner family event Emma attended.  My collection includes other documentation of Emma’s surrogate family and travels.  She spent a lot of time with Preston Gardner’s wife, Mary and their daughter, Maude, all of whom she favored in income trusts and her will.


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Did She or Didn’t She? Emma Borden and the Boston Sunday Post Interview

Click on image for larger view

Emma Lenora Borden, sister to our gal Lizzie, has long been cited as the subject of an interview in the Boston Sunday Post of April 13, 1913.  The by-lined reporter, one Edwin Joseph McGuire, however, has never been confirmed as a reporter, let alone the validity of the interview itself.  The interview came just one week after an extensive article by Gertrude Stevenson of the Boston Sunday Herald who wrote of what life was like for Lizzie twenty years after the crimes.  It has been speculated *that* article encouraged Emma to come forward from her self-imposed exile and speak for the very first time, ever, publicly – and “Lucky” McGuire got the gig.

Reference to this astonishing interview with Emma was, however, flatly denied by her through the “Buck family”.   The Buck family (once headed by that revered Reverend Edwin Augustus Buck who had died a decade before on March 9, 1903) was apparently now led by his spinster daughters, including Alice Buck, who was the closest to Emma.

Click on image for larger view and to read inserted article.

We don’t know for certain if it was Alice Buck who was the member of the Buck family who said the McGuire article was “not authentic”, though it very well could have been.  But the point is this:  McGuire’s article is mentioned in so many books of the “first generation” authors and so little is mention, even with contemporary authors on the case, as to the subsequent denial of its authenticity.

Why in the world would Emma agree to such an interview after more than 2 decades of silence?   Were there events before or close in time to the interview that influenced or motivated her?  Let’s check.  Let’s go back to a little more than one year previous:

March 1, 1912 John Vinnicum Morse dies in Hastings, Iowa at the age of 79.
April 15, 1912 White Star liner Titanic sinks on her maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg; 1,500 die.
June 10, 1912 Grisly axe murders of 2 adults and 6 children, all while they sleep, in Villisca, Iowa.
July 19, 1912 A meteorite with a mass of 19,000 kg landed in the town of Holbrook, Navajo County, Arizona.
July 29, 1912 Lizzie writes letter to Stomell & Co. requesting “B” be engraved on her suitcase “toilet items”.
December 30, 1912 Rufus B. Hilliard (FR Chief of Police) dies.
1913 Woodrow Wilson is President of the United States.
1913 Ford develops first moving assembly line.
1913 Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union to work toward the passage of a federal amendment to give women the vote. The group is later renamed the National Women’s Party.
March 10, 1913 Harriet Tubman dies of pneumonia in Auburn New York.
1913 Louis McHenry Howe becomes Chief of Staff to FDR who is appointed Asst. Secretary to the Navy.
April 6, 1913 Boston Sunday Herald special edition: “Lizzie Borden 20 Years After the Tragedy” by Gertrude Stevenson.
April 13, 1913 Boston Sunday Post publishes interview with Emma Borden by reporter Edwin Joseph McGuire.   (Was this a hoax?

The little article above about McGuire’s article not being “authentic” was included in a packet of material on the case from Orrin Augustus Gardner.  Contents of the packet can be found in the Swansea Historical Society’s research nook at the Swansea Library.  Orrin Gardner was a close to Emma all her life and was a major legatee in her Will.

This image shows Orrin Gardner far left, wearing hat, on outing with school boys and was taken about the time he donated that package.


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UPDATE: “ALONE” ARTIST IDENTIFIED My stepbrother (who was so cool to give me a brand new Garmin GPS tracker for Christmas) was looking over my blog today and came across this entry and said: “Hey! I know that artist!” Well it turns out its Herman Alfred Leonard Wahlberg, a Swedish artist born in Stockholm February 13, 1834 and died October 4, 1906.   Nordic landscape painting was popular during those years, and this Swedish landscape is typical of the Dusseldorf version of wilderness paintings. Known as just “Alfred Wahlberg” you can see a picture of him here

(Original post follows): There are numerous known and unknown people all over Fall River and environs who have “stuff” that belonged to Lizzie. On my last visit while shopping at an outlet store at the Durfee Mills I chatted with the store owner who told me she had an old rocking chair that belonged to Lizzie and if I came back she’d show me a picture of it. I never made it back but we did exchange addresses and I’ve yet to write her. Meanwhile, here’s something I can relate and show now.

(Original post from 2007) Some months ago, Jeff Masson of Somerset, MA noticed an elderly gentleman admiring the house he lives in and Jeff, his mother and this man got to talking. Eventually the subject of Lizzie Borden came up (Jeff is a frequent visitor to the Lizzie Borden B&B and has a keen knowledge of the Bordens and others buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River.) During the conversation the gentleman, Elliott Barrows of Somerset, related that he had a painting that was given to his grandfather by Lizzie Borden.

The story goes that Lizzie had some work done at her house she named “Maplecroft” #7 French Street (now 306) in Fall River, and it was Mr. Barrows’ grandfather who did the work – “handyman” kind of work, not major construction. The painting below apparently hung in Lizzie’s house and Lizzie, so the tale goes, gave Mr. Barrows the painting as partial payment for his labor. Just exactly when this occurred is not known. Mr. Barrows subsequently brought the actual painting back to Jeff’s house and allowed him to keep it for a while and to photograph it, which are the images you see here. Remarkably, Mr. Barrows stated the painting had been appraised for $8,000.

The handwritten notation on the back of the painting reads as follows:

“This picture framed for the house of Lisbeth and Emma Borden, 306 French St. Fall River, Mass whose father Andrew Jackson Borden and stepmother, Abby Durfee Gray Borden were murdered at their house, 92 Second St., Fall River, Mas, Aug. 4, 1892. The trial was held in June 1893.”  (and below) “Alone” by (unreadable) Art Supplement to the New York Recorder Sept 30th, 1894. The Knapp Co. Str.  N.Y. Famous Paintings of Europe.” 

It is very hard to distinguish the lettering in the name of the artist but it appears to be an “L” or “F” and then “V” and Rberg or Aberg. I believe this is a swedish artist.

There is a rather famous painting by Dawn Parkinson titled “Alone” showing a lone seagull soaring past a white chaulked cliff. Searching through various artbooks, Googling the name in assorted variations yielded no results. Unfortunately Mr. Barrows was not available for an interview on my most recent visit to Fall River. I’m currently awaiting follow-up from “Cemetery Jeff”. I know several people pursuing this find further as well, so maybe more information will be forthcoming.

The painting certainly evokes melancholy sadness and makes us wonder what it meant to Lizzie. I can not think it meant a great deal because to just give it away as partial payment to a handyman is not what one would do with a piece of art for which they had a strong emotional attachment. Perhaps this painting was a gift she received rather than a purchase made. Perhaps gazing upon it evoked emotions for an already sad and depressed woman to be even sadder. Maybe it clashed with that garish wallpaper of Victorian times. Who knows. But it’s a great little story, isn’t it?




From today’s Fall River Herald News – click HERE.  (Also, click “Swansea” on the Categories listing to the right to see more posts about Luther’s Museum).

Jul. 2nd, 2007

Luther’s Museum is home to the Swansea Historical Society. For over 100 years known as “Luther’s Four Corners”, it is where Uncle John Morse had his evening meal on Wednesday, August 3, 1892. Uncle Morse had retrieved some farm-fresh eggs at Andrew’s Swansea farm on Gardner’s Neck Road, not far away. And it makes a body wonder why left over mutton was served when fresh eggs were on hand that fateful Thursday morning.

If you ask about them, the operators of the Museum will let you see and photograph some chairs purported to have come from the farm house and owned by Lizzie. They have accommodated many people who’ve heard about the chairs and delight in having their picture taken with “something that belonged to Lizzie.”

Above images from (click here)
The images below are my own.

The “Luther Museum” structure has an engraving outside which explains the history and importance of the Luther family to Swansea.

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Swansea, The Borden Family