Tag Archives: Fall River Historical Society



From my eBay post this evening – runs for 7 days.


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Lizzie Borden/Fall River Historical Society Tourism Video

frhwsImage by photoshy

I posted this piece  over 3 years ago about Lizzie Borden being ingrained in the identity of Fall River and how she should be embraced by the city and its people.   The Fall River Historical Society, through generous donations and a state grant, has taken a giant leap forward in this regard by creating an exciting 13 minute video promoting the FRHS.

This video is one of the best promo videos I’ve ever seen.  Wonderful graphics, fast pace, great use of artifacts and artsy visuals.   The first several minutes are all about the Lizzie Borden murders with great use of crime scene photographs and the (now) Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum.  Curators Michael Martins and Dennis Binette speak about recent new findings – revelations – in the case and address certain artifacts debunking long standing myths about the murder and our Miss Lizzie.   Makes you wanna jump up and go there.

Watch the video HERE.


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Timeline of Events Around and During the Borden Murders

NEWS FLASH:   Stefani Koorey wrote on her forum (regarding her partner’s new novel on Lizzie, “The Girl With the Pansy Pin” the following:

“To give you a brief history about Lizzie Borden novels, there are 3 full-length titles written since 1939 centered and structured around the actual Borden murders. It began with Marie Belloc Lowdes, LIZZIE BORDEN A STUDY IN CONJECTURE, published by Longmans, Green Co. Then, in 1984, Evan Hunter came out with his block-buster best seller LIZZIE, published by Arbor House. This was followed in 1991 by Elizabeth Engstrom’s LIZZIE BORDEN, published by Tom Doherty Associates Book. Now it’s the PearTree Press’s venture with, LIZZIE BORDEN, THE GIRL WITH THE PANSY PIN. “

She forgot to mention Walter Satherwait’s Miss Lizzie, which was originally published in 1989 – 24 years ago, and shown here in a Kirkus Review.   I’ve had this book (autographed) for years.  It has recently been reprinted for Kindle.   I’m surprised Ms. Koorey missed this as it appeared in the same issue of the book that featured her research on the Preliminary Hearing.



UPDATE:  As I said, there will be many articles acknowledging the anniversary of these gruesome murders.  Here is a sampling.  Also news about the upcoming Lifetime Movie Channel presentation on the Trial starring Christina Ricci.

From the Fall River Herald News is THIS and THIS. 

And this is the BEST.

And also this from the FRHN.  Debbie Alard Dion has for many, many years been the go-to local reporter for writing all things Lizzie Borden as the stories develop.  This is her (pretty much stock) annual recap.  Depending upon what happens Sunday, August 4th at US embassies overseas, it may or may not be a slow news day, relegating Ms. Borden to page 2 in some local papers.


It’s almost that time of year when focus on Fall River, MA is dominated by Lizzie Borden and the unsolved hatchet murders of her father, Andrew, and her stepmother, Abby on August 4, 1892.

A regurgitation of media mentions, short site and sound bytes, videos of the “murder house” (a Bed & Breakfast Museum since 1996) accompanied by eerie music and bloody graphics, and the gratuitous recitation of that inaccurate quatrain, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her father……” (please, don’t make me go any further) will surely play out on various TV channels throughout the country.

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum will be having its annual re-enactments which is always very entertaining and worth the price of a ticket.  The Fall River Historical Society will have its special display of Lizzie Borden artifacts – another “must see” if you’re anywhere in the area during its exhibition.  And of course the Andrew J. Borden burial plot at Oak Grove cemetery, as well as the high volume “drive-bys” in front of “Maplecroft” in the Highlands neighborhood of Fall River will thrill both newcomer and repeat OCD’r.  ;)

Also, it’s this time of year new books on Lizzie come out and this year it’s an attractively packaged fiction hardback by first time author, Michael Brimbau titled:  The Girl With the Pansy Pin Limited edition with color photographs (most all of which we’ve seen before) and its own slip case for a mere $85.00 (or the standard black and white paperback for $22).   In my opinion, if you’re going to buy any book on Lizzie Borden – invest heavily right off the bat and get to know about the real Lizzie Borden and her Fall River.    Buy THIS book:  Parallel Lives.   I’ve written about it myself several times HERE.  Trust me.  It should be your FIRST book if you haven’t read anything about her before.

In the upcoming days, TV’s will be saturated with all the WRONG information about the “notorious” Lizzie Borden, depicted as a LB-TVmaniacal, axe wielding psychopath. And the masses buy into it because they don’t bother reading the facts that are available in a multitude of books, let alone free access to online primary source documents such as the police “witness” statements,  Coroner’s Inquest, and Preliminary Hearing.  In fact, the Preliminary Hearing is available at this blog site.


So…. before you indulge yourself in the hash and rehash (pun intended) put down the bong and get a focus on what was going on in Lizzie’s Fall River and her life in general before, during and right after the crimes.  Below is an extract from my “Lizzie Borden Historic Timeline” which is a comprehensive document focusing on local,  U.S. and world events from1610 to 2010.

Let’s take a look specifically at what was going on starting just two weeks before the murders.  The windows of time that the killings could have taken place for first Abby, and then Andrew, are shown in RED.   The Timeline was developed over a number of years involving comprehensive study and analysis of the primary source documents mentioned above.   (The more expanded Timeline book cites the sources).

Visualize the events at 92 Second Street in a different way – factual details that won’t be shown or reported on TV.

July 18, 1892 Emma and Lizzie deed back house on Ferry Street to Andrew and receive $2,500 each.                                                                                   
July 19, 1892 Lizzie’s 32nd Birthday.
July 20, 1892 Grover Cleveland passes thru FR enroute to NYC for Democratic Convention.                                                                         
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 on to New Bedford, staying with Mrs. Poole and her daughter at 20 Madison Street.
July 23, 1892 Lizzie went on the street alone (New Bedford) to buy some dress goods gone from rooming house 30 minutes.  (Did she buy a new hatchet?).
July 25, 1892 AJB writes letter to Morse telling him to wait about getting a man to run his farm in Swansea.
July 25, 1892 Lizzie visits the girls at Marion at Dr. Handy’s cottage.
July 25, 1892 FR Daily News reports on ladies (including Lizzie)  vacationing in Marion.                                                                                 
July 26, 1892 Lizzie, Mrs. Poole & Mrs. Poole’s daughter ride to Westport to visit Mrs. Cyrus Tripp (Augusta, 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.                                                   
July 31, 1892 Bridget prepares first serving of the infamous mutton for Sunday supper.
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




8:00 am Abby goes across street to Dr. Bowen; tells him she fears she’s been poisoned.
9:00 am approx Dr. Bowen crosses street to check on the Bordens; Lizzie dashes upstairs; Andrew rebuffs his unsolicited visit.
10:00-11:30 am Lizzie attempts to buy prussic acid from Eli Bence at Smith’s pharmacy on Columbia Street.                                            
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 Bedford for Fall River.                                                                                         
1:30 pm John Morse walks from train station & arrives at Borden house; Abby lets him in front door.
2:00-4:00 pm John Morse and Andrew talk in Sitting Room; Lizzie hears their conversation.                                                                       
4:00 pm John Morse hires horse and wagon at Kirby’s Stable and drives to Swansea in late afternoon.                                                    
7:00 pm Lizzie visits Alice Russell in the early evening, states her fear “something will happen”.
7:00-8:00 pm John Morse visits Frederick Eddy at Borden farm in Swansea, brings back eggs.                                                                       
8:45 pm Morse returns from Swansea, talks in sitting room with Andrew and Abby.                                                                                 
9:00 pm Lizzie returns from Alice Russell’s, locks front door, 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 for the night.  Morse sleeps in the guest room next to Lizzie’s room.                                                                                                 
August 4, 1892   


 (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. 
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.
6:45 am Bridget opens side (back) door for the ice man.
7:00 am Bordens and Morse have breakfast in dining room.  (Lizzie is still upstairs).
7:15 am Bridget sees Morse for first time at breakfast table.
7:30 am Bridget eats her breakfast, and then clears dishes.
7:45-8:45 Morse and Andrew talk in sitting room; Abby sits with them a short while before beginning to dust.
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.
8:45-9:00 am Morse leaves for Post Office and then to visit a niece and nephew 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.
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.
9:30 am Abraham G. Hart, Treasurer of Union Savings Bank, talks to Andrew at Bank.
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.           
9:50-10:00 am AJB deposits Troy Mill check with Everett Cook at First Nat’l Bank; talks with William Carr.                                                         (
9:30-10:20 am Bridget washes outside windows, stops to talk to “Kelly girl” at south side fence.
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.                                                       
10:15-10:30 am Andrew stops to talk to Jonathan Clegg, picks up old lock; Southard Miller (at Whitehead’s Market) sees AJB turn onto Spring St; Mary Gallagher sees AJB at corner of South Main & Spring; Lizzie Gray sees AJB turning north on Second Street.                          
10:30-10:40 am Joseph Shortsleeves sees Andrew.                      
10:40 am James Mather sees Andrew leave shop                              
10:30-10:40 am Mrs. Kelly observes Andrew going to his front door.            
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.
10:35-10:45 am Bridget sees Lizzie go into dining room and speak “low” to her father.
10:45 am Mark Chase, residing over Wade’s store, sees man on Borden fence taking pears.                                                                           
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 Sargeant’s.
10:50-10:55 Mark Chase observes man with open buggy parked just beyond tree in front of Borden house.
August 4, 189210:55 am Bridget goes upstairs to her room to lay down.                    
10:55–10:58 am Bridget goes up to her room; lies down on her bed.               
10:55-11:00 am Andrew Borden dies from blows to the head with a sharp instrument.
11:00 am Bridget hears City Hall clock chime 11:00.
11:05-11:10 am Hyman Lubinsky drives his cart past the Borden house.   
11:05-11:10 William Sullivan, clerk at Hudner’s Market notes Mrs. Churchill leaving the store.                                                                
11:10 am  APPROX. Lizzie hollers to Bridget to come down, “Someone has killed father”.                                                                                  
11:10-11:12 am Lizzie sends Bridget to get Dr. Bowen.                              
11:10-11:13 am Bridget rushes back across the street from Bowen’s, tells Lizzie he’s not at home.                                                                         
11:10-11:13 am Lizzie asks Bridget if she knows where Alice Russell lives and tells her to go get her.                                                                  
11:10-11:13 am Bridget grabs her hat & shawl from kitchen entry way and rushes to Alice Russell’s.                                                                  
11:10-11:13 am Mrs. Churchill observes Bridget crossing street, notices a distressed Lizzie and calls out to Lizzie who tells her “someone has murdered father.”                                                 
11:13 am Mrs. John Gormely says Mrs. Churchill runs through her yelling “Mr. Borden is murdered!”                                                
11:10-11:14 am Mrs. Churchill goes to side door, speaks briefly to Lizzie, and then crosses street looking for a doctor.                                       
11:12-11:14 am John Cunningham sees Mrs. Churchill talking to others then uses phone at Gorman’s paint shop to call Police.
11:15 am Marshal Hilliard receives call from news dealer Cunningham about disturbance at Borden house.
11:15 am Marshal 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.                  
11:16 – 11:20 am Dr. Bowen pulls up in his carriage, met by his wife, rushes over to Borden’s.                                                                          
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 sees Andrew, asks for sheet; alone with Lizzie for approx. one minute.
11:20 am Officer 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. Churchill come 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.
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.                                           
11:25 am Off. Patrick Doherty, at Bedford & Second, notes City Hall clock time enroute to Station.                                                        
11:23-11:30 am Lizzie asks to check for Mrs. Borden; Bridget & Mrs. Churchill go upstairs, discover body.                                                        
11:32 am Officers Doherty & Wixon leaves police station for Borden house.  Reporter Manning on rear steps, Sawyer inside at screen door. (Bridget in s/e corner near sink)                                      
11:34 am Bridget fetches Doctor Bowen’s wife, Phoebe.                   
11:35 George Petty, former resident of 92 Second Street, enters the Borden house with Dr. Bowen.                                                       
11:40 am Bowen returns to Borden house.   Churchill tells him they’ve discovered Abby upstairs.
11:35-11:40 am Officer Patrick Doherty & Deputy Sheriff Wixon arrive at house; see Manning sitting on steps, met at back door by Dr. Bowen, who lets them in.                                                                            
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.                                                                  
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.                  
11:44 am Doherty runs to Undertaker Gorman’s shop around corner and phones Marshal Hilliard.                                                 
11:45  Dr. Bowen shows Doherty Andrew, then Abby.  Pulls bed out 3 feet. 
11:45 am Doherty returns; Officers Mullaly. Allen, Denny, and 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 murders from 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. Lizzie goes from dining room to her room and changes into a “pink wrapper”.
11:50 am-Noon Asst. Marshal Fleet arrives; sees bodies; talks to Lizzie in her room w/Rev. Buck, says “…she’s not my mother, she’s my  stepmother”                      
11:50 am Morse goes out to back yard and stays outside most of the afternoon. 
11:50 am –Noon Deputy Sheriff Wixon climbs back fence and talks to workmen sawing wood in Chagnon yard.                                          
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.                                                                                   
12:25 am Officer Harrington interviews Lizzie in her bedroom (she wears pink wrapper).                                                                                       
12:45 am Marshal Hillliard & Officers Doherty & Connors drive carriage to Andrew’s upper farm in Swansea.
2:00 pm Dr. Dedrick arrives at Borden house.
3:00-4:00 pm Crime scene photographs are taken of Andrew & Abby.     
3:40 pm Emma leaves on New Bedford train for Weir Junction to return to Fall River.                                                                               
4:30 pm Stomachs of Andrew and Abby removed and sealed.
5:00 pm Emma arrives in Fall River.                                                )                         
5:00-5:30 pm State Detective George F. Seaver arrives from Taunton.       
5:30 pm Dr. Dolan “delivers” bodies of Andrew and Abby to Undertaker James Winward.                                                                
5:35 pm Winward & assistant remove sofa from house and store it in a room at his building.                                                                  
6:00 pm Alice leaves 92 Second St. to return home for supper.         
8:30 pm Mrs. Charles Holmes leaves the Borden girls and returns to her home on Pine Street.
8:45 pm Officer Joseph Hyde, observing from a northwest outside window, sees Lizzie & Alice go down cellar.
9:00 pm Officer Hyde observes Lizzie in basement alone.

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New Lizzie Borden Fiction Book by Michael Brimbau

UPDATE:   From the Fall River Herald News 7-27-13

Here’s a new book on Lizzie, “The Girl With The Pansy Tattoo” – scratch that, “The Girl With The Pansy Pin”  (not quite the same cadence, but you get it.)

lb-fullpansyThis is Lizzie wearing the pansy pin.

Here’s a promo piece on the book as announced by the Fall River Historical Society where an advanced purchase can be made.

Judging from the description of the book’s content it would seem that the author pulled from known facts about Lizzie, if not the story line itself.

I’m not one to read much fiction  on Lizzie as I think there is enough conjecture in many of the non-fiction books.  However, I’m curious to see how Mr. Brimbau managed to get “600 pages” for his book.  It may be he has attempted to tell all of Lizzie’s story from his conjectured POV as her own.  If so, I would think he was cautious not to make up wildly unlikely scenes or events and stick to that which can be based on fact.  From what I know of Mr. Brimbau’s penchant for accuracy, he most likely has done precisely that.

It should be noted that Mr. Brimbau is the owner of the house just east of “Maplecroft” (once actually owned by Lizzie herself) and is the “SO” to Stefani Koorey, his roommate of the past 6 years.  Therefore, he would have a great amount of resources at his disposal for his own research.   It’s worthy of note that Ms. Koorey has stated publicly she moved from central Florida to Fall River because she fell in love with Michael, who, instead, might have lived in Cleveland.  ;)

The only fiction book I’ve read in the last ten years on Lizzie Borden is Richard Behrens “Lizzie Borden Girl Detective”,  a  well-written book that stands fast to known facts and shows solid research.   I would recommend this book as a very entertaining and very smart read.  In fact, the more informed you are about the case and Lizzie in general, the more you will enjoy this book.  In short, it’s very “inside”, but that’s not to say you need know anything about the Borden case to enjoy the jolly exploits of this “Nancy Drew” type girl detective.



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Providence Journal on 120 Years Since Lizzie Borden Acquittal

It”s been 120 years since Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother, so it’s no surprise the media would exploit this case once again.

The Providence Journal  is doing an extensive article running six consecutive days.  This little piece is a “teaser” for the 1st installment this Sunday, June 23.

shelley3Shelley Dziedzic poses on floor between bed and dresser where Abby Borden was found with 19 blows to the head on August 4, 1892.

Until last summer, Shelley Dziedzic, whom I’ve known for many, many years was a tour guide at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum.  She is the one who used to produce those annual August 4th re-enactments at  the B&B.   Shelley has added “historian” to her credentials, and aptly so, as she is extremely well informed on the case.  Her favorite smells are the hatchet cookies made at the B&B and, of course, the ever predictable rose.

The Lifetime Movie Channel’s Lizzie Borden is sure to exploit the slash and slice aspect of the case.  I’m fairly certain the Providence Journal will not, but we will see.

Meanwhile, check out my Facebook page:    CLICK HERE


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Lizzie Borden Letters on eBay asking $8,250!


Well, this is a hoot. Two letters written by Lizzie Borden up for bid on eBay at $8,250. One would do better to purchase “Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River” by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, curators of the Fall River Historical Society. Their massive work (over 1,000 pages) includes these letters. Not only that but the book has the full story about the “Kenney” house and Mr. & Mrs. Kenney “.  The house was just east house (which was just east of her home “Maplecroft”, the subject of one letter, AND a picture of the dog which is the subject of the second letter. And here’s the best part – Parallel Lives can be purchased for $79.00 directly from the Fall River Historical Society. Or, if you have an eBay account, you can up the bid to $8,500 dollars. LOL




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Book Review: Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River

(Recycled post. It’s been a year. Time to remind you how to spend your Christmas $$).

You can order Parallel Lives  (and my own Historic Timeline book) at this sight   Click HERE

Items in the book and on display at the FRHS:
Click HERE

(Unfortunately, the scrapbook, so carefully put together by Lizzie after her 1890 Grand Tour is not on display and remains in a private collection.  *That’s* what I would like to see more of!)

Exquisitely produced, brilliantly structured, thrilling and groundbreaking in its content, Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River is a seven pound, 1,179 page, ten-years- in-the-making epic that had it been written as a historical novel it would be right up there with Roots, The Secret Magdelene, and Gone With The Wind.   It is a book of transformation and revelation; transforming in the way it compels readers to alter their mental landscape when thinking of Lizzie Borden.  It is filled with stunning revelations that meticulously dissect rumors and legend long thought to be truth.  Lizzie Borden has been encapsulated in pop culture based on an inaccurate quatrain characterizing her as a one dimensional psychopath wielding a bloody axe, Parallel Lives has irrevocably transformed and revealed Lizzie Borden to be a three dimensional flesh and blood human being with heart, spirit and soul.  Indisputably, this the new “go to” book which researches and scholars studying the history of Fall River during its rise and decline, as well as the woman Lizzie Borden who lived through that age: 1860-1927, will discover it impossible to find anything more definitive or comprehensive, more exciting or enlightening.

The book is a treasure trove of new information about Lizzie taken from the journals, letters, cards, photographs, artifacts and remembrances of those that knew her personally, much of which was coveted by their owners who were resolved in their belief that Lizzie could not have committed those crimes.  Their beliefs were passed down to third and fourth generation descendents who continued to keep their possessions or memories conveyed private and sequestered until trusted relationships were established between them and the authors.

Masterfully woven within the new information are expanded stories of known individuals and events (some prominent, some little or previously unknown) that had an impact on Fall River’s history and society.  The authors have beautifully crafted the world in which Lizzie Borden lived.  And while the crimes of August 4, 1892 are presented, allusions to or fresh insights on whether or not Lizzie was guilty are not presented.  In fact, the murders and who did them become almost irrelevant in the broader tapestry presented throughout the chapters with its more than 500 photographs and other images.   Who committed the crimes or the case itself, becomes an irrelevancy overshadowed by the depth and breadth of all that which deals with the people and stories within.

We learn so much of Mary Ella Sheen (Mrs. George S. Brigham) and her sister, Anne Eliza Sheen (Mrs. William Lindsey, Jr.), two sisters whose lives took very different trajectories.  Mary was Lizzie’s friend since girlhood and the future mother-in-law of Florence Cook Brigham, but Anne had been her friend as well for most of their lives.  Anne was a “Grand Dame” and lived the kind of life that Lizzie most probably would have wanted for herself.   We learn that not only was Helen Hartley Howe such a close and devoted second cousin to Lizzie, we discover that Helen’s mother had a friendship that also was life lasting with Lizzie.  The reveal of the true identity of ‘Todd Lunday” would have been anticlimactic had it not been for the intriguing story associated with it, or the story of Officer Phillip Harrington and police reporter Edwin Porter who penned the Fall River Tragedy and why Porter may have left Fall River so soon after its publication. Nor have we read anywhere the connection of reporter McHenry and City Marshall Hilliard.  I suspect there are many “reveals” that were derived from the so called “Hilliard Papers” which have been in the Society’s hands for 22 years.

Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, co-authors, outside the Fall River Historical Society holding Parallel Lives-photo by Jack Foley, Fall River Herald News

For decades, the curators of the FRHS have been meticulous in documenting the “drop in” visits or phone calls from people – many descendents of the principals – as to what they had to say and when.  These “notes to file”, so to speak, have been preserved in their respective file folders and filed with the relative topics.  These contain more of the “reveals”, some as surprising as finding out JR getting shot was only a dream, or Scarlett realizing she loved Rhett all along, or Edward glistening out of the cloud bank.  As stated, the revelations are thrilling and transforming.

The chapters are so beautifully written and the photographs so beautifully reproduced within the book that we can almost feel the silk and lace as they as we read their wonderfully detailed descriptions.  We can rub our finger across the image of a pocket watch and feel the grooved indentations, or one of Lizzie’s traveling suitcases and feel the contrast of the brass to the leather.  We can smell and see the wedding flowers and the sparkle of jewelry at the Assemblies and grand parties.  The meticulous effort in the use of adjectives is remarkable. It is fairly obvious the authors wanted to be as accurate and precise as possible when applying descriptors to people, places and things.

I strongly suspect much of what was revealed may have been with soft spoken caveats or perhaps some asserted caveats along the lines of:  “Well, you may use these journals (or photos, or letters, or cards, or remembrances) but I trust you will present Auntie Borden (or Lizzie) in a good light because she never could have done those murders.”  And “I would consider it a great injustice to finally make this information known if it were used to give a poor impression of this wonderful woman or lend any credibility to the horrible reputation she endured during and after her life.”  Mr. Martins and Mr. Binette have stated it was only when they explained the kind of book they were writing, and after trust was established, that the possessions and remembrances were revealed.

We learn certain elitist members of the seven “first” families did a fine job in two-facing Lizzie after the Trial; they “cut” her quite severely and most obviously spoke of her “guilt”– handing down their opinions to their children who maintained those opinions and passed them down to their children.  On the other hand, those that kept friendships and believed Lizzie was not and could not be guilty passed that info down to their children – or the children knew her first hand and formulated the same opinion; the difference being they did not speak openly about it.  They protected her privacy.  But between those that cut her and the relentless and continuous newspaper coverage, the damage had been done.

The authors were literary craftsmen in the way they told these stories, presenting the information from the journals or letters, and in detailing information about the people involved without trumpeting a new path but sufficient to give you pause.  The book is peppered with phrases such as: “Is it possible that…”, or “Although we can never know for certain, could it be that…”, or “Would it seem likely that…” and we pause on the page and hearing ourselves utter “hmmmm” and suddenly realize we are thinking things differently.

The End Notes are extraordinary and I found them thrilling to read.  When reading, one says: “Where did they get that from?” and we go to the End Notes which are flush with information.  Our eyes don’t just stay on the sight bite but naturally scroll downward until we know where most all the information for that chapter came from.  The End Notes tell us more about relationships and just who had what information and for how long.  The End Notes help us identify what came from FRHS “notes to file” as opposed to who held on to what for decades and allows us to identify from where the bulk of new information came.

Parallel Lives actually constitutes many books.  It is so rich and full it would constitute several Master’s Thesis, multiple biographies, and even separate books on the nefarious acts and scandals in the persons of Mr. Scully and Mr. Barnard, let alone a book on comparative lifestyles of The Hill people and The Mill people.

Parallel Lives is a monumental achievement and a body of work to make the entire Fall River Historical Society proud.  It is representative of that level of excellence consistent in all endeavors of Messrs. Martins and Binette.  It is truly a remarkable and unique work –  the likes of which we shall not see again.

Michael and Dennis took a pen

And wrote an epic with a satisfying end

For when The Book was finally done

Rumors died and reality won.


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