On August 4, 1892, Andrew and his wife Abby Borden were found “hacked beyond almost beyond recognition” inside their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Before long, and despite possible evidence pointing to other people, Lizzie Borden was arrested and tried in court. Even though she was found not guilty, she spent the rest of her life carrying the stigma of her parents’ deaths.
Andrew Borden was found on the first floor, in the sitting room. There was a huge gash in his left temple that was possibly made when the dull side of the axe was pounded into his head. Lizzie’s stepmother was found upstairs on the floor between a bed and dressing case.
Lizzie said she was out back in the barn when she heard a thump and a groan. She ran into the house and saw her father’s body. She then called up to the maid, who was washing windows on the third floor. The maid never heard the murders take place but in later testimony claimed to have heard Lizzie laughing as she was supposedly murdering the two.
The maid was never investigated for the murders.
Lizzie Borden’s father was a wealthy businessman but had made his wealth by being a shrewd cheapskate. Understanding that her father had enemies, Lizzie made comments before his death that she feared someone would harm him because “he is so discourteous to people.”
A Portuguese man was in the home right before the murders, a former worker of Borden’s, but he was never identified. According to rumor, another man had visited Mr. Borden one night about renting a store front, and they discussed questionable dealings. And six years after the murders, a retired sea captain claimed to a friend that he knew who murdered the Bordens. Mr. Borden had “caused the imprisonment of some sailors, who had sworn revenge though it took a lifetime and they swung for it.” Further investigation into this claim found that it would have been impossible for those men to have committed the murders.
Lizzie Borden is sometimes portrayed in the movies as a psychotic oddball with an extreme, vindictive nature, but before the murder trial, she did have friends, who were loyal to her—until after the trial.
After the not guilty verdict was announced, there was “much rejoicing among the crowd in the courtroom.” Then, being in a small town with small, jealous-minded people, those once-loyal friends were probably pressured to distance themselves from Lizzie. She was inheriting a large amount of wealth, was the daughter of a presumably hated wealthy man, and people like to lash out in their jealousy.
Before the murders, Lizzie was a respected member of the Congregational church. She was known to have done charity work and taught Sunday school. After the murders and the trial, she returned to her church. While there, no one would sit next to her. Since the courts would not punish her because of the lack of solid evidence, the people of Fall River decided to shun her for life.
Emma Borden, Lizzie’s older sister, was often described as “prim, confident, apparently reliable in every fiber.” She was also conveniently away while the murders took place and had just as much motive to see her father and stepmother dead, if the rumors were correct about their father’s cheapness.
At Lizzie’s trial, Emma gave testimony for her sister, stating “that although Lizzie and the stepmother had not been on good terms at one time, they were friendly for two years before the time of the murders.” After the acquittal, the sisters inherited the fortune, and soon afterward, they bought an exquisite home in Fall River.
Emma never came under suspicion although that she had the key to the Borden home and could have easily hired someone to enter the locked Borden home and commit the murders.
The journals of Lizzie’s lawyer were discovered in 2012. While newspaper articles were describing her as cold, the journals show that Lizzie grieved terribly for the loss of her father. The journals also give accounts from neighbours and family friends that the father provided more for the daughters than many other fathers of the time.
The long lost glimpse into lives of the Bordens is completely unlike anything you normally hear in the old reports. Back then, gossip was published as fact, and anyone could say just about anything about someone else without repercussion.
Lizzie really didn’t need the money. Before the murders, Lizzie had $1,000 in the bank—a sizable amount for the late 1800s. She also owned a house and collected rent off of it. She owned corporation stock and received $2 a week from her father as pocket money.
If her father would have died of natural causes, the stepmother and both sisters would have received an inheritance. The stepmother was already 67 years old. On her death, the sisters would have had the entire estate and the stepmother’s remaining inheritance money.
There were no accounts of any debts owed by Lizzie Borden. Money could not have been a major motive, as suggested by the prosecutor, for killing her father.
where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USACome and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.
Lizzie Borden shows up in my Geneaology
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