April 11, 2013

Did you Lizzie?

Like most little girls, I remember playing jump rope at recess while reciting these words as I timed my jumps to the swinging rope:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

I was always curious about this Lizzie Borden. Even at an early age I remember wondering who Lizzie Borden was.

Even though her name has gone down through history as a cold blooded murder she was actually acquitted at her trail. The evidence is compelling that she did in fact murder her parents, but know one real knows. The trial had all the elements to make it a media frenzy, love, money, jealousy, and of course, bloody murder. It was the equivalent, in the eyes of the media, to today's OJ Simpson or JonBenét Ramsey murder cases.

Lizzie Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on July 19th, 1860.
Lizzie Borden
Her Mother died when Lizzie was only three years old. Her father Andrew, remarried to a woman named Abby Gray on June 6th 1865. (On an interesting side note it was 3 months after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated) Although Abby raised Lizzie, by all accounts they weren't close and had a tense relationship. Several times during the subsequent trail Lizzie made the point that Abbey was her step mother, not her mother.

On August 4, 1892 Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murder in their home, located at 230 2nd Street, in Fall River, Massachusetts. 
Abbey Borden
Andrew Borden

The maid, Bridgett Sullivan was resting upstairs after cleaning windows. She heard Lizzie call for her to come downstairs, saying her father was dead. The family doctor was called, and Abbey was then found in the bedroom.

Andrew was found laying on the family couch. He had laid down to take a nap after returning home from errands. His skull was crushed and his left eye was slashed with an axe, suggesting he was asleep when he died.
The body of Andrew Borden
Abby was found in the upstairs guest bedroom. She had been making the bed and was found laying next to the bed face down with wounds on her back, and scalp. Her braid had been hacked off during the attack.

The body of Abbey Borden

The only people who were in the house during the murder was Lizzie, and the maid Bridget Sullivan.
Bridget Sullivan, the house maid
Lizzie's sister, Emma was away from the home at the time of the murders, along with their uncle, John Morse, Lizzie's biological mother's, brother, who was visiting at the time. John's visit was to facilitate transfer of a summer home for the Borden daughters.
Emma Borden
Lizzie was upset with her father about his decision to divide property among relatives before his death. Abby's (Lizzie's step mother) relatives received a house. Lizzie and Emma demanded a rental property. It is thought by some that Lizzie's frustration about her Father's choice of benefactors after his death, fueled Lizzie to commit the murder.

Lizzie was arrested on August 11th, and a grand jury was convened on November 7th.

Interesting Facts With The Case:
  • A hatchet was found in the basement of the Borden home. It was missing its handle and was free of any blood.
  • Bridget Sullivan, the maid, testified in court that she was laying down upstairs, on the morning of the murders. Around 11:00 am she heard Lizzie calling for her, saying someone had killed father.
  • Lizzie tried to buy prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) by local druggist, Eli Bence. She was denied the sale due to not having a prescription. Lizzie claimed she need to clean a seal skin cloak.
  • In early August, Andrew and Abby Borden became violently ill. Abby Borden suspected poison.
  • On August 7, Lizzie was seen burning a blue corduroy dress in a fire. Lizzie said she was burning the dress, because it was ruined by a paint stain.
  • Due to the illness that struck the Borden's before the murders, their stomach contents were checked for poison, during the autopsy. None was found.
  • Andrew died without a will, because of this, Andrew's estate went directly to his daughter's, Emma, and Lizzie.
  • Contrary to the popular poem, Abby suffered fifteen blows to the head and Andrew received nineteen.
On June 20, 1892 after deliberating an hour and a half, the jury acquitted.

After the trial Lizzie, and Emma moved into a larger more modern house in Fall River, that they called, "Maple Croft".

Lizzie was once again brought into the spotlight when she was caught shop lifting in Rhode Island in 1897.

Lizzie became good friends, with silent film actress Nance O'Neil.
Nance O'Neil

Emma moved out in 1905.

Lizzie died on June 1st, 1927 due to pneumonia. Emma died on June 9th, 1927 at a nursing home due to nephritis.

The sisters were never married. They were buried next to each other in the Borden Family plot at Oak Grove Cemetery.

Lizzie left her estate to the Fall River Animal Rescue, a total of about $30,000.

The infamous house located at 230 2nd Street is now a Bed and Breakfast, which takes great pride in it's macabre history.

Check out these links for more information on the famous Lizzie Borden:

The Lizzie Borden Trial
Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
Lizzie Borden Virtual Museum
Find A Grave- Borden Plot

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