Saturday, December 6, 2008

The mysterious tale of Lizzie Borden

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





Even to this very day, the horrific tale of Lizzie Borden is still talked about.

Lizzie Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on July 19, 1860. When she was three years old, her mother Sarah Borden died, leaving both Lizzie and her elder sister, Emma motherless. Their father, Andrew Borden, soon remarried a woman named Abby Durfree Gray in 1865 and the newly formed family lived a relatively quiet life in their home on 92nd Street.

Lizzie and Emma grew to womanhood. Lizzie was a strong churgoer and taught Sunday School, belonged to Church organizations, and even travelled a little. Lizzie Borden's father was a hard working man and had acquired a significant amount of wealth, but he was stingy with his money, spending little, even refusing to add modern plumbing to their relatively nice home of decent size.

In 1884, Andrew bought his wife's half-sister a home. This incensed the two sisters who objected vehemently. Conflict within the home escalated. The siblings fought with their stepmother and referred to her as "Mrs. Borden" instead of "mother".

In an effort to eliminate the growing hostility between his daughters and his wife, Andrew gave Lizzie and Emma some money of their own and permitted them to rent out his old family home. But tension between the three women continued to grow. When some thefts were discovered from Andrew and Sarah's bedrooms, each member of the family bought and installed locks for all their bedroom doors.

In July of 1892, Lizzie and Emma went to visit some friends. Lizzie returned soon thereafter, but Emma remained. During the same time, Lizzie's uncle, the brother of her deceased mother, came to stay at the house for a visit. In early August, Andrew and Abby fell ill with an attack of vomiting. Abby confided to a friend that she suspected someone had poisoned her. On August 4, Lizzie's uncle and father went into town together. Andrew returned home without his brother-in-law and and lay down for a nap in the sitting room.

The family's maid was also taking a nap at this time and was awoken by Lizzie who urged her to come downstairs. Lizzie's father had been murdered, hacked in the face and head with an axe or hatchet. Lizzie said it happened while she was in the barn. The doctor was sent for. Upon his arrival, they discovered Abby dead in a bedroom, also hacked numerous times.

Andrew died without a will, therefore the entire estate, worth between $300,000 to $500,000, would go to Lizzie and Emma and not to Abby's heirs.

When evidence revealed that Lizzie had tried to burn a dress several days after the murder and that she'd tried to purchase poison, Lizzie Borden was arrested even though there was no bloodstained clothing found and only a washed, very clean hatchet made to look dirty was discovered in the cellar.

The widely publicized trial of Lizzie Borden commenced June 3, 1893 and popular opinion as to her innocence or guilt was split. Some Massachusetts feminists wrote in Lizzie Borden's favor and other townsfolk vehemently voiced their anger at her guilt.

Lizzie Borden never testified because she was adamant she had been in the barn searching for fishing equipment and eating pears outside while the murders were occuring. She insisted that she was innocent and kept her silence and allowed her lawyer to speak on her behalf.

Lack of direct evidence failed to convince the jury of her guilt and she was acquitted on June 20, 1893.

Afterwards, Lizzie continued to live in Fall River, but bought and lived in a new, much bigger home called "Maplecroft". She called herself Lizbeth instead of Lizzie. She and Emma lived in their new home together until they argued sometime in 1904 or 1905. Lizzie and Emma owned many pets, and left their estates to the Animal Rescue Leauge.

Lizzie Borden died at Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1927. She never outlived her notorious reputation as a murderess. She was buried next to her father and stepmother. The home in which the murders took place was turned into a bed-and-breakfast in 1992 and is now a popular tourist spot.

2 comments:

kywrite said...

I will always regret not having visited the Borden house when we lived in Connecticut -- it was on my to-do list, but I somehow never got around to-doing it! The tensions that led to Lizzie's alleged murder are identical to some of the tensions that led to the Salem Witchcraft Trials (my obsession): the children of a wealthy man who work all their lives to build the family fortune, only to face the danger of it going to a stepmother and her relatives instead. I often wonder if that family tension is a New England thing, the same way pride and revenge are a Southern thing.

QNPoohBear said...

There are two Lizzie Borden houses in the Fall River area. They're very popular spots around Halloween.