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The Strange Tale of Lizzie Borden

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Born 19 July 1860 in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Andrew Borden was the youngest daughter of the prominent Andrew Jackson BORDEN and Sarah Anthony MORSE. Her elder sister, Emma Lenore Borden, was born 01 March 1851 in Fall River. Her father was a self-made successful businessman who grew up poor, but came later to positions such as President of Union Savings Bank, director of Globe Yarn Mill Co., Durfee Safe Deposit, and several other successful operations.

He owned several pieces of property including a home on Second St. in Fall River, two farms in Swansea, the A.J. Building and corner, and some land on S. Main St..

Lizzie's first tragedy occurred very early in life at only 2 years old, when in March of 1863, her mother Sarah died of a hemorrhage. Andrew remarried to Abby Durfee GRAY on 18 January 1865 in Fall River. She was to be Lizzie's stepmother for the next 28 years.

 August 4, 1892

A still and quite warm summer Thursday morning hung over Fall River. Lizzie walked down the stairs of the house at 92 Second St. at a quarter to nine, as she had so many mornings before since the family moved to the home in 1872. Her India silk skirt rustled as she traversed the narrow staircase and upon arriving downstairs, she saw her stepmother Abby and Bridget Sullivan, the maid, who was also known to the family as Maggie.  Andrew Borden was in the sitting room in his large chair reading. Abby was in the dining room dusting and Maggie, who was preparing to wash the windows on this stifling morning, entered through the back door with the equipment she would need - a long pole with brush on the end and a pail of water which was filled at the kitchen sink. Although the smells of breakfast, Johnny cakes, maple syrup, molasses cookies and coffee hung about, Lizzie, it is said, was not hungry and chose not to eat any breakfast.

Her older sister, Emma, had been away for two weeks visiting friends in Fair Haven and so was not in the house on this day. Maggie left through the back door to commence washing the windows and Lizzie's father entered the kitchen as she was preparing to some of her kerchiefs. As she sprinkled some water on them, her father mentioned that he might not go to the post office to mail a letter to Emma in Fair Haven. Lizzie went into the dining room to begin ironing as her father left the house. This was about 9:00 a.m.

As the morning went on, it was said Lizzie spent some time in the kitchen sitting down reading an old Harper's magazine from the cupboard and eating a pear while she waited for the flats to heat, so that she could continue to iron. Andrew came home and shortly afterward, Lizzie carried some clothes up to her room where she stayed long enough to sew some tape on a garment.

Andrew, meanwhile, went into the sitting room. When Lizzie saw him, she asked if he wanted the window closed or open. From there, she went to the kitchen but found the fire heating her flats had died out. While waiting for it to heat up, she decided to leave the house and go to the barn to look for a lead sinker, as she was planning to go fishing the following Monday. On her way, she stopped at the pear tree and picked up three pears. For 20 minutes, she stayed in the hot barn eating them. From there, she reentered the house and stopped in the kitchen and then went to the dining room where she lay down her hat.

Upon opening the sitting room door she claimed she saw the bloody body of her father, lying on his back on the sitting room sofa, both legs hanging over the front. Reportedly horrified, she called for Maggie to get Dr. Bowen down the street. Later, as Lizzie, Maggie, Dr. Bowen and Adelaide Churchill, a neighbor assembled in the house, Abby Borden was still unaccounted for. When the police arrived, Abby's body was discovered upstairs in her sewing room; she, like Andrew, had been beaten to death.

On August 12, 1892 Lizzie Borden was arrested for the murders of her parents. Lizzie's trial took place in Fall River from 05 June to 19 June, 1893. Twelve male citizens were her jurors and after a sometimes dramatic presentation of evidence, which included testimony that Lizzie had tried to purchase prussic acid, a poison, days before the murders. At one point, Lizzie seemingly fainted in the courtroom after seeing the skulls of her parents.

On the afternoon of June 19, 1893, after one hour of deliberations, the jury returned its verdict -- not guilty on all counts.

In late July of 1893, only a few weeks after the trial, Lizzie and Emma moved into a grand Victorian house at 306 French St. in a very prestigious section of Fall River. Lizzie called the 13-room house Maplecroft. She would reside there for the rest of her life.

Rebuffed by many citizens of Fall River after the trial, Lizzie began to socialize with new friends from the New York theater scene, including actress Nance O'Neill. They became the best of friends and Lizzie threw lavish parties for her new friends at Maplecroft. Around 1905, Emma, after an unclear dispute with her sister, moved out of Maplecroft and removed to Newmarket, New Hampshire. The two never spoke again.

After a long illness, Lizzie died at Maplecroft on 01 June, 1927. Amazingly, Emma died only a few days later on 10 June 1927, after suffering a fall down the stairs at her home.