Lizzie "Lizbeth" Andrew Borden
24th Paternal Cousin, 2x removed.
Here is another relative that pretty much everyone has heard of, the infamous alleged axe murderess, Lizzie Borden. My relationship to Lizzie is once again through my 22nd Great-Grandfather, Edward I, King of England. He was Lizzie's 20th Great-Grandfather on her mother's side of the family.
The popular children's rhyme about Lizzie Borden claims that she "took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one". While the count of wounds inflicted on Lizzie's father and stepmother differ in reality, the gruesome double murder that took place in the Borden family home on August 4th, 1892 is certainly not.
Lizzie was born on July 19, 1860 in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Andrew Borden and his wife (my cousin), Sarah Morse. Lizzie was the third of three girls, one of whom died at age 2, 2 years prior to Lizzie's birth. Lizzie's elder sister, Emma, was born in 1851.
Lizzie's mother Sarah died on March 26th, 1863 due to a combination of uterine congestion and a spinal disease. Lizzie was not quite 3 years old when her mother passed. 3 years later, Andrew Borden married Abby Durfee Gray. Lizzie called her stepmother "Mrs. Borden", clearly indicating that the two women's relationship was strained at best. Accounts of the relationship between Lizzie and Abby state that Lizzie was convinced that Abby had married her father only to gain access to his wealth.
Andrew Borden had descended from a wealthy family, although he had struggled financially until he was able to build his own fortune. Even though Andrew was one of the wealthier residents of Fall River, he lived frugally and did not spend his money on luxuries such as indoor plumbing and electricity, commonplace features in the wealthy homes of the day.
Lizzie and her sister Emma had a religious upbringing and attended Central Congregational Church. Lizzie was involved with the church as a young woman and even taught Sunday School to children of recent immigrants. Lizzie was also involved in the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
Records indicate that tensions were running high in the Borden household prior to that dark day in August. Most of the arguments were over Andrew's gifts of real estate to various relatives of Abby, including the gift of a house to Abby's sister. This action prompted both Lizzie and Emma to demand and then receive the rental house that the family had previously lived in until their mother's death. The girls purchased the house from their father for $1.00, and later sold the house back to him for $5,000.00 (over $142,000.00 in today's money) a few weeks before the murders.
A family argument in July, 1892 caused both Abby and Emma to leave the Borden household and then went to New Bedford for an extended vacation. Upon their return to Fall River, Lizzie stayed at a rooming house for 4 days before finally returning to the Borden family home.
On August 3rd, John Morse, a maternal uncle of Lizzie and Emma, came to visit Andrew Borden. John spent the night at the Borden household and left after having breakfast with Andrew, Abby, Lizzie and Emma. The Borden's maid, Bridget "Maggie" Sullivan, was also at the home. Andrew and John Morse retreated to the sitting room where the two men talked for an hour before Morse left to purchase some oxen and visit another niece in Fall River. Morse intended to return to the Borden house at noon.
When John Morse left the Borden home, Andrew Borden also left to take his morning walk. Andrew left the house sometime after 9:00 am. Inside the house, Abby Borden went upstairs sometime between 9:00 am and 10:30 am. She had gone upstairs to the guest bedroom to make the bed, a chore usually performed by Lizzie or Emma. It was in the guest room that Abby met her killer.
Abby was hit first on the side of her head by a hatchet. As Abby lay on the floor of the guest bedroom, her killer delivered another 17 blows to the back of her head, killing her.
At 10:30 am, Andrew Borden arrived home from his walk. He tried his key in the front door, but he could not open the door so he knocked. The knocking on the door caught the attention of the maid, Bridget Sullivan who tried to open the door only to find it jammed. Bridget swore at the door and then later testified that she heard Lizzie laughing, the laughter coming from the top of the stairs. This observance would become a key point in Lizzie's later murder trial as the lifeless and bloody body of Abby Borden would have been visible to anyone standing at the top of the stairs at that time.
Andrew Borden eventually gained entry into the home and apparently laid down on the couch in the sitting room, presumably to take a nap. At 11:10 am, Bridget Sullivan heard Lizzie call out from downstairs; "Maggie, come quick! Father's dead. Somebody came in and killed him!". Bridget (Maggie) had been in her third floor room resting after cleaning windows on the house.
When Bridget arrived downstairs, she saw the bloody and lifeless body of Andrew Borden slumped on the couch, the blood still running from his many wounds. Andrew Borden had been hit 10 or 11 times by a hatchet-like object.
When the police arrived at the Borden home, they questioned Lizzie about her father's murder. At the time, Abby's bludgeoned body had not yet been discovered. It was only after Lizzie asked that someone check upstairs for her stepmother that Bridget and a neighbor discovered her body in the guest room.
The investigation that followed was poor and the police later admitted that they had not thoroughly inspected the Borden home. They did however, make note of many contradictory statements made by Lizzie during their initial interrogation.
It wasn't until August 6th, 2 full days after the double murders, that police decided to conduct a more thorough review of the Borden home for evidence. By that time any evidence that may have incriminated Lizzie, including a dress that she had burned, was gone.
An inquest into the murders took place on August 8th, and Lizzie was called to testify. Heavily sedated on morphine, which may have impacted her behavior and testimony, Lizzie's recounting of the morning of the murders was contradictory, and he behavior was erratic. However, it took another 3 days before the district attorney issued a warrant and Lizzie was taken into custody, charged with the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. A Grand Jury began hearing evidence against Lizzie on November 7th, and Borden was indicted on December 2nd.
The murder trial took place in New Bedford starting on June 5th, 1893. It was a sensational trial that lasted until the jury was sent to deliberate Lizzie's fate on June 20th, 1893. The jury's deliberation only lasted an hour and a half before they reached their verdict. The jury found Borden not guilty and acquitted her.
After her acquittal, Lizzie and her sister Emma moved into a large, modern home in The Hill neighborhood of Fall River. Lizzie also began using the name "Lizbeth A. Borden". The sisters new home, named "Maplecroft" was staffed by live-in maids, a housekeeper and a coachman; it was a far cry from the sparse life that they had lived with their father and stepmother.
Lizzie Borden and her sister had a falling out in 1905, and Emma and Lizzie never saw or spoke to each other again. Lizzie remained in Fall River until her death on June 1, 1927 from pneumonia.
Emma Borden died on June 10th, 1927, only 9 days after her estranged sister had died. Emma died at a nursing home in Newmarket, New Hampshire.
As yet another strange twist of fate in my family history, my 21st cousin, Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery, the actress best known for playing Samantha Stevens on "Bewitched", played the role of Lizzie Borden in a 1975 TV film "The Legend Of Lizzie Borden". Elizabeth was also a cousin of Lizzie Borden, yet she never knew this, the fact only coming to light after Elizabeth's death.
Lizzie Borden will always remain one of the great mysteries of 19th century America. Did she kill her father and stepmother and get away with murder? We may never know for sure, but of this fact I am certain: Lizzie Borden is yet another colorful square in the ever-growing quilt that is my family's story.