Erected in 1845, the home was originally a two family and was later made into a single family by Andrew J. Borden.
Andrew J. Borden bought the house at 92 Second Street to be close to
his bank and various downtown businesses. The Bed & Breakfast is
named after Andrew J. Borden’s youngest daughter, Lizzie. Although she
was tried and acquitted of the murders she was ostracized by the
community of Fall River.
Lizzie Borden and the murders....Lizzie Andrew Borden (July 19, 1860 – June 1, 1927) was a New England spinster who was the only suspect for the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother on August 4, 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The murders, subsequent trial, and following trial by media became a cause célèbre. The fame of the incident has endured in American pop culture and criminology. Although Lizzie Borden was acquitted, she was at the time (and is to an extent today) widely believed to be guilty: no one else was ever arrested or tried, and she has remained notorious in American folklore. Dispute over the identity of the killer or killers continues to this day.
During the morning of August 4, 1892, Borden's father, Andrew Jackson Borden, and her stepmother, Abby Durfee Borden, were murdered in the family home. The only other people present at the residence at the time were Lizzie and the family maid, Bridget Sullivan. Emma Borden, Lizzie's sister, was away from home. The Borden sisters' uncle, John Vinnicum Morse, brother of Andrew Borden's first wife, was visiting at the time, but was also away from the house during the time of the murders.
That day, Andrew Borden had gone into town to do his usual rounds at the bank and post office. He returned home at about 10:45 a.m. About a half-hour later, Lizzie Borden found his body. According to Sullivan's testimony, she was lying down in her room on the third floor of the house shortly after 11:00 a.m. when she heard Lizzie call to her, saying someone had killed her father, whose body was found slumped on a couch in the downstairs sitting room. Andrew Borden's face was turned to the right hand side, apparently at ease as if he were asleep.
Shortly thereafter, while Lizzie Borden was being tended by neighbors and the family doctor, Sullivan discovered the body of Mrs. Borden upstairs in the guest bedroom. Mr. and Mrs. Borden had both been killed by blows from a hatchet, which in the case of Andrew Borden, not only crushed his skull but cleanly split his left eyeball.
Over a period of years after the death of the first Mrs. Borden, life at 92 Second Street had grown unpleasant in many ways, and affection between the older and younger family members had waned considerably if any was present at all. The upstairs floor of the house was divided. The front was the territory of the Borden sisters, while the rear was for Mr. and Mrs. Borden. Meals were not always eaten together. Conflict had increased between the two daughters and their father about his decision to divide valuable property among relatives before his death. Relatives of their stepmother had been given a house, and John Morse, brother to the deceased Sarah Borden (the mother of the Borden daughters), had come to visit that week. His visit was to facilitate transfer of farm property, which included what had been a summer home for the Borden daughters. Shortly before the murders, a major argument had occurred which resulted in both sisters leaving home on extended "vacations". Lizzie Borden, however, decided to end her trip and returned early.
She was refused the purchase of prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) by local druggist Eli Bence, which she claimed was for cleaning a seal skin coat.
Shortly before the murders, the entire household became violently ill. As Mr. Borden was not a popular man in town, Mrs. Borden feared they were being poisoned, but the family doctor diagnosed it as bad food.
Lizzie Borden was arrested on August 11, 1892, with her trial beginning ten months later in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her stories proved to be inconsistent, and her behavior suspect. She was tried for the murders, defended by former Massachusetts Governor George D. Robinson and Andrew V. Jennings. One of the prosecutors in the trial was William H. Moody, future United States Attorney General and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the police investigation, a hatchet was found in the basement
and was assumed to be the murder weapon. Though it was clean, most of
its handle was missing and the prosecution stated that it had been
broken off because it was covered with blood. However, police officer
Michael Mullaly stated that he found it next to a hatchet handle.
Deputy Marshall John Fleet contradicted this testimony. Later a
forensics expert said there was no time for the hatchet to be cleaned
after the murder. The prosecution was hampered by the fact that the
Fall River police did not put credence in the new forensic technology
of fingerprinting, and refused to take prints on the hatchet.
No blood-soaked clothing was found as evidence by police. A few days after the murder, Borden tore apart and burned a light blue Bedford cord cotton dress in the kitchen stove, claiming she had brushed against fresh baseboard paint which had smeared on it.
Despite incriminating circumstances, Lizzie Borden was acquitted by a jury after an hour and a half's deliberation. The fact that no murder weapon was found and no blood evidence was noted just a few minutes after the second murder pointed to reasonable doubt. Her entire original inquest testimony was barred from the trial. Also excluded was testimony regarding her attempt to purchase prussic acid. Adding to the doubt was another axe murder in the area, perpetrated by José Correira, which took place shortly before the trial. While many details were similar, Correira was not in the country when the Borden murder took place.
After the trial Borden and her sister moved to a new house called Maplecroft. In June 1905, the two argued over a party Lizzie gave for Nance O'Neil and a group of actors. Shortly after that, Emma moved out of the house, and Lizzie Borden began using the name "Lizbeth A. Borden".
Lizzie Borden died of pneumonia on June 1, 1927 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The funeral details were not made public and few people attended her burial. Borden was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery under the name "Lizbeth Andrew Borden", her footstone reading "Lizbeth". Her will, probated on June 25, 1927, left $30,000 to the Fall River Animal Rescue League. She also left $500 in perpetual trust for the care of her father's grave. Nine days later, her estranged sister, Emma Lenora Borden, died from a fall in Newmarket, New Hampshire, on June 10, 1927.
The house on Second Street where the murders occurred is now a bed and breakfast. Maplecroft, the mansion Borden bought after her acquittal, on then-fashionable French Street in the "highlands" is privately owned, and only occasionally available for touring.
Several theories have been presented over the years suggesting Lizzie Borden may not have committed the murders, and that other suspects may have had possible motives. One theory is that the maid, Bridget Sullivan, did it; possibly out of outrage for being asked to clean the windows, a taxing job on a hot day, just a day after having suffered from food poisoning. Another potential culprit was forwarded by Arnold R. Brown in his work, Lizzie Borden: The Legend, The Truth, The Final Chapter, in which Brown theorizes that the true culprit was an illegitimate paternal half-brother named William Borden, as a revenge killing in his failed efforts to extort money from his father.
Yet another theory is that Borden suffered petit mal epileptic seizures during her menstrual cycle, at which times she entered a dream-like state, and unknowingly committed the murders.
The book Lizzie by Evan Hunter posed the theory that Lizzie Borden had an affair with the actress Nance O'Neil, whom she met in Boston in 1904. In the early 20th century, it was still considered socially unacceptable for women to become actresses. O'Neil was a spendthrift, always in financial trouble, and Borden came from a wealthy background. The two got along, despite Borden's notoriety.
While there has never been any significant evidence that the two were intimate, the friendship was cited as the cause of Borden's final separation from her sister, Emma. O'Neil was later a character in the musical about Lizzie Borden, entitled Lizzie Borden: A Musical Tragedy in Two Axe, where she was played by Suellen Vance. Feminist Carolyn Gage refers to O'Neil as an overt lesbian, and although there are few documented details of any affairs, Gage claimed that her sexual orientation was well known in entertainment circles, despite her marriage.
The trial received a tremendous amount of national publicity. It has been compared to the later trials of Bruno Hauptmann, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and O.J. Simpson as a landmark in media coverage of legal proceedings.
The case was memorialized in a popular jump-rope rhyme:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
The anonymous rhyme was made up by a writer as an alluring little tune to sell newspapers even though in reality her stepmother suffered 18 or 19 blows, her father 11. Though acquitted for the crimes, Lizzie Borden was ostracized by neighbors following the trial.
Lizzie Borden's name was again brought to the public forefront when she was accused of shoplifting in 1897.
Borden was distantly related to the American milk processor Gail Borden (1801–1874) and Robert Borden (1854–1937), Canada's Prime Minister during World War I.
Elizabeth Montgomery and Lizzie Borden were sixth cousins once removed, both descending from 17th-century Massachusetts resident John Luther. Rhonda McClure, the genealogist who documented the Montgomery-Borden connection, said, "I wonder how Elizabeth would have felt if she knew she was playing her own cousin.