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The Fall River Tragedy A History of the Borden Murders

The Fall River Tragedy
A History of the Borden Murders
Title: The Fall River Tragedy A History of the Borden Murders
Release Date: 2018-09-22
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber’s Notes:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in thepublic domain.

A Table of Contents has been added by the transcriber.

A complete list of corrections as well as other notes follows the text.

Fall River Tragedy:


Police Reporter of the Fall River Globe.


Press of J. D. Munroe.



When the assassination of Andrew J. Borden and Abbie D. Borden,his wife, was announced, not only the people of Fall River and ofMassachusetts, but the public throughout the country manifested thedeepest interest in the affair. The murders soon became the theme ofuniversal comment, both in public and private, and every newspaperreference to the affair was read with eagerness, digested and commentedupon in a manner unprecedented. The crimes stand out in bold relief asthe most atrocious, and at the same time, the most mystifying which theAmerican public had ever before been called upon to discuss. They hadabout them that fascination of uncertainty, horrible though they were,which fixes the attention and holds it continually. Miss Lizzie A.Borden, a daughter of the murdered man, was arrested and charged withthe killing. She was a young woman of hitherto spotless reputation andcharacter, and more than that she was educated, refined and prominentlyconnected with the work of the christian church in Fall River. Herarrest added more and more to the interest which the public had takenin the matter. She was tried before the Superior Court of Massachusettsand a jury of her peers and found not guilty of the crimes. Thisevent settled beyond question the probability of her guilt, and yetthe case lost none of its absorbing interest. The author of this booktherefore, has for a purpose the desire to give the reading publica connected story of the whole case, commencing with the day of thetragedy and ending with the day that Miss Borden was set free. Personsbelieving implicitly in the correctness of the findings of the jury atNew Bedford will see much wrong done in those chapters which treat ofthe police work. But that the grand jury indicted the young lady isno fault of the author, and the story of what brought that indictmentabout is important, therefore it is given without prejudice. Harshwords were said of Miss Borden, but they came from those who had asworn duty to perform, and they alone are responsible. Her defense isgiven as freely as the case of the prosecution, and with it the historyis made as complete as was possible. The facts discussed came fromofficial sources and are dependent upon the testimony submitted at thecourt trials.

Edwin H. Porter.



Discovery of the Murders.

At high noon on Thursday the fourth day of August, 1892, the cry ofmurder swept through the city of Fall River like a typhoon on thesmooth surface of an eastern sea. It was caught up by a thousandtongues and repeated at every street corner until it reached the utmostconfines of the municipality. A double murder, the most atrocious ofcrimes, committed under the very glare of the mid-day sun within threeminutes walk of the City Hall was the way the story went and it wastrue in every particular. Andrew J. Borden and his wife Abbie D. Bordenhad been assassinated in their home at 92 Second street. The mannerin which the deed was done seemed so brutal, so mysterious, and thetragedy itself so unprecedented that people stared with open-mouthedamazement as they listened to the story passing from tongue totongue. In the excitement of the [4]moment the murderer had slippedaway unobserved, and bloody as his crime had been he left no tracebehind, nor clue to his identity. He had wielded an axe or some similarinstrument with the skill of a headsman and had butchered in the mosthorrible manner the bodies of his defenseless victims.


When discovered, the remains of Mr. Borden lay stretched at full lengthupon the sofa in the sitting room of his home; the head literallyhacked into fragments and the fresh blood trickling from every wound.Up stairs in the guest chamber lay the body of Mrs. Borden similarlymangled and butchered with the head reeking in a crimson pool. She hadbeen murdered while in the act of making the bed and her husband haddied as he lay taking his morning nap.

In the house was Miss Lizzie A. Borden, youngest daughter of theslain couple, and Bridget Sullivan, the only servant. They and theyalone had been within calling distance of the victims as the fiendor fiends struck the fatal blows. The servant was in the attic, andthe daughter was in the barn not more than thirty feet from the backdoor of the house. This was the condition of things on the premiseswhen the cry went forth which shocked the city and startled the entirecountry. Neighbors, friends, physicians, police officers and newspaperreporters gathered at the scene in an incredibly short space of time.It was soon learned that the daughter Lizzie had been the first tomake the horrible discovery. She said that not many minutes before,she had spoken to her father upon his return from the city; and thatafter seeing him comfortably seated on the sofa she had gone out tothe barn to remain a very short time. Upon returning she saw his deadbody and gave the alarm which brought the servant from the attic.Without thinking of Mrs. Borden the daughter sent Bridget for help.Mrs. Adelaide B. Churchill the nearest neighbor, Dr. S. W. Bowen andMiss Alice Russell were among the first to respond. Shortly afterwardthe dead body of Mrs. Borden was discovered and the unparalleledmonstrosity of the crime became apparent. There had been murder mostfoul, and so far as the developments of the moment indicated, without amotive or a cause. The street in front of the house soon became blockedwith a surging mass of humanity, and the excitement grew more andmore intense as the meager details of the assassination were learned.Men with blanched faces hurried back and forth through the yard;police officers stood in groups for a moment and talked mysteriously;physicians consulted among themselves and kind friends ministered tothe bereaved daughter and offered her consolation.

[5]Inside the house where the bodies lay the rooms were in perfectorder. Mrs. Borden had smoothed out the last fold in the snow whitecounterpane, and placed the pillows on the bed with the utmost careof a tidy housewife. Every piece of furniture stood in its accustomedplace and every book and paper was laid away with rigid exactness.Only the blood as it had dashed in isolated spots against the wallsand door jams, and the reeking bodies themselves showed that death inits most violent form had stalked through the unpretentious home andleft nothing but its bloody work to tell the tale. No one dared goso far as to suggest a motive for the crime. The house had not beenrobbed and the friends of the dead had never heard of such a thing asan enemy possessed of hatred enough to commit so monstrous a deed. Asthe hours passed a veil of deepest mystery closed around the scene andthe most strenuous efforts of the authorities to clear the mysteryaway seemed more and more futile as their work progressed. Men withcool heads, and with cunning and experience sought in vain to unearthsome facts to indicate who the criminal might be, but their skillwas unavailing, they were baffled at every turn. The author of thathideous slaughter had come and gone as gently as the south wind, buthad fulfilled his mission as terrifically as a cyclone. No more cunningplan had ever been hatched in a madman’s brain, and no more thoroughwork was ever done by the guillotine. Mystery sombre and absolute hungin impenetrable folds over the Borden house, and not one ray of lightexisted to penetrate its blackness.

Mr. Borden and his wife were spending their declining years, highlyrespected residents, with wealth enough to enjoy all the comforts andluxuries of modern life. Mr. Borden by years of genuine New Englandthrift and energy had gathered a fortune, and his exemplary life hadserved to add credit to a family name which had been identified withthe development and prosperity of his native state for two hundredyears, and which has been known to public and private life since thetime of William the Conqueror. His family had the open sesame tothe best society. The contentment which wealth, influence and highsocial standing could bring was possible to his family, if its memberschose to have it. But he and his wife had been murdered and therewas no one who cared to come forward and explain why death had soruthlessly overtaken them. One thing was manifest; an iron will anda heart of flint had directed the arm which struck those unoffendingpeople down in a manner exceeding the savage cruelty of the mostblood-thirsty creature—man or beast. [6]The police officers invaded thehouse and searched in vain for some evidence to assist them in huntingdown the murderer. They learned nothing tangible, but they laid thefoundation for their future work by carefully scrutinizing the homeand its surroundings as well as the bodies. A hint was sent out that amysterious man had been seen on the doorsteps arguing with Mr. Bordenonly a few days before. Had he done the deed? To those who stoppedto contemplate the circumstances surrounding the double murder, it wasmarvelous to reflect how fortune had favored the assassin. Not once ina million times would fate have paved such a way for him.

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