More than 125 years ago, Lizzie Borden’s father, Andrew, and step-mother, Abby, were brutally murdered with a hatchet in this Fall River, Mass., house.
A week after the killings, Lizzie was arrested, tried and acquitted for their murders. The story and theories around the day’s events remain a popular topic in American history, pop culture, and even the arts.
So much so that the house where the murders took place has served as a popular bed and breakfast/museum since 1996.
Eight different rooms are available, including the one where Mrs. Borden was found murdered, which is the most-requested room. All rooms are named after someone significant to the Borden events and trial, and are detailed on the official website.
Overnight guests receive an extended tour of the home, and a hot breakfast reminiscent of the one served the morning of the murders. A library with history about the family, murders and trial is also available to guests.
Tours of the house, built around 1874, are also available to non-guests and can be booked online.
THE STORY OF THE MURDERS
Lizzie Borden (1860-1927) and her sister, Emma, lived in the house with their father, Andrew and step-mother, Abby. (The girls’ mother, Sarah, died in 1863.)
A property developer, landlord, bank president and furniture maker (including caskets!), Andrew Borden had a lot of money. He married Abby Durfee Gray in 1865.
Lizzie thought her step-mother was a gold digger, and they had a contentious relationship. Lizzie called her “Mrs. Borden,” instead of by her name.
While Andrew had money, he was also notoriously cheap. The Bordens didn’t have electricity or plumbing, which most other well-to-do people had at the time, which annoyed Lizzie. She also hated living in the home’s industrial area, wishing they could move to a more prestigous area of town.
In the weeks leading up to the murder, Lizzie and her sister Emma were upset that Andrew had given a house to his wife’s sister. They believed they should get one also. Tensions rose in the house.
On the morning of August 4, 1892, the family had breakfast together. Also present were the maid, Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan, and John Morse, Lizzie’s uncle.
Andrew and Morse chatted for a while afterward, before Morse left to visit nearby relatives. Andrew went out for a walk.
At some point, Abby went upstairs to make the guest room bed, and was brutally attacked with an axe. The first blow struck near her ear, spinning her around to hit the floor face first. She was hit in the head 17 more times.
Andrew returned from his walk around 10:30. He laid down on a couch in the sitting room to nap, and was attacked there. He was been struck 10-11 times with a hatchet, one of blows splitting his eye eyeball in half.
Lizzie “found” her father, then called for Maggie, asking her to call the police. Abby was later discovered dead upstairs.
After a haphazard investigation by police, Lizzie, 32, was arrested one week later and went to trial for the death of the couple, who were both in their 60s.
Many townies supported her innocence, as it was hard to believe a woman could commit such a gruesome act. After all, Lizzie was a Sunday school teacher, and a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Because of brutal nature of the killings, the accused daughter who had a strained relationship with her parents, and the fact that Andrew was worth about $10 million dollars in today’s standards, the case garnered nationwide media attention.
While there was decent testimony to implicate Lizzie, shoddy police work, in part, allowed holes to be poked in the story. In addition, Andrew was not well-liked in the town. Lizzie was found not guilty almost one year later, in June, 1893. Nobody else was ever tried for the murders.
Because it was found that Abby died first, Borden’s fortune then went to the daughters.
Lizzie remained in Fall River, and bought a mansion — which she dubbed “Maplecroft” — in the area of town she always wanted to live.
Did she get away with murder? Jerry Pachecho, operations manager for the B&B thinks so.
“She is the O.J. Simpson of the 1800s,” he told the Providence Journal in a recent newspaper story.
Lizzie’s second home, Maplecroft, is currently up for sale. We’ll post pictures, the history of that house and the second portion of Lizzie’s life this afternoon.