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Did Lizzie Borden Take An Axe? Or Was It All Just 40 Big Misunderstandings?

Updated on August 5, 2013
Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden | Source

Meet The Borden's

The Borden's were a moderately wealthy family living in Fall River, Massachusetts. The father, Andrew Jackson Borden, started his adult life as an undertaker but went on to invest in textiles and eventually become the owner of a large number of commercial properties. He was also the president of the Union Savings Bank and the director of the Durfee Safe Deposit and Trust at the time of the incident.

Sarah Anthony Borden was Andrew's first wife and the mother of his two daughters, Lizzie (born 1860) and Emma (born 1851). Sarah died at 39 years old in 1863, in 1865 Andrew was once again married. The new wife and step-mother to his children was Abby Durfee Gray.

The Borden family lived a rather frugal existence, considering their wealth, having no indoor plumbing in their home and often eating leftovers for many days at a time. The entire family had a great reputation in the town and were often considered to be pillars of the community, especially Lizzie and Emma, who were both known for their high moral standing within the community. Lizzie was a Sunday school teacher and the secretary treasurer at the local church she attended.

Pressures Build Within The Family

In 1891 tension had begun to build between the parents and daughters of the Borden family, mostly due to some very expensive gifts that had been given to various members of the Durfee family from Andrew Borden. Lizzie and Emma felt that the money was being squandered on distant in-laws while they were forced to live without basic necessities.

In 1892 the family had hit a boiling point in their personal feuding. The girls had stopped referring to their step-mother as family all together and would only call to her as Mrs. Borden when forced to communicate with her. Andrew had given the girls some of his rental property, to get them out of the house, but they soon sold the property back to their father for unknown reasons and moved back into the family home.

Source

The Reaper Comes To Dinner

Mid-July 1892, the pigeons Lizzie had kept in the barn were found chopped to peaces early that morning, presumably by the axe that had been left standing in the corner, still coated in blood and feathers. At the time of the investigation it was thought that it had been done as a threat, or warning to Andrew, from an upset business associate or former employee, later most people would come to believe it was Lizzie herself that killed the birds.

Several weeks after the pigeon massacre both Andrew and Abby Borden became deathly ill with what was diagnosed to be food poisoning. The family's doctor had told the daughters that their parents had more than likely become ill from eating left over mutton that had set on the stove top for several days, but both Andrew and Abby swore that they had been poisoned and demanded an official investigation from local authorities.

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother 40 whacks

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father 41.

The Borden family's illness never received that investigation, on August 4, 1982 Andrew and Abby Borden were both found brutally murdered in their own home. It was Lizzie who had called to police first, reporting to have found her deceased fathers mutilated body.

Upon their arrival the police found Andrew Borden slumped on his couch in the downstairs living room, his head had been nearly split in two by what appeared to be about 21 blows to the head with an axe type weapon.

While doctors were tending to Lizzie's shock from finding her fathers corpse the Borden's maid, Sullivan, came across the body of Abby Borden sprawled across the floor of an upstairs bedroom. Abby's skull had been smashed in by at least 20 blows to the head and was nearly unrecognizable, she was thought to have been killed about two hours before Andrew.

A recently cleaned axe head without a handle and various poisonous liquids were found in the basement upon further investigation of the home, and police claimed the killer must have removed the handle to hide any blood stained into it's wood. It wasn't even 24 hours before the police had their first and only suspect in custody for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden.

Andrew Borden
Andrew Borden | Source

Do you believe Lizzie murdered her family?

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The Evidense Is Overwhelming But Charm Carries More Weight

The Borden family had no written will to legally divide their inheritance, Lizzie and Emma Borden were to be the sole recipients of the Borden fortune upon their death, and would be the only people to financially benefit from their parents untimely deaths. One neighbor reported to the police that she had seen Lizzie burning what appeared to be a blood stained dress in the stove merely hours after the homicide, when questioned about it Lizzie claimed to have bumped into some wet paint while wearing the dress and burning it was merely as a way to dispose of the ruined garment without a mess.

Lizzie had also been reported to have purchased a form of prussic acid at a local drug store several weeks before the murder. The acid was not used as evidence in the case because no poison was ever found in the victims stomachs during the autopsy, though many people involved in the case had claimed that a small amount of the acid could have still been used to cause the Borden's deathly illness without noticeable traces of it being found later in the autopsy.

Due to a lack of hard evidence and Lizzie's strong personal charm she was quickly acquitted of the horrid crime. It took the jury less than 90 minutes to decide that there was no way such a sweet young lady could perform such a brutal act, she was a victim and the murders were surely the work of a deranged madman.

Lost And Forgotten

After Lizzie was released no one else was ever charged or investigated for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. The police were convinced that they had already caught their killer and felt no need to continue the investigation.

Lizzie and Emma soon moved into a large modern home after receiving their fathers fortune and spent their large inheritance extravagantly. The sisters continued to live together until 1905, when an argument over a celebrity party thrown by Lizzie, for Nance Oneil, caused Emma to finally move out and on her own for the first time in her life.

Despite her ill-gotten fortune and brazen attempts to hang out with the rich and famous, Lizzie was never accepted back into her former respected status and was often the target of hateful local gossip. The entire town had become convinced of Lizzie's guilt, as had most of the nation. Regardless, Lizzie continued living in Fall River, Massachusetts until she died of pneumonia in 1927, all alone and mostly forgotten.

DS Duby

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    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      Great hub....very informative. I was unaware of what had happened to Lizzie Borden after the trial. Thanks for filling that in. Did she do it? I think so but did her sister help her or did she act alone? Interesting mystery. Voted this hub up.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      I still think that Lizzie did it. Who knows, though. As usual, a great and interesting Hub. I'm glad I'm not the only one around here that writes about morbid stuff.

      ps. Looks like Lizzie got to you, too. Yikes on the user picture! :P

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Very, very good. I forget the 1 hour TV show that covered Borden. Not that murder is fun, but you did a good job painting this open ended picture.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for this DS Duby. As usual, you have made a great job of this story and I have voted it up and interesting. Looking forward to reading more from you soon.

    • profile image

      Chewy Mommy 4 years ago

      Great Hub! I never really researched Lizzie Borden and I always just assumed she had been sent to jail for her crime. I was really surprised she got away with it. She was one crazy lady!

    • DS Duby profile image
      Author

      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thanks Chewy Mommy, I was surprised to learn that too when I was researching the case. I guess some people really will do anything for money. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    • DS Duby profile image
      Author

      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Kate Mc Bride, MHatter99, Georgie Lowery and point2make for reading and commenting.

      Point2make, I was wondering the same thing about the sister, I'm sure she was involved somehow.

      Georgie, I think she was guilty too. My profile pic was me at a wedding a few years ago, obviously a Halloween theme. I did all the face paint and latex for it. It was a lot of fun.

    • BrandyMcNelson profile image

      Brandy McGhee Nelson 4 years ago from Alaska

      Great Hub! You can visit the house in Fall River, MA where the murders occurred. They have the dress Elizabeth Montgomery wore when she played Lizzie Borden on display there. It is very tiny!

    • DS Duby profile image
      Author

      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Thank you Brandi McNelson, I didn't know you could visit the home, that's would be an interesting sight to see

    • HoneyBB profile image

      Honey Halley 4 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks, that story has always fascinated me. I never knew what happened to her after the trial. I wonder if she was innocent or guilty?

    • Blue Sidewinder profile image

      Evan Eulie 4 years ago

      I've always found this a fascinating and creepy murder case. As another commenter pointed out, you can indeed visit the house and actually it is run as a bed and breakfast as well as a museum. That would be such a fun and eerie place to spend a night. Great Hub!

    • profile image

      Garifalia 4 years ago

      I always was fascinated by the story and the catchy poem. Great job you did. How did you ever think of writing about Lizzie Borden?

    • profile image

      AudraLeigh 4 years ago

      Great hub! Very detailed and kinda of gross in spots. But I liked the story! It was tidy and well written!

    • DS Duby profile image
      Author

      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      HoneyB it is a fascinating story, personally I think she did it.

      Blue Sidewinder, I'd love to visit the house someday, spending the night would be cool.

      Garifalia, I actually decided to write this hub after hearing my 11 year old son reciting the poem (incorrectly I might add) so I researched it, wrote the article then had him read it. He had no idea Lizzy was a real person before then.

      Thank you AudraLeigh, Lizzy was a very Brutal killer.

      Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting and I apologize for taking so long to respond.

    • surfer1969 profile image

      surfer1969 4 years ago

      I think that most likely she did It or her sister Emma It was one of the two.But back then It was very hard to find proof of stuff like that.

    • DS Duby profile image
      Author

      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Without DNA or forensics I'm sure we will never know for sure

    • surfer1969 profile image

      surfer1969 4 years ago

      Yep Indeed and It'll be one of those great unsolved crimes of all time too.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I get hooked on the Lizzie Borden story every few years and was researching again to write my own article on it. This is a good hub and I enjoyed reading it. I can see, after reading a few others here today, that there is nothing new for me to expound on. Voted up and shared.

    • daborn7 profile image

      daborn7 3 years ago from California

      They must have just "Fell on the axe repeatedly" like your poll suggests. Haha. Great hub! Voted up. Thanks for sharing :)

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