In Episode 315 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger head to Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, to investigate the Borden murders you haven’t heard about. Sure, you know Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her parents 40 whacks in 1892, but did you know there were other Bordens murdered right next door decades earlier? Warning: this episode contains some graphic descriptions that may not be suitable for everyone.
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RAY: We’ve been to Fall River, Massachusetts, before, Jeff.
JEFF: We have.
RAY: And we’ve been on Second Street in Fall River before too!
JEFF: Also, true.
RAY: And… wait a minute. We’ve been to this house before. That’s the Lizzie Borden house up there on the right.
JEFF: That IS the Lizzie Borden House, Ray. But that’s NOT our destination this time. We’re heading here instead.
RAY: Miss Lizzie’s Coffee Shop… A sign says it’s the most haunted coffee shop in the world. Well how do we pass THAT up?
RAY: So are we supposed to believe that the ghosts of the Lizzie Borden house walk about a hundred feet next-door to get coffee here?
JEFF: No… not at all. We’ve come to this building next door to Lizzie’s house to explore the dark story of the OTHER Borden murders.
JEFF: Hello, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, welcome to episode 315 of the New England Legends podcast. We’re grateful you’re joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time.
JEFF: Also… I have an announcement to make this week.
JEFF: My brand-new book: The Fright Before Christmas: Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters is now available wherever books are sold, as well as the audiobook version wherever you get your audio books. I’ll be telling you more about it as we get closer to the holidays.
RAY: I already have my copy!
JEFF: You do! So hey, just a quick word of warning that this week’s episode deals with some troubling themes including murder. If you’re sensitive to that or listen with young children, you might want to skip this one. We’ll explore the other Fall River, Massachusetts, Borden murders right after this word from our sponsor.
RAY: Okay wait a minute… the OTHER Borden murders?
JEFF: There have been other murders within spitting distance of the infamous Lizzie Borden House here in Fall River.
RAY: And now it’s a coffee shop?
JEFF: It is! A relatively new one too. It’s only been open a little over a month. Let’s go inside.
[DOOR OPENS BELL DINGS]
JEFF: Ray, check out the specialty menu.
RAY: (LAUGHING) I love it! You can get a Liz-spresso; The Alibi, a green tea drink; a Maplecroft – that, of course, was the mansion Lizzie and her sister moved into after leaving Second Street; there’s the Miss Lizzie, and the Miss Emma. Plus other coffees and teas.
JEFF: So, I first heard about these other Borden murders years ago while I was researching the history of the Lizzie Borden trial. The axe murder of Andrew and Abby Borden happened August 4, 1892, and the trial happened over the following year. There was a point in the inquest when someone asked if perhaps murder, specifically murder of family members… runs in the family because of what happened decades earlier.
RAY: What happened decades earlier?
JEFF: To find out, let’s head back to 1848.
RAY: It’s early May of 1848 here in Fall River, Massachusetts, and we’re standing outside a two-story house on Second Street. It’s the home of Lawdwick and his second wife, Eliza Darling Borden. The couple share the home with their three children. There’s Maria, she’s three years old, Eliza Ann, she’s 18-months old, and baby Holder, he’s six months old.
JEFF: Lawdwick, like many Bordens, is a prominent member of Fall River society. He’s often busy tending to his businesses, and leaves the home and children to his wife, Eliza.
RAY: Though 36-year-old Lawdwick is a prominent man in Fall River, he’s already had more than his share of tragedies. His first wife, Maria Briggs, died ten years ago in 1838 after they had been married only five years.
JEFF: That’s awful.
RAY: It’s worse than that, their first child, Maria, didn’t survive to her first birthday. She died in 1834. And their second child, Matthew also never reached his first birthday. He died in 1836.
JEFF: That IS really tragic.
RAY: Still, Lawdwick was young enough to pick up the pieces and move on. He married Eliza Darling in 1843, and now the couple have a growing family.
JEFF: A growing family with an oldest daughter named after his dead wife and his first dead child.
RAY: Well yeah, there’s that. Anyway, things are looking up for Lawdwick. It’s been a long winter, and spring is lightening everyone’s mood.
JEFF: Almost everyone.
RAY: What do you mean?
JEFF: Look inside the house. Eliza Borden doesn’t look so good.
RAY: No. She’s standing by the window gently crying.
JEFF: I guess she’s been like this for a few days now, but no one can figure out what’s wrong. Let’s go inside.
[WOMAN LIGHTLY SOBBING]
JEFF: She looks awful. Despondent.
RAY: She’s definitely troubled.
JEFF: At least she’s got some help with the house and children. The Bordens do have a servant girl.
SERVANT_1: Are you okay, Miss?
JEFF: Eliza nods and wipes her tears. She puts on a smile.
SERVANT_2: I’m off to fetch some water.
[CLOCK CHIMES FOUR TIMES]
RAY: It’s four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s still a few hours before Lawdwick is due to get home.
JEFF: Something seems off about Eliza. She’s got a strange look in her eyes.
[WALKING UP STAIRS]
JEFF: She’s heading upstairs now.
RAY: I can hear here rummaging around up there for something. But yeah, something is off. She’s been sitting here by the window looking melancholy, and now she has a determined look…
[WALKING DOWN STAIRS]
RAY: She’s carrying Eliza and Holder, and it looks like three-year-old Maria is tagging along.
RAY: Now they’re heading down to the basement.
JEFF: What is she bringing the children to the basement for?
RAY: She’s bringing the children over by the foundation of the fireplace.
JEFF/RAY: What was that?!
RAY: Oh my God! She just dropped the baby in the cistern where they collect water.
JEFF: Now she’s holding Eiza Ann under the water of the cistern. This is awful.
[KIDS RUNNING FEET]
JEFF: Maria is running for the stairway.
[STARTLED GURGLE WOMAN]
JEFF: What was that?!
[BODY FALLS TO THE FLOOR]
RAY: Eliza just slit her own throat with her husband’s shaving razor… she’s bleeding out on the floor of the basement.
JEFF: Such a tragic and horrible scene…. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: The date was Wednesday, May 10th 1848. Lawdwick would come home to find his family murdered by his wife, except his oldest daughter, Mary, who managed to escape the horror. The Fall River News covered the story. Go ahead and give it a read, Ray.
RAY: It says: A Melancholy Affair – Wednesday afternoon between the hours of 4 and 5 PM. The wife of Mr. Lawdwick Borden, one of our most respectable citizens, residing on Second Street, took her two youngest children, went down to the cellar, and drowned them in the cistern; then stepping behind the chimney, cut her own throat with a razor, and died almost instantly. No person was present at the time… Mrs. Borden had appeared rather melancholy for a few days past.
JEFF: The best guess is that Eliza was suffering from post-partum depression. Though we’ll never be sure. What we do know is that Eliza and the two children she murdered were buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. Just a reminder that Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered August 4, 1892. So 44 years after the first Borden murders.
RAY: Just to clarify the family relationship. Lawdwick was Andrew Borden’s brother, so Lizzie Borden’s uncle.
JEFF: Right. When Lizzie was being questioned and it was asked if murdering family members runs in the Borden family, it was quickly pointed out that Eliza was a Borden by marriage only.
RAY: Still, that happened in the house right next door to the Lizzie Borden House.
JEFF: The Lizzie Borden house was built in 1845. So it was brand new, and not in the Borden family yet when Eliza killed her children and then herself. Back then it was known as the Charles Trafton House. Andrew and Eliza Borden moved in in 1872 and converted the house from a two-family dwelling into a single family.
RAY: So Andrew was alive when his uncle’s family was murdered in 1848.
JEFF: He was. He was 26 years old at the time. He had no children yet. But I would imagine Lizzie would have heard some stories about what happened to her cousins and aunt right next door.
RAY: So then you need to ask if there’s some sinister dark cloud hanging over this block of Second Street in Fall River.
JEFF: There is something to be said about that. Bad things have a way of compounding… even haunting us. The strange things is the ghostly connection with the Lizzie Borden House today.
RAY: What do you mean?
JEFF: We did a live Halloween Special podcast from the Lizzie Borden House a few years ago.
RAY: We did! Podcast 167 back in 2020.
JEFF: Do you remember the upstairs bedroom?
RAY: That’s right! There was a trunk full of toys up there because people believe the house is haunted by children.
JEFF: Right. People have even heard the scampering of little feet. Shoot, I heard that once while I was in the basement years ago!
RAY: Holder Borden was six months old. So there’s no chance he would have been walking.
RAY: And Eliza Ann was 18 months. You’re probably toddling by that age.
JEFF: Also true. But we hear about children dying at the property right next door and then we make assumptions. We try to identify what bumps in the night even if we’re wrong. It gives us a sense of control.
RAY: Today, Lawdwick Borden and his family are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, maybe a football field away from the most famous grave in the cemetery: Where Lizzie, Andrew, and Abby Borden are buried. And though the 1892 Borden murder captivated the world because it was an unsolved crime, when you scratch below the surface, you find there was another Borden murder right next door almost a half-century before.
JEFF: And today it’s a haunted coffee shop. [AWAY FROM MIC] Two Liz-spressos to go, please!
JEFF: And I don’t even drink coffee. But that takes us to After the Legend where we take a deeper dive into this week’s story and sometimes steer off course.
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Thank you to Annie Auger for lending her voice acting talent this week, thanks to our sponsors, thank you to our patreon patrons. And our theme music is by John Judd.
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