The Infamous Tale of the Lizzie Borden House Pt. 1: The Build Up

Many know of the eerie children’s rhyme, Lizzie Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one. But not many know of the full story behind the accord, or how much mystery is still shrouded around the infamous murders.

The Borden Household in Fall River, MA

So lets dive right on into it shall we? Lizzie Borden was born on July 19th 1860 to a wealthy but frugal developer known as Andrew Borden and his then wife Sarah Anthony née Morse. The family lived in Fall River Massachusetts in what could be considered a rather meagerly modest household. Lizzie’s father Andrew grew up in financial instability as a start-up entrepreneur until he struck big in the casket & furniture making industry, so he believed the family should not utilize

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Emma Borden with her mother Sarah Morse

their means in any outlandish fashion. This meant that the family’s net-worth was considered very affluent for the time period, yet they only lived in a mildly upscale neighborhood and lacked common luxuries of the time such as indoor plumbing and electricity.

At the young age of 3, Lizzie’s mother passed away leaving Andrew a very wealthy widow. Three short years after her death, Andrew remarried to a woman known as Abby Durfee Gray. This is where the conflict all began. 

Lizzie and her older sister Emma from the start began to

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The Borden Family with Abby Gray

distrust Abby. They often times confided in their live-in maid known as Maggie, an immigrant from Ireland, of how they believed Abby only married their father for the wealth. The hatred towards Abby grew so strong over time that Lizzie & Emma started referring to their step-mother simply as ‘Mrs. Borden’ and avoided all interacts with both Abby and their father Andrew. The only evidence we truly have of the hatred between the girls towards their step-mother Abby are through witness accounts of them in public or from their maid, Maggie’s, first hand observations.


Tensions soon started to arise between Lizzie and her father as well as the years progressed. Lizzie was furious that she was stuck living among the lower means of Andrews frugal lifestyle. While others were able to flaunt the wealth they had, Lizzie was embarrassed by the ways her family chose to live by. Lizzie and Emma also feared that Abby’s lower class family would try and stake a claim in Andrew’s fortune, thus taking money away from their future inheritance.

Now when Andrew first married Abby, she was well into her 30s. At such an age at this time period, it cause Abby to be given the ‘old maid’ stamp prior to her marriage. This

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Lizzie Borden

only fueled Emma and Lizzie’s early on beliefs to suspect she married for the social standing and status Andrew could provide for her. But what is ironic about this is that both Emma and Lizzie never married at what would have been considered a respectable age, in fact they both lived within the Borden household well past their ‘old maid’ time frame. In 1887 when their father provided a house to Abby’s half-sister, the girls became enraged that he would willing gift such a costly item to someone not of his own blood. This then led to Andrew trying to amend the bond between himself and his daughters by selling his old family home to them for the low cost of $1, as well as providing Lizzie with a weekly allowance of $2,500 a week (a hefty sum of upwards of $70,000 in today’s money). But as time would go on this clearly would not suffice to Lizzie’s greed.

What could be considered a final breaking point for Lizzie happened in May of 1892 when Andrew killed the family’s flock of pigeons. Lizzie was known to be extremely fond of the pigeons and had recently built a new roost for them to reside in. But let it be known Andrew did not do this out of any form of spite, but only due to the fact that he believed local children were breaking and entering in order to hunt them for play. In order to stop the trespassing, he killed them himself. This ultimately led to a family argument and both Lizzie and Emma taking a prolonged vacation in the summer of 1892.

Upon returning, the girls decided to sell their rental house back to their father for a much mightier sum than what they had purchased it for, and Lizzie moved back into the Borden residence. It is rumored that the week prior to the murders, the entire family (except for Lizzie and Emma, who was away at the time), became extremely ill. Many could not decipher if it was due to food poisoning or if Lizzie had intentionally poisoned her parents.

When Lizzie’s uncle on her mother’s side, John Morse, came to visit the household on August 3rd, 1892, it was said that he stayed the night then left after breakfast early the next morning around 8:50am to visit other family in the area. Around 9am, Andrew left for his daily morning walk of the neighborhood. This left Lizzie, the maid Maggie, and Abby within the household.

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The graphic Murder Scene of Andrew Borden

When Maggie retired to her third floor quarters for a morning nap after cleaning, she was awoken to the scream of Lizzie from the first floor of the household at roughly 11:10am. Lizzie was said to be screaming that someone had come into the house and killed her father. To Maggie’s gruesome dismay, she ascended to the first floor only to find the horrific murder scene. It was claimed that Andrew was clearly asleep on the first floor couch when he was struck 10 to 11 times (unlike the famed song) with an ax.

It was later discovered by a local Doctor who was called in once Andrew had been found, that Abby too had been murdered on the second floor of the household while making the guest bed. She was said to have 18 ax blows discovered on her body. Both bodies were discovered with wounds that were still openly seeping, causing investigators to come to the conclusion that the attack happened very closely in coincidence of when the bodies were discovered.



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