Spooky History in the Greater Westport Area
October, a month full of fall-themed activities and spooky events, has us turning our observance to the scary historic stories of the greater Westport area. Home to Forest Park, Westport is surrounded by ample history including one of the most well-known unsolved murder cases in the country – the death Andrew and Abby Borden.
Lizzie Borden, best known for her arrest and trial for the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother, was born on July 19th, 1860 in Fall River, a short 15-minute drive from Westport. Her father, Andrew Borden, and mother, Sarah Borden, gave birth to both Lizzie and her sister, Emma. After Sarah passed away, Andrew remarried 3 years later to Abby Durfee Gray. The family lived well – Andrew was exceedingly successful in the manufacturing industry as well as real estate development.
The sisters and stepmother had a defective relationship – both Lizzie and Emma worried that their father’s new wife was solely interested in gaining access to the family’s wealth. Emma, being the older sister, was particularly protective of Lizzie.
On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby were murdered and mutilated in their Fall River home. Lizzie was the one who alerted the maid. Andrew was found attacked and killed while sleeping on the sofa and with further search in the home, Abby was also discovered in the upstairs bathroom. Both Andrew and Abby were victims of a brutal hatchet attack.
Lizzie became the prime suspect instantly while her sister Emma was never considered a potential suspect due to the fact she was out of town at the time. Prosecution claimed Lizzie burned the dress stained with blood to cover up the crime she committed; however, the defense claimed the dress was burned a week prior because it had been stained with paint.
On December 2, 1892, Lizzie was indicted and her publicized trial began the following June in New Bedford. The testimony provided by others proved to be inconclusive. On June 20th, 1893, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murders. After her release, there were no other individuals questioned or charged with the crimes.
Lizzie and Emma, after inheriting a significant portion of their father’s estate, bought a home together in Fall River. Some of the town residents had their suspicions regarding Lizzie’s guilt, and she never enjoyed an acceptance in the community after the trial. In 1905, Emma moved out of the house and resided in Newmarket, New Hampshire. Lizzie remained in Fall River until her death by pneumonia in 1927.