The Borden Monument

The Borden Monument

By Shelley Dziedzic (all rights reserved, February 2012)

 

Click on the photo above to use the ZOOM tool for enlargement

Not surprisingly the Borden plot is the most visited site in Oak Grove Cemetery.  On the day of the funeral of Abby and Andrew Borden, only grass and many trees surrounded the open graves lined with pine branches.  Of course the Bordens were not buried on the date of their joint funeral, August 6, 1892, but instead lingered in a holding tomb at the cemetery awaiting a full autopsy on August 11th and burial at last on August 17th.  It would not be until January 1895 that the stately Westerly blue granite monument would be set in place, along with the rectangular headstones bearing the initials of the victims.

With Fall River being famous for granite, especially rose granite, one wonders why Emma and Lizzie Borden did not shop for a fitting monument in their own home town.  The fact was that Smith’s Granite Company of Westerly, Rhode Island was the most prestigious monument supplier of its day, with offices in many major American cities.  Providence would have been the nearest branch to Fall River. Smith’s could claim orders from all of the finest old families as well as being in demand to supply important statues and civic monuments and memorial stones across the country. Emma and Lizzie chose the very best to mark the site of their eternal rest.

Postcard dated 1903 of Smith’s granite quarry

The stone was ordered on July 2, 1894, almost two years from the date of the burial of Abby and Andrew Borden.  The stone is nine feet in height and is divided into five separate segments.  The cost of the labor and materials is carefully noted in the order book, and the date of each stage of the work is listed when completed at the top of the page by stone numbers 1-5.  The stone was crated and shipped by rail on January 4, 1895. The base is Stone #1, #2 is the section containing A.J. Borden in raised and polished letters, #3 is the panel stone where names and dates are inscribed, #4 is the most intricately carved by master carver, Mr. L. Galli  who was paid $230.79 and #5 is the cap stone.  At the bottom of the page appears the order for the small headstones.  There are four of them with the lettering and polishing done by William Drew and J.F. Murphy.  The four are AJB,(Andrew Jackson Borden) ADB, (Abby Durfee Borden) SAB (Sarah Anthony Borden) and the full name Alice, the sister who died very young.  No doubt the matching headstones of Lizzie and Emma were added at a much later date, and also the inscription on the panel of the main marker added in 1927 or later.

It is interesting to note on this order sheet that the panel engraving had to be done twice due to an error.  Many have remarked that there is an “S” added to Lizzie’s name and wondered if this was an order left by Lizzie to be completed after her death or merely an error on the part of the carver, who may have thought Andrews was a surname and that Andrew was an unlikely middle name for a woman.  Lizzie had, herself, opted to change her name unofficially to Lizbeth, but is not known to have added an “S” to her middle name of Andrew.

It is unknown exactly when the names of Emma and Lizzie, and their dates of birth and death were added to the panel, or whether either sister ever actually saw the panel with their names on it.  It is not uncommon to have names and dates of birth engraved on a stone while the person is still alive, with the death date added after the fact.  This may or may not have been done at the time of the creation of this monument. As particular as Lizzie was known to be, it would be easy to make the case that she never saw the panel in life to catch the error.

Newspapers printed that on the day of the stone’s installation, Lizzie and Emma went out to inspect the work.  It was reported that Lizzie only gave a cursory glance and then went back to her carriage.  Emma is said to have made a careful inspection.  The cost today of the stock and labor for this monument would be many times the figure on this work order.

A list of artisans who worked on the Borden monument:

Pat Holliday, Jas. Brown, Mike Burke, Jas. Dower, Tom Holliday, George Rae, P. Craddick, F. Polletti, J.D. Craddick, Joe Frasier, L. Galli, Dan Kelleher, James Blake, Ira Norman, George Dunn, William Frances, Frank Roads, John Moore, J.F. Murphy and William Drew.

  • Alexander Lawson, a Scottish-born stone carver from Aberdeen, who immigrated in the great Scottish wave which came to America,  lived and worked in Westerly, Rhode Island before moving to Fall River to open his own granite works and monument business on Prospect Street just outside the gates of Oak Grove Cemetery.  The family lived on Robeson Street for many years.  The business was inherited by Frederick Lawson, Alexander’s son and prospered for many years. Alexander Lawson is credited with the carving of the 1873 entry arch at Oak Grove.

The diagram and details for this article were furnished by the Smith-Babcock House Museum on Granite Street in Westerly, R.I. The diagram is reproduced with permission.  Additional information on Smith’s and the granite industry in Westerly may be found in the excellent publication, Built From Stone: The Westerly Granite Story by Linda Smith Chafee, John B. Coduri, and Dr. Ellen L. Madison. Copies may be purchased at Other Tiger Bookstore on High Street in Westerly or at this link http://www.builtfromstone.com/

Visit the Smith-Babcock House Museum, which is the premier repository of archived materials relating to the granite industry in Westerly. http://www.babcock-smithhouse.com/

Who’s Famous in Oak Grove? Dr. Lewis Latimer!

 WORDS OF WISDOM:

“Like the light of the sun, it beautifies all things on which it shines, and is no less welcome in the palace than in the humblest homes” -
 Lewis Latimer 1891, describing the quality of the electric lamp

Often people visiting the cemtery want to know about all the famous people buried in Oak Grove. There are big monuments to the mill barons, and of course everybody knows about the Bordens.  They even have a series of arrows painted on the ground to help you find the Borden plot.  There are politicians, artists, actors, servicemen, Civil War notables, and beloved city residents. The name of Lewis Latimer is largely unknown.  He has been placed in the catagory of top ten African-American inventors in the country! This link will take you to an excellent biography of Dr. Latimer and his accomplishments. If you see a young student today- tell them about Dr. Latimer! His museum, which was a house where he once lived, has been moved from Flushing, N.Y. to Queens. He was born in Chelsea. Massachusetts.

http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventors/latimer.htm

Latimer Museum in Queens, photo courtesy of Discover Queens! web site.

34-41 137th St.
Flushing, NY 11354

 
The Lewis H. Latimer House is a modest Queen Anne-style, wood-frame suburban residence constructed between 1887 and 1889 by the Sexton family.  Lewis Howard Latimer, an African-American inventor and electrical pioneer and the son of fugitive slaves, lived in the house from 1903 until his death in 1928.  The house remained in the Latimer family until 1963.  Threatened with demolition, the house was moved from Holly Avenue to its present location in 1988. 
 
Two Poems by Lewis Latimer

Friends

Friend of my childhood,

Of life’s early days

When together we wandered

Through bright sunny ways

Each true to the other,

Till full manhood came,

And found the old friendship

As ever the same.

Came summer and winter,

Years waxed and waned.

Youth it had left us

But friendship remained

And now as with white locks

I bend o’er life’s page,

The friend of my childhood

Is the friend of my age.

 

Ebon Venus

Let others boast of maidens fair,

Of eyes of blue and golden hair;

My heart like needles ever true

Turns to the maid of ebon hue.

I love her form of matchless grace,

The dark brown beauty of her face,

Her lips that speak of love’s delight,

Her eyes that gleam as stars at night.

O’er marble Venus let them rage,

Who sets the fashions of the age;

Each to his taste, but as for me,

My Venus shall be ebony.

The Ivy Arch

There are several postcards of Oak Grove, made during the golden age of postcards from 1900-1920 when every prominent beauty spot and building or structure was fodder for the photographer’s camera. A penny postcard was the way to keep in touch with friends and family while traveling or on vacation and there are hundreds postcards of Fall River scenes available on Ebay and through dealers in ephemera.

The postcard above was postdated 1910 and shows ivy-covered walls and archway at Oak Grove. The ivy obscures the magnificent iron work of the gates as well as the inscription.  There is a photograph of Oak Grove taken in 1890 which also shows the ivy growing on the gates, so it is likely this is how the Prospect Street entry looked at the time of the Borden funeral on August 6, 1892.

Below are two cards with no dates, showing the arch with and without ivy.  All postcards shown here were purchased on Ebay. 

Arch today: 

Mailbox- The Borden Marker

Elaine Kessell

(edit)

I am finally in the process of doing my family tree. My great grandfather’s name was Nicholas Kessell and I have always known he was a stonecutter in Fall River Mass in the mid to late 1800′s as he past on in 1904 of “stone consumption”. I came across a book “The Fall River Directory of 1882 and notice an ad in there for Kessell and Lawson, a stonecutting company. I can only guess that my great grandfather was in that partnership. My question is, if there is anyway you could find out if he was all involved in the cutting of the Borden tombstone in 1892? I have been intrigued all my life, but now am very curious.
Thank you,
Elaine Kessell
There is never any information about stonecutters.

 Thanks for your email. Sorry to say, the Borden stone was ordered from a Westerly, R.I. carver.  Westerly was a hub for this sort of work and still today has a few remaining carving studios. Buzzi’s is still in business (Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In fame is in that family) The Borden stone was installed in January of 1894 and is made of Westerly blue granite.  Fall River also had some great carvers and a rosy-colored granite.

August 4th Visitors to the Borden Plot

Every August 4th, traffic to the Borden plot in Oak Grove increases.  Flowers, notes, stones, coins and other mementos are left at the grave site of Lizzie Borden.  More rarely are the victims, the elderly couple, Andrew and Abby Borden remembered with tokens. The burial plot is easily found by following the black arrows painted on the asphalt to the left after passing under the Prospect Street arch.

William Almy , Andrew Borden’s business partner, and his family share the raised corner knoll.  Head stones for Lizzie’s grandparents face out toward the road at the front of the lot.

 Many individuals associated with the trial and with the Borden family, as well as friends and neighbors have found their final rest in Oak Grove.

Oak Grove in Winter

(Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep sung by Ben Crawley, with Boys Choir Libera, text below)
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in snow,
I am the sunlight and ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn rain.Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
When you awake in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.