The Kelly/Hart Connection

Lydia and Abraham Hart gravestones

Banker, Abraham Hart, was one of the last people to see Andrew Borden alive on the morning of August 4th 1892 when Andrew stopped by the bank near City Hall.  Mr. Hart would later tell police that Mr. Borden looked weak and feeble that morning.  The Bordens had been suffering from an unknown illness since Tuesday evening after supper.  Abraham Hart would also be one of the Borden pallbearers on the morning of Saturday, August 6th at the short service at #92 Second Street and procession to Oak Grove Cemetery.

Dr. Michael Kelly, the Borden’s next door neighbor to the south was away on August 4th but Dr. Kelly’s wife, Mary Caroline Cantwell Kelly was the last (but one) to see Andrew Borden alive as he entered his front door moments before his murder.  Mrs. Kelly was expecting a baby at the time and was on her way to the dentist.  Mrs. Kelly’s second child, Mary Philomena married the grandson of Abraham Hart, Bertrand K. Hart.  Both are buried in the Gifford/Hart plot at Oak Grove, directly across the path from the Rev. Augustus Buck, Lizzie’s minister and champion throughout her ordeal.  All are together for eternity in a fascinating entertwining of personalities who had Lizzie Borden in common.

Bertrand and Philomena Kelly Hart

The Rev. Augustus Buck of the Central Congregational Church

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.

Nathaniel Briggs Borden

 N.B. Borden School (now closed) on Morgan Street

US Congressman. Born in
Freetown (now Fall River), Massachusetts into the Mill-owning Borden family, he himself founded the Pocasset Mill, which was located near the present day City Hall. He served two terms in the Massachusetts State Legislature before being elected to represent Massachusetts‘s 10th District in the United States House of Representatives, serving two terms from March 4, 1835 to March 3, 1839. He was defeated in an attempt to be elected to a third term by Congresssman Henry Williams in 1838. However, in 1840 he ran against Congressman Williams, and won back his seat. He again represent the 10th District, serving from March 4, 1841 to March 3, 1843. He declined to run again, and the seat went to Congressman Artemas Hale. A few years later was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate. After his time there, he returned to the State House of Representatives, and served as Mayor of Fall River from 1856 to 1857. After one more stint in the State House during the Civil War, he became President of the Fall River Savings Bank and of the Fall River Union Bank, and also served as President of the Fall River Railroad Company (which were directly tied into the thriving Fall River milling business).  (bio by: Russ Dodge)





Cornelia Otis Skinner

 otis.jpg Otis Skinner

Chances are slim today that the name of Otis Skinner or his daughter Cornelia would ring any bells except in the minds of students of the theatre. Otis Skinner, who enjoyed a successful career spanning fifty years, worked with the greats of the Charles Frohman stable of stars, the Immortal Madame Modjeska, and Edwin Booth, brother of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Begining his work as a clerk, by age 18 he was begging his clergyman father for a theatre career. None other than P.T. Barnum. who knew the Skinners when they lived in Hartford, encouraged and supported Otis’ talent and potential for the stage. He is most remembered as a Shakespearian actor and for his great performance as the beggar in Kismet. He was a genial, gentle, friendly man- and much-loved by adoring fans. Cornelia was born into the business in Chicago in 1899 and debuted in her father’s acting company in 1921. The rest is history.


Cornelia inherited her father’s acting and writing genes and made her mark not only on the stage but in films, television, Broadway, and literary circles. She wrote for the New Yorker, and wrote, produced and starred in one-woman monologues based on famous and powerful women in history. Her amusing novel travelogue, Our Hearts Were Young And Gay was made into a successful Broadway play. The International Movie Data Base includes Cornelia’s filmography as follows by date:

The Swimmer (1968) [Actress …. Mrs. Hammar]

The Pleasure of His Company (1961) [Writer] (play)

“This Is Your Life: Charlie Ruggles” (1959) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“What’s My Line?: (1959-03-29)” (1959) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself – Mystery Guest]

“What’s It For: (1957-10-12)” (1957) TV Episode [Self]

“The Alcoa Hour: Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter (#2.5)” (1956) TV Episode [Actress …. Susan Baxter]

Max Liebman Presents: Dearest Enemy (1955) (TV) [Actress …. Mrs. Murray]

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) [Actress …. Mrs. Thaw]

“Person to Person: (#2.40)” (1955) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“Toast of the Town: (#7.8)” (1953) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“Toast of the Town: (#5.32)” (1952) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“General Electric Guest House: (1951-07-01)” (1951) TV Episode [Actress]

“Toast of the Town: (#4.14)” (1950) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“Toast of the Town: (#4.7)” (1950) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“This Is Show Business: (1950-04-30)” (1950) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“The Girls” (1950) TV Series [Writer] (book “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”)
… aka Young and Gay (original title (first two episodes title))

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944) [Writer] (book)

The Uninvited (1944) [Actress …. Miss Holloway]

Stage Door Canteen (1943) [Actress …. Herself]

Kismet (1920) [Actress …. Miskah]

                      Cornelia married Manhattan stockbroker Alden Sanford Blodget- many thought an unlikely choice, and together they had one son.  Cornelia Otis Skinner died in New York on July 9, 1979 and was buried beside her husband who had predeceased her by fifteen years. The mystery seems to be why Oak Grove- and why Fall River?  R.I.P. – an amazing lady-and amazing career. Her grave is easily located on the hill just over the top of the Gothic-style mausoleum.


“Women keep a special corner of their hearts for sins they have never committed.”

“Woman’s virtue is man’s greatest invention.”  Cornelia Otis Skinner

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.

The Ladies’ Comfort Station

oakgrovewaitingroom.jpg For many years, the small, tiled-roof building directly opposite to the office inside the main gate was used as a lavatory and lounge for the lady visitors to the cemetery, and a convenience during funerals for attendees.  Currently it is a break room for cemetery staff.   It once had the dubious distinction of being the space where the grisly autopsies of Abby and Andrew Borden took place under the eye of medical examiner, Dr. Dolan, city doctor J.H. Leary, Clerk of autopsy, D.E. Cone, and Dr. F.W. Draper of Boston who was called in by Attorney General Albert Pillsbury.

The stained glass lancet windows have been broken and are currently boarded up, but the original deep wainscotting, moldings, and lavatory tiles with a Greek key pattern are still intact.



Click on thumbnails for enlargements of wainscotting and tile

wainscotting.jpg  comfprtstationlav.jpg

Holding Tombs

Long before the backhoe, the six-foot deep hole for the coffin had to be dug by hand with pickaxe and shovel.  In the nineteenth century, during the iron cold winters in New England, sometimes it was necessary to store the coffin until the January thaw or Spring when the frost was out of the ground.  There are several of these Egyptian Revival style holding tombs which were built into hills or mounds, each containing shelving on either side of the interior to hold 6-8 coffins.  Today this particular tomb houses lawn mowing equipment.  This holding tomb, which is at the west side of the cemetery near the main entrance, housed the two coffins of Abby and Andrew Borden for a week while city medical examiner, Dr. Dolan, arranged for a complete autopsy on the bodies to be held at Oak Grove in the Ladies Comfort Station.  It was there that the two skulls were removed and held for trial evidence on August 11, 1892.