The Untold Truth Of Lizzie Borden's Parents

We all know the rhyme about Lizzie Borden, and her ax, and what she did to her mother and father with aforementioned ax — 40 and 41 whacks, respectively, as History reminds us. And while Columbus did indeed sail the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, making that rhyme at least somewhat helpful, Andrew and Abby Borden did not receive anywhere near the number of whacks mentioned, and Abby Borden wasn't actually Lizzie's mother.

Not biologically, anyway. As Sarah Miller's book The Borden Murders clarifies, Lizzie — and she was indeed christened Lizzie, not Elizabeth — was born to Andrew and Sara Morse Borden on July 19, 1860. Lizzie was preceded into this world by two sisters: Alice, who died as a toddler, and Emma, almost 10 years older than Lizzie, all born of Andrew and Sara. Before Lizzie was quite three years old, Sara died — "uterine congestion, 4 mos.," which might have been medical terminology of the time for a miscarriage, as well as "disease of spine." Lizzie grew to adulthood with no memories of her biological mother, only her stepmother, Abby Durfee Gray, whom Andrew married in 1865.

Andrew Borden had been a successful man of business in Fall River, Massachusetts

Even though Lizzie was still quite young, and Abby was but 37 years old herself, it was to Emma that Lizzie went for anything resembling mothering. Sara was described by others as "a very peculiar woman. She had a Very bad temper. She was very strong in her likes and dislikes." Lizzie grew to adulthood with no memories of her biological mother, only her stepmother, Abby Durfee Gray, whom Andrew married in 1865. Even though Lizzie was still quite young, and Abby was but 37 years old herself, it was to big sister Emma that Lizzie went for anything resembling mothering. "I had never been to her (meaning Abby) as a mother in many things," Lizzie said later.

As for Andrew, he was a successful businessman, making a tidy fortune both in manufacturing and in real estate development. In addition, All That's Interesting relates that Andrew was influential enough that he served on the boards of several banks; the family was "prosperous." Famous Trials reports that Andrew was director of three cloth mills in town. He's also described as hard-working — he'd started life as a skilled carpenter (building furniture; also caskets) and made his own fortune — but also as "somewhat of a tight-wad."

The daughters referred to Abby as 'Mrs. Borden'

His two daughters helped manage some of his properties, and the four of them shared the same house, even as the girls became adults. They were a church-going family, and Lizzie taught Sunday school.

The daughters never really warmed to their stepmother, referring to her as "Mrs. Borden" and never as "Mother." Some suggest the sisters feared Abby was simply a gold-digger after their father's fortune (about $10 million in modern money).

Whatever the family relationships, or lack of them, the murders of Andrew and Abby were (and remain) a source of analysis, speculation, and couch potato investigation to this day. On August 4, 1892, Abby and Andrew were killed in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, by someone wielding a hatchet, not an ax. Andrew was struck 11 times; Abby, 19. Abby probably died first. Andrew was about 70 years old; Abby was about 64. Lizzie was arrested and tried for the murders, but a jury found her not guilty. Officially, the murders have never been solved. But admit it: You have your suspicions, don't you?