Testimony of Alice Russell in the Trial of Lizzie Borden
June 8, 1893

I have lived in Fall River a good many years; I am unmarried. Two years ago last October I lived in the house now occupied by Dr Kelly; had lived there eleven years. All that time the Bordens occupied the house next door; I was acquainted with the whole family. On the fourth of last August I lived in Borden Street. I exchanged calls with Miss Lizzie Borden; she always received me upstairs, in the guest room. About seven o'clock on the evening of Wednesday, August 3rd, of last year, she called upon me. She stayed till about nine.

Q. Won't you state what was said by her and by you, and then go on and state the conversation which followed? A. I think when she came in she said, "I have taken your advice, and I have written to Marion that I will come." I don't know what came in between, I don't know as this followed that, but I said, "I am glad you are going," as I had urged her to go before. And I don't know just what followed, but I said something about her having a good time, and she said, "Well, I don't know; I feel depressed. I feel as if something was hanging over me that I cannot throw off, and it comes over me at times, no matter where I am." And she says, "When I was at the table the other day, when I was at Marion, the girls were laughing and talking and having a good time, and this feeling came over me, and one of them spoke and said, 'Lizzie, why don't you talk?' "

Q. [By Mr. Moody] Well, then, go on and state how the conversation went on, taking your own method. A. I suppose it followed right on after that. When she spoke, she says, "I don't know; Father has so much trouble." Oh, I am a little ahead of the story. She said, "Mr. and Mrs. Borden were awfully sick last night." And I said, "Why, what is the matter; something they have eaten?" She said, "We were all sick," she said, "all but Maggie." And I said, "Something you think you have eaten?" She said, "We don't know. We had some baker's bread, and all ate of it but Maggie, and Maggie wasn't sick." And I said, "Well, it couldn't have been the bread; if it had been baker's bread I should suppose other people would be sick, and I haven't heard of anybody." And she says, "That is so." And she says, "Sometimes I think our milk might be poisoned." And I said, "Well, how do you get your milk; how could it be poisoned?" And she said, "We have the milk come in a can and set on the step, and we have an empty can. We put out the empty can overnight, and the next morning when they bring the milk they take the empty can." And I said, "'Nell, if they put anything in the can the farmer would see it." And then I said-I asked her what time the milk came, if she knew. She said, "I think about four o'clock." And I said, "Well, it is light at four. I shouldn't think anybody would dare to come then and tamper with the cans for fear somebody would see them." And she said, "I shouldn't think so." And she said, "They were awfully sick; and I wasn't sick, I didn't vomit; but I heard them vomiting and stepped to the door and asked if I could do anything, and they said, No."

Q. Now, go on with the conversation.

A. Well, I think she told me that they were better in the morning and that Mrs. Borden thought that they had been poisoned, and she went over to Dr Bowen's—said she was going over to Dr Bowen's.

Q. Well, we won't follow that any further. Is there any other thing that she began to talk about? Proceed in your own way, Miss Russell.

A. I can't recall anything just now. Of course she talked about something else, because she was there two hours, but I cannot think about it.

Q. Anything about trouble with tenants, or anything of that sort?

A. She says, "I don't know," she says, "I feel afraid sometimes that Father has got an enemy. Far," she said, "he has so much trouble with his men that come to see him." She told me of a man that came to see him, and she heard him say-she didn't see him, but heard her father say, "I don't care to let my property for such business." And she said the man answered sneeringly, "I shouldn't think you would care what you let your property for." And she said, "Father was mad and ordered him out of the house." She told me of seeing a man run around the house one night when she went home. I have forgotten where she had been. She said, "And you know the barn has been broken into twice." And I said, "Oh well, you know well that that was somebody after pigeons; there is nothing in there for them to go after but pigeons." "Well," she says, "they have broken into the house in broad daylight, with Emma and Maggie and me there." And I said, "I never heard of that before." And she said, "Father forbade our telling it." So I asked her about it, and she said it was in Mrs. Borden's room, what she called her dressing room. She said her things were ransacked, and they took a watch and chain and money and car tickets, and something else that I can't remember. And there was a nail left in the keyhole; she didn't know why that was left; whether they got in with it or what. I asked her if her father did anything about it, and she said he gave it to the police, but they didn't find out anything; and she said father expected that they would catch the thief by the tickets. She remarked, "Just as if anybody would use those tickets."

Q. Yes. Is there anything else that you recall? Anything about burning the house?

A. She said, "I feel as if I wanted to sleep with my eyes half open—with one eye open half the time—-for fear they  will burn the house down over us."

Q. Is there anything else that occurs to you in the conversation? A. Oh, she said, "I am afraid somebody will do something; I don't know but what somebody will do something." I think that was the beginning.

Q. Please state that.

A. "I think sometimes—I am afraid sometimes that somebody will do something to him; he is so discourteous to people." And then she said, "Dr. Bowen came over. Mrs. Borden went over, and Father didn't like it because she was going; and she told him where she was going, and he says, 'Well, my money shan't pay for it.' She went over to Dr Bowen's, and Dr Bowen told her—she told him she was afraid they were poisoned—and Dr. Bowen laughed, and said, No, there wasn't any poison. And she came back, and Dr. Bowen came over." And she said, "I am so ashamed, the way Father treated Dr. Bowen. I was so mortified." And she said after he had gone Mrs. Borden said she thought it was too bad for him to treat Dr. Bowen so, and he said he didn't want him coming over there that way.

Q. Upon the next morning, August 4th, did you receive a visit from Bridget Sullivan?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What did you do then?

A. I went over to Mr. Borden's. Lizzie was there. I think she was standing in the door, leaning against the doorframe. I asked her to sit down in the rocking chair, which she did. I cannot tell it in order, for it was disconnected. People came around; I don't know who they were. Later, when she told us about going to the barn, I asked her, "What did you go to the barn for, Lizzie?" And she said, "I went to get a piece of tin or iron to fix my screen." She said my screen. I heard about the note to Mrs. Borden; I don't know who told it. I started to loosen her dress, thinking she was faint, and she said, "I am not faint."

Q. Are you able to give us any description of the dress she had on that morning?

A. None whatever.

When Lizzie went upstairs, I went upstairs with her-at least, I have always thought so. She had not yet changed her dress. She said, "When it is necessary for an undertaker, I want Winwood." I went downstairs and waited for Dr Bowen. I sent for him, spoke to him, and went up to Lizzie's room again. She was coming out of :Miss Emma's room, tying the ribbons of a wrapper-a pink-and-white striped wrapper. I stayed at the house all that night, having gone home once that day and returned. I did not suggest to :Miss Lizzie that she change her dress; did not hear anyone suggest it. Thursday night, I went down into the cellar with Lizzie; I carried a lamp, she carried a slop pail. Went to the water closet. The clothing taken from the bodies was in the washroom. Miss Lizzie went into the washroom; I did not. She went to the sink there and rinsed out the pail. Then we went upstairs again.

I stayed at the house from the day of the murders till Monday morning. I was there Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. On Thursday and Friday nights, I occupied Mr. and Mrs. Borden's room; Saturday and Sunday nights, Miss Emma Borden's room. On Sunday morning, I got the breakfast. After breakfast, I left the lower part of the house for a while, returning before noon.

Q. Will you state what you saw after you returned?

A. I went into the kitchen, and I saw Miss Lizzie at the other end of the stove; I saw Miss Emma at the sink. Miss Lizzie was at the stove, and she had a skirt in her hand, and her sister turned and said, "What are you going to do?" and Lizzie said, "I am going to burn this old thing up; it is covered with paint."

Q. Do you recall anything else said then?

A. No sir.

Q. What did you do then?

A. I am quite sure I left the room.

Q. Did you speak to either of them at that time?

A. No sir, I don't remember that I did. I don't think I did.

Q. Did you come into the room again?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What did you see then?

A. Miss Lizzie stood up towards the cupboard door; the cupboard door was open, and she appeared to be either ripping something down or tearing part of this garment.

Q. What part?

A. I don't know for sure; it was a small part.

Q. A smaller part? Go on and state.

A. I said to her, "I wouldn't let anybody see me do that, Lizzie." She didn't make any answer. I left the room.

Q. Did she do anything when you said that?

A. She stepped just one step farther back up towards the cupboard door.

Q. Did you notice where the waist of the dress was when she held the skirt in her hands as you first came in?

A. I didn't know that it was the waist, but I saw a portion of this dress up on the cupboard shelf.

Q. Inside the cupboard?

A. Yes. The door was wide open.

Q. When you came back the second time and she was tearing the smaller part, did you see the skirt?

A. Well, I am not positive; I think I did.

Q. Did you have any more talk with her that day, or did she say anything to you about it?

A. No sir.

Q. At that time were there any police officers in the house?

A. No sir.
Q. Were there any officers about the premises?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Do you know whether there was anyone else in the house except yourself and  Miss Emma and Miss Lizzie Borden?

A. I don't think that there was.

Q. When had Bridget left? Do you know whether she had left before the Sunday morning or not?

A. Yes, she had left.
Q. Do you know M r Hanscom?

A. Yes sir.
Q. Did you see him at the Borden house on Monday morning, the following day?

A. Yes sir.

Q. I do not ask you what he said to you or you to him, but did you have some conversation with him?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Did you see anyone after that conversation?

A. I saw Miss Lizzie and Miss Emma.

Q. Where did you see them? A. In the dining room.

Q. What talk passed between you in the dining room?

A. I said to them-I said, "I am afraid, Lizzie, the worst thing you could have done was to burn that dress. I have been asked about your dresses."

Q. What did she reply? A. She said, "Oh, what made you let me do it? Why didn't you tell me?"

Q. Miss Russell, you testified before the inquest, did you?

A. Yes sir.
Q. You testified at the preliminary hearing?

A. Yes sir.

Q. And you testified once and then again before the Grand Jury?

A. Yes sir.

Q. At either of the three previous times-at the inquest, at the preliminary, or at the first testimony before the Grand Jury, did you say anything about the burning of this dress?

A. No sir.

MR. ROBINSON. Wait a moment. I do not see how that is at all material. The Government is not trying to fortify this witness, I hope.

MR. MOODY. Well, I do not press it. If you don't want it, I don't care to put it in.

MR. ROBINSON. Oh, it is not what I want. You are trying the Government's case; I am objecting.

MR. MOODY. I waive the question.

MR. ROBINSON. I think it should be stricken out.

MR. MOODY. I agree that it may be stricken out.

Q. Miss Russell, to go back again to the day of the homicide, do you remember anything about a search for a note by anyone-Dr. Bowen?

A. Yes sir.

Q. State what there is about that.

A. When we were in the dining room Lizzie was lying down, and I think Dr Bowen came in-I always thought it was Dr Bowen-came in and said, "Lizzie, do you know anything about the note your mother had?" And she hesitated and said, well, no, she didn't. He said, "I have looked in the wastebasket," and I think I said-no, he said, "Have you looked in her pocket?" And I think I said, "Well, then she must have put it in the fire." And Lizzie said, "Yes, she must have put it in the fire."


Q. [By Mr. Robinson] I don't care to trouble you at all about the conversation of Wednesday evening, only, as I understand it, she told you that they had all been sick up there?

A. Yes sir.

Q. And that Mr. and Mrs. Borden were sick and that the doctor had been

MR. MOODY. Oh, excuse me; an important matter I forgot.


Q. [By Mr. Moody] Miss Russell, will you tell us what kind of a dress-give us a description of the dress that she burned, that you have testified about, on Sunday morning?

A. It was a cheap cotton Bedford cord.

Q. What was its color? A. Light-blue ground with a dark figure—small figure.

Q. Do you know when she got it?

A. I am not positive.

Q. W dl, about when she got it?

A. In the early spring.

Q. Of that same year, do you mean, or some other year?

A. Yes sir, I think that same year.

Q. Was your attention called to it at the time she got it in any way?
A. At the time I first saw it.

Q. To make it clear, between the time you saw it on Miss Lizzie Borden and had the talk about it in the spring, you did not see it again until the Sunday morning after the homicide?

A. I never remember of ever seeing it, and I am quite sure I did not-that I never had.

Q. Can you give me any further description of the dark-blue figure?
A. No sir.

Q. Could you give any further description?

A. Nothing, only that it was small.

Q. A small dark-blue figure?

A. Yes sir.


Q. I remarked I did not want to trouble you about Wednesday evening except that she said they had all been sick, and she herself, as I understand you?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Now we will go right along to Thursday, the fourth of August. You were called up there and went as rapidly as you could to the house?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Where was she when you saw her during any time that morning when you were there? A. I asked her to go into the dining room and said, "It is warm here; don't you want to go into the dining room and lie down?" And she went there.

Q. What was done with reference to Miss Lizzie?

A. I think I fanned her.

Q. Was she bathed, her hands and face?

A. I don't remember whether I bathed her face. I don't think I bathed her face in there. It was in the kitchen I bathed her forehead.

Q. Was she complaining and feeling badly?

A. No.

Q. Was she pale?

A. I don't know.

Q. I thought you said, you spoke of her sitting down as if she was going to faint.

A. I did not say that she fainted, but she sat down as though she was going to be faint, and I asked for a towel.

Q. Was that furnished?

A. Yes sir.

Q. She did not faint?

A. No sir.

Q. At any time did she say anything about her head aching or feeling badly?

A. Upstairs? That was before—

Q. That was after you went upstairs?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Did you see any handkerchiefs about there?

A. I found some handkerchiefs in the dining room.

Q. Had they been ironed?

A. Some of them.

Q. And some, I infer, had not been, from your answer?

A. Yes sir.
Q. What was the condition of those that had not been ironed?

A. They were sprinkled to iron.

Q. About how many were there altogether?

A. I don't know positively.

Q. I am not very particular-about how many?

A. After hearing about handkerchiefs I tried to remember, and as nearly as I could judge there were four or five ironed and two or three sprinkled to be ironed.

Q. You say you cannot tell us about a dress that she had on that morning?

A. No sir.

Q. Now, Miss Russell, did you see any blood upon her clothing?

A. No sir.

Q. A speck of it?

A. No sir.

Q. Or face?

A. No sir.

Q. Or was her hair disturbed?

A. I don't think it was. I think I should have noticed it if it was disordered.

Q. Saw nothing out of the way at all, did you?

A. No sir.

Q. About any of her clothing or about her person?

A. No sir.

Q. Everything looked all right, did it?

A. As far as I saw.

I was at the house all day. In the afternoon a good many police officers were there. I remember showing them the two smaller rooms out of Mr. and Mrs. Borden's room, and their coming into Miss Lizzie's room. I went downstairs and into the parlor with them.

Thursday night there were officers about the house and in the yard. And on Friday there were police--I don't remember much of their being in the house. I spoke of the clothing of the deceased persons being in the cellar; their bodies were laid out in the dining room.

The dress which I saw Sunday was neither calico nor cambric; it was a Bedford cord. I did not take hold of it, nor examine it. Sunday morning, Miss Lizzie, Miss Emma, Mr. Morse and I had breakfast together; Bridget was not in the house. I went upstairs, after breakfast, to put my room in order, and left Miss Emma to do the dishes. I don't know if Miss Lizzie helped in that. When I came back and saw Miss Lizzie with the Bedford cord dress, it was broad daylight. There was a policeman in the yard.

I saw no blood on that dress. Not a drop. The edge of the dress was soiled. I did not actually see her put it in the stove.

The funeral, Saturday, was in the forenoon, about eleven or twelve o'clock. Miss Lizzie went to the cemetery; I did not. I stayed in the house with Mrs. Holmes and the undertaker's assistants.

Officers did come in the house, during the absence of the funeral party, but they didn't come as soon as the party left. They made a search, but they didn't search everywhere. They went into Miss Lizzie's room.

Q. Did you go up into the room while they were at work there?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What did they do?

MR. MOODY. This was on Saturday?

MR. ROBINSON. This was on Saturday while the bodies were going to the grave.

Q. Do you wish to answer the question?

A. Yes sir. I think one of the officers took the keys that lay on the bureau after Miss Lizzie had left and unlocked one or two drawers in her bureau, and didn't search any farther there. I think they opened what she called her toilet room, pulled the portiere one side, just looked there a little. I don't know how much they searched. I don't think very much; and they went into Miss Emma's room and looked around, and opened the cupboard door in her room, and I remember one of the officers pressing against a bundle after he shut it, some pillow or blanket, something of that kind, and the bed was taken to pieces. That is all that I saw.

Q. There was no resistance or objection made at all?

A. No sir.

Q. They had full sway?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Well, that was the same at all the searches, wasn't it, they had no resistance or objections?

A. I never heard of any while I was there.


Q. [By Mr. Moody] What is the material of which the Bedford cord dress is made?

A. All cotton. That dress was all cotton.

Q. And not silk?

A. No sir.

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