Could the stranger in the baseball shoes seen on the Borden's porch hold the key to the murders?

June 12, 2017

    For 125-years, Lizzie Borden enthusiasts have wondered who the young man was seen standing on the Borden's front porch three days before the brutal murders.  An eye witness, seated in a buggy across the street from Andrew Borden's home, took notice of the young man ringing the doorbell at 92 Second Street.  The witness described him as wearing long trousers with a dark stripe running up the leg, and most particularly, russet-colored baseball shoes!  Men wearing baseball shoes in 1892 were not a common sight.  He went on to say the man looked to be around 25 years-of-age, with a sallow (pale) complexion.  Andrew answered the door and admitted the young man, who remained inside the house for 10 minutes.  He exited and climbed into a waiting buggy whose driver was not commented upon.

   Ok...so baseball shoes are interesting.  That the young man was visiting Andrew Borden three days before the older man would be found butchered in the very sitting room the two men had been standing in, is of note.  But why any interest in him other than that?

   The Fall River police searched for the young man without result.  They knew neither his name or his business with Mr. Borden.  Surely, they questioned Lizzie Borden's uncle, John Morse about him.  They had asked everyone who had any knowledge of the Borden's acquaintances.  We can assume John Morse said he had no idea who the young man was.  He was never seen again, and his identity was never revealed...until now!

    In The History and Haunting of Lizzie Borden, this man's identity, and that of his brother, are finally revealed.  And who he was, and the reason for his call on Andrew Borden that rainy Monday morning, make all the difference!  His name was James Chatterton.  He was 28 years-old and was a professional baseball player for the Kansas City Cowboys who just so happened to wear russet-colored shoes and uniforms.  He had also played for the Salem Fairies, and lived two hours away in Lynn, MA.  He had a brother, Joseph, who may have been the other young man in the mystery.  Joseph Chatterton fits the description given of a 30-year-old man hanging around the Borden's home on the morning of the murder.  He too was described as pale-complexioned.  James was described as 5' 9" tall, and Joseph as 5' 4".  Why were these two men in the vicinity of the Borden's home only three days prior, and on the morning of the murders?

    Andrew Borden and John Morse were putting together a large horse and cattle venture that would involve Andrew's largest land holding: the Swansea farms.  It was a large area of close to 250 acres.  There was big money to be had in the cattle industry, as John Morse knew well.  He had been a horse trader for many years, and was working with a cattle concern in nearby South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, when the murders occured.  The deal was put together in complete secrecy.  Lizzie and her sister Emma were not to know.  Tempers had erupted over Andrew giving his wife Abby property in the past.  The Swansea farm deal would be put in Abby's name, not only for financial reasons, but as security for her in the case of Andrew's death.  He was about to turn 70-years-old, and making sure his wife was taken care of was on his mind.  Other properties would be left to his daughters.

    But for Lizzie, the other properties meant nothing.  They were brick and mortor office buildings that would require the collection of rents, maintenance and a loss of her prized freedom.  The Swansea farm had sentimental value.  She had fished the Cole River with her father, spent childhood summers there, and knew its worth.  Not only did Lizzie find out about the deal, it lit a fuse that could not be put out.

    Andrew asked John Morse to secretly send him a man to interview for the job of overseer for the new cattle deal.  Everyone the two men were bringing in on the deal were related to John in one way or another.  It was a family concern.  When he and Andrew thought Lizzie was away on her planned vacation at Marion, Massachusetts, they arranged for James Chatterton to show up at Andrew's door.  But Lizzie, knowing something was going on, had cut her vacation short, and popped up the night before.  It was too late to cancel James's trip.  He showed up, and Andrew tried to disquise the interview by pretending James was there to interview for an empty store lease Andrew had.  Lizzie was not fooled.  She also looked down from the guest room window on the day of the murder--only inches from the feet of a butchered Abby Borden--and saw Joseph Chatterton leaning on the Borden gate post as he waited for Abby to come out and accompany him via buggy to the bank where the bank deal would be signed.  But Abby never came out.  The next time Abby Borden left her home was inside a coffin.

   James and Joseph Chatterton were cousins of John Morse.  John's Uncle Charles Morse lived in New York City.  His wife's sister was the mother of the two Chatterton boys.  As John Morse was Lizzie's biologial mother's brother, that made the Chattertons Lizzie's relatives as well.  She may have never met them before, but if she realized that not only her own Uncle John was scheming to take away her inheritance, but other members of her mother's family as well, the hatred and anger would have been burning white hot.  This was betrayal at a very visceral level.

   One of the reasons Lizzie was never convicted of the double murder, was that the court could find no motive for her killing her father and step-mother.  A will was never found.  The two sisters would have inheritied his fortune anyway, with some stipance going to Abby.  But...what if the court had discovered who the two pale young men were that were talking with Andrew and loitering around his door the day of the murders?  If the police had found out their names, and that they were related to John Morse, would the case have taken a different turn?  Would the cattle deal and clandestine maneuvers come to light, providing a motive for murder?  And if John denied knowing who they were, would his lie underscore that something was "afoot?"  Here was Lizzie's motive for the murders, but the two men were never identified or found.

   What are your thoughts?  Could the two men's identities have caused a different verdict to be declared in the Lizzie Borden murder case?  Would this have hinted at a motive worthy of ending two people's lives?

 

 

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