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CRJ251: Criminology (Mayhew): The Witnesses

Who served as a witness during the trial?

This page will provide brief biographies of some of the people serving as witnesses during the inquest and trial of Lizzie Borden for the murder of her father and her step-mother in 1892-1893.

Adelaide (Buffinton) Churchill (1849-1926)

Adelaide (Buffinton) ChurchillBorn in Fall River, Mass., the daughter of Hon. Edward P. and Comfort (Taber) Buffinton. She married Charles H. Churchill, an employee of the water department in Fall River, and was widowed in 1879. She resided with her only son, Charles, at 90 Second Street in the Buffinton family home.

Summoned by Lizzie to the Borden house following the murders, she provided considerable testimony at the inquest as well as the preliminary and final trials.

Alice Manley Russell (1852-1941)

RussellAlice was born in New Bedford, Mass., the daughter of Frederick W. and Judith (Manley) Russell. Employed as a clerk for several years in Fall River, she later taught sewing in the public schools of that city. In 1908, she was promoted to supervisor of sewing, retiring from that position in 1913. She resided in Fall River for the rest of her life.

She was a witness at both the inquest and the preliminary trial but it was not until the grand jury hearing that she revealed her “burning of the dress” testimony. She was also a witness at the trial of Miss Lizzie A. Borden in June of 1893.

W. (William) Walker Jubb (1837-1904)

revjubPastor of the Central Congregational Church in Fall River (of which Lizzie was an active member) from September 1891 to 1896.

Throughout the ten month ordeal, he was “a strong and vocal champion of Lizzie and a firm believer in her innocence.” During the trial he was constantly at her side. Born in Morley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, his parents were John and Mary Jubb. At age 17, he joined his mother’s church (Methodist) and at 20 began to preach. Leaving that denomination for “the freer life of Congregationalism”, his first pastorate was in Ilkeson, Derbyshire, in 1864. Mr. Jubb died in Illesley, near London, in March 1904.

Eli Bence (1865-1915)

Eli BenceBorn in Braintree, Mass., Eli was the son of William and Sarah J. (Hudson) Bence. He began his career as a clerk at several drugstores in Fall River, Mass., and was employed by D. R. Smith from 1890 to 1895. He became proprietor of his first store in Pittsfield, Mass. in 1905. His first wife was Miss Sarah J. Mayhurst of Fall River and his second Miss Annie C. Maxfield of Fairhaven, Mass.

Bence testified at both the inquest and preliminary trial and was summoned as a witness at the trial. His testimony that Lizzie had attempted to purchase prussic acid the day before the murders was ruled as inadmissible by the three judge panel at Lizzie’s trial.

John Fleet (1848-1916)

JOHN FLEETBorn in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, England, Fleet was the son of Richard and Charlotte (Brown) Fleet. He emigrated to the United States as a youth and was employed at the American Linen Company in Fall River, Mass. In 1877, he became a policeman and rose from patrolman to city marshall, retiring in 1915. He died in 1916 in Fall River.

As assistant city marshall in 1892 Fleet arrested Miss Lizzie Borden for the double murder. His testimony at the preliminary hearing and trial centered on the police searches at the Borden residence. He also provided detailed information about the various hatchets that were found there.

William H. Medley (1853-1917)

WILLIAM H. MEDLEYBorn in England, Medley was the son of Joseph and Hannah (Chambers) Medley. A member of the Fall River Police Department as of 1880, he was a patrolman at the time of the Borden murders. In 1910, he was appointed assistant city marshall and, in 1915, promoted to City Marshall. He died in an automobile accident in Fall River, in 1917.

Medley was one of the first police officers to arrive at the scene of the crime. His testimony at the trial detailed his observations there that day.

Edward Stickney Wood (1846-1905)

EDWARD STICKNEY WOODBorn in Cambridge, Mass., Wood attended Harvard University, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1867. Entering Harvard Medical School in 1868, he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1871. Appointed assistant professor of chemistry at Harvard in 1871, he remained in this capacity until his appointment to a full professorship five years later, a position he held until his death.

An expert in the analysis of blood and blood stains, he was called upon to testify at numerous murder trials, including the Borden Murders of 1892.

Dr. Seabury Bowen (1840-1918)

a_bowenFamily physician to the Borden family.

He was a witness at the inquest and the preliminary as well as final trial. His extensive testimony pertained to several aspects of the Borden murder investigation.





Edwin Augustus Buck (1824-1903)

revbuckCity Missionary of the Central Congregational Church in Fall River from December 1867 until he retired in 1899 at age 75.

With the Rev. Mr. Jubb, he was a strong supporter of Lizzie “almost every day from the time of the murders… until her acquittal”.





Charles Jarvis Holmes (1834-1906)

CHARLES JARVIS HOLMESHolmes was born in Rochester, Mass., the son of Charles Jarvis and Louisa (Haskell) Holmes. He was appointed treasurer of the Fall River Five Cents Savings Bank at the age of 21, a position he held the rest of his life. In 1858, he married Miss Mary Anna Remington of Fall River.

He testified at Lizzie’s trial.

After her acquittal, Lizzie spent her first night at his home on Pine street in Fall River. The next day Lizzie and the younger Holmes’ daughter, Anna, went to Newport, RI for a week — at the home of William King Covell (whose wife Sara was Mrs. Holmes’ sister).

Rufus Bartlett Hilliard (1849-1912)

RUFUS BARTLETT HILLIARDBorn in Pembroke, Maine, Hilliard was the son of David and Elizabeth (Wilson) Hilliard. In 1879, he was hired by the Fall River Police Department, where he received periodic promotions until, in 1886, he was named city marshall. In 1888, he married Miss Nellie Smith Clark of Fall River.

Hilliard provided extensive testimony at both Lizzie’s preliminary hearing and trial. He was also instrumental the following year in resolving the Bertha Manchester murder case. Under his command, the Fall River Police Department grew to be the third largest in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He resided in Fall River until his death in 1912.

Philip Harrington (1859-1893)

PHILIP HARRINGTONBorn in Fall River, Mass., Harrington was the son of James P. and Mary (McCue) Harrington. He was hired as a patrolman in the Fall River Police Department in 1883. He was appointed captain in December of 1892 and served as a clerk of the Fall River Police Beneficial Association that same year.

He provided testimony at Lizzie’s preliminary hearing. He died unexpectedly in Newport, RI, in 1893.

Hannah B. (Howe) Reagan (1848-1924)

HANNAH B. (HOWE) REAGANBorn in Ireland, Reagan was the daughter of Henry and Catherine (McCarthy) Howe. She married Quinlan M. Reagan, a stonecutter, in Fall River, Mass. The first matron of that city’s Central Police Station, she served in that capacity from 1888 to the time of her resignation in 1909.

She testified at the trial regarding several incidents which occurred during Lizzie’s nine-day incarceration at the Fall River jail.

Source Citation

Lizzie Andrew Borden Virtual Museum & Library. (n.d.). Cast of characters. Retrieved from