All rights reserved 2010 Photography by Kristin Pepe
On the Road With The Second Street Irregulars
Three “Mutton Eaters” Search for Officer Medley.
By Barbara Morrissey, JoAnne Giovino, & Kristin Pepe
Ascending the steps to the hayloft of the Borden barn on August 4, 1892, Officer William H. Medley of the Fall River Police Department climbs just high enough so that his eyes are level with the hayloft floor. He looks around the hot upper story of the barn, and something strikes him as very odd; the layer of dust on the floor of the hayloft appears to be undisturbed. There are neither visible footprints nor any trail left in the dust left by the swishing of a lady’s dress hem. As an experiment, Officer Medley reaches up and places his own hand, palm down, on the dusty floor. As he lifts his hand, he quite clearly sees the impression it left on the unspoiled layer of hay dust. “Very odd – very odd indeed,” he mutters to himself.
Medley furrows his brow and recalls what Lizzie Borden, not more than fifteen minutes ago, had told him: she was in the barn when her father was murdered. She was on the second floor of the barn – the very hayloft where Officer Medley just left his own mark on the dusty floor. She had been there looking for a piece of lead for a sinker, as she planned on going fishing in Marion on Monday. While up there in the smoldering loft, she ate some pears. However, Officer Medley sees no evidence that anyone has been in the oven-like upper story of the barn. Could Lizzie be lying about her whereabouts when her father was being murdered inside 92 Second Street? Thus began Officer William H. Medley’s investigation into one of history’s most infamous murder cases.
Shortly after the alarm was raised that murder, two murders in fact, had been committed at 92 Second Street, Officer William H. Medley of the Fall River Police Force arrived at the murder scene. From that point on, and for several days after the murders, Officer Medley worked tirelessly investigating leads and questioning possible witnesses. As the Fall River Herald reported on the day after the murders,
“Officer Medley was one of the busiest men about town Wednesday night and every remark or Idea Connected with the tragedy was thoroughly sifted by him.” (Fall River Herald, 8/5/1892).
It was this same Officer Medley who, upon quickly touring the Borden residence upon arriving at the scene, asked Lizzie about the blood-covered cloths in a pail in the “wash cellar” and was told by Lizzie that it “was all right; she had told the Doctor all about that.” Upon learning from Lizzie that she had supposedly been in the barn when her father was murdered, Medley made his famous trip out to the barn to check for signs or prints in the dust to confirm or disprove Lizzie’s story.
Medley testified about his trip to the upper story of the Borden’s barn, which is re-imagined at the beginning of this story, at Lizzie’s trial:
“I went at once up stairs in the barn, but found no footprints in the dust except what I made myself.” (Trial Transcript Vol. 1, p. 28.).
A few days after the Borden murders, on August 8, Officer Medley was present at 92 Second Street again when Officers Edson, Desmond, Conners and Quigley , along with Charles H. Bryant (a mason and contractor, there to assist if necessary) searched the house. While searching the cellar, Officer Medley found the head of a hatchet lying in a box with other objects. The hatchet head had no handle. Officer Desmond testified at Lizzie’s trial:
“At the outset of the search of the cellar, Officer Medley found a small hatchet. I wrapped it up in a newspaper, and gave it to Medley to put in his pocket. It had no handle to it.” p. 38)
“Medley carried the wrapped hatchet head to the city marshal’s office and showed it to Marshal Hilliard.” (Trial Transcript, Vol. 1, p.697.)
The years following the Borden murders were successful ones for Officer Medley. In December, 1892, Medley had been promoted to inspector. (Trial Transcript, Vol. 1 p. 716.) By 1910 he had become Assistant City Marshal. That same year, when City Marshal Fleet retired, Medley replaced him, becoming City Marshal Medley.
Medley held this position, becoming Chief Medley in 1915 when the Fall River Police changed the title from Marshal to Chief, until his death in 1917 at age 63. Chief Medley was the victim of an automobile accident at the corner of Locust and Linden Streets in Fall River. Medley’s wife Mary, and their daughter, were with him in the car, but survived the crash.
The corner of Locust & Linden today (photo Shelley Dziedzic)
William H. Medley was buried, not in Fall River, but with members of his wife’s family in Edson Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts on September 19th, 1917. It is this small detail that started three members of the Second Street Irregulars on the quest to find Officer Medley’s final resting place.
The Second Street Irregulars or, the Muttoneaters, as we are also known is advertised as “A Cordial Society of Armchair Sleuths”. The Irregulars was a term coined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his immortal tales of Sherlock Holmes. Irregulars were a rag-tag band of street urchins and everyday London tradesmen whom Holmes employed to help in solving his cases. Their very ordinary-ness was an asset in moving unobtrusively all over the city while gathering vital information. Today, Sherlockian Baker’s Street Irregulars provide the template for the Mutton Eaters. The Second Street Irregulars meet yearly for a banquet in Fall River, MA. The Irregulars also visit sites related to the Borden case, share stories, conduct research, and enjoy general merriment. Members come from all over the United States, and are of all ages and occupations. The three of us, who live in the area north of Boston close to Lowell, MA., were thrilled to discover a local link to the Borden case, and we quickly planned to do some Lizzie-related research close to home.
Those familiar with Fall River would feel at home touring the streets and neighborhoods of Lowell (and vice versa). Lowell, like Fall River, is a New England mill city. It was designed as a textile manufacturing center, with an intricate system of canals that were used to provide power to multiple textile mills. Lowell has experienced the same cycle of prosperity and decline that Fall River and other New England manufacturing cities and towns have. Ever-visible are the huge granite or brick textile mills, some with their uniform rows of windows covered with green plywood, some converted into apartments or museums, and some crumbling into ruin. Lowell’s neighborhoods contain a mixture of multi-family homes covered in modern vinyl siding, 19th century single-family wood-frame homes, 20th century raised ranches, apartment buildings and condo complexes. Of note is the Belvedere neighborhood (located, incidentally, on a large hill), where Lowell’s elite business-owning upper-class families lived during the city’s industrial Heyday. If the Bordens had lived in Lowell, Lizzie would have wanted to live in a house in Belvedere. Lowell is also home to multiple churches and cemeteries.
Our quest for Officer Medley’s resting place began at JoAnne’s house. It was a raw, overcast, March day, with cold winds blowing, appropriate weather for exploring an old cemetery. Sitting around the kitchen table, we gathered our materials: a printout of “The Sad End of Officer Medley” from Lizzie Borden: Warps & Wefts, the name of a contact in the Cemetery office whom JoAnne had spoken to by phone, a handwritten note and a rose to place at Officer Medley’s gravesite, and our adventurous spirits. We jumped into the car, wearing our deerstalker caps and toting our cameras, and made our way, via back roads and neighborhoods of Lowell, to the Edson Cemetery. We drove through the large main gate, and parked by the small white building that houses the cemetery office.
Upon entering the office, we met Anne, our contact person. Anne was very enthusiastic and more helpful than we could have imagined. She was able to locate William H. Medley’s original burial record from 1917. The record indicated that William H. Medley’s remains are buried in Range 30, Lot 13, Grave 7. His wife, Mary E. Medley occupies Grave 6 beside him. William H. Medley is listed as the owner of the lot, and there is a monument at the site. Not all graves in the Edson Cemetery have monuments, we learned; some have flat stone markers, and some have no marker at all.
In addition to the Medleys, there are two other occupants in Lot 13: Martha Marks (1819-1889, age 70) and William Marks (1820 -1875, age 55). Who were William and Martha Marks, and why are they buried with Officer Medley and his wife? Having known that Officer Medley’s wife, Mary, was from Lowell, we surmised that the Marks must be Mary’s parents. We decided to extend our adventure that day and find out for sure. We noticed that the Medleys’ daughter is not buried with her parents, and we concluded that she probably was married and is therefore buried with her husband. That will have to be another day’s investigation for the Second Street Irregulars.
Anne gave us a map of Range 30, marked the Medleys’ gravesite for us and we were soon on our way. However, before leaving the office, we took pictures with Anne who had been so enthusiastic and helpful. I would certainly bet that Anne does not get visitors like the Second Street Irregulars very often in the Edson Cemetery office, and whether she remembers us fondly or not, I am sure we provided a break from her usual routine.
We took our map and drove along the cemetery roads to find Range 30, Lot 13, which we very quickly located. We got out of the car and spotted our Officer Medley’s resting place in less than a minute. We found the Marks’ grave beside the Medleys’. William H. and Mary E. Medley’s grave marker is a plain granite slab, with their names and dates engraved in very plain block lettering on one side of the stone. The Marks’s monument was some type of white stone, possibly marble, and clearly older. We placed our rose on the Medley monument, along with the note explaining who William H. Medley was, and his part in the Lizzie Borden case. We took pictures of one another at the grave site, and when the cold wind became unbearable, we ran back to the car.
Over lunch at a favorite Greek restaurant in downtown Lowell, we discussed what to do next. We decided to go to Lowell City Hall to find out a little more about Mary E. Medley and the Marks family. Fortified with bowls of hot lentil and lemon-chicken soup, stuffed grapeleaves and spanikopita, we set out once again.
We went to Lowell City Hall to the Clerk’s office to see if we could find out anything more about Officer Medley’s wife, Mary E. Medley, and her family. Knowing her date of birth, we asked the clerk to find the birth certificate of Mary E. Marks (Medley). A few minutes later she returned with the requested document. The clerk also gave us some interesting news: Mary E. Marks had a twin sister named Martha. It cost some money to obtain a copy of a birth certificate, so we opted for Mary’s, and we had to forego Martha’s.
Here is a summary of Mary Marks’ birth certificate:
Date of Birth: April 11, 1854
Name of child: Mary E. Marks
Sex: Female Color – White
Place of Birth: Lowell, MA
Residence of parents: Lowell, MA
Name of Father: William Marks
Maiden Name of Mother: Martha—-
Occupation of Father: Laborer
Occupation of Mother: ——-
Birthplace of Father: England
Birthplace of Mother: Ireland
Date of Record: January 11, 1855
So, we learned that Officer Medley’s wife, Mary, had a twin sister Martha, and that Officer Medley and Mary Medley are buried with Mary’s parents, William and Martha Marks, although Officer Medley is listed as the owner of the cemetery plot.
We inquired about a marriage certificate for Officer Medley and Mary Marks, assuming they were married in Lowell. However, without an approximate date of the marriage, the clerk would not be able to find a marriage certificate. We were to do more historical research at the Pollard Memorial Library, which is just next door to Lowell City Hall.
At Pollard Memorial Library we decided to search for Officer Medley’s obituary in the archives of the newspaper the Lowell Sun. the Library has an archive of the newspaper on microfilm. We also intended to find other related information about Officer Medley’s life and family if time permitted. We found Officer Medley’s obituary in the Monday September 17, 1917 edition of the Lowell Sun, under the heading “Funeral Notices:”
Medley – Died in Fall River, Sept. 16, William H. Medley, chief of police of Fall River, aged 64 years, 7 months, 11 days. Funeral services will be held from the Edson Cemetery Chapel on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 2 o’clock. Relatives and friends invited to attend. Arrangements in charge of Undertaker Geo. M. Eastman.
The average Lowell citizen of 1917 who came across this short obituary in the Lowell Sun would have no idea of the role William H. Medley played in the Borden murder investigation in August 1892. We wonder, did the Medley family choose not to mention that aspect of his career, or did the Lowell Sun choose not to include that information in the obituary? Or is the reason a little of both? Most likely we will never know. However, I feel like I know Officer Medley a little bit better because of this small bit of research into his life, and having visited his final resting-place in Lowell.
Dziedzic, S. (2008). Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts: A Tapestry of Threads About the Borden Case, Fall River and the Victorian Era. Retrieved January 21, 2010 from http://sanctaflora.wordpress.com/?s=medley&submit=Search,.
Obituary, Lowell Sun, September 17, 1917.
“Thursday’s Affray No Clue as Yet to Its Perpetrator.” Fall River Herald, August 5, 1892. Retrieved January 21, 2010 from http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/LizzieBorden/news2.html
The Trial of Lizzie Andrew Borden Volume 1