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Dr. Seabury Warren Bowen

Definition: Dr. Seabury Warren Bowen (1840-1918) was the Borden family's physician, living across the street from them for twenty years.
Dr. Seabury Warren Bowen (1840-1918) was the Borden family's physician, living across the street from them for twenty years.

Dr. Seabury Warren Bowen (1840-1918) was the Borden family's physician, living across the street from them for twenty years. He was the first medical man to examine Andrew Borden's body after his death, and the first male to arrive on the scene after Lizzie had raised the alarm. Dr. Bowen's involvement on the crime scene; his familiarity with the Bordens and the events leading up to the murders; his medical treatment of Lizzie in the aftermath of the tragedy; and his professional relationship with the citizens of the city, all make him a very key character in the tragedy.

Dr. Bowen was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts and graduated from Brown University, also obtaining medical degrees from University of Michigan and the Bellevue Hospital Medical College. He arrived in Fall River in the late 1860s, eventually marrying Phoebe Vincent Miller, the daughter of Southard Miller, the man who built the Borden's house at 92 Second Street. For many years, Dr. Bowen lived in a house diagonally across from the Bordens, sharing a duplex with Mr. Miller and his wife. Because of his physically proximity and his role as the Bordens' family physician, he had ample opportunity to interact with the family in both a social, as well as professional capacity.

Dr. Bowen's role in the tragedy began early on the morning of Wednesday, August 3rd, when Abby Borden, feeling very ill, came across the street and knocked upon his door. Abby seemed so sick that Dr. Bowen believed she would vomit on the spot, and went to get something in which she could be sick. Abby asked him whether he thought their baker's bread could be poisoned, and Dr. Bowen responded by reminding her that if the bread had been so poisoned, more people in town would have been sick. He suggested that she take some castor oil and sent her home. However, Dr. Bowen later went to the Borden house of his own volition to see how the other members of the family were doing. Andrew, answering the door, rudely told him that he did not require his services. Presumably, Andrew thought that the bismuth powders that he was self-administering would be sufficient to calm the family's illnesses and he could thus avoid a doctor's bill.

Early the next morning, Dr. Bowen, who had a carriage and a boy driver, was called away to Tiverton to see a client. Accordingly, he was not home when Bridget Sullivan came knocking on his door after the discovery of Andrew's body. Subsequently arriving home, he was confronted by his wife, who told him that he was needed at the Borden house. Fearing that the mysterious illness that plagued them the day before had grown worse, he rushed to the house, only to discover both Lizzie and Mrs. Churchill standing on the back porch. Bridget, who had run to fetch Alice Russell, had not yet returned.

Dr. Bowen testified that Lizzie had said to him that her father had been "stabbed." He went to the sitting room, where he was confronted by the gruesome crime scene. The only examination he made was to check Andrew's pulse and then, satisfied that he was dead, he ordered Bridget to fetch a sheet to cover him up. Lizzie explained to him that she had been in the barn looking for some iron, and that Mrs. Borden was not at home, being that she had been called away by a note announcing that someone was sick. Lizzie then asked the doctor to telegraph her sister, who was staying with friends in Fair Haven. The doctor then left the crime scene, just as Officer Allen, the first policeman on the scene, was arriving. Dr. Bowen took his carriage to the telegraph office, where, as Lizzie had requested, he sent a telegraph to Emma.

After returning to the house, Dr. Bowen was informed by Mrs. Churchill that Mrs. Borden had been found upstairs, and he climbed the front stairs to examine the body. At first, he thought that the woman had witnessed her husband's death and had then run upstairs where she had fainted. However, the doctor soon determined that she was dead. However, this did not prevent the police statements from stating that he had incompetently assumed Abby had died of fright. At the trial, Dr. Bowen staunchly denied this was the case. He had been the first person to discover that Abby had been killed by a sharp instrument, and he surmised that it was most likely the same instrument that had killed Andrew.

Dr. Dolan, the City Medical Examiner, soon arrived on the scene and the two doctors went upstairs and moved the body of Abby Borden for a closer examination. It is important to note that this was performed before the arrival of the police photographer, so the positioning of the victim's feet and hands in the crime scene photos are not necessarily those of their original setting.

Dr. Bowen found Lizzie downstairs in the kitchen, "being worked on" by Alice Russell and Mrs. Churchill. He suggested that she go to her room, where he administered a dose of bromo caffeine to calm her nerves; he repeated the dose an hour later. The next day, he gave her a dose of morphine, then doubled the dose on Saturday evening. Dr. Bowen continued to give Lizzie double doses of morphine through her arrest and her appearance at the inquest, a point brought out at the trial by her counsel. Obviously, her attorney sought to emphasize how Lizzie's judgment, memory, and view of things may have been altered by the drug, thereby implying that her inquest testimony, which was largely criticized for its inconsistencies and contradictions, was unreliable. In fact, Lizzie's performance at the inquest was so poor that, in a letter to Attorney General Pilsbury, Prosecutor Knowlton called Lizzie's inquest testimony a "confession".

Two curious bits of testimony are related to Dr. Bowen. Alice Russell claimed that the doctor questioned Lizzie about the alleged note that Mrs. Borden had received right before her murder. He had looked in the wastebasket and asked Alice if the note was to be found in Mrs. Borden's pockets. Lizzie then agreed that the missing note must have been put into the stove to be burned. This by itself is not so remarkable, although it does seem to suggest rather convincingly that Lizzie had lied about it. However, a police statement by Officers Harrington and Dougherty states that they witnessed Dr. Bowen, in the presence of others, burning some scraps of paper in the stove. When they asked what they were, Dr. Bowen explained that they were of no consequence and that they had something to do with his daughter. One of the officers saw the word "Emma" on one of the papers, and when they looked into the top of the stove, they saw other papers that had been incompletely burned on the weak fire. This very strange statement by the officers has led to speculation about whether Dr. Seabury Bowen knew more than he was then revealing.

Dr. Bowen died in 1918, after many decades of service to the Fall River community, and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.



The Borden Murders


Related Categories:

| Borden Murders and Trial | Borden, Lizzie | Lizzie and Emma Borden - After the Murders | ONeil, Nance | Borden, Andrew | Borden Folk Rhyme | Borden, Abby | Sullivan, Bridget | Morse, John | Churchill, Adelaide | Borden, Emma | Lizzie Borden Alibi | Russell, Alice | The Lizzie Borden Trial or The Lizzie Borden Case | | Fourteen Reasons to Believe Lizzie Murdered Her Parents | Lizzie Borden - Net Worth | Hauntings at the Borden House | Hauntings at the Borden House - 2 | Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden | Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts | Murder in the Well | LIZZIE BORDEN Documentary | Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast |


  external linkDr. Seabury Bowen | Cast of Characters | The Lizzie Borden Collection



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