The Rabbit Holes I Go Down

Category: People

Franklin Johnson

Franklin Johnson
Photo from

For seven years, I have researched and discovered that what I thought to be accurate based on what was presented by someone else wasn’t. Hopefully, my research can change perspectives. But to this day, other people’s perspectives and biases continue to misinterpret Franklin. Franklin has grabbed hold of my heart for whatever reason, and maybe, for this reason, I can help clear up any misperceptions.

I started this seven-year journey while volunteering at the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust. They own the Johnson Mansion on South Main Street and the Nehemiah Royce House on North Main Street; I was there for three years with a brief return last summer. They work hard to keep these properties relevant and the stories accompanying them. The Franklin Johnson Mansion is located at 153 South Main Street in Wallingford. Franklin’s Mansion was built in 1866 with his second wife Carolyn, who passed in September of 1867, not long after the completion of their mansion. They had two daughters, Emma and Ermina (Minnie). Franklin’s two sons from his first marriage were out of the house by then. After the death of his second wife, Franklin married Harriett Parker Patterson. They lived in the house until Franklin’s death, and Franklin’s property was divided evenly among all four of his children, even his single daughter Emma. This is something to note because this wasn’t done often then.

Photo of Franklin Johnson Mansion Built 1866 Photo from Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust

Wallingford has forgotten him and his family for the most part. I wonder if this is partly because his descendants don’t even know who he was. Were his stories lost to them? Or was it that the people of Wallingford found other people/families to keep in the forefront of its history?

Because of who Franklin was, I will have to tell his story in two parts. He was essential to the Town of Wallingford, and there is a great deal of information regarding Franklin. In brief, his roles included but were not limited to father, husband, Probate Judge, farmer, religious man, Member of the State General Assembly, Wallingford Selectman and Townsmen. For this first part of Franklin’s story, I have decided to concentrate on his role as it encompasses Slavery.

I bring slavery into Franklin’s story because recently, this was said about Franklin in an article about “Enslaved Wallingford: The Missing Chapter of Our American Narrative” in the “The namesake owners of the Johnson Mansion, another preservation trust property, also enslaved individuals” I know this might not seem as though it is important but believe me, it is. I am a massive supporter of the project; hell, I even helped with research for a bit. My issue, and the only issue, is this statement gives a false narrative.

The Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust has also worked hard on “Enslaved Wallingford: The Missing Chapter of Our American Narrative.” They have brought to light the enslaved and free African Americans of Wallingford, Cheshire, and Meriden; all three towns were originally within Wallingford’s borders. This significant project for the trust will be a permanent exhibit at The Royce House. They’ve also continue to work closely with The Witness Stones Project, Inc. Two Witness Stones have been placed in Wallingford, one at the Royce House and the other at St. Paul’s Church, both on North Main Street. While working on this project, they have uncovered the enslavers and the enslaved. So now, the named and unnamed enslaved of Wallingford will be remembered.

Some of the Johnson family did enslave people; they were enslaved by distant family members of Franklin’s, such as great Uncles, second cousins, and so on. Their names are part of the Enslaved Wallingford project and can be viewed at the Royce House. Such documents as Church records, censuses, newspapers, State Archives, historical books, wills, and land records have been used to identify the enslaved who have been lost to the rest of us. These exact records used by the team documenting the enslaved in Wallingford are the records that show no evidence of Franklin being an enslaver.

There have been many people of means who never had enslaved people, and to state that because someone was of such standards, this made them enslavers is a bit far-reaching. Franklin has been seen as an enslaver because he was a farmer, a man of excellent means, and his dissention of the Nebraska Bill.  That isn’t who he was, as far as the documentation suggests.  

His eldest son Homer joined the Union Army’s 27th Regiment Infantry, CT, on September 10th, 1862. His unit was captured in May 1863, but Homer was not there. He had been discharged due to disability on March 3rd, 1863. Thankfully he missed that action. My point in stating this is that because of the standard in which Franklin lived, he would have been able to pay for another to go to War in Homer’s place.

Philemon Bruce and Franklin Johnson’s signatures from the 1854 Minority Opinion captured from the digital archives of the Connecticut State Library

I have painstakingly transcribed this 20-page Minority Opinion from May of 1854. Connecticut State Library General Assembly Papers, Box 71, Folder13; pages 3-23 the year 1854, Franklin and fellow General Assemblyman Philemon Bruce were the minorities of the vote for the Nebraska Bill in the state of Connecticut. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t that they were pro-slavery they were Pro-law. They believed that Congress had no right to vote on Slavery in this particular context and that the vote to keep or abolish slavery was to be left to the states. His dissention says he was pro-slavery, but the facts about his life tell us something different. With such conflicting facts, it is hard to say for sure, but I still believe that until proven otherwise, Franklin is not the man he was made to be.

So go visit Franklin at his mansion, tell him I said hello and enjoy what the volunteers have to offer. They work extremally hard.


We can not rewrite history to forward our own agenda, any agenda for that matter!


This question came up recently; someone left a comment that Lizzie A. Borden, the Alleged Ax Murder, was buried at Connecticut Valley Hospital on the Youtube page for the paranormal group I’m involved with. Knowing that Lizzie A. Borden was from Massachusetts, I found this hard to believe.

I asked myself why would Lizzie Borden be buried here if she was from Massachusetts? Was Lizzie A. Borden’s body moved due to vandalism? Was CVH even in existence when she died and was there a cemetery? Are we sure there is even a Lizzie Borden buried in the cemetery for CVH? If so, who is she? Where was she from, and why would she have been brought there? Can I get answers to all the questions I have? What is Connecticut Valley Hospital and its history? Why would people be placed at Connecticut Valley Hospital?

The research began!

Some of these questions have been easy to get answers to, but others… well, we might not ever have answers. The State of Connecticut has restricted records for the patients, even though HIPPA wasn’t even in existence then and Lizzie has been dead for over 100 years. Since this is the case I was not able to physically see records from CVH. Even though records were restricted the Asst. State Archivist Allen Ramsey at CT State Library gave me as much information as he could. For that I’m thankful. I also got help from Chris Shields at Greenwich Historical Society, along with Judith Kudrah from Middletown Health Dept. I’ve gone to all that I thought would be able to help, checked record after record including historic maps. It might come down to never knowing Lizzie’s full story.

Just because we might not have this information now doesn’t mean down the line it won’t be available and I’ll possibly find out some other cool things in the meantime.

Is Lizzie A. Borden (Ax Murder) buried at Connecticut Valley Hospital Cemetery?

Not this Lizzie Borden

The Answer is NO!

According to historical facts, Lizzie Borden “Ax Murderer” was born 19th of July 1860 in Fall River, Mass. and died 1st of June 1927 in Fall River, Mass. of pneumonia alone at home. Lizzie A. Borden was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, Mass. So, she is not the Lizzie that laid to rest at CVH.

Don’t believe everything you see online!

The name Borden can be linked back to Richard (Joan) Borden, Kent County, England, through Boston to Portsmouth, RI. Lizzie A Borden is a descendant of Richard and Joan Borden. The Bordens Of Portsmouth eventually branched out and landed in Fall River, Mass., the eastern part of Connecticut and parts of New Jersey.
I was hoping to find the connection between Lizzie A. Borden Fall River and Lizzie of Connecticut but must to my disappointment I have not, not for lack of trying.

Historical and Genealogical Record of the Descendants as Far as Known of Richard and Joan Borden, who Settled in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Ma, 1638: With Historical and Biographical Sketches of Some of Their Descendants Jan1899 H.B. Weld

Was Connecticut Valley Hospital in existence when Lizzie died?


It is the oldest standing and running Mental Institution in Connecticut; the doors opened in 1868. Under the guidance of Dr. Abram M. Shrew, as the first Hospital of its kind in Connecticut. Then name Connecticut General Hospital. It has had several different incarnations throughout its existence, but its purpose has remained the same.

Some of the older buildings placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 collapsed or were demolished due to dangerous conditions.

Was there a cemetery on CVH property?

Monument at Connecticut Valley Hospital Cemetery

Well, of course, I already knew there was a cemetery at CVH. I’ve been a few times. The location of the cemetery is on Silvermine Rd in Middletown.

Connecticut Valley Hospital started to inter patients from its asylum, some criminally insane, in 1878 and continued this practice until 1957. Patients buried there were given only numbers due to the stigma around mentally disabled people.

 Numbered headstones were the only identifying features to the cemetery until as recent as the 1990s, when Rev. John Hall, Former minister of Middletown’s First Church of Christ, and the staff at CVH got permission from then-Attorney General Blumenthal for the names and information of the patients to be released. In 1999, Rev. John Hall started to read a hundred patient names each year for the next 17 years. There are 1686 numbered headstones; each represents a person (most) now identified. There is now a large memorial for these anonymous patients but only a number. Not everyone who passed had a tragic death; it is more likely that their life was tragic.

Particle article from The Hartford Courant 24 Dec 1919

The reasons for death range from infants dying during birth or shortly after, fire victims, suicide victims, and some were murder. In that environment, how could there not be violence?

It isn’t clear if patients were buried or cremated and then buried, from how the cemetery at CVH is laid out the patients could very well have been cremated.

The first time we went, it was melancholy to be there. The second time it felt a bit happier and like their spirits remembered us from our first visit. I won’t go into much more detail on the paranormal side. I know that there are people who still question it, I won’t get into a debate on it.

There have been many articles written on what folks have done to give reignition to the lost. Connecticut Valley Hospital Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

Why would People be placed at Connecticut Valley Hospital?

This list comes from The West Virginia Hospital for the Insane

Many people of little means might have been placed in State Hospitals due to lack of funds. Instead, they became wards of the State. Historically men and women would be admitted to Insane Asylums for the most INSANE reasons. Pun intended! The list from West Virginia Hospital for the Insane will give a pretty good look at some of the reasons for commitment.

The story of Elizabeth Packard gives an example of why a woman would be admitted to an Asylum.

 The treatment of the patients, whether Insane or not, was atrocious. Nellie Bly experienced these atrocities firsthand in 1887 when she went undercover as an inmate at Bellevue Hospital on Blackwell’s Island, which today is Roosevelt Island in New York. Nellie’s book Ten Days In A Mad House gives great details to what life was like for patients at any State Asylum in this country in the late 19th early 20th Centuries.

Is there a Lizzie Borden buried in the cemetery at CVH? If so, who is she?

This record comes from the Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions From

Yes, there is a Lizzie Borden buried at CVH.

Lizzie’s Headstone

 A simple headstone with the number 476 lets us know where she is. Her cause of death was cancer of the uterus. She passed away at Connecticut Valley Hospital on the 7th of May 1909.

Lizzie Borden was born in 1851 in Ireland; a lack of identifying information of her birth was on the death certificate. At her death, the following information was given: Widow, place of birth listed as Ireland, her parents are listed as being from Ireland. Unfortunately, no names for family members were filled in on the death certificate.

Where was she from, and why was she brought here?

Courtesy of Middletown Health Dept.

The death certificate for Lizzie states that she lived in Greenwich, CT. The Asst. Archivist from the CT State Library said “Lizzie’s admission date to CVH was the 6th of September 1904.” He also stated “The hospital authorities typically relied on the patient to provide this information and Lizzie’s memory according to the file was not very good.  She was committed by a Selectman of Greenwich and not by any family members.” The first selectman at this time was Silas D. Ritch he served from 1904 to 1909. This likely means she was a ward of the Town of Greenwich, and living in the Town Poor Farm.

With the above statements from the Asst. Archivist of the State can we trust what was given on the death certificate?

Could this be Lizzie?

I have taken a great deal of time and resources looking for Lizzie. She has made it extremely difficult to find her. Although I think I have found one more tidbit of information on Lizzie I can’t prove with 100% that it is indeed her. I will share what I have found and why I truly think this is her.

A census record from 1870 gives the name Irish Lizzie, she’s about 20 years old, both parents are foreigners she can not read or write. She also works as a Domestic and for a family that was one of the original families of Greenwich and well-off. The Mead family was well established in Greenwich at this time and lived in the same area as the Town Farm(Poor House).

Map of Greenwich, CT from 1900 with georeference from David Rumsey Map Collection

Could it be that Lizzie could speak proper English and was difficult to understand with a thick Irish accent that she was dubbed, Irish Lizzie? Could she have taken Borden as her name, as some enslaved would? Could Borden have been her given name? Could she have been in a relationship with someone named Borden and that she was never married? All are possibilities. It seems that I have exhausted my search for dear Lizzie. Maybe she doesn’t want her complete story told.

Taking a hard look at the collective information on Lizzie, she very well could be Irish Lizzie, but again due to lack of evidence I can’t with all certainty say that it is her. Lizzie is giving more questions than answers. She has truly been the most difficult person to find information on and I have so much and again so little.

I hope that the lost are at peace with their identity known, and as for the few that remain unnamed, I hope someday they won’t be lost any longer.

If any more information comes my way, I will update this post.

Thank you to the kind person that went to visit Lizzie. I went again today, 1/29/24, to visit her after going this past summer.


Painting associated with Martha Carrier

Martha, how do I share someone that has been written about over and over? I will share here as I see her: a BADASS!

When I started my family tree 9 years ago I discovered my 13th Great Grandmother Martha (Allen) Carrier, AKA “THE QUEEN OF HELL.” A slur given to her during the Salem Witch Trials. She was born in 1643 and executed on August 19, 1692 by the people of Salem, Mass.

Martha was the daughter of Andrew Allen, Founder of Massachusetts and Faith (Ingalls). Yes, as in Laura Ingalls Wilder, a story for another day, maybe?! Her husband was Thomas (Morgan) Carrier a Welsh indentured servant and know to be the executioner for King Charles the 1st.

She managed the dealings of her home and family. Not just women’s work, but such business that in the 17th century would have been overseen by the head of the household, her husband Thomas. She had been suspicious and had little trust in others. Especially neighbors who attempted to take her family’s land and cheat her husband out of dealings, met with the sharp tongue. Another unfortunate fact of the 17th-century, land seldom was given to women as an inheritance. It would have been willed to her husband or male children. The fact the land was in her name was progressive.

Martha’s family had moved back to Andover, Mass from Billericain the 1680’s to take care of her mother. Before their move, her family contracted Smallpox and brought it with them to Andover. Smallpox then killed her two brothers, sister-in-law, and nephew. Martha’s surviving family were her husband, son Richard, Andrew, Thomas and Daughter’s Sarah and Hannah. Because of this and her steadfast outspokenness, it gave her neighbors one reason too many to dub her a witch.

Shortly after what is known as the Salem Witch Trials began. Martha, her two oldest sons, Andrew, and Richard along with her daughter Sarah were all arrested in 1690 and tried as witches. Her three children confessed to being witches. As a mother, I can see Martha standing strong and allowing her children to confess to save them from the torture they endure along with whatever fate lied ahead for herself.

Martha never once confessed to being a witch instead pled “NOT GUILTY,” she was steadfast, angry, and belligerently defiant. Even while standing at the gallows Martha maintained her innocence, shouting, “I would rather die than confess a falsehood so filthy” Even at the point of the complete silence she was facing she stood tall and strong and showed us all what a true women would do for her family. I am guessing this extremely strong woman had remarkable genes and they have been handed down to her descendants, myself for one. To that I say Thank You Grandmother, your story will not be forgotten.

A discovery was made that Proctors Ledge, (currently someone’s backyard) is the location of the executions not Gallows Hill as was previously thought. Proctor’s Ledge Memorial has a small tree placed in the center as a reminder to us all that the “Witches” were hung from trees and not a wooden structure. After the hangings the “Witches” were forbidden a Christian burial and their bodies were to be left at the hanging site. It has been revealed that families would come in the dead of night and take down their family members and bury them. I believe this is what happens for Martha.

There is documentation that Thomas was given money as restitution for Martha’s death at this time Thomas and sons removed to Colchester, CT. in 1702, to land that is now on the corner of Kellogg Rd and S. Main St. When Route 2 was constructed 1950-1970, a family cemetery was discovered. When removing the graves some remains were not accounted for with headstones. One of a child, possibly the child that Thomas and Martha lost in 1680 and the remains of an adult woman. Could this be Martha? I would like to think so. I also would like to think that Thomas properly buried the wife he lost to torture and death in Salem. They are all now together in the (New) Marlboro Cemetery in Marlboro, CT.