Tuesday, July 25, 2006
7/25/06- THE LAST DAYS
THE GILLETTE FAMILY WAS REALLY DESPERATE NOW. THEIR OLDEST SON, CHESTER'S APPEAL FOR A NEW TRIAL HAS BEEN DENIED BY THE NEW YORK STATE COURT OF APPEALS. HIS SENTENCE TO DEATH IN THE ELECTRIC CHAIR FOR THE MURDER OF GRACE BROWN HAD NOT ONLY BEEN UPHELD, BUT IT WAS OFFICIALLY SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 30, 1908, WHICH DID NOT GIVE THEM ENOUGH TIME TO TRY ONE MORE THING THAT COULD SAVE THEIR SON'S LIFE, AND THAT WAS GOING DIRECTLY TO THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK STATE, CHARLES EVANS HUGHES.
AND SO WITH WEEKS TO GO BEFORE BEFORE THEIR SON'S EXECUTION, FRANK AND LOUISA GILLETTE, ALONG WITH THEIR 14-YEAR-OLD SON, PAUL, BOARDED A TRAIN AT THE STATION IN DENVER, COLORADO FOR THE THREE-DAY JOURNEY BACK TO NEW YORK STATE.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN AUBURN, THE WARDEN OF AUBURN PRISON INFORMED CHESTER OF THE COURT OF APPEALS' DECISION. ALTHOUGH HE TOOK THE NEWS CALMLY, CHESTER HAD DISPLAYED A HINT OF BITTERNESS THAT THE SYSTEM HAD FAILED HIM LIKE THAT. IN A LATER STATEMENT, HE SAID, "I DON'T BELIEVE THAT I AM ONE-HUNDREDTH AS GUILTY AS HARRY THAW, BUT THERE IS NOTHING BEFORE ME BUT THE ELECTRIC CHAIR, AND LOOK AT HIM, WITH FREEDOM JUST AHEAD OF HIM. HUNDREDS SAW HIM FIRE THE SHOT THAT KILLED (SANFORD) WHITE AND THEY WANT TO ELECTROCUTE ME ON CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE."
THE "HARRY THAW" THAT CHESTER REFERRED TO WAS THE OTHER MAJOR MURDER CASE IN 1906. IN JUNE OF 1906, A MONTH BEFORE CHESTER KILLED GRACE AT BIG MOOSE LAKE, ECCENTRIC PLAYBOY HARRY THAW GUNNED DOWN WELL-KNOWN ARCHITECT SANFORD WHITE IN NEW YORK CITY BECAUSE THE LATTER MADE A PLAY FOR A 16-YEAR-OLD SHOWGIRL WHOM HARRY LOVED AND LATER MARRIED. DURING HIS TRIAL, HE USED THE INSANITY PLEA, MAINLY BECAUSE HE WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS, AND SUCCESSFULLY EVADED A MURDER CHARGE AND A TRIP TO THE CHAIR.
WHEN THE GILLETTE CASE OVERSHADOWED THE THAW CASE, EVERYONE WAS CONVINCED THAT CHESTER WOULD FOLLOW THE SAME COURSE AS HARRY THAW AND USE THE INSANITY PLEA, BUT DISTRICT ATTORNEY GEORGE WARD ANTICIPATED IT AND REQUESTED A SANITY TEST. SOME OF THE METHODS USED INVOLVED THE USE OF NEEDLES AND EVEN A WEIGHT WAS DROPPED ON HIS FOOT. BASICALLY CONSIDERED INQUISITION-STYLE, BUT CHESTER WAS CONSIDERED SANE AND WAS THEREFORE CONVICTED.
THE FAMILY ARRIVED AT AUBURN AND WAS REUNITED WITH CHESTER. FOR HIS FATHER AND YOUNGER BROTHER, IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT THEY HAD SEEN CHESTER IN THREE YEARS. AFTER THE REUNION, THE FAMILY SPLIT UP AND WENT TO CORTLAND AND HERKIMER TO GET SOME NEW EVIDENCE AND SUPPORTERS TO HELP THEM PETITION TO GOVERNOR HUGHES. THEY HAD NEARLY GIVEN UP ALL HOPE THAT CHESTER WOULD EVER GET A NEW TRIAL, BUT THEIR GOAL NOW WAS TO GET HIS SENTENCE COMMUTED TO LIFE IN PRISON. IT WAS ONE OF THE MANY POWERS THAT THE GOVERNOR HAD IN CAPITAL CRIMINAL CASES.
TWO DAYS BEFORE THE EXECUTION, THE GILLETTE FAMILY ARRIVED AT THE GOVERNOR'S MANSION IN ALBANY AND PRESENTED THEIR CASE TO GOVERNOR HUGHES. LOUISA PRESENTED SOME SHOCKING NEW EVIDENCE THAT GRACE'S DEATH WAS THE RESULT OF EPILEPSY. THERE WERE CO-WORKERS THAT CLAIMED TO BACK UP LOUISA'S NEW THEORY AND TESTIFIED THAT THEY SAW GRACE SUFFER SEIZURES AND SPASMS FROM TIME TO TIME. HOWEVER, THAT CLAIM WAS LATER DISCREDITED. THEN THERE WAS A RATHER ODD TESTIMONY FROM A 20-YEAR-OLD SCOTIA MAN THAT CLAIMED THAT HE HAD SEX WITH GRACE AND THAT HE WAS THE ONE WHO GOT HER PREGNANT. HE ALSO CLAIMED TO HAVE PAID HER SOME HUSH MONEY TO BLAME THE PREGNANCY ON CHESTER. HE WAS DISMISSED BY THE GOVERNOR AS A PUBLICITY-SEEKER. HE LATER FLED THE COUNTRY AFTER LEARNING THAT THERE WAS A WARRANT OUT FOR HIS ARREST.
WHILE AWAITING HUGHES' DECISION, THE GILLETTES RETURNED TO AUBURN WHERE THEY MET WITH CHESTER FOR THE LAST TIME. LOUISA ASKED HIM IF THERE WAS ANYTHING THAT HE NEEDED TO CONFESS TO HER, HE HAD TO DO IT BEFORE HE DIED. CHESTER REPLIED THAT HE ALREADY CONFESSED TO GOD AND TO HIS SPIRITUAL ADVISOR. LOUISA INSISTED THAT IT WAS NOT ENOUGH AND THAT HE HAD TO CONFESS TO HER TOO, BUT CHESTER DID NOT. AFTER SHE LEFT, LOUISA BEGAN TO DOUBT THAT CHESTER WAS INNOCENT OF THE MURDER CHARGE.
CHESTER SPENT THAT LAST DAY TYPING UP FINAL LETTERS TO HIS FAMILY AS WELL AS HIS FINAL STATEMENT. IN A LETTER TO HIS BROTHER, PAUL, CHESTER ENCLOSED A PHOTO OF GRACE AS A WARNING TO HIM NOT TO SUCCUMB TO HIS SAME FATE AS THE RESULT OF TEMPTATION.
THAT NIGHT, GOVERNOR HUGHES, WHO REJECTED LOUISA'S PLEA FOR CLEMENCY, POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT HE WAS CONSIDERED TO BE IN THE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, CALLED THE PRISON AND TALKED TO THE WARDEN, BUT THE NATURE OF THE CALL WAS UNKNOWN. HAD HE DECIDED TO INTERVENE AFTER ALL? OR WAS HE CALLING TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING WAS READY FOR THE EXECUTION THE NEXT DAY? WE'LL NEVER KNOW, BUT ONE THING WAS FOR CERTAIN. MARCH 30, 1908 WAS GOING TO BE A BIG DAY INDEED.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
It has been a very trying week with the memorial for Grace Brown happening this past Tuesday at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks. About 200 people witnessed the memorial wreath being placed in the lake that day, including descendants of Grace herself. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. Due to work commitments, I could not attend and I was very devastated about that. As I mentioned in my last blog, I made arrangements to have a dozen red roses sent up to the lake, along with a brief message to Grace.
In addition to posting my last entry, I spent that unhappy Tuesday thinking about Grace. I am not related to her in any way, but I certainly felt terrible about not being there. I found nearly every thought that I had that day to be about her. I could hardly get to sleep and I was so choked up. I have only been involved with Grace's story for a year as of this past Wednesday and I haven't really known about Grace that long, but I felt like I have lost someone very close to me.
In a way, I have but at the same time, I feel as though I gained one as well. It is as if Grace has become a permanent part of me.
Since then, I have been trying to take it easy as I go through the mourning process, which is why I haven't posted anything since that day. I have posted a brief memorial blog on my Yahoo 360 site, but other than that, I have been trying to take it easy as I go through this period.
I also watched news reports in connection with that day and I learned that Grace's relative did not know about his relation to her until the day he had to read Theodore Dreiser's novel, "An American Tragedy" in college. At first he told his father that the book was all right, but it wasn't until his father told him that the book was about his grandmother's sister (Grace) that he became interested in the book.
When he came to Big Moose that day, he brought with him several of Grace's personal effects, including her school-age diary, her baby cradle, and a lock of her hair.
Hopefully, Grace received my flowers and my message to her and hopefully the day will come when I will finally be able to go up to Big Moose and I will finally be able to pay my respects to the famous young writer from Chenango County who has captured not only the hearts of dozens of people all over the world but mine as well.
And now that the memorial is over, I can finally get back to the story of Chester Gillette's last days, but that will have to wait until sometime next week.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Well, it's here at last. Today is officially the 100th anniversary of Grace Brown's tragic murder at Big Moose Lake at the the hands of her one-time lover, Chester Gillette, an event that historians have referred to as "The Murder That Will Never Die."
Today, thousands of people from all over the country will be at the site where Grace was killed. The events that they have planned include the unveiling of a historic marker at the site of the Glenmore Hotel where Chester and Grace embarked on their fatal rowboat ride, as well as a stamp cancellation where a stamp commemorating the murder's anniversary will be revealed. There will also be boat tours on the lake during the day following the route that Chester and Grace took in the rowboat. There will also be a book signing by Craig Brandon, the leading expert on the case and author of the books "Murder in the Adirondacks" and most recently, "Grace Brown's Love Letters."
The main event will happen in the afternoon when boats will gather at the site where Grace's body was found on July 12, 1906. The final letter will be recited and a memorial wreath will be placed in the lake by a descendant of Marjorie Carey, the woman who heard Grace's final scream. Descendants of the key players in the case will be in the boat, including Grace's descendants.
Sadly, I will not be up there due to work commitments that I could not get out of. That is why I am online here at the library instead of up there. However, I decided to make a last minute addition. I arranged to have a dozen red roses sent up to be put in the lake along with the wreath. I got this idea from her letters in which she stated that she loved red roses. The roses are basically to let Grace know that even though I could not be up there for her memorial, it will at least let her know that I haven't forgotten her.
When I delivered them to the Historical Society yesterday morning, I was told that by buying the roses, I had done the best thing possible for Grace. Even though I could not be up there, I may still have another chance to pay my respects to Grace in August when I go on the bus trip because one of the stops is to her grave in South Otselic. Then I was offered the suggestion that if I ever did go to Big Moose Lake that it would be best if I went alone so that it would be a private matter between myself and Grace. In some ways, I do think that it would be the best thing for me to do.
Tomorrow is another anniversary of sorts. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the day I became involved with the Gillette Case when I stumbled upon that newspaper clipping. Since then I have learned enough via the books on the case and the Internet to launch this site. Also in the process, I found myself developing feelings for Grace, especially after receiving a copy of the final letter. It is like she has become a permanent part of me.
In closing, I would like to say one more thing. To Grace, wherever you are, I hope that you like the flowers that I sent up for you. May you continue to rest in peace.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
7/5/06- THE FINAL LETTER
MY ORIGINAL PLANS FOR TODAY AFTER MY FOUR-DAY WEEKEND WAS TO GO BACK TO THE STORY OF CHESTER GILLETTE'S LAST DAYS, BUT THEN I REALIZED THAT TODAY'S DATE, JULY 5, MARKS THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NIGHT THAT GRACE BROWN WROTE HER IMMORTAL FINAL LETTER TO HIM BEFORE SHE WENT UP ON HER FATAL TRIP TO THE ADIRONDACKS. UPON REALIZING THIS, I REALIZED THAT TODAY, I WOULD RECOPY THE LETTER THAT HAD BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE GREATEST LOVE LETTERS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU, HERE IT IS, COMPLETE, UNCUT, AND UNEDITED.
"MY DEAR CHESTER:
I AM CURLED UP BY THE KITCHEN FIRE AND YOU WOULD SHOUT IF YOU COULD SEE ME. EVERYONE ELSE IS IN BED. THE GIRLS CAME UP AND WE HAVE SHOT THE LAST FIRECRACKERS AND OUR LAWN LOOKS ABOUT AS GREEN AS THE CORTLAND HOUSE CORNER. I WILL TELL YOU ALL ABOUT MY FOURTH WHEN I SEE YOU. I HOPE YOU HAD A NICE TIME.
THIS IS THE LAST LETTER I CAN WRITE DEAR. I FEEL AS THOUGH YOU WERE NOT COMING DEAR. PERHAPS THAT IS NOT RIGHT, BUT I CAN'T HELP FEELING THAT I AM NEVER GOING TO SEE YOU AGAIN. HOW I WISH THIS WAS MON.
I AM GOING DOWN AND STAY WITH MAUDE NEXT SUN. NIGHT, DEAR AND THEN GO TO DE RUYTER THE NEXT MORNING AND WILL GET THERE ABOUT TEN O'CLOCK. IF YOU TAKE THE 9:45 TRAIN FROM THE LEHIGH THERE, YOU WILL GET THERE AT ABOUT ELEVEN. I AM SORRY I COULD NOT GO TO HAMILTON, DEAR, BUT PAPA AND MAMA DID NOT WANT ME TO AND THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS I HAVE HAD TO WORK HARD FOR IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS. THEY THINK THAT I AM JUST GOING DOWN TO DE RUYTER FOR A VISIT.
NOW, DEAR, WHEN I GET THERE, I WILL GO AT ONCE TO THE HOTEL AND I DON'T THINK THAT I WILL SEE ANY OF THE PEOPLE. IF I DO, AND THEY ASK ME TO COME TO THE HOUSE, I WILL SAY SOMETHING SO THAT THEY WILL NOT MISTRUST ANYTHING. TELL THEM THAT I HAVE A FRIEND COMING FROM CORTLAND AND THAT WE WERE TO MEET THERE TO GO TO A FUNERAL OR WEDDING IN SOME TOWN FARTHER ALONG. AWFULLY STUPID, BUT WE WERE INVITED TO COME AND AS I HAD TO CUT MY VACATION A LITTLE SHORT AND GO. WILL THAT BE ALL O.K., DEAR? MAYBE THAT WOULD BE JUST WHAT I WILL SAY BUT DON'T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING FOR I WILL MANAGE SOMEHOW.
ONLY I WANT YOU TO COME IN THE MORNING FOR I DON'T WANT TO WAIT THERE IN THE HOTEL ALL DAY FOR IF THEY SHOULD SEE ME THERE AND ALL DAY THEY WOULD THINK FUNNY I DID NOT GO TO THE HOUSE. YOU MUST COME IN THE MORNING FOR I HAVE HAD TO MAKE- YOU DON'T KNOW HOW MANY NEW PLANS SINCE YOUR LAST LETTER- IN ORDER TO MEET YOU MON. I DISLIKE WAITING UNTIL MON., BUT NOW THAT I HAVE, I DON'T THINK IF ANYTHING ONLY FAIR THAT YOU SHOULD COME UP MON. MORNING.
BUT DEAR, YOU MUST SEE THE NECESSITY YOURSELF OF GETTING THERE AND NOT MAKING ME WAIT. IF YOU DISLIKE THE IDEA OF COMING MON. MORNING AND CAN GET A TRAIN UP THERE SUN. NIGHT, YOU COULD COME UP SUN. NIGHT AND BE THERE TO MEET ME. PERHAPS THAT WOULD BE THE BEST WAY. ALL I CARE IS I DON'T WANT TO WAIT THERE ALL DAY OR A HALF DAY. I THINK THERE IS A TRAIN THAT LEAVES THE LEHIGH AT SIX-SOMETHING SUN. NIGHT. I DON'T KNOW WHAT WOULD DO IF YOU WERE NOT THERE OR DID NOT COME. I AM ABOUT CRAZY NOW.
I HAVE BEEN BIDDING GOODBYE TO SOME PLACES TODAY. THERE ARE SO MANY NOOKS, DEAR, AND ALL OF THEM SO DEAR TO ME. I HAVE LIVED HERE NEARLY ALL MY LIFE. FIRST, I SAID GOODBYE TO THE SPRING HOUSE WITH ITS GREAT MASSES OF GREEN MOSS, THEN THE APPLE TREE WHERE WE HAD OUR PLAYHOUSE, THEN THE "BEEHIVE," A CUTE LITTLE HOUSE IN THE ORCHARD, AND OF COURSE, ALL THE NEIGHBORS WHO HAVE MENDED MY DRESSES FROM A LITTLE TOT UP TO SAVE ME A THRASHING I REALLY DESERVED.
OH! DEAR, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT ALL OF THIS IS TO ME. I KNOW I SHALL NEVER SEE ANY OF THEM AGAIN. AND MAMA- GREAT HEAVENS- HOW I DO LOVE MAMA. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WILL DO WITHOUT HER. SHE IS NEVER CROSS AND SHE ALWAYS HELPS ME SO MUCH. SOMETIMES I THINK IF I COULD TELL MAMA, BUT I CAN'T. SHE HAS TROUBLE ENOUGH AS IT IS AND I COULDN'T BREAK HER HEART LIKE THAT. IF I COME BACK DEAD PERHAPS, IF SHE DOES KNOW, SHE WON'T BE ANGRY WITH ME. I WILL NEVER BE HAPPY AGAIN, DEAR. I WISH I COULD DIE. YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE MADE ME SUFFER, DEAR. I MISS YOU AND WANT TO SEE YOU, BUT I WISH I COULD DIE.
I AM GOING TO BED NOW, DEAR. PLEASE COME AND DON'T LET ME WAIT THERE. IT IS FOR BOTH OF US TO BE THERE. IF YOU HAVE MADE PLANS FOR SOMETHING SUN. NIGHT, YOU MUST COME MON. MORNING. PLEASE THINK, DEAR, THAT I I HAD TO GIVE UP A WHOLE SUMMER'S PLEASURE IF YOU WOULD SURELY BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO GIVE UP ONE EVENING FOR ME. I SHALL EXPECT AND LOOK FOR YOU MON. FORENOON.
HEAVEN BLESS YOU UNTIL THEN.
LOVINGLY AND WITH KISSES,
I WILL GO RIGHT TO THE TABOR HOUSE AND YOU COME FOR ME THERE. I WISH YOU COULD COME UP SUN. NIGHT SO AS TO BE THERE AND SWEETHEART, I THINK IT WOULD BE EASIER FOR YOU. PLEASE COME UP SUN. NIGHT, DEAR."
AS YOU CAN SEE, THIS LETTER IS CLEARLY ONE OF THE GREATEST MASTERPIECES EVER PUT ON PAPER AND WHEN THIS LETTER WAS READ AT THE TRIAL, IT WAS COMPARED TO WORKS BY THE MOST POPULAR AUTHORS OF THAT ERA. I AM VERY FORTUNATE TO BE ONE OF THE FEW WHO ACTUALLY HAS A COPY OF THIS HISTORICAL DOCUMENT. THE ORIGINAL IS KEPT IN THE RARE BOOKS COLLECTION AT HAMILTON COLLEGE BUT THERE HAVE BEEN PLANS FOR THE LETTERS TO BECOME AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET FOR FUTURE RESEARCHERS.
AND SO, TOMORROW, I HOPE TO GET BACK TO THE STORY ABOUT CHESTER'S LAST DAYS BECAUSE I HAVE PLANS TO REPORT ON THE MEMORIAL FOR GRACE NEXT WEEK AND I HAVE TO GET CAUGHT UP HERE.