Cassie Chadwick

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Cassie L. Chadwick
Cabinet card image of Cassie Chadwick from 1904[1]
Born Elizabeth Bigley
(1857-10-10)10 October 1857
Eastwood, United Province of Canada
Died 10 October 1907(1907-10-10) (aged 50)[2]
Columbus, Ohio
Other names Elizabeth Cunard
Emily Heathcliff
Lydia DeVere
Lydia Springsteen
Marie LaRose
Cassie Hoover
Cassie Chadwick
Cassie L. Chadwick
Occupation Clairvoyant/Fortune teller
Criminal charge forgery
seven counts forgery and seven counts conspiracy
Criminal penalty 14 years prison and $70,000 fine[3]
Criminal status


Columbus Ohio State Penitentiary[4]
Spouse(s) Dr. Wallace S. Springsteen
John R. Scott
Dr. Leroy S. Chadwick
Children Emil Hoover
Parent(s) Dan Bigley
Annie Bigley
Motive Money
Conviction(s) 9½ years

Cassie L. Chadwick (10 October 1857 – 10 October 1907) is the infamous name used by a Canadian woman who defrauded several U.S. banks out of millions of dollars[5] by claiming to be an illegitimate daughter and heiress of Andrew Carnegie.[6]

Early life[edit]

She was born Elizabeth Bigley on 10 October 1857 in Eastwood, Ontario[7] Her parents, Dan and Annie, owned a small farm in Eastwood. She had three sisters: Alice, Mary, and Emily, and a brother, Bill. Her father worked for the Grand Trunk Railway as a section boss[7] and was often away from the homestead.

“Betsy”, as she was known to her family, was known to daydream and tell fibs as a child.

At the age of 14,[8] Chadwick went to Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. There she opened a bank account with a dubious letter of inheritance from an "unknown" uncle in England and a small amount of cash. While there, Chadwick passed several worthless cheques to various merchants. In 1870, she was arrested in Woodstock for forgery. She was released due to her age and on the grounds of insanity.

Following a three-year absence from Eastwood, she returned to discover her sister Alice had married Bill York, a carpenter from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1875. Alice had moved to Cleveland with her new husband. Chadwick promptly boarded a train and headed south for the United States of America.

Start in the U.S.[edit]

After a brief stay with her sister and brother-in-law, she rented the lower floor of a house at 149 Garden Street, Cleveland from a Mrs. Brown. Chadwick, claiming to be widowed, assumed the mystic name Madame Lydia DeVere.[9] She set up shop as a clairvoyant with funds from a bank loan on the York's furniture.

In 1882, as Lydia DeVere, she married Dr. Wallace S. Springsteen in Cleveland, Ohio. The couple exchanged vows before a Justice of the Peace on 21 November 1882. She took the name Mrs. Lydia Springsteen and moved into the doctor’s house at 3 Garden Street. A photograph and story appeared in Cleveland’s newspaper, The Plain Dealer.

The newspaper article led her sister, Alice York, and various trades-people to the home of Dr. Springsteen, demanding payment for debts his wife had accumulated. After Dr. Springsteen confirmed the stories about her past, he threw her out of the house. Dr. Springsteen filed for divorce (which was granted early in 1883) and settled her debts.

Chadwick again established herself as a clairvoyant in Cleveland. As Madame Marie LaRose, she met her next husband. In 1883, she married John R. Scott, a farmer from Trumbull County, Ohio. She convinced Mr. Scott to sign a prenuptial agreement, citing abuse from her first husband. After four years of farm life, she went, prenuptial in hand, to a lawyer in Youngstown, Ohio. She left a sworn statement confessing adultery and directed her lawyer to file for divorce.

First U.S. fraud trial[edit]

In 1889 she again resorted to forgery. Chadwick was convicted and sentenced to 9½ years in a penitentiary in Toledo, Ohio. She was paroled four years later in 1893 and returned to Cleveland, Ohio.[10]

Chadwick's third husband[edit]

Upon returning in 1893 to Cleveland, she assumed the name Mrs. Cassie Hoover. She opened a brothel on the city's near west side. At the brothel, she met her next husband, a wealthy widower named Dr. Leroy Chadwick. Knowing of the doctor's recent loss, Chadwick played the part of a genteel widow, "Mrs. Hoover," who ran a respectable boarding house for women. When Dr. Chadwick responded that the establishment was a well-known brothel, "Mrs. Hoover" fainted. Once revived, she claimed that she would never run such an establishment. She begged the Doctor to immediately take her from the building, lest anyone think she was complicit in its operation.

As Cassie Chadwick[edit]

The Euclid Avenue residence of Cassie Chadwick

In 1897 she married Dr. Chadwick. During her time as the wife of the highly respected Dr. Chadwick, it is unclear whether he knew that she had given birth to a son, Emil Hoover. Also, it is unclear whether Dr. Chadwick knew that Emil was in the care of one of the women at the brothel.

She was very good at masking her identity and that of her son. In court records, she identified herself as single with no children when charged with forgery. However, in the 1900 United States census (District 97, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Ohio), she identified herself as Cassie Chadwick, born 3 February 1862 in Pennsylvania. Her son Emil was enumerated as Emil Chadwick, born September 1886 in Canada. Following the Carnegie con, Emil Hoover was identified in the newspapers as her son.[2]

Chadwick's spending habits exceeded those of her well-heeled neighbours along Cleveland's Euclid Avenue, then known as "Millionaires' Row". Instead of being welcomed into the exclusive enclave of the Rockefellers, the Hannas, the Hays and the Mathers, Chadwick was thought of as a curious woman who tried in vain to buy the favours of some of the wealthiest families in the nation. When invited to social events, it was only out of obligation to Dr. Chadwick.

The Carnegie con[edit]

Following her marriage to Dr. Chadwick in 1897, Chadwick began her largest, most successful con game: that of establishing herself as Andrew Carnegie's daughter. During a visit to New York City, she asked one of her husband's acquaintances, a lawyer named Dillon, to take her to the home of Andrew Carnegie. In reality, she just visited his housekeeper ostensibly trying to check credentials. When she came back, she dropped a paper. Dillon took it up and noticed it was a promissory note for $2 million with Carnegie's signature. When Dillon promised to keep her secret, she "revealed" that she was Carnegie's illegitimate child. Carnegie was supposedly so wracked with guilt that he showered huge amounts of money on her. She also claimed that there was $7 million in promissory notes tucked away in her Cleveland home, and she was to inherit $400 million upon Carnegie's death. Dillon arranged a safe deposit box for her document.

This information leaked to the financial markets in northern Ohio, and banks began to offer their services. For the next eight years she used this fake background to obtain loans that eventually totalled between $10 and $20 million.[6] She correctly guessed that no one would ask Carnegie about an illegitimate daughter for fear of embarrassing him. Also, the loans came with usurious interest rates, so high in fact, that the bankers wouldn't admit to granting them. She forged securities in Carnegie's name for further proof. Bankers assumed that Carnegie would vouch for any debts, and that they would be fully repaid once Carnegie died.

With this money, Chadwick began to live a very lavish lifestyle. She bought diamond necklaces, enough clothes to fill 30 closets, and a gold organ. She became known as "the Queen of Ohio."

In November 1904, she received a $190,000 loan from Herbert B. Newton, a Brookline, Massachusetts banker.[11] Newton was shocked when he learned of the other loans Chadwick had received, and called his loan in. Chadwick could not pay and the bank sued. At the time, she had accumulated debts equal to $5 million. It was also discovered that a number of securities being held for her in various banks were worthless. When Carnegie was later asked about her, he denied ever knowing her, and further stated he hadn't signed a note in more than 30 years.[12] Chadwick fled to New York, but was soon arrested at her apartment at the Hotel Breslin and taken back to Cleveland. When she was arrested, she was wearing a money belt containing over $100,000. Leroy Chadwick and his adult daughter hastily left Cleveland for a European tour when the scandal broke. However, he did file for divorce before leaving on the tour.

The news sent shockwaves through the Cleveland banking community. One bank, Citizen's National Bank of Oberlin, which had loaned her $800,000, suffered a massive run that forced it into bankruptcy.[citation needed]

Second U.S. fraud trial[edit]

Andrew Carnegie attended her trial, wishing to see the woman who had successfully conned the nation's bankers into believing that she was his heir. Other attendees included members of the very Millionaires' Row families from whom she had tried so hard to gain acceptance. The trial was a media circus. On 10 March 1905 a Cleveland court sentenced her to 14 years in prison and a fine of $70,000 for conspiracy to bankrupt the Citizen's National Bank and conspiracy against the government (Citizen's Bank, as a federally chartered bank, was an agent of the federal government).


On 1 January 1906, Chadwick was sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. She brought with her trunks of goods for her prison cell, including clothing, photographs, and furniture. The prison warden allowed this due to her celebrity status.

As her health deteriorated, Chadwick began writing explicit instructions for her funeral. She instructed her son Emil to send a portion of her hidden funds to Canada for the purchase of a tombstone for the family plot. Chadwick suffered a "nervous collapse" 17 September 1907 leaving her blind.[5][13] The New York Times reported that 9 October 1907 Chadwick was suffering from heart and stomach problems and as Dr. Helmick stated was "much worse."[14]


Chadwick died on her birthday in the Columbus penitentiary 10 October 1907[2] (aged 50). The funeral service was officiated by Reverend F.W. Thompson of College Avenue Methodist Church.[15] Her interment was 16 October 1907 in the Episcopal Cemetery[15] (present day Woodstock Anglican Cemetery "A" section VanSittart Avenue) Woodstock, Ontario in her birthplace Canada. Chadwick's tombstone reads "Elizabeth Bigley wife of L.S. Chadwick, M.D. 1859 - 1907".[16]


For a time, the Chadwick Mansion on Euclid Avenue (at East 82nd Street) became a tourist destination. In the early 1920s, it was torn down for the construction of the Euclid Avenue Temple (now Liberty Hill Baptist Church).

Other people were involved in the tangled web Chadwick spun. Her housekeeper, Mrs. Mary Londraville, took a satchel apparently for Chadwick's son that the receiver wanted as he thought it to have contained valuables.[17] There was a related death.[18]

In popular culture[edit]

She was the subject of the Canadian TV movie Love & Larceny (1985), where the role of Betsy Bigley was played by Jennifer Dale.[19]

In the Canadian TV series, Murdoch Mysteries, Cassie Chadwick was played by Wendy Crewson.


  1. ^ Crosbie, John S. (1975). The Incredible Mrs. Chadwick: The Most Notorious Woman of Her Age. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. ISBN 0-07-082194-1. 
  2. ^ a b c The Globe (Toronto), 12 October 1907, page 07.
  3. ^ "CASSIE CHADWICK IS FOUND GUILTY.". Chicago Daily Tribune. 12 March 1905. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  4. ^ "CASSIE CHADWICK DIES IN PRISON" (PDF). New York Times. 10 October 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  5. ^ a b The Globe (Toronto), 17 September 1907, page 11.
  6. ^ a b "CHADWICK PAPER OUT IS OVER $19,000,000; Includes $16,496,000 Under Andrew Carnegie's Name, RECKONED ON HIS DEATH Mr. Carnegie to Be Subpoenaed -- Reynolds Gives Up "Securities " -- Woman's Indictment Expected." (PDF). New York Times. 11 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  7. ^ a b The Evening Star (Toronto), 11 October 1907, page 15.
  8. ^ "Great Canadian Liars". CBC Television. Retrieved 23 February 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  9. ^ "IDENTIFY MRS. CHADWICK AS MME. DEVERE, FORGER; Prison Employes Face Her -- Beckwith Not Sure She's a Fraud." (PDF). New York Times. 16 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  10. ^ "Hoax of Heiress Ruined Bankers". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. January 30, 1955. p. 27. 
  11. ^ "AID FOR MRS. CHADWICK, BUT ARRESTS THREATENED; Famous Man Will Pay, It Is Said, to Avoid Scandal." (PDF). New York Times. 4 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  12. ^ "WANT CARNEGIE AS CHADWICK WITNESS; To Subpoena Him in Bank Case -- Notes for $1,250,000 Bear His Name. RECEIVER TO CALL ON HIM Denial Issued by Mr. Carnegie -- President of Wrecked Bank Talks of Mrs. Chadwick." (PDF). New York Times. 6 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  13. ^ "CASSIE CHADWICK ILL." (PDF). New York Times. 17 September 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  14. ^ "CASSIE CHADWICK WORSE." (PDF). New York Times. 10 October 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  15. ^ a b The Globe (Toronto), 15 October 1907, page 03.
  16. ^ "Picture of Chadwick's tombstone Woodstock Anglican Cemetery "A" section VanSittart Ave". Retrieved 29 November 2009.  External link in |work= (help)
  17. ^ "TRACING CHADWICK SATCHEL.; Receiver on Trail of More Missing Possessions of the Woman." (PDF). New York Times. 22 December 1904. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  18. ^ "CHADWICK LOANS OF JUTTE CASH?". Chicago Daily Tribune. 21 October 1907. Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  19. ^ Library and Archives Canada. "AMICUS No. 13483158". Retrieved 21 January 2011.  External link in |publisher=, |work= (help)

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