Cassie Chadwick

From Academic Kids

Cassie L. Chadwick (October 10, 1857 - October 10, 1907) is the most famous name of a Canadian-born woman who defrauded Cleveland, Ohio banks by claiming to be an illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie.

Born Elizabeth Bigley on October 10, 1857 in Eastwood, Ontario, Canada, she was known to daydream and tell fibs as a child. At the age of 22 she was arrested in Woodstock, Ontario for forgery but released on grounds of insanity. In 1882 she married Wallace Springsteen in Cleveland, Ohio; her husband threw her out eleven days later when he found out about her past.

In 1886 she became a fortune-teller with the name Lydia Scott, but changed that to the more mystic Madame Lydia DeVere a year later. In 1889 she again resorted to forgery and was sentenced to 9.5 years in a penitentiary in Toledo, Ohio; she was paroled four years later and returned to Cleveland, where she took the name "Mrs. Hoover" and opened a brothel on the city's near west side. It was here where she met her future husband, Dr. Leroy Chadwick.

Knowing that Dr. Chadwick was a recent widower, and well off, Cassie played her "Mrs. Hoover" as a genteel widow 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 and begged the doctor to take her from the building immediately, lest anyone think that she was complicit in its operations. In 1897 she married Dr. Chadwick, who knew nothing about her past except what he was told by his attractive new wife. It is unclear if he knew that she had given birth to a son, Emil Hoover, who was left in the care of one of the women who remained behind at the brothel.

During her time as the wife of the highly respected Dr. Chadwick, Cassie's spending habits exceeded those of her well-heeled neighbors along Cleveland's Euclid Avenue, then known around the world as "Millionaires' Row". Instead of being welcomed into the exclusive enclave of the Rockefellers, the Hannas, the Hays and the Mathers, Cassie Chadwick was thought of more as a curious woman who tried in vain to buy the favors of some of the wealthiest families in the nation.

The Carnegie Con

Following her marriage to Leroy Chadwick in 1897, Cassie 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 of $2 million with Carnegie's signature. When Dillon promised to keep her secret, she "revealed" that she was Carnegie's illegitimate daughter. Dillon arranged a safe deposit box for her.

This information leaked to the financial markets in northern Ohio, and banks begun to offer their services. For the next eight years she used this fake background to obtain loans that eventually totaled $10-20 million. She forged securities in Carnegie's name for further proof. Bankers assumed that Carnegie would vouch for any debts.

On November 2, 1904, her scheme collapsed when the Boston bank of H. B. Newton sued her over a loan of $190,800. At the time, she had accumulated debts equal to $5 million. When Carnegie was later asked about her, he denied ever knowing her. Chadwick fled to New York, but was soon arrested and taken back to Cleveland. 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.

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 that she had tried so hard to gain acceptance from. The trial was a media circus. On March 10, 1905 a Cleveland court sentenced her to 14 years in prison and a fine of $70,000 for conspiracy against the government. (Citizen's National Bank of Oberlin was federally chartered and thus an agent of the United States government.) She was sent to the State Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio on January 1, 1906. For a time, the Chadwick Mansion on Euclid Avenue (at 82nd Street) became a tourist destination; it was torn down for the construction of the Euclid Avenue Temple (now Liberty Hill Baptist Church) in the early 1920's.

Arriving in Columbus, Chadwick brought with her trunks of goods for her cell, including animal skin rugs and clothes, which the warden allowed her to keep and wear. As her health deteriorated, Cassie began writing explicit instructions for her funeral, going so far as to instruct her son to send a portion of her hidden funds to Canada for the purchase of a tombstone for the family plot. Cassie Chadwick died in jail October 10, 1907, and was buried in her birthplace of Eastwood, Ontario, Canada.


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