Thursday, May 26, 2011

THE DIAMOND BESSIE MOORE MURDER TRIAL

Jefferson is a lovely East Texas town, supposedly the third most haunted city in Texas. I don’t know about the haunting, but Jefferson is a place my family and I enjoy for a little get away. It was a busy river port at one time and a prosperous commercial city. Now it's a lovely step back in time with it's well preserved homes, hotels, B&B's, antique stores, and restaurants. Today, though, I want to talk about a tragic event that happened there.

Annie Stone, alias
Diamond Bessie Moore

Annie Stone was born the daughter of a Syracuse, New York shoe dealer in 1854. She was a very beautiful girl and at the age of fifteen she left home to be with a man named Moore. Although the affair ended, she used the name Bessie Moore. Following the affair, she entered into prostitution and eventually worked in Cincinnati, New Orleans and Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was in Hot Springs in 1875 that she met Abraham Rothschild, allegedly a black sheep related to the well-to-do European Rothschild family, was born to a Cincinatti jeweller. Rothschild, alias Joseph Jaeger, alias Henry Smyth, etc., was both a shrewd swindler and a hardened criminal. His record reads more like fiction than plain facts.

The couple was together until her death, though there is no evidence that they were ever married. The relationship was at times a violent one. Rothschild's alcoholism obviously was a problem. He was once arrested for publicly beating her on a street in Cincinnati. She accused him many times of wanting to steal her diamonds.

On January 19, 1877, the couple arrived in Jefferson, a busy river port during that time. They registered at the Brooks House as Mr. and Mrs. A. Monroe. The couple attracted a lot of attention due to their fine clothes and jewelry. The exact reason that the couple visited Jefferson is not known.

On the morning of January 21, 1877, the couple was seen carrying a picnic basket across the Cypress Bayou bridge, walking away from town. Mr. Frank Malloy of Jefferson stated later that he saw the couple as they made their way across the bridge. He made comments about the size of the diamonds Bessie was wearing. It was a bit before 11:00 am that Mr. Malloy saw them.

Abe Rothschild
Three hours later, Rothschild was seen crossing the bridge alone, coming back into Jefferson. When the people at the Brooks House asked about his wife, he told them that she stayed across the bayou to visit old friends.

On the morning of the 22nd, Rothschild had breakfast alone at the Brooks House, while wearing some of Bessie‘s rings. On the morning of the 23rd, Rothschild departed Jefferson for Cincinnati, Ohio. He carried with him, Bessie's luggage.

Bessie's body lay in the woods, undiscovered, until the afternoon of February 5th, when Sarah King spotted her. Bessie had a single gunshot would to the head and was wearing none of her jewelry.

Once in Cincinnati, Rothschild began drinking heavily. He became paranoid, thinking he was being followed. He tried to commit suicide outside a Cincinnati saloon, but only succeeded in shooting out one eye. Upon being released from the hospital, he was arrested and returned to Texas to stand trial for Bessie's murder.

At this point, the Rothschild family hired a team of very expensive lawyers, who managed to get a change of venue due to the fact that the attitudes in Jefferson were strongly hostile against their client. Finally, in December, 1878 Rothschild was tried in Marshall, Texas. He was found guilty, but the legal team hired by the Rothschilds proved their worth; the decision was overturned.

Finally, he was tried in Jefferson. Again the legal team did their work and Rothschild was not found guilty. The people of Jefferson were shocked. One newspaper wrote "Certainly all that is required to save a red handed murderer from the gallows are two or three active friends and sufficient money!"

While he was in jail, Andrew "Smokey" Columbus said, "Abe wouldn't eat that jail food, an' hire me to bring his meals to him frum the hotel. His cell was fixed up lake a hotel room wid a fine brussells rug, nice tables an' chairs. He kep' plenty of beer an' whiskey to drink."

Abe Rothschild was arrested and escaped many times. He then embarked in a career as a gambler and race-horse sport, and was known at the New York, London, and Paris courses. Reverses finally overtook him, and he became nothing more than a professional criminal. When finally convicted, according to his own confession there were over two hundred criminal charges against him in the United States, distributed in every State and Territory, and he committed crimes in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, England, and France.


Diamond Bessie's Grave
 Diamond Bessie is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Jefferson, Texas. Allegedly in the 1890’s, a handsome, elderly man wearing a patch over his right eye asked to be shown the grave of Bessie Moore. Upon seeing it, he laid roses on it, knelt in prayer, commented on the goodness of the citizens to provide a decent burial, and gave the caretaker money for the care of the grave. Folklore asserts that this was a repentant Rothschild visiting the grave. In the 1930s a headstone mysteriously appeared on the grave where none had been before, and it was later learned that a citizen of Jefferson, E.B. McDonald, had it placed there one night. In the 1960s the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club built an iron fence around the grave. It is to members of this garden club that visitors owe the preservation of the town's historic sites. Thank you, ladies!

Each May the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial is reenacted in Jefferson, sponsored by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club with community members as actors.

10 comments:

  1. Well, dang that old Abe! He was a real scoundrel, rotten to the core, wasn't her? Poor Bessie.
    I've never heard this story but, oh my, it's a good one.
    It's not much different today, is it? The moneyed with friends can...get by with murder.
    The photos are wonderful. I'm glad Bessie's grave has been cared for. Even though she sounded like a rounder, herself, she did not deserve to die with a bullet in her brain.
    Thanks, Caroline--this was so good! Celia

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  2. Had no idea about this! Loved reading it!!!! Thanks so much for sharing this! I love the blogs that you wonderful ladies post! Brings to light a lot of history that I truly didn't know much about!! Have a great weekend!!
    Michelle

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  3. I LOVED this accounting, Caroline. What a great novel could be written about these interesting people of the past. You just can't beat the real people in history, can you?

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  4. Fascinating, Caroline. I'd never heard about this case before. She certainly was beautiful.

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  5. Caroline, I'd love to see the reenactment of Bessie's trial! Interesting post and I love the idea that someone placed a headstone on her grave in the middle of the night..kind of romantic :-)

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  6. Caroline--hope you don't mind this, but Blogger will not let me comment on my own blog with anything other than "Anonymous." I do not have that checked in my profile. I'ts driving me crazy. I'm going to see what happens here. Celia

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  7. See? Here it let me use what I ordinarily do. Grrrr. Celia

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  8. Caroline,
    What a fascinating post. Loved this! Thanks so much for sharing this story--I knew nothing about these people.
    Cheryl

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  9. Love this blog. I am a new follower. Donna
    http://mylife-in-stories.blogspot.com

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  10. I had never heard of this until I saw a little something on this show I was watching. So I decided to look up Diamond Bessie, and to my absolute surprise, and delight, I discovered she was born right here in my home town of Syracuse, NY. If that isn't the coolest thing ever!

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