Part two:
I refer to Elizabeth Bigley's childhood nickname as Betsy, but, as already mentioned, young Ms. Bigley also called Betty, Lizzy, Lylie, and probably a few others that I missed.

Among her aliases later in life, but before she became Cassie Chadwick, were Mrs. Alice M. Bestedo, Louise Bigley, Lydia Devere, Mme. De Vere, Mazie Devere, Mme. Marie Rosa, Lydia D. Scott, Lydia Clingan (or Clingad), Mrs. C. L. Hoover, Mrs. Bagley, and my favorite, Florida G. Blythe, though I read newspaper articles that spelled the first name Florinda and Flinda. Very briefly she also was Mrs. W. S. Springsteen during her first marriage to a doctor.

Whether she was married three times or four times depends on which story you read. I lean toward the three marriage version, though several insist she had a fourth husband, a man named Hoover. I believe that is highly unlikely.

* * *

Well, it was somewhere in Ontario
Her birthplace also depends on your source. For example, the Wikipedia article says Elizabeth Bigley was born in Appin, a small town about 50 miles southwest of London, Ontario, but the information in the box to the right of the article lists her birthplace as Norwich, a small Ontario town about 30 miles east of London, which also shows up as her birthplace in some articles. In 1904, the New York Sun reported she was born in Strathroy, Ontario, a few miles north of Appin.

More often you'll see the birthplace as either Woodstock, Ontario, 40 miles northeast of London, or Eastwood, a small town just outside of Woodstock.

Whatever, Elizabeth Bigley was born in Ontario, Canada, on October 10, 1857. By the time she was in her 30s, she'd have done a good job of making people forget Elizabeth Bigley had ever existed. She also changed the date and place of her birth several times along the way.

* * *

Five, six, seven or eight?
Also at issue in the verious biographies of the woman is how many children were in the family of her parents, Daniel and Mary Ann Bigley. The most frequent answer is eight — six daughters and two sons, with Elizabeth daughter number three. However, Paul Roberts, in "Queen of Sham," a story on the Woodstock Newsgroup website, calls her parents Dan and Annie, and says they had just five children — Alice, Mary, Elizabeth and Emily, and a son named Bill.

But in Cassie Chadwick's obituary, the Syracuse Herald (October 11, 1907) said the Bigley's had six children. And Charles F. Hamlyn, described as the "proprietor" of "The Woodstock Express," wrote in 1904 that Alice Bigley (who married a man named Standish York) was actually Cassie Chadwick's half-sister, indicating there might be some children in the Bigley family who were products of previous relationships by Daniel and Mary Ann. Also, perhaps in an effort to explain why Elizabeth turned out so badly, there were some who claimed the Bigley's adopted her after raising her for a while as their foster child.

Mrs. Alice York was the most-mentioned sibling in stories about Mrs. Chadwick. Mrs. York had moved to San Francisco after her husband's death in 1898, and she claimed her parents were Daniel and Mary Ann Bigley, and they had eight children, all alive in 1904. But Mrs. York's recollections sometimes didn't square with a few provable facts. She was off by many years when she told reporters the age of her sister, Elizabeth, who probably enjoyed Alice's answer because she'd made her sister so much younger.

Emily Bigley married a man name Daniel Pine, and they lived in Cleveland, apparently in a house purchased for them by sister Elizabeth, or Betsy Bigley, who was known as Cassie Chadwick at the time. The Pines had two sons who show up with Aunt Cassie in photos taken in Cleveland near the Chadwick home. Another Bigley daughter (or step daughter) named Jennie married a man named Campbell, and also lived in Cleveland for awhile before returning to Canada. A woman name Mrs. J. W. Weston also was identified as a sister when she arrived in Ohio in 1907 to accompany Mrs. Chadwick's body to Canada for burial.

There came a time Cassie Chadwick would deny Alice York was her sister, and Daniel Pine would deny Cassie Chadwick was his sister-in-law. Those denials, which convinced no one, were made to protect Cassie from being exposed as ex-con Lydia Devere. The relationship between Mrs. Chadwick and Mrs. Pine should have been known to reporters, particularly those in Cleveland.

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What's my line?
Again, this is nothing of earth-shaking importance, but everyone — even Alice Bigley York — seems to agree Betsy/Cassie grew up on a farm in Eastwood, Ontario, but did that make her father a farmer?

Many sources say "Yes," but others, who seem to be better informed, say Daniel Bigley was a crew boss for the Great Western Railroad, which indicates the Bigley property in Eastwood was not a working farm, though it may have had a garden that helped feed the family.

* * *
Betsy's first crime
Those who've written about Ms. Bigley agree on how she began her life of crime, but when she did it is uncertain. Karen Abbott, in "The High Priestess of Fraudulent Finance," written in 2012 for Smithsonian Magazine, says it happened when the girl was 13. The Western Reserve Historical Society says 14, but former Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter George Condon, in "Cassie Was a Lady," his chapter on the con woman in his 1967 book, "Cleveland: The Best Kept Secret (Doubleday)," says she was 18, which makes more sense.

What she did was take the envelope from a letter her parents had received from a London, Ontario, attorney, and wrote a letter to herself from that attorney, forging his signature, and making it appear the lawyer lived in London, England. In the letter, she informed herself she would soon receive an $18,000 inheritance. Author C. P. Connolly in his article, "Marvelous Cassie Chadwick" in the November, 1916, issue of McClure's magazine, says Betsy Bigley's parents couldn't read, and she convinced them she was an heiress, but even if their parents were illiterate, it's doubtful Betsy's siblings would let her get away with telling their parents such a story.

My feeling is she didn't let her family — at least, not her parents — know about the heiress claim. For one thing, if Betsy were their daughter, common sense says the other children also would have been entitled to the same inheritance ... unless, of course, Betsy was adopted.

My guess is Betsy said nothing to anyone in her family about her prank, and took that letter to a local bank and convinced the manager to issue a check that allowed her to spend that "inheritance" in advance. This also is why I believe she would have been 18 or older before pulling such a stunt.

She used to check to open an account, and immediately began shopping and writing checks to cover her purchases, always making out the checks to larger amounts than what the goods cost, so that she could pocket the change. Before pulling the scam at the bank, she ordered a card that announced, "MISS BIGLEY, Heiress to $18,000." When clerks hesitated to approve a sale, Betsy showed them the card. It shouldn't have worked, because there was something hypnotic about Betsy Bigley's eyes, which I'll get to in more detail later.

Whatever it was that convinced clerks didn't prevent her checks from bouncing at banks, so Betsy was visited by police. She received a reprimand, but, incredibly, according to Condon, the stores did not press charges, and even let her keep her purchases. This undercut whatever lesson authorities hoped she'd learn, because what the young woman concluded was that crime could pay — and pay very well — if she kept working at it.

* * *

How much was that inheritance?
Not that it makes any difference now, but according to several sources, that card said, "Heiress to $15,000."

Some also say her name wasn't on the card, that it simply said "I am an heiress to $18,000," or $15,000, if you prefer.

Many years later, when, as Cassie Chadwick, she was exposed and headed for prison, a man name V. C. Lyster, identified as a wealthy stone contractor living in Ludlow, Kentucky, told the press he'd grown up in Woodstock, Ontario, and claimed to be the first boyfriend of Betsy Bigley.

Two newspapers who published stories about Lyster said his first name was Vote, which may have been an Americanized version of the German "Vogt." In any event, when he introduced himself to people, he must have sounded like a campaigning politician — "Vote Lyster."

In 1904, he told reporers, "I remember she had some cards printed, and on them she had printed: 'Miss Lizzie Bigley, heiress to $18,000'."

Like I said, hers is a multiple choice biography.

One other thing, and it concerns the illustration at the top of the page. As far as I know, it's from an illustration done many years ago by a staff artist at the New York Daily News for a story about Cassie Chadwick. I assume the artist worked from a photograph of the woman when she was in her early 20s, though I couldn't find such a photo.

My point: if the illustration was done from a photograph, then Betsy Bigley was attractive, which I mention only because so many writers made it a point to comment on the woman's lack of appeal once she reached her Cassie Chadwick stage. More on that in Part 3.


1. A multiple choice biography
2. Have card, will swindle
3. My, what big eyes she has
4. Temporarily transgender
5. Kindness is costly
6. Lydia had a little lamb
7. She finds a perfect husband

8. Mansion makeover
9. Time for her big scene
10. Deep pocket fishing
11. He's never heard of her
12. A friend in Pittsburgh
13. Back behind bars
14. Her spirit lives on