Part four:
Being caught the first time didn't discourage Betsy Bigley from continuing a life of crime. In 1904, when it finally seemed the whole world had gotten wise, Charles Hamlyn, a Woodstock newspaper man, wrote this about the woman's early days:

"On November 21, 1878, a young woman called at a barber shop in Brantford, Ontario, and asked to have her hair, which was hanging over her shoulders, cut off. This having been done, she asked for a false mustache. It was not until she attempted to raise money on a gold watch she had that the police were called in. Her father was communcated with, and she was taken home."

Later she purchased an organ, and tried to pay for it, in part, with a note signed by Reuben Kipp, a prominent citizen — except it was Betsy Bigley who forged Kipp's name.

Among the things written about Betsy Bigley as a girl is she had an interest in practicing famous signatures, though I don't think Reuben Kipp's qualifies. I find nothing particularly strange in this interest, though the vast majority of us don't grow up to be forgers, but as a boy I went through a period of trying to duplicate the most famous signature of all — John Hancock's, of course.

As for Ms. Bigley, this time she was arrested and put on trial, but was judged not guilty by reason of insanity, thanks to her antics in the courtroom, which supported her reputation as a very strange young woman.

* * *

Next stop: Cleveland
The trial was in 1879, the same year her father passed away. On her own, Mary Ann Bigley, her mother, may have had enough work on her hands without dealing with a disruptive daughter, a criminal who'd been ruled insane. Another daughter, Alice, had gotten married; she and her husband moved to Cleveland. Betsy asked Alice if she could live with them until she was settled in a new country.

Alice said yes, and Betsy repaid her kindness by making Alice and her husband the first victims in the next phase of her life. It happened after Alice and her husband had to return to Canada for a visit.

"I left my sister Elizabeth in charge of the house," Alice told reporters in 1904, "and during my absence, she mortgaged all the furniture, giving her name as Mrs. Alice M. Bestedo. I came back and learned of her doings, but did nothing in the way of prosecuting her. She went to live in several rooming houses and even there borrowed money by mortgaging furniture that did not belong to her. From one house to another she went and repeated the operation, using different names. I paid many of her debts and squared matters for her. At that time I began to think she was unbalanced."

* * *

New name, and a new con game
According to George Condon, it was at this point Betsy began calling herself Lydia, perhaps a play on "Lizzie" or "Lylie," two of her nicknames from childhood. It wouldn't be long before Lydia Bigley became a clairvoyant named Lydia Devere, or De Vere, as several folks preferred to spell it.

In 1882, her luck seemed to change. She met a man described by Condon as an "up-and-coming doctor named Wallace Springsteen," who fell in love and proposed to the woman who, during their brief courtship, successfully kept him from finding out about her clairvoyant business or her chekered past. Instead, she convinced Springsteen she was an heiress, owner of a large Irish estate willed to her by an uncle. Her apparent wealth may be why the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote about the wedding that took place on November 21.

Contradicting Condon's description of Dr. Springsteen is Thomas Crowl, author of the 2021 book, "Queen of the Con." Crowl says Springsteen was a 40-year-old widowed physician from San Francisco. Once again, take your pick.

This photograph, on Owlcation.com with the story, Cassie Chadwick: World Famous Female Con Artist, is captioned "Cassie Chadwick first marriage," though it looks like a still photo from an early silent movie. Also arousing my suspicion is something Alice York told reporters in 1904: "Elizabeth was married in my house to W. S. Springsteen."

On the other hand, Crowl says the wedding took place at the home of prominent local business man.

The above photo looks like the wedding setting is a chapel of some sort. The man performing the ceremony looks like a minister. Karen Abbott wrote that they were married before a justice of the peace. Conclusion: forget this photo. No matter, the vows exchanged by Lydia Bigley and Wallace Springsteen weren't binding.

* * *

A good thing they skipped the honeymoon
What happened next was anonymously — and inaccurately — illustrated for a syndicated newspaper series, "The Female of the Species," that on April 27, 1959, featured an article about Cassie Chadwick by Allen Riches, copyrighted by the London Express, and syndicated by United Features.

According to Riches, the bride refused to pose for a photo at the wedding, but a reporter managed to take a picture. In any event, a photo appeared in the newspaper, and Lydia was recognized as the young woman who'd swindled several people, including the owners of all the furniture she'd stolen.

"A few days later," wrote Riches, "while the happy couple were at breakfast, a loud, rude knocking disturbed them. When the door was opened, indignant men, newspaper clippings clutched in their hands, thrust in, demanding payment for furniture mortgaged to them."

Condon described the scene differently, saying it occurred when Dr. Springsteen came home from work "only to find that he couldn’t even fight his way into the house, there were so many creditors jamming the porch, the hallway, the living room, and even, one presumes, the bedroom." One of Lydia's visitors that day reportedly was Alice York, who, until she saw the newspaper article, didn't know the whereabouts of her thieving sister.

That's another conflict of information, obviously, since years later Mrs. York recalled the wedding as having been held in her home and certainly would have known where the newlyweds would be living.

Crowl offers yet another version, saying the ceremony was delayed by the arrival of one of Ms. Bigley's creditors, a money lender named Hobday, who demanded payment, and if that's true, then Dr. Springsteen should have called off the wedding, because ...

The marriage of Dr. and Mrs. Springsteen lasted only seven days ... or ten ... or thirteen, depending on the story you read. Legally, it lasted three months, which is how long it took Dr. Springsteen to obtain a divorce. However, said Condon, the ex-Mrs. Springsteen came out of it a few thousand dollars richer, thanks to money she borrowed from lawyers she hired to obtain six thousand dollars she claimed the doctor had promised her. And it's likely correct to say she visited more than one lawyer, and asked each one for a loan because she was momentarily short of cash.

This was something she would do even while she worked her big con on the banks of Ohio a few years later. The woman went through more lawyers than W. E. D. Stokes and Donald Trump.


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