Part ten:
Cassie Chadwick's handling of Iri Reynolds was matched by the way she played the sixtyish president of the Citizens' National Bank of Oberlin, Ohio. Charles T. Beckwith came to rationalize his actions by convincing himself he was helping his bank as much as he hoped to help himself.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 11, 1904
It is not known how many small fish Mrs. Chadwick caught upon the lines she dangled in the sea of finance all over northern Ohio, eastern Pennsylvania and even in New York. The real story of her angling for millions has not yet been told. But C. T. Beckwith, president of the Citizens’ National Bank, was the first big fish she caught in her nets when she went after larger game.

Mrs. Chadwick’s first use of Beckwith was to employ him to negotiate a loan of $75,000 from the trustees of Oberlin College. Beckwith was successful and received a bonus of $5,000 in cash as his reward. The loan from Oberlin College was paid when it became due, and Mrs. Chadwick was raised high in Beckwith’s confidence.

Then Mrs. Chadwick began to dangle the bait before Beckwith himself. She admitted him to the secret of her birth — that is, she told him she was the daughter of Andrew Carnegie. She told him of her immense fortune — of her millions tied up on an estate, of the securities belonging to that estate held by Iri Reynolds as trustee. She told that Mr. Carnegie was going to transfer the stewardship of her millions. Beckwith should be the trustee.

In time, Beckwith would confess to his bank's directors that Mrs. Chadwick promised he would be paid $10,000 a year as trustee of her estate, and his bank was to be paid a bonus of $40,000. He admitted he believed she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie, and that Carnegie turned over to her an immense fortune. He believed so strongly in Mrs. Chadwick that he loaned her $240,000 of the bank's money, plus $102,000 of his own savings. The $240,000 was four times the capital stock of the bank, and the loan was illegal, given in secret, without Beckwith consulting the board of directors.

He tried to convince himself the woman would make good on her promises, but as days went by, he became more and more nervous, and often visited Mrs. Chadwick at her home in Cleveland and at the Holland House Hotel in New York City, where she rented a suite by the year, so often did she visit.

Each Beckwith visit was futile. Mrs. Chadwick never ran out of excuses why she couldn't repay the loans just yet, and, later, why she couldn't let Beckwith see her securities, which were kept at a Cleveland bank in the care of Iri Reynolds.

When Beckwith confessed to his directors, he told an interesting story, parts of which were confirmed by others who dealt with Mrs. Chadwick. I'm surprised this story didn't trigger a wider investigation, because it seemed to me it proved she wasn't operating alone, though her associate most likely wasn't a full partner.

First, here's how Mrs. Chadwick explained to Beckwith and other victims how her "estate" worked: It was in the hands of three trustees, all New York City lawyers, she said. One of them was named William Baldwin, and it was through him, she claimed, that she received her money — $750,000 annually, in two payments during the year.

* * *

Paging William Baldwin!
After repeated — and unsuccessful — attempts to contact Baldwin, Beckwith said he began to suspect the man didn't exist. He was akin to the fictitious George Kaplan in "North by Northwest," except no one ever mistook an innocent party for Baldwin and tried to kill him.

One of several frustrating failures in my online trip through Cassie Chadwick's scam is being unable to find any mention of how Beckwith or any other creditor — or lawyer — tried to contact Baldwin. They must have talked to someone, and it would almost have to be a person who answered a telephone in New York City. I think I know who that person was, but no one ever proved it. I'm not sure anyone ever tried.

The saga of Beckwith and the Citizen's National Bank of Oberlin played out like a movie script, without a happy ending. Yes, three people responsible for the bank's failure were arrested, but there was no good news to go along with the bad.

According to the Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (December 6, 1904), in a story most likely provided by an unnamed New York City or Cleveland newspaper, the precarious condition of the bank was discovered on July 1 by William B. Bedortha, the bank's attorney, who noticed large sums were missing, loaned without collateral security. He reported his findings to cashier Arthur B. Spear, who referred him to Beckwith, who'd been president of the bank for five years.

When confronted by Bedortha, Beckwith admitted what he had done, but swore Bedortha to secrecy, claiming he (Beckwith) would convince Mrs. Chadwick to repay the money loaned to her by the bank. Bedortha maintained his silence for awhile, but, on his own, contacted Mrs. Chadwick's lawyers, but had no more luck than Beckwith at having the loan repaid. That's what the Rochester story said, but the date — July 1 — seems too early in the year, and raises a big question of why Bedortha would give Beckwith more than four months to do what the lawyer knew couldn't be done — force Mrs. Chadwick to repay the loan.

Further, Bedortha, described as a young man, but with no age given, was dying. He couldn't afford to wait that long to tell the directors, though most stories say he did wait, and didn't inform the directors until mid-October or early November. (If the Rochester story is correct, it would have to be October 12, because Bedortha talked to the directors from his deathbed.)

Bedortha's death was just one of at least three over the next several months that would involve officials of the bank, and a lot of folks in Oberlin blamed those deaths on Cassie Chadwick. In addition, there were humiliating and infuriating events, though I'm uncertain of the order in which they occurred, and, in most cases, the dates.

The New York Herald (December 7, 1904) carried a story in which Colonel John W. Steele, one of the directors of Citizens National Bank, indicated he and the other directors were concerned about the bank's loan to Mrs. Chadwick before Bedortha's warning, and that's why two directors, named Randolph and Carter, went to New York City with Beckwith to meet with Mrs. Chadwick and her Manhattan lawyer, Edmund W. Powers.

* * *

Liar, liar, pants on fire!
As Beckwith eventually would tell reporters, he and the two directors found Mrs. Chadwick at the Holland House Hotel, occupying a suite of five rooms, attended by two maids. There they were joined by Powers, who told them arrangements had all been completed to repay the loans — not only the one to the bank, but also the money from Beckwith's personal savings. This would be done the next day, said Powers, who suggested the directors might as well leave for home, which they did. Beckwith remained in New York City to receive the money. Yeah, right.

The next morning arrived, and poor Beckwith was given a convoluted story about the unexpected involvement of a Pittsburgh bank, which held the power of attorney blah blah blah, delaying payment. Back to Oberlin Beckwith went, empty handed.

According to Colonel Steele, in the New York Herald story, Beckwith then prevailed upon Mrs. Chadwick to arrange for a lawyer to visit Oberlin. Both Steele and Beckwith say it was Powers who showed up to attest to the genuineness of the Carnegie signature. They say Powers presented himself as representing a New York trust company, something the lawyer denied when questioned about it in December.

It seems obvious — to me, anyway — that Powers must have been in on the scam, and since 1902 had fielded all inquiries about the mythical William Baldwin. For sure it was Powers who frequently assured people of Mrs. Chadwick's wealth, and had recently said she'd gifted her husband $2,500,000, and was still a millionaire in her own right. The man's nose must have been enormous.

By December, Beckwith was talking freely to anyone who would listen, trying to convince people that he may have been foolish, but he'd made honest mistakes in his financial dealings with Mrs. Chadwick.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 4, 1904
“It was a little over two years ago when I first met Mrs. Chadwick. She came to this city to see me relative to making a loan. I do not believe there was a single thing about that meeting that made it different from hundreds of others. It was a conference on a straight business deal.

“She said she needed money and I thought from what she said that I was not assuming an unusual risk by letting her have it. You must remember that at that time I was dealing with her as a private citizen and not as the president of a bank. The first loan, I believe, was $5,000. It was paid when due. There were other loans, from my own resources, at different times. These were made quite frequently. At first, all of these were in small amounts, $5,000 or thereabouts. It was later that she came to me for greater sums. Do you think it at all strange that she gained my confidence? Is there anything unusual about it? Having business with her for months, I naturally looked upon her as all she claimed to be. All of the time her demands were growing heavier
“Before I knew it, she had borrowed a much larger sum than I supposed. Then my confidence was not shaken. Finally, I loaned her money belonging to the bank. That was my mistake. It was of the head and not of the heart, however. There is little to say after that. You know the rest. It has brought all this on me. Does anyone believe I would have deliberately entered into a transaction or a series of transactions that would have wrecked the bank?"

When Beckwith addressed the question of why a woman so wealthy was continually asking for loans, he mentioned her explanation about how she was paid from her trust — twice a year by a New York City lawyer named Baldwin. To Beckwith, at least, it made sense that she might need cash between payments, then use money from those payments to settle her loans. What wasn't explained, of course, is why the woman simply couldn't adjust her spending to avoid losing so much money in interest and bonuses to her creditors. Beckwith and her other creditors wouldn't admit it, but they were pleased to be dealing with someone willing to do just that. Beckwith may have trusted the woman, but he had to believe she was more than a little foolish.

So was Beckwith, who was too easily impressed by what he saw as the woman's wealth.

“I have seen three chests full of jewels owned by Mrs. Chadwick," he told reporters. "There were diamonds worth a king’s ransom. She would have these stones in little trays made to fit into different compartments in the trunks. Apparently she had a great delight in displaying these. She would hold them in her hand and fondle them. Mrs. Chadwick was an expert on gems. She would pick out a white diamond or an emerald or a ruby and tell at a glance how many thousands of dollars it was worth. This was only one more of her many remarkable traits. She had one necklace, a string of pearls, that was valued at $15,000. This was purchased abroad. Her jewels alone must have been worth half a million dollars."

As things turned out, few things Mrs. Chadwick had purchased were worth the prices she was willing to pay.

* * *

Beckwith threatens suicide
After the directors were alerted to the $240,000 loan made from bank funds, they pressured Beckwith, whose behavior became increasingly pathetic:

Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 11, 1904
One tragic incident related by Beckwith in the written confession concerns one of the visits of President Beckwith, Cashier Spear and Judge Albaugh to the Cleveland home of Mrs. Chadwick. The two bankers pleaded for money. Mrs. Chadwick made more promises.

Mr. Beckwith was aroused to anger, and when he saw the hopelessness of it all, he threatened to commit suicide. He drew a revolver. Mrs. Chadwick cried that “all would be lost” if the banker carried out his threat. The result was that the bankers again relied upon promises.

Judge Albaugh was John Albaugh of Canton, Ohio, one of several lawyers hired by Mrs. Chadwick over the years. I found it interesting that it was Albaugh, not Powers or the other New York City attorney, Philip Carpenter, who represented Mrs. Chadwick during a meeting in New York over a lawsuit filed by another creditor. That meeting was a week after another pitiful attempt by Beckwith to prompt Mrs. Chadwick to make good on a promise. This time Beckwith visited her by himself at her Cleveland home on November 23, 1904, the day before Thanksgiving. Later he went public with what happened that night:

New York Herald, November 30, 1904
"Mrs. Chadwick," Beckwith said to her. "I do not care for myself. I can wait for the money that I loaned you out of my own pocket. It is not my fortune which I am trying to retrieve, but my honor. Surely there are ways by which you can raise money. Surely you can pay back the loans made by the bank."

Her answer was again and again, "I cannot pay now."

The old banker fell on his knees and pleaded with her, he later told the bank's directors, but to no avail. When he arose, he fell in a faint, and it was necessary for him to remain at the Chadwick home overnight.

At some point that fall, Mrs. Chadwick gave Beckwith a check for $50,000, but it bounced. She then sent him two checks for $25,000 each, but called the next day to tell him not to cash them. He no longer had any doubt Mrs. Chadwick was a thief.

But Beckwith and Oberlin's Citizens' National Bank weren't the only problems facing Mrs. Chadwick, who'd been slapped with a lawsuit by Herbert D. Newton of Brookline, Massachusetts, a financier who'd loaned her money, and now claimed she owed him $190,800. Within days of Beckwith's last visit, Mrs. Chadwick was on her way to Boston, and from there would go to her home away from home, the Holland House Hotel in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Beckwith and cashier Arthur B. Spear would be arrested close to midnight on Sunday, December 4, for violations of banking laws, though Beckwith's self-inflicted punishment would be worse than anything a court could accomplish. On February 5, 1905, Beckwith passed away at home after several days of refusing to eat.

Mrs. Chadwick expressed some regret at his passing, but expressed no feeling about the death of the man's bank, perhaps believing it was entirely his fault for giving her money the bank didn't have.

Early in March, Spear, only 22 years old, received a seven-year sentence, but was expected to be released after serving five years.

As all main attractions go, the Cleveland trial of Cassie Chadwick was saved for last,


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