Diamond Bessie Murder Trial

 


Tickets for the 70th annual performances will be available beginning February 1, 2024, by calling
Sandra Hall on the Diamond Bessie ticket-line at (903) 665-0737.
The cost per ticket is $20. Tickets are non-refundable.

Show times are Thursday, May 2 and Friday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m.;
Saturday, May 4 at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m.

Jefferson’s 77th Annual Historical Pilgrimage presented by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club is scheduled for May 2-5, 2024. In 1955, the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial became an eagerly anticipated addition to the Pilgrimage celebration, and years later, this unique adaptation of the last stages of the nationally-famous trial of Abraham Rothschild for the 1877 murder of the beautiful Diamond Bessie, traditionally plays to sold-out audiences.

This trial of Abe Rothschild for the murder of Diamond Bessie stirred the passions of people everywhere, and it created such a sensation in Texas that both the Governor and the Attorney General took steps to assist the prosecution.

The case was of such importance that several of the attorneys then held or later reached positions of state and national prominence, including United States Congressman Dave Culberson and Charles A. Culberson who was later to serve Texas as Attorney General, Governor and United States Senator.

Bessie Moore, alias Diamond Bessie, was the daughter of a Watertown, New York, shoemaker and she was blessed with stunning beauty. Abraham Rothschild was the handsome son of a diamond-wealthy family from Cincinnati, Ohio. Both made tragic decisions that adversely affected their lives.

Abe and Bessie were married in Danville, Illinois, in early January 1877. Shortly thereafter, they headed south by rail, eventually traveling on Jay Gould’s new Texas & Pacific Railroad. After several days in the old Capitol Hotel in Marshall, Texas, the couple arrived in Jefferson.

From the moment Bessie Moore stepped off the railcar in Jefferson, the townspeople were captivated by her beauty and apparent wealth, accentuated by the numerous diamonds decorating her delicate hands and the dashing young gentleman on her arm. Checking into the Brooks House Hotel, her companion used the alias, A. Monroe and wife of St. Louis.

A few days later, the couple was seen crossing Big Cypress Bayou carrying a basket for what appeared to be a romantic picnic. But as evening neared, her companion returned alone. He was acting peculiarly, drinking heavily, and wearing two of Bessie’s rings on his fingers. Two days later, he gathered her belongings and departed Jefferson. What followed would become one of the most scandalous and sensational stories to unfold in East Texas.

Bessie’s body was discovered a few weeks later, and the townspeople rallied around the ill-fated beauty and named her “Diamond Bessie,” a nickname fashioned after the jewels she had worn and the moniker her escort had called her. A monetary collection to have her properly buried in Historic Oakwood Cemetery was gathered, and descriptions of the girl were issued throughout the country. Jefferson’s sheriff, John Vines, began his investigation and within weeks, the identity of the couple was revealed.

A police chief in Bessie’s hometown identified the woman as Annie Stone, later known as Anna Moore and Bessie Moore. She had become a well-known prostitute there, and according to sources, had left Watertown to ply her trade in Cincinnati, Chicago, and New Orleans.

In addition, Sheriff Vines had traced the couple’s prior destination to the hotel in Marshall, where they had registered as A. Rothschild and wife, of Cincinnati. Further inquiry led the lawman to a Cincinnati hospital where Rothschild a disreputable traveling salesman for his family’s jewelry business, was recovering from a failed suicide attempt. Paranoid someone was following him, Abe had gotten drunk and shot himself in the head, but managed only to put out an eye. The renowned swindler, womanizer and thief was arrested and whisked back to Texas to stand trial for the murder of Diamond Bessie.

This is where our production begins. Mrs. Lawton Riley, the playwright, mixed tragedy and humor with fact and conjecture to create the exciting and captivating drama which is staged in Jefferson’s historic Playhouse. Located on the corner of Henderson and Market streets, the setting, once a Jewish synagogue, has a distinct resemblance to the courtroom where the real drama played out almost 150 years ago.

Jefferson, the historic little town on Big Cypress Bayou, has its share of ghost stories. You will witness the best one of all when Diamond Bessie rises from her grave to spy on the re-enactment of her own sensational murder trial.

Our dedicated and distinguished returning cast of characters includes Kimberly Parsons who will be playing the role of Diamond Bessie for the 9th year. Ms. Parsons holds a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Baylor University. The role of Abraham Rothschild will be played for the 23rd year by David Ham. Sharing the role with Mr. Ham for the 3rd year will be Joe Buck Crisp, general manager of KMHT Radio in Marshall. Accompanying the stars of our show for the 36th year will be organist Glennda Abraham. Assistant organist is Charles Gilbert. Lighting technicians are Tony Jones, Darrell Gaither and India Stanberry. Jefferson’s Lions Club is responsible for seating the jury for each of the five performances.

Other returning cast members include Tim Cariker as Defense Attorney Dave Culberson; Bill Gleason as Prosecuting Attorney George Todd; Mitchel Whitington as Sheriff John Vines; Skip Torrans as Judge Estus; Mary Spearmon and Glenda Ervin as Jennie Simpson; Brooke Bradley-LaFleur and Sheila Langbartels as Isabella Gouldy; Charlie Horn and Bubba Haggard as Antonio A. Morelli; David Ham, Doug Thompson, and Jim Stacey as Justice Bankstead; James Parsons as Sam the gravedigger; Andrew Parsons as Jim; Marty Stewart as janitor; and Steven Coleman as bailiff and court reporter.

Tickets for the 70th annual performances will be available beginning February l, 2024, by calling Sandra Hall on the Diamond Bessie ticket-line at (903) 665-0737. The cost per ticket is $20. Tickets are non-refundable.

Show times are Thursday, May 2 and Friday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 4 at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m.