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Tag Archives: Chester Gilette

Documentaries and Murder, What’s Not to Like?

It’s either Wrist to Forehead Sunday or Sunday Cinema, and I choose the latter.

We started out with A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake, a documentary about the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gilette in 1906.  Steven got it for me at the Herkimer County Historical Society a couple of years ago.  I love local history.

The fellow that wrote this was one of the commentators.

I could not find a photo from the actual DVD, so I include one of some of the source material. I have this plus a couple other books about the case.  I am hoping to acquire Chester Gilette’s diary sometime.  I checked it out of Basloe Library in Hekimer once and read it, but I think it would be a good addition to my collection.

After Elegy, I was in the mood for another documentary, so I suggested the only other one we have on DVD, Curse of the Blair Witch (1999), which is one of the extra features on the Blair Witch Project DVD.  We did not go on to watch The Blair Witch Project, as we usually do, because Steven was not in the Halloween mood (as I almost always am).

I’m going to start saving sticks that fall off the trees in my yard and tie them together in figures for Halloween decorations.

Yes, every time I watch The Blair Witch Project, I say, “Why don’t they just follow the stream?”  I still find it entertaining, and I admire the alternate narrative technique.

We continued the documentary theme of the day with a couple episodes of Snapped, which Steven fixed us some yummy BLTs on Heidelberg Bread, made right here in Herkimer, NY.  I do loves me some Snapped on a Sunday.

 

 

It wouldn’t be Sunday without at least one episode.

Steven was more in the mood for a movie, so I suggested Laura (1944), one of my perennial favorites.  It is a break from documentaries, but I felt in the mood to see it again.  Vincent Price as a suave leading man type, Judith Anderson as one of my favorite characters, a stylish noir.  I’m enjoying it.

One of my favorite couples.

And now I have missed a portion of the movie while making this blog post.  No matter.  It is one we pop in often, and blog posts must be made.  Happy Sunday, everyone.

 

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Putter, Post, Repeat

I pause in my Sunday gyrations to make a blog post, or at least to begin a blog post.  I may do other things between paragraphs and make no apology for doing so.  We’ll see.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this space before, but I often have what I call a putter and post kind of a day.  I putter around the house, I post a status on Facebook, I putter some more, go back to Facebook, etc. It is a pleasant way to spend a day off, and sometimes I even get a few things done.

Today I have gotten a few things done.  I grocery shopped.  I stopped at Honey Brook Hobbies and Sweet Temptations in hopes of writing an article about them for Mohawk Valley Living magazine.  I did the dishes. I made a pepperoni and cream cheese roll-up, just because.  I chopped up radishes and carrots for this week’s lunches.  I am in the midst of making a batch of Chex Party Mix (in the oven with real butter, as God intended).  And I paused to check up on my Facebook friends.  I like Facebook.

And that was when I stopped composing this post and did a few other things, as threatened in the first paragraph.  I did not accomplish anything more of note, but I am anxious to get on to the sweats on, bra off, movie watching portion of the day.  That is, get back to it, since in fact my sweats are on, my bra is off and A Place in the Sun is playing on the DVD player.

Last night we watched A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake, a DVD Steven got for me from the Herkimer County Historical Society.  It is about the real life case that inspired the novel that A Place in the Sun is based on,  An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.  The case was, as local readers no doubt know, the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gilette.  Gilette stayed in the 1834 Jail here in Herkimer, while he was tried and convicted in the Herkimer County Court House; both of those buildings are located on the Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners, which I have mentioned numerous times in this blog.

I would like to write a longer blog post about A North Woods Elegy.  Perhaps in a subsequent blog post, because if I don’t get this posted soon, today might turn into Wrist to Forehead Sunday.  And we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?

 

Another Visit to the Historical Society

Last Saturday I got to introduce some friends to a couple of my favorite places, the Herkimer County Historical Society and the 1834 Jail in Herkimer, NY.  I know I have mentioned  both places before, but I think they rate numerous shout-outs.

My sister Cheryl and some friends had long been interested in visiting the jail, which is not open for tours on a regular basis. I suggested we watch for when the Historical Society holds its Open House in June, because the jail has been open that day at least for the last couple of years, when I have made it to the Open House.

We arrived at the Jail, on Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners on Main and Church streets,shortly after eleven, only to find out that the tours did not start as early as we had thought.  I suggested we check out the Historical Society, which is right across the way.

Of course I had to show off my knowledge and explain that the house had belonged to Dr. A Walter Suiter, although he had only used it for his office. Dr. Suiter provided medical testimony for two of Herkimer County’s most famous murder trials, of Chester Gilette and Roxalana Druse.

As we walked into the Queen Anne style brick mansion, we saw a display about the Gilette  case. We talked about the case and about how Hollywood did not get it right in A Place in the Sun (although that is a highly entertaining movie). I said that Chester Gilette was a player. I’ve read several books about the case.

As we walked around downstairs I pointed out the ornate Remington typewriter. I have a less fancy Remington typewriter myself.. We all admired the doctor’s study with its built-in bookcases and large fireplace. The woodwork throughout the house is beautiful.

Upstairs we noted the old bicycle with the huge front and tiny rear wheels. We marveled over the fact that a man rode it right across the country.

“And that was in the days before highways and Motel 6,” I said.

We also enjoyed looking at the dollhouses and the portraits of local people of note. I pointed out Margaret Tugor, because Cheryl had noticed a picture of the South Side School in a display about immigrants downstairs. Miss Tugor had been principal of that school, which was later named after her.

The third floor, which is not open on a regular basis, holds many artifacts and archives. We especially noted many typewriters, some chairs in need of repair, and a rather delightful baby carriage.

I suggested we go down the back staircase from the second back to the first floor, and that was another experience. The stairs are steep, narrow and curved. I think it is good to know what the servants put up with back in the day.

In the gift shop, I chatted up Caryl Hopson about the play Roxy, which the society is presenting at Ilion Little Theatre (I’ll be writing a lot about that as time goes on). I also ate a couple of cookies, which were from the Heidelberg Bakery. Who could resist?

Caryl suggested we walk a couple of doors down, where another archaeological dig was going on. I had pointed out in the society’s yard where a dig had been going on last year. A glass case in the gift shop displayed many of the artifacts that had been found. Included are a surprising number of intact glass pharmaceutical bottles.

At this year’s dig, a guy was down a well on a safety harness, sending up buckets of dirt and stones. Four people were sifting through them. They explained that they were hoping to find the exact location of Fort Dayton. The house they were digging behind belongs to a member of the Historical Society. She invited them to dig in her back yard, because she knew it was a likely spot.

Making our way back to Main Street, we saw people in front of the jail. We discovered that they were waiting for Jim Greiner to come give the tours. I was pleased to hear that. Greiner wrote the book Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse. He is very knowledgeable about the jail and local history. I’ve taken the jail tour with him and enjoyed it very much.

While we waited we were allowed into the basement and on the first floor. I shared a few of the things I remembered. The lady who let us in told us more, particularly about a house-shaped clock made by a prisoner out of cigar boxes.

I left when Jim arrived, because I did not have time to take the tour. After the jail, my sister and friends were off to Utica to tour the Rutgers Mansions. That’s something I’d love to do next time.

 

Jail Visit

I left the Herkimer County Historical Society and went to the opposite of the Historic Four Corners, the 1834 Jail. The Jail is not open for tours on a regular basis, so one must seize the opportunity when it is available.

I joined a tour already in progress, but I had not missed much. Jim Greiner was the guide. He wrote the book Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse, about one of the Jail’s most famous inmates. I’ve read the book and heard Greiner speak about it. It’s an excellent book, and he is a dynamic speaker. He is an entertaining tour guide as well, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

I toured the Jail last year on Museum Day (and wrote a blog post about it). There was not a huge difference in restoration from last year, although the Friends of the 1834 Jail have accomplished a lot since the time they started. Money, as always, is the problem. They are not eligible for many grants, because the Jail can never be fully handicap accessible.

I enjoyed seeing once again the cell which held Chester Gilette, the Jail’s other famous inmate. I was once again sorry we could not go up to the third floor, where Roxalana Druse was housed.

Everybody on the tour seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. One fellow mentioned a murderer from the 1960s who had probably stayed in the Jail. Apparently the guy shot a girl in the Frankfort Police Station. I hope somebody writes a book about that one, if nobody has already. I highly recommended Last Woman Hanged to a lady, but I did not see whether she purchased it.

I don’t know when the 1834 Jail will hold another event, but I certainly intend to watch for it. I may even join Friends of the 1834 Jail and try to help them raise funds. Maybe eventually I’ll get a look at that mysterious third floor.