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Cortland Train Station

Location: 7 South Avenue, Cortland, NY
(42.591729, -76.182124)

Learning of his cruel behavior, Grace sent a sting of scathing, rambling, and apologetic letters, sometimes threatening self-harm. Her emotions swung widely between pleading, jealously, regret, and affection.

Oh! Dear, dear, dear! I can’t see anything but trouble. What if I should not be able to travel. There are so many things to think about. If I had the strength, dear, I do believe I should walk to the river and throw myself in…

Trial manuscripts pages 1043-1046

After phoning Chester at the factory in front of his coworkers, humiliated, Chester relented to meet Grace. While Grace made plans to run away with Chester for what she believed to be her elopement, Chester made far more sinister plans for Grace.

….You would smile if you knew how I am trying to get strong, for I don’t care how rough my life is after next Saturday. I think I could carry packs like women peddlers, but I shall certainly die if you don’t come.

Trial manuscripts pages 1043-1046

In the cover of darkness, Chester Gillette stepped into the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station. With a suitcase, umbrella, and racket in hand, he boarded the 8:10 p.m. train to DeRuyter. A trip from whence he nor Grace would ever return. This is where the story of Grace and Chester ends in Cortland County. From here, they will travel to the Adirondacks, where Chester Gillette will tragically murder Grace Brown and their unborn child.

In Grace’s last letter to Chester, regarding what she assumed was their pending elopement, she penned:

Oh, dear, you don’t realize what all of this means to me. I know I shall never see any of them again, and mamma! Great heavens how I love mamma! I don’t know what I shall do without her. She is never cross and she always helps me so much. Sometimes I think I could tell mamma, but I can’t. She has trouble enough as it is and I couldn’t break her heart like that. If I come back dead, perhaps if she does know she won’t be angry with me.

Trial manuscripts pages 1054-1057

Is this strangely foreshadowing letter a premonition or simply an exhausted and fearful girl’s dark humor? Yet another secret Grace Billy Brown has carried with her to her watery grave.

To learn more about the tragedy of Grace Brown, dive into Adirondack Tragedy: The Gillette Murder Case of 1906, written by Joseph W. Brownell and Patricia A. Wawrzaszek. Brown’s life also inspired fictional treatments such as Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel An American Tragedy (added to Time magazine’s list of the top 100 novels written in English since 1923), and Jennifer Donnelly’s 2003 novel A Northern Light.

 1. Oberding, Janice. Murders, Mysteries, and Misdemeanors of Hollywood and Los Angeles (America Through Time). America Through Time, 2021.
2. CrimeScribe. “On This Day in 1908- Chester Gillette, an American Tragedy.” Crimescribe, 30 Mar. 2021,
3. Paine, Jeff. Chester Gillette and Grace Brown. 8 Sept. 2022,
4. Brownell, Joseph. Adirondack Tragedy: The Gillette Murder Case of 1906. 1st ed., Chauncy Pr, 1986.