The 65th Annual
Diamond Bessie Murder Trial


by Bobbie Hardy

Jeffersonís 72nd Annual Historical Pilgrimage presented by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club is scheduled for May 2-5, 2019. In 1955, the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial became an eagerly-anticipated addition to the Pilgrimage celebration, and 65 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.

Bessie Moore, alias Diamond Bessie, was from a wealthy New York shoe-manufacturing family and was blessed with stunning beauty. Abraham Rothschild was the handsome son of a diamond-wealthy family. 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 Gouldís new Texas & Pacific Railroad. After several days in the old Capitol Hotel in Marshall, Texas, the couple arrived in Jefferson. This is where our production begins.

Mrs. Lawton Riley, the playwright, mixed tragedy and humor with fact and conjecture to create this exciting and captivating drama which is staged in Jeffersonís 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 over 140 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 fourth year. Ms. Parsons holds a Masterís Degree in Vocal Performance from Baylor University. The role of Abraham Rothschild will be played for the 18th year by David Ham. Joining Mr. Ham for the second year will be Zachary Venable who holds a degree in Music Education from LSU, Baton Rouge. Accompanying the stars of our show for the 31st year will be organist Glennda Abraham.

Other returning cast members include Jim Finstrom as Defense Attorney Dave Culberson; Bill Gleason as Prosecuting Attorney George Todd; Mitchel Whitington as Sheriff John Vines; Mary Spearmon as Jennie Simpson; Brooke Bradley-LaFleur and Sheila Langbartels as Isabella Gouldy; Charlie Horn and Dave Little as Antonio A. Morelli; Jack Rasberry, David Ham and Doug Thompson as Justice Bankstead; Skip Torrans as Judge Estus; Bubba Haggard and Joey Romano as Sam the gravedigger; Will Baldwin as Jim; Michael Martin as the janitor; and Steven Coleman and James Dreesen as bailiff and court reporter.

Tickets for the 65th annual performances will be available beginning January 2, 2019, by calling Beth Crawford on the Diamond Bessie ticket-line, 903-665-0737. The cost per ticket is $20.

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

For additional Diamond Bessie information, please visit www.jeffersonpilgrimage.com or www.diamondbessieplay.com.