Did you know that a local murder was the inspiration for an Elizabeth Taylor movie? This is the story of Grace Brown’s murder.
Have you seen those blue state markers everywhere? There’s one in particular by Big Moose Lake that is a little spooky. It says “On July 11th, 1906, Chester Gillette and Grace Brown left here for a boat trip ending in her death and his 1908 execution for murder.”
Grace Brown was a young girl who grew up in Otselic Valley on a dairy farm but she wanted bigger and better. When Grace was older, she moved out to Cortland and started working at the Gillette Skirt Factory, according to Only in Your State. That’s where she met Chester Gillette, the factory owner’s nephew. Chester was pretty sough after in town and Grace ended up winning his affection, only if they kept it secret. They were from different classes and at the time, his family wouldn’t have approved. In the summer of 1906, something happened that changed everything – Grace found out she was pregnant.
After moving back home to be with her family, Grace tried to get Chester to marry her. That’s when Chester told Grace that he wanted to take her “on a getaway to the Adirondack Mountains.” Grace assumed this was a sign of an upcoming proposal. They rented a boat and went onto the water where Chester hit Grace over the head with his tennis racket, knocking her overboard. The boat was never returned.
Eventually they found both Grace and the boat with Chester nowhere in sight. They ended up finding him hiding out in a nearby hotel. Initially, he didn’t admit to knowing her or anything about the boat. Chester Gillette was sentenced to death by electric chair. Apparently, in Grace’s letters with Chester, she mentioned that she didn’t know how to swim. This story was the inspiration of the movie A Place in the Sun (1951) starring Elizabeth Taylor.