Monday, June 15, 2009

Madness Monday - Dr. W.L. Bartholomew Commits Suicide

Most of my Madness Monday posts concern my part as a genealogist driven mad by either the actions of others or myself. However this week I can actually post about someone in my family tree who actually suffered from mental illness.

I've renewed research on my O'KEEFE and SULLIVAN lines over the past week and I consider myself blessed that many of my ancestors lived in Lewis County, New York during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Why? Well there is a great resource - Northern New York Historical Newspapers - which is a FREE and fully searchable database of historical newspapers from various New York counties including Lewis, St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Oswego.

As I research my various lines, I also perform a search at NNYHN to see if there are any news items about them. As I was researching Ellen Francis SULLIVAN (1864 - 1946), who was my First Cousin 4 Times Removed, I noticed she was mentioned as Mrs. Nellie Sullivan Bartholomew in The Journal & Republican newspaper after 1904.

I could tell that she either had divorced her husband, Willis Leigh BARTHOLOMEW or was widowed, which was more likely - otherwise she would be listed as Mrs. W.L. Bartholomew. I was raised to address widowed women in writing using Mrs. plus their given name and then their married name. My great-grandmother was a stickler for that and she also refused to use the "Ms." title when writing to someone. Once when I told her I used it when I didn't know if the woman were married or not, with a "harrumph" she said: "Well then you have no business writing to a woman if you don't know her social standing or her correct title, do you?"

Willis Leigh Bartholomew and Nellie Sullivan were married on September 3, 18901 in Lowville, New York where Willis was a physician. There are various advertisements in Lewis county newspapers for Dr. Bartholomew's office and listing him as a physician and specializing in "homeopathic medicine."

After some more searching I finally located an article with the details of W.L. Bartholomew's death:

Dr. W.L. Bartholomew Takes His Own Life at Middletown

Dr. W.L. Bartholomew a homeopathic physician, committed suicide last Friday at Middletown, N.Y., by discharging the contents of a shotgun into the right side of his neck. Dr. Bartholomew was also known as Dr. Barth, and had been engaged in the manufacture of a patent medicine. He ended his life while lying in bed at his boarding house. The deceased was aged 42 years. he came from Potsdam to Lowville about fifteen years ago and was engage to practice here two or three years. A dispatch from Middletown states that he was addicted to the morphine habit. Dr. Bartholomew was a well education young man, and when a resident of Lowville was held in high esteem2.

A sad end to such a promising life and how it must have affected not only his wife Nellie but their children Gerald and Geraldine (twins b. 1892), Eleanor (b. 1893) and Daniel (b. 1898). Shortly after Nellie's father, Daniel P. Sullivan (1841 - 1907) died in Lowville, she moved with her children to Washington, D.C.

1.The Journal and Republican (Lowville, New York), September 9, 1915. Volume 56, Number 44, Page 5. "This Week In Local History, September 4, 1890: Dr. W.L. Bartholomew, of Potsdam, and Miss Nellie Sullivan, of Lowville, were married yesterday by Rev. Father Ryan."

2. The Journal and Republican (Lowville, New York), December 1, 1904. Volume 46, Number 2, Page 5.

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