A Lunatic of Means

Bridget Dwyer was odd for a long time, but went fully over the edge in 1886.

Her late husband, John Dwyer, had done odd jobs around the village of Skaneateles, and was employed about half the time. When he died in 1878, his widow felt an even greater need to be thrifty. She walked eight miles to Auburn to shop, because the prices there were a few pennies lower.

In the autumn of 1885, she assaulted a Mrs. Langdon, and was sent to the penitentiary for 60 days. The Skaneateles newspaper noted, “It is thought by many that Mrs. Dwyer is somewhat demented.”

The following year, she was certified as deranged and committed to the state asylum at Utica. On the way, she created a sensation in Syracuse by leaping out of a carriage, running from her guards and seeking refuge in a saloon.

Utica State Hospital

After Mrs. Dwyer was settled in, the State asked her son and daughter to pay for their mother’s “maintenance,” saying that they understood she had a bank account. This was news to the children, but they went to her home to see if they could find a bank book. Inside a mattress, they found not one but several bank books, showing an overall balance of $11,750.

The newspaper said, “It is generally believed that her money made her mad.”

Bridget Dwyer died in 1908, and her remains were buried next to those of her husband in St. Mary’s Cemetery, where they rest today.

* * *

“A Lunatic of Means,” The Syracuse Standard, June 29, 1886

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