October 14, 1896: Three Brothers Suffer Attacks of Insanity in October.


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA

October 14, 1896: Three Landis brothers have been afflicted with episodes of insanity in the last 12 years, all occurring in the month of October. Nathan Landis, a businessman in New Berlinville, who had suffered attacks of insanity for some years, had a serious episode in October 1884. He was at the Berks County Fair, where he purchased a ticket “to go home with the cars.” Instead, he “took the road and walked the entire distance.” After that, he became violent and it became necessary to take him to the state Asylum for the Insane in Harrisburg.

Five years later, in October 1889, Nathan’s brother Levi, who also has suffered from “aberrations of the mind,” became possessed with the idea that his house was filled with electricity, which, he claimed affected his legs and killed the currant bushes in his garden. He blamed the problem on the telegraph wires in front of his house and threatened to cut down the poles. Like his brother Nathan, he became quite violent. The family doctor, Thomas J.B. Rhoads and Constable Charles Kline, took him to Harrisburg and committed him to the same hospital where his brother resided.

In October 1896, a third brother, Henry, the Postmaster at Earl Township, has also been declared insane. He had been acting in a strange manner for several weeks and had become so violent that his and his family’s safety was in danger. He tried to commit suicide several times, by chopping his head off with an axe, by attacking himself with a pocket knife, and by trying to drown himself in the rain barrel. Henry has also been taken to the Harrisburg Asylum, where he joined his brothers.

All of them had been considered “first class citizens,” and their friends in the Boyertown area hope that they will be restored to their “right minds.”

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