Archive for July 6th, 2010

Taylorville Teacher Takes Own Life

July 6, 2010


John Harmon Hangs Self Early Today.

Taylorville, March 13 — John B. Harmon, manual training teacher in the city schools of Taylorville, committed suicide by hanging himself in the barn loft early Tuesday morning at his home here. He used a double strand of baling wire. His wife and family of seven children are grief stricken and can give no reason for his act.


He left no word, but it is supposed the suicide was the result of worry over his position as it was nearing the time of the end of the year. Mr. Harmon was a man that worried considerably over small matters. A member of the board of education said this morning that he had no reason to worry about his position as there was no question but that he would have been re-employed for the place.

Mr. Harmon got up at 5 o’clock to build the fire. When he did not return his wife sent their son Joy, aged thirteen, to the barn to see about the father. The boy found his father hanging in the barn dead and took the body down himself without any assistance. Harmon had climbed up on a pile of hay and tied the wire around his neck, then jumped down.

After the boy had taken the body down he went to the house and told the family.

Harmon Family - 1910 Census - Taylorville IL


Mr. Harmon had been a teacher here for thirteen years. This was the tenty-sixth year he had taught. Last year he qualified for the teacher’s pension, though he did not receive any pension because he had not yet retired from active service.

He was born in Jefferson county, Dec. 20, 1862. His father was a native of Carolina. He began teaching when he was fifteen years old. He was a deacon in the Christian church, assistant superintendent of the Sunday school, and for a number of years was superintendent of the Hewittville Sunday school. He was a member of the Masonic lodge at Dix.

He is survived by his wife and seven children, Waldo B., Nancy I., Jessie, Ruby, June and Joy, twins, and Russell. He also leaves a sister Mrs. Mary E. Harvey who made her home with them. Funeral arrangements have not been completed.

The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) Mar 13, 1917

William O. Otis Goes Wacko Near Waco

July 6, 2010

Waco, Texas (Image from


Professor William O. Otis Cuts His Throat With a Jackknife — Insanity.

WACO, Tex., February 15. — Professor William O. Otis, teacher of the county public free school at Greenwood, nine miles west of Waco, near the Bosque river, cut his throat this morning in the schoolroom in the presence of his pupils, using a jackknife which he borrowed from one of the little boys for the purpose.

School time had not been called, and the children were just gathering when the horrifying deed occurred. They fled in all directions, screaming as then went, and the near neighbors rushed in and disarmed the frantic man.

Replying to inquiries of the men, Professor Otis said to one: “I am tired of living and want to die.” To another he said: “I was afraid I would starve to death.”

He was tried in the county court this afternoon, adjudged insane, and as soon as possible he will be forwarded, if he lives.

Professor Otis is 50 years of age an a Marylander by birth and has been in Waco over twenty years. He was the first United States revenue officer to come to Waco after the close of the civil war.

He established in Waco what he called Otis’ Produce warehouse and received, sold and scrupulously paid over to owners every cent of the purchase money received, charging no commissions. This sort of business soon closed, because it broke the liberal-hearted gentleman who established the remarkable enterprise and gave him a character of eccentricity. He next returned to his profession, that of teaching, and for some months served as principal of a school of some prominence in the southeastern portion of Texas.

William Otis - 1880 Census - Austin, Travis Co., Texas

He returned to McLennan county a year ago and commenced teaching at or near Crawford. Three weeks ago he made a contract with the trustees for the Greenwood school and faithfully instructed his pupils until this morning, when the tragic incident related above terminated perhaps forever his career as an educator.

Professor William O. Otis is a gifted man. He is a poet and has contributed to the first magazine literature of his age, and he once delivered a lecture in acceptable Latin before a convention of preachers in Baltimore.

To a reporter of THE NEWS he said: “I am going to kill myself certain, and next time I will use a razor.”

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Feb 16, 1889

It seems the author of the above article went out of his way to tell what a wonderful person Mr. Otis was, and maybe it was true. The only record I could find for him was the 1880 census record that states he was from Texas. Of course, the accuracy of it depends on who provided the information.

This is the only other William O. Otis, or even William Otis I could find who was in Texas, that could have been him. I didn’t find any from Maryland. I just wonder if, in the post-civil war time period, it would have been more advantageous to be a “Marylander” rather than an ex-confederate soldier.

Name: William O. Otis
Side: Confederate
Regiment State/Origin: Texas
Regiment Name: 22 Texas Cavalry
Regiment Name Expanded: 22nd Regiment, Texas Cavalry (1st Indian-Texas Regiment)
Company: D
Rank In: Private
Rank Out Expanded: Ordnance Sergeant
Film Number: M227 roll 28