William O. Otis Goes Wacko Near Waco

Waco, Texas (Image from http://www.wacomuseums.com)


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

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