Crazy Sud Dunham Abel West

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Crazy Sud Dunham Abel West - his Atlantic will Berkshire The Story of ^Crazy...
his Atlantic will Berkshire The Story of ^Crazy Sue' Dunham By Bernard K. t'arman as secretary. has the comments compared in were by for stores Garfield of the former Car- the years' action Adams, WMGT place THIS DAY MARKS the quadrennial quadrennial switch when, traditionally. the female is allowed to put on the bended knee act. »nd this perhaps is an appropriate oc.-r»ku fui a tale of the pangs of despised love. Or. at least, tradition holds that the story ot "Crazy Sue" illustrates the penis of poor judgment in mat- tei-s of amour. Almost every Berkshire town north of Stockbridge has its anecdotes anecdotes about Miss Susan Dunham, a 19th-century eccentric popularly known as Crazy Sue. The tales are legion, but the facts are somewhat somewhat harder to come by. The vital statistics of Pittsfield offer the most concrete clues in the record of her death: "Susan Dunham, aged 85. died of old age Dec. 14, 1852. Born at Martha's Vineyard. Parents. Cornelius and Tabitha Dunham." It is believed that Sue was a whilom resident of the town of Savoy and presumably a relative relative of Abiel Dunham, who settled settled there during the period 17771787. 17771787. * t · SUE APPARENTLY was a pretty girl, at least until the yea re and madness made their inroads. If. as some recorders have be- heved. she was the belle of Savoy, she must have been a lively one, for most of the legends dealing with her madness are sprightly. Since insanity was widely regarded as an occasion for tasteful humor, many Berkshire residents thought to make sport of poor, mad Sue. But those who thus attempted to demonstrate their own superiority were frequently brought up short. For example, there was the time that Atty. (late Governor) George Nixon Brings was riding home from Adams in the company of Dr. William H. Tyler. Passing through Cheshire, the pair came upon Sue fishing in a brook. The professional men halted to watch, but the demented Miss Dunham Dunham took no notice. Finally the lawyer asked, "Sue, what are you doing?" "Fishing." she replied. "What do you hope to catch?" "The devil," quoth Sue. The two gentlemen laughed. "And what," they asked with elaborate interest, "are you using for bait?" Sue's answer was straight to the point: "Doctors and lawyers." » » * LIVELY STABLE loungers, who rejoiced in the same sort of wit favored by pool-hall habitues today, today, were especially fond of badgering Sue. An Adams card stopped Sue one day and asked. "Sue, did you know the devil died?" "When?" she asked. The youth nudged his companions with a subtle elbow. "Why, day before yesterday." Sue surveyed the group with a contemptuous glance. Pulling a long face and adopting a commiserating commiserating tone, she said, "Oh, you poor, fatherless children!" «! · · DESPITE HER sharp tongue and unsettling penchant for setting fires, Sue generally was welcome throughout her territory. A peripatetic peripatetic nut must be cautious, however, however, and over the years she compiled compiled a list of homes where she This «rmi-primiti\c portrait of Sue Dunham hang* in the Berkshire Berkshire County Historical Room of the Berkshire Museum. The painter, George Williams, obtained the sitting* by Mrategcm. Shortly after its completion, the oung arti»t died »uddrnl. felt especially at ease. She knew which families would indulge her aberrations or tolerate her minor piiferings and occasional major misdemeanors without calling the catchpolls. Entertaining Sue, and vice versa, were not unmixed blessings. It is recorded that she burned her own clothes on one occasion, preempting preempting a new habit from the family family of Abel West of Pittsfield. She stole lunches from schoolgirls and silver spoons from their parents. Twice she kidnaped babies. But Berkshire people were tolerant, and she was confined only rarely and for brief periods. A long-standing tradition holds that Crazy Sue is the adult figure in the foreground on the famous Staffordshire pottery depicting Pittsfield's Park Square as it appeared appeared around 1818. * * · THE CAUSE OF Sue's madness is generally assumed to have been thwarted love but, then, who can recall any 19th century lunacy that wasn't ascribed to the same thing? Catherine S e d g w i c '.\, who memorialized memorialized the wandering eccentric eccentric in her "New England Tales" adopted th» conventional cause. One story gives a highly circumstantial circumstantial account of her derangement. derangement. According to the story, Sue's father, like many Berkshire men, had strong opinions on the subject subject of the federal Constitution. And Sue had the misfortune to fall in love with a youth who was an equally strong adherent of the opposite opposite party. Her father, putting first things first, forbade the match. A short while later the despondent despondent maiden came under the influence of a spell-binding re- vivalist, whose vivid picture of hell-fire completed the mischief. In support of the theory, it is noted that Sue herself, asked what made her crazy, replied, "A little politics and a little religion." · · · ALSO CONTRIBUTING to the thwarted love hypothesis was Sue's habit of mourning for days on end at the graves of young men. even though she had not known the youths in life. A graveside vigil led finally to the end of her pilgrimages pilgrimages about the county. A student student at the Berkshire Medical Institution Institution had died and. although it was midwinter. Sue took up her customary watch at the grave. A group of students, young men of delicate sensibilities, attempted to frighten her by donning shrouds and appearing suddenly in the graveyard. Sue took no notice. After a nervous pause one of the students asked in sepulchral tones, "Susan Dunham! Where art thou?" She replied meekly, "Here, dear Lord!" The next day Sue returned to home of her brother in Windsor, remaining there quietly for several several years. She returned to Pittsfield Pittsfield in 1852. staying at the home Ross Hubbard on Beaver Street. It is said that her reason returned shortly before her death, leaving the years of madness a complete blank in her mind. When she was shown a wrinkled old woman in mirror. Sue, harking back to the Savoy charmer, failed to recognize the face as her own. A few days later she was dead and, after overflow rrowd attended her funeral funeral in South Cor.-regau'onal Church, she was buried in Windsor. Letters Correspondence to this column Exploration Only is on a by a we of

Clipped from The Berkshire Eagle29 Feb 1956, WedPage 17

The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts)29 Feb 1956, WedPage 17
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  • Crazy Sud Dunham Abel West

    toddkwest – 26 Mar 2013

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