Report of the death of Lucien M. Underwood

Report of the death of Lucien M. Underwood  (1907) 

Published in The Danbury Evening News, Danbury, Conn, Monday, November 18, 1907.

  In a sudden attack of mania, due, it is believed, to depression over losses sustained during the recent period of financial unrest, Professor Lucien Marcus Underwood, of Columbia University, New York City, attacked his wife and daughter with a knife Saturday afternoon in his country home in Redding, and after severly wounding Mrs. Underwood, took his own life.

  The home of prof. Underwood and his family in the Umpawaug district, about a mile and a half southwest of West Redding station and only a short distance from Umpawaug schoolhouse. The place was formerly the Ephraim Barlow homestead and Prof. Underwood purchased it about five years ago and by making numerous improvements to the house and grounds, converted it into one of the most comfortable of the many homes of New york business and professional men in that locality.

  The tragedy occurred early Saturday afternoon and the first intimation any of the neighbors received of it was when Mrs. Underwood and her daughter, who fled from the house as soon as they could escape from the crazed man, reached the residence of F.E. Ewing, a short distance from their own home, and told the story of the attack. Mrs. Underwood was bleeding from a deep gash in her throat but Miss Underwood was unharmed. Two employees of the Ewing farm ran to the Underwood place in hope of preventing Prof. Underwood from doing further harm, but he had already slashed his own throat with the same weapon with which he attacked the members of his family, and before medical aid came, he was dead.

  The sudden unseating of Prof. Underwood's reason seems unexplainable to his family and friends, for he was a man of exceptionally happy disposition, loving and lovable, and while some of his investments had been affected by the financial depression. It was not known to his family or to any of his intimate friends that his losses had been sufficient to cause him more than slight uneasiness.

  Prof. Underwood went upstairs after lunch Saturday afternoon and his daughter, Miss Helen Underwood, who is about twenty-two years of age, found him at the entrance to the bathroom, at the head of the stairs a few moments later. He seized her and his manner was so unusual that she ran downstairs and called to her mother. Mrs. Underwood hastened upstairs and was at once attacked by her husband with a small knife that he had evidently taken from the kitchen. He gashed her across the right side of the throat with the weapon and there was a short struggle, in which Mrs. Underwood tried to secure possession of the knife and in doing so, received a severe cut across the little finger of her left hand.

  Realizing, that alone, they were unable to cope with Prof. Underwood, the women ran from the house and fled to the home of their nearest neighbor, Frank E. Ewing, a short distance away. As soon as the members of the Ewing family learned what had happened, two of the employees of the farm, Henry W. Pickney, the coachman, and Charles Stolle, a farmhand, ran down to the Underwood place in the hope of being able to reach Prof. Underwood before he could do further harm. They found him lying upon the floor of the bathroom with a gash in his throat. He had attempted to take his own life with the weapon with which he had attacked his wife. The men carried him into an adjoining room but he managed to escape from them and go back into the bathroom. There they had a short but fierce struggle with him and finally overpowered him and took him back to the bedroom, where they were obliged to tie him securely in order to prevent him from doing further harm to himself. Other neighbors were summoned and an attempt to save the man's life, but it was unsuccessful and Prof. Underwood died about a half four later.

  Dr. Ernest H. Smith, of Redding, to whose office a telephone message was sent, was out upon a professional call and Dr. G. D. Wright of Bethel, who had previously attended the Underwood family was summoned. Dr. Wright hurried to Redding to attend Mrs. Underwood. He found her weak and shock and loss of blood. He gave her temporary aid and telephoned Dr. H. F. Brownlee of this city, who performed the surgical work required in closing the wound in Mrs. Underwood's throat. The cut was found to be a severe one, but of such a nature that would not be fatal. Some of the smaller blood vessels and the muscles of the neck had been severed. Mrs. Underwood and Miss Underwood remained at the Ewing home, where, Saturday evening they were informed of Prof. Underwood's death. Mrs. Underwood received the news calmly and bore up under the shock bravely, as did also her daughter. Miss Underwood graduated recently from Cornell University and since that time has made her home with her parents in Redding.

  Dr. Smith, who is a medical examiner for Redding, made a careful investigation of the circumstances of the tragedy Saturday evening and sent a formal report to Coroner Charles A. Doten at Bridgeport. A certificate of death by suicide had been given by Dr. Smith and no further inquiry is regarded as necessary.

  An Evening News reporter visited the scene of the tragedy yesterday and talked with some of the acquaintances of Prof. Underwood, among whom were several Columbia College men, who had gone to Redding upon receipt of the news of the tragedy. They were deeply grieved over the death of Prof. Underwood, who was held in highest regard by his associates at the university. Mrs. Underwood and Miss Underwood, who, yesterday was almost prostrated, denied themselves to all callers yesterday at the Ewing home. They have the universal sympathy of the people of Redding, by whom the entire family has been regarded as the most delightful of neighbors and friends. The Underwoods have mingled freely with the townspeople since making Redding their home and have been active in many matters pertaining to the general welfare of the community.

  Professor Underwood, who was fifty-four years of age, was one of the ablest botanists in the country and was known in Europe by reason of his scientific accomplishments. He had been a member of the faculty of Columbia College about eleven years and until he established a home in Redding, resided in New York City. He maintained a room in the Bronx, New York, remaining there when detained in New York over night by reason of his professional duties. He was in New York on Thursday, returning to Redding Thursday evening. He held an official position in connection with the Bronx Park Botanical Gardens. As a writer upon botanical subjects, he was widely known. He was one of numerous men prominent in new york professional and Literary life who, attracted by the beauties of Redding's hills and woods, had established homes there during the last few years. The neighborhood of his home was particularly rich in botanical subjects, which were his delight.

  Dr. J. A. Schaefer, an associate of Prof. Underwood at Columbia, is quoted as saying, "He was an optimist who seemed to brighten the world of everyone with whom he came in contact. He was a very frank man, too. In nothing that he has ever said can I find a motive for the taking of his own life and the attempt upon the lives of those he held very dear."

  Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, was greatly shocked when informed of the tragedy. He said: "I am astounded. I saw Prof. Underwood recently and he seemed to be in the best of spirits. He ranked near the top as a botanist and was a most faithful and valuable officer. His death is a great loss."

  Prof. Underwood was born in New Woodstock, New york, October 26, 1853. As a boy he lived on a farm. In 1877 he was graduated from Syracuse University. He taught in various colleges in Illinois from '79 to '83; in Syracuse University from '83 to '91; in Depauw University, Indiana from '91 to '95; in the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in '95 and '96; and since 1896 had been professor of botany at Columbia. He was the author of half a dozen books of various botanical subjects.

  The remains were taken in charge by undertaker F. E. Tomlinson, of Bethel. The funeral will be held tomorrow and the interment will be in the Umpawaugh Cemetery, Redding.