Danby Split Over Congdon Action

Attempt to Commit Man to Institution For Insane, Results In Political Fight That Ousts Town Clerk Otis and Three Selectman.

Split into factions, the town of Danby is still seething with excitement after an election as bitterly contested as any that Rutland County has ever known. Friendships of years’ standing have been broken, and the town is mired in a political turmoil which has disrupted its ordinary quiet and serenity.

It all came about through the arrest of Albert D. Congdon, a lifelong resident of the village. Ostensibly, Congdon was arrested on a breach of peace charge. This was later changed to commitment proceedings to have him declared insane and placed in an institution.

Town Clerk Defeated.

The avalanche of hostile feeling which divided the town swept from office the town clerk, Robert V. M. Otis, and further resulted in the election of three new selectmen.

The town clerkship has been in the hands of the Otises, father and son, for 30 years or more. Two weeks of .. increasing opposition snatch Otis from his chair by an overwhelming majority.

Two weeks ago Danby residents looked forward to the election with no particular concern. It would be a quiet election, they said, although there was a contest for the town clerkship. But even at the time, victory was conceded to Otis.

Congdon Locked Up.

Then on the afternoon of February 20, Deputy Sheriff D. A. Barker arrived in Danby and was seen walking in the direction of the Congdon residence. A half hour or so later, Congdon, accompanying the officer, left for Rutland.

The storm broke. Rumors spread like wild fire through the little hamlet. No one knew why Congdon had been arrested. What crime had he committed, the villagers asked each other.

That evening, accurate information was forthcoming. Gathered in small groups, the townspeople discussed this sudden act. Feeling steadily grew more and more heated and, when the village went to bed that night, the stage was set for the bitter political contest to follow.

Arrest Followed Argument.

The arrest of Congdon was caused, it is said, by certain incidents which took place eight or nine years ago. The immediate cause was a political discussion between Otis and Congdon on the morning of February 20 when Congdon, in talking to Otis, has advised the removal of the town clerk’s office to a location not in accord with the latter’s plans. There were now witnesses to this meeting but it is understood that the discussion was a heated one and still farther estranged the two men.

Otis went that afternoon to Rutland and, after conferring with State’s Attorney Lawrence C. Jones, had a warrant issued ordering the arrest of Congdon on a breach of peace charge.

Start Commitment Action.

The day after the arrest, while Congdon was in the Rutland County jail, commitment proceedings were instituted to place Congdon in an institution for the insane. The papers were signed by the two selectman of the village, John Harris and D. B. Bromley and a hearing set before Judge Harvey R. Kingsley of the Probate Court.

The real cause of the incident is said to lie in acts attributed to Congdon several years ago. Congdon, at that time began the study of theology at home. After a period of intensive application, it is said that he suffered a nervous breakdown.

During the period of his illness, it is alleged that he sent objectionable letters to one of the members of the Otis family, although no action was taken at the time.

Arrest Divides Townspeople.

Follow his arrest two weeks ago, the residents of the town aligned themselves on one side or the other and the major issue of the town meeting was the settlement of the Congdon case. His supporters set into motion a campaign to oust Otis from office and to elect members to the board of selectmen that they might have a majority on the board sufficient to stop commitment proceedings against Congdon. It is understood that Rev. W. A. McIntyre, pastor of the Danby Congregational Church, was one of the leaders in the fight to forestall commitment action.

Congdon Side Wins Election.

As election approached, the political situation became daily more acute and feeling among townspeople, more pronounced. Both sides were battling tooth and nail for any
little advantage on an issue which involved the sanity of a human being.

Election day came. And that night, when the votes were counted it was seen that the Congdon side had been victorious.

The board of selectmen, with a Congdon majority of three, notified the law firm of Lawrence, Stafford & Bloomer, representing the town of Danby, that they wished proceedings dropped. Attorneys Charles L. Howe and Lindley S. Squires, representing Congdon, were also notified and he was released from jail here.

The town has not yet settled down to normal nor will it for some time, it is said. The incident closed when Congdon walked out of jail a free man but so intense was the feeling, so bitter the struggle, that it will be a long time before the usual quiet of the village is again attained.