The William Egbert Swezey Affair

The William Egbert Swezey Affair


An Attempt to Take Egbert Swezey Away From a State Officer Sent There to Take Swezey to an Asylum

Long Island Advance, July 1895—

A mob of one hundred excited Brookhavenites surrounded the house of Wm. Booth in Brookhaven Friday Night [19 July 1895] and attempted to take away from A. J. Kilbride, an officer from the Middletown Asylum, Wm. Egbert Swezey, whom he had in charge intending to take him to the asylum the next morning.

Mr. Kilbride says the mob broke into the house about midnight but failed to take his prisoner as he stood his ground and told them they would have to put him out of the way first.

Then two of the leaders, whom Kilbride says were Addison Bumstead and Forest Reeve, came up to Judge Smith’s here, got him out of bed and tried to get him to give them a note to Kilbride commanding him to bring Swezey to Judge Smith’s office. Judge Smith gave Bumstead a note which he expected him to read to the crowd and was calculated to quiet the men.

The note bearers went back to Booth’s and Kilbride says they tried to to make him believe the note ordered him to bring Swezey to Judge Smith’s office at 5 o’clock next morning.

Kilbride said he did not believe them and paid no attention to it. The mob finally went away. Some of the men recognized, Kilbride says, were A. H. Bumstead, Sid Hawkins, Excise Commissioner William Swezey, Ad Reeves, Jno Seaman and John Fuller.

Mrs. [Laura Swezey] Booth was terribly frightened and seriously shocked by the excitement occasioned by the mob of men breaking into the house at night.

Saturday morning Mr. Kilbride took his man away unmolested.

He writes officials here that the state will take the matter in hand and make it warm for the men who so seriously interfered with a state officer in the discharge of his duty. Kilbride says he was never subject to such treatment before. He was called all sorts of abusive names.

For some time Mr. Egbert Swezey has been considered crazy and his daughter and son-in-law Wm. Booth have found it difficult to get along him. Swezey has frequently made trouble here. Application for his removal was made to Oversear of Poor Chichester, and Drs. Terry and Bennett examined the man, the papers were made out and Judge Smith approved them. Mr. Kilbride came here last last Friday and went down to Brookhaven with with Mr. Chichester. Swezey could not be found at his old haunts. Mr. Chichester returned about noon and Mr. Kilbride and Mr. Booth came up in the afternoon after searching Bellport. On their return they stopped in Bellport again and found Swezey hid in the cellar of Duffy’s saloon. They got him home and tat night the house was attacked.

Kilbride says A. H. Bumstead and Sid Hawkins hid Swezey away and that Bumstead was the ring leader of the mob. If this is true it would seem that Constable Bumstead had made a grave mistake and that he ought to have been assisting the officer rather than in leading the mob. We trust the charge will prove groundless.

It seams a telegram was sent to Mr. Booth telling him that Mr. Kilbride would arrive Friday and take Mr. Swezey away. The telegraph operator gave the message to Sid Hawkins to deliver. Mr. Kilbride says he would like to know how the contents of that message became known outside the Booth family and he says he proposes to find out.

Some of the people down there say that the feeling against the Booths for allowing their father to be taken to an asylum was the cause of the trouble. Others say that the man ought to go and that Mr. and Mrs. Booth do perfectly right in sending him.

Judging from Mr. Kilbride’s letter which we have seen, we rather think these people will regret attacking a state officer in the discharge of his duty. He says that the state is going to take a hand at making trouble.

[A similar article was published in the New York Times, 20 July 1895. No follow-up articles have been found. There seems to have been no serious repercussions against Constable Bumstead or the others. Bumstead retained his position as a Town constable, and eventually became a county Deputy Sheriff. By the 1900 census, the Booth family was found living in Babylon, NY. The Booth homestead stood on the south side of Beaver Dam Road, near to modern Meadow Lane. It was torn down by Laura Booth in 1930. She was still then living in Babylon.]