After 1880, James Bailey had seen his last book published; he had remained Danbury’s “news man” in his recently constructed home on Osborne Street until his death from pneumonia in 1894, but his national fame had faded. In the preface of his History of Danbury, Susan Benedict Hill describes what may have contributed to Bailey’s precipitous drop in creative output:
“…[Bailey] was subject to seasons of deep depression. Years ago, in the very height of his world-wide popularity, his sunny soul would pass at times into profound darkness, when he would pray for death, while yet he would confess that there was no external cause for such despondency.
His love for children was deep and intense, and it was a sad grief to him that his own died in infancy. Every Sunday and holiday saw the tiny graves in Wooster Cemetery covered with flowers, placed there by his loving hands.
… Had he valued money for its own sake, he might have been a millionaire, but money flowed as steadily and profusely from his hands as did wit from his lips. No appeal to him for help was ever made in vain.”
According to a fellow Civil War veteran, Bailey’s bouts with depression also involved drinking.** He was a Democrat but his paper was non-partisan and he was said to have declined offers by both parties to be Danbury’s first mayor. Reportedly, he died relatively poor as a result of his extravagant philanthropy.
When Bailey looked out his front windows on 14 Osborne Street, past the young beech tree, he would have seen the peaceful tops of the hills in Wooster Cemetery and the graves of his children.
Bailey has been gone for some 125 years, but his house remains. Though, now, that what was until recently a grand beech tree has been removed with little ceremony.
* Bailey, James Montgomery. History of Danbury, Conn., 1684-1896: From Notes and Manuscript Left by James Montgomery Bailey. Burr Printing House, 1869, xxi.
** Art Young, Art Young: His Life and Times, New York: Sheridan House, 1939, 240.