The curious case of Peter Wiseman’s dumbness.

Peter Wiseman was my great grandmother, Mary Ann Pye nee Wiseman’s, half-brother.  Peter Wiseman was a bootmaker and married Catherine Keating.

The following newspaper articles report two unusual incidents where Peter was struck dumb.  One reporter was uncharitable enough to poke fun at the usually garrulous Mr Wiseman’s inability to speak for a time.  I had wondered if Peter had in fact been suffering the effects from mini strokes, but I am unable to determine the true cause of his affliction.

There is no record of Peter’s death in the death indexes and I wonder if he ever regained his speech after the last mentioned incident.

Border Watch – Wed 24 March 1886

STRUCK DUMB.-An extraordinary case occurred here on Sunday evening. A man named Peter Wiseman, an employee at Mr. Child’s Mount Gambier Boot Factory, had, it appeared, been drinking that day, and in the evening had a fit. He soon recovered from the fit, but it left him without the power of speech, and thus he still remains.  Dr. MacDonald is attending him. Wiseman is now in perfect health apparently, his only ailment being that he is dumb. He has a wife and family at Warrnambool.

Border Watch – Wed 31 March 1886

Mr. PETER WISEMAN, to whose extraordinary case of being struck dumb on Sunday week we referred on the 24th inst, denies that he was under the influence of liquor when the calamity befell him. Mr. W, Dodge, watchmaker, Millicent, seeing the account of the case, stated his conviction that he could cure Wiseman. On Wednesday, therefore, Wiseman, accompanied by Mr. W. K. Glass, visited Millicent, and submitted himself to Mr. Dodge’s treatment. This consists of a mesmeric or magnetic process.  Mr. Dodge breathed heavily on the patient’s cheek and neck for a quarter of an hour or so at time. Wiseman, in answer to questions, wrote that he felt the magnetic influence go all over his body, producing a most extraordinary sensation. Afterwards he went for a walk, and on his    return Mr. Glass remarked to him suddenly, “I feel drowsy: do you?” Immediately Wiseman replied, I do, a little.” He was startled at his success for the time, but he was   unable to utter another word. He returned to Mount Gambier with Mr. Glass the same evening but it is probable will pay another visit to Mr. Dodge,

Border Watch – 3 April 1886


A RUMOUR having been industriously circulated that as soon as Peter Wiseman became ill I dismissed him from my service, I beg to give it an unqualified denial. His place is being kept for him until he is able to resume work. J. W. CHILD.

Border Watch (Mount Gambier) – 7 April 1886

THE unfortunate man Peter Wiseman, who has not regained the ability to speak in the slightest degree, was sent to the Hospital on Monday morning, but left the same night without leave, on the ground that to remain there would mean starvation. It is probable he will now be sent home to Warrnambool.

The South Australian Advertiser – Thurs 1 Apr 1886

A singular temporary recovery from the loss of the power of speech is thus reported in the South Eastern Star of March 30:—” Last week Mr. Peter Wiseman, an employee at Mr. Childs’s boot palace, found after his recovery from a fit that he had lost the power of speech. Mr. W. Dodge, watchmaker, of Millicent, heard of it, and expressed his belief that he could aid the man in recovering his speech; so on Saturday morning Wiseman, accompanied by Mr. W. K. Glass, journeyed to Millicent and placed himself under Mr. Dodge, who brought the health-healing process to bear upon the neck and back of his patient, after which he requested him to take a walk. On his return he was requested to sit down a while in the parlor, and during the time he was waiting Mr. Glass, who was with him, said, “I feel drowsy, Peter, do you” “Yes, I do a little,” replied Wiseman; and so overjoyed was he at the return of his voice that he sprang from his chair in great excitement, but all subsequent efforts at articulation were vain. Wiseman then returned to Mount Gambier, but will probably pay Mr. Dodge another visit during the current week.”

Border Watch – 12 May 1886

Mr. PETER WISEMAN, who, our readers will remember, was suddenly struck dumb about two months ago, after a fit, recovered his speech on Sunday morning as suddenly and unaccountably as he lost it. That it was a nervous affection there can be little doubt. On Saturday he had a misunderstanding with his employer, Mr. J. W. Child, about wages, and believing himself to be in the right was very much agitated about it. He says he lay awake all night thinking over the matter, and making up his mind as to how he would act, when all at once, early am Sunday morning, he found himself able to articulate. He got up immediately, and, overjoyed, walked about his room and soliloquised until the rest of the inmates of the house were up. He feels all right now, and speaks as freely as if nothing had occurred. Pining his period of dumbness he was much depressed, fearing his affliction would be permanent and incurable. His delight is now correspondingly great.

Portland Guardian – Monday 17 December 1888

A well-known local character named Peter Wiseman was seized with a somewhat          uncommon affliction on Sunday morning, when he suddenly lost his power of speech. This is not the first time his vocal organs have ceased to perform their functions; and on former occasions the dumbness lasted for three weeks, The cause of the suspension is supposed to be paralysis of the tongue, a presumption not improbable for, so long as that organ was in working order, Peter kept it so constantly and vigorously employed that it is not surprising that it should fail him at last. However, the poor fellow is in a pitiable state and it is to be hoped that the attack will be as brief as were the previous ones.

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.) Monday 7 January 1889

A remarkable instance of man suddenly becoming dumb has occurred in Warrnambool (says the “Standard.”) Mr. Wiseman, bootmaker, of Fairy-street, for some time had complained of a pain in his side, and was reclining on a bed, when his speech suddenly left him.  Up to the third evening, with the exception of one word, which he had answered in the affirmative to a question put to him, he had not spoken. On being asked if he had any recollection of speaking, he shook his head, denoting that he had not. About three years ago a similar misfortune befell Wiseman, and on that occasion he had gone up to Mount Gambier when he was suddenly afflicted with dumbness, and had to sojourn in the hospital for three weeks, when speech returned. It is thought by many that his tongue, which is at present insensible to feeling has become paralysed. 


About BeesKnees2013

Interested in family history research.
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One Response to The curious case of Peter Wiseman’s dumbness.

  1. Pingback: Pioneer women – Margaret Curtin | DiscoveringMyAncestors

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