IN SEARCH OF BERWICK'S OLDEST CITIZEN
IN SEARCH OF BERWICK’S OLDEST CITIZEN
In the Summer of 1909, Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper, distributed 700 specially designed walking canes to the Board of Selectmen in 700 towns across Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Back then, living to be close to 100 years old was a very newsworthy topic. Mr. Grozier conceived the idea of these canes to attract more readers (the Boston Post was published from 1909 to 1956).
The canes were made by J. F. Fradley and Company, a New York manufacturer, from ebony sourced from the African Congo and topped with a 14-carat gold head decorated by hand. The Board of Selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and make sure it was passed to their oldest male citizen for use as long as he lived and then handed down to the next oldest citizen of the town. (In 1930, eligibility for the cane was finally opened to women).
Berwick, Maine is one of 227 towns in Maine that continue this Yankee tradition, although Berwick’s cane resides in a glass display case at the town hall and current recipients now receive a plaque. Mr. John F. Robinson, who was born in 1833, was the first known recipient of Berwick’s Boston Post cane. Over the years, the cane was passed along to close to 20 Berwick citizens, including Mrs. Lura Foss, Jennie Cheetham, Gordon N. Maddix and Ulanda Gonthier and Ted Stickney. The resident holding the cane for the longest period was Charles Ramsay, who reached the age of 104!
If you know a Berwick resident in their golden years who should be recognized and celebrated with the Boston Cane tribute, please contact Patricia Murray, Berwick Town Clerk via phone, e-mail, or in person at the Berwick Town Hall on 11 Sullivan Street (207-698-1101, extension 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than 15 April 2019.
For more information on the Boston Cane and to find out about other New England municipalities that continue to carry on this tradition, check out The Boston Post Cane Information Center at http://web.maynard.ma.us/bostonpostcane