1900's Centenarians Reflect on 1800s

— Three centuries will be spanned by the lives of more than a score of men and women in the United States, provided these centenarians hear the “All’s well” of 1901. Twenty and more of the aged ones were reported yesterday as alive and well, and a complete census would no doubt show an astonishingly large number. This canvass was made yesterday by telegraph. It showed that there were more centenarians of Irish birth than of any other. The Americans were next. Londonderry is the birthplace of more centenarians now living in this country than any other place. The old colored slaves who cursed General Washington seem to be dying out. Only three centenarians of African descent were reported among the living.

These centenarians are well over the hundred mark of years. Noah Raby and Mrs. Mary McDonald should lead the dance of patriarchs, for each lays claim to a life of 129 years. Documentary evidence and their own stories leave no room for doubt as to the authenticity of the figures. There are many who are more than ten years over the 100 mark, and those who are only 101 years old are the children of the company.

They all have theories of longevity of more or less value. Some indulged in such strong drink as they required, and others have been total abstainers. A few of the men have used tobacco all their lives, but most of them have eschewed the fragrant weed. The only rule on which they agree prescribes abundant food and plenty of sleep.

All of this company expect to see the coming century. Their friends are making elaborate preparations in cases where the health of the aged ones will permit their witnessing festivities.

Noah Raby, the Seer

Noah Raby, bowed down by 129 years, sits in the kitchen of the poorhouse in Piscataway Township, N.J., and although his frame is feeble and he can no longer support it, he says that life to him is very sweet. He feels that he still has a mission, for is he not the seer and adviser to all the folk of the countryside? He knows that time of the moon for planting corn, and he is familiar with all the signs and portents and the meaning of dreams. His neighbors think that one who has lived so long must needs know more than is compassed in ordinary ken, and so Noah Raby is their guide and friend.

He keeps alive in his heart the great romance of his life, and when he is in the mood he will tell how he loved Sarah Parker, vainly tried to forget her, and then found when too late that she loved him, although she wedded another.

Noah Raby was born in Gatesville, N.C., in 1772. He turned his steps to Virginia when he became a man and became overseer on a plantation. There he met Sarah Parker, who owned a neighboring plantation, and fell in live with her. He thought that his passion was hopeless, so he went to the war of 1812. He served on the United States man-of-war Brandywine for five years. Before his mind was always the vision of the woman whom he had known in Virginia. He could not forget her. So he went back to the old plantation and saw Sarah. He told her that he loved her and for five years had vainly sought forgetfulness. Then he asked if he was too late. She replied that he was, as she had been married for four years.

Second Affair Unfortunate

There is a secondary love affair in the life of Noah Raby which he will sometimes mention. He fell in love with Anne Dunleavy later and had made all the arrangements for the wedding. She went as his fiancée to the farm where he was employed. She flirted desperately with a farmhand and ran away with him, all in twelve hours. The aged man is therefore still distrustful of women.

Mrs. Mary McDonald, of Philadelphia, has attained the same age as Noah Raby. She is now 129 years old. She lives in the Home for the Aged and Infirm in the Quaker City, and there is none more hopeful than she as she looks forward to the coming of the new century. She remembers the days of Valley Forge, and in the most picturesque language describes the soldiers in “ragged regimentals” who endured cold and hunger in their struggle for the liberty of the United States. She remembers vividly the skirmishing about the Forge, the flash of the muskets and the shouts of the pickets.

Celestina Nigri is living in comfort at her home, at 1135 Vine Street, Philadelphia, at the hale old age of 111 years. She retains the use of her faculties, and can tell many an interesting story of the changes which she has seen.

In the mind of Michael Mooney there are recollections of a certain disturbance in Ireland in the year 1798. He was born in Granuth, Ireland, in the year 1792. He arrived in this country in his youth, and until a few years ago he led a busy and varied life. He is now living in the Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Philadelphia.

Sleep and the Daily Bath

Among those who live to give recipes for long life is Mrs. Mary Bradley, of Philadelphia. She was born in county Tyrone, Ireland, in 1799. She came to this country in 1829. Her husband, John Bradley, was killed in the mines at Pottsville in 1836. She had four children, of whom only one survives. She has seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

She helps with the household duties, and not very long ago she took advantage of the absence of her daughter to begin a series of housecleaning operations. She astonished the dentists a year or so ago by developing three back teeth, which took the place of those which she had lost years before. She rises at five o’clock every morning, and goes to bed at ten o’clock at night. She attributes her long life to plenty of sleep and daily cold baths.

One of the best known old men in the country is Abraham Elmer, of Utica, N.Y. He was alive and well yesterday, and serenely hopeful of seeing the beginning of the new century. He was born in Herkimer County, N.Y., in 1782. He has always lived a hardy life, and is still a vigorous man. He went to Sackett’s Harbor to enlist in the war of 1812. He served in the Fourth infantry, commanded by Colonel Bellinger. He says his long life is due to a simple diet and the observance of the primary laws of health.

Dispatches from Waco, Texas, yesterday said that Isaac Brook, more then 112 years old, was awaiting the new century. He was born in North Carolina on March 1, 1788. He fought in four wars and a few skirmishes. He went to the War of 1812, and as a man of 24 years faced the British redcoats. He was living in Texas when the Lone Star State had a separate existence. He was active in the war of Texas against Mexico in 1835 and 1836. He took part ten years later in the war of the United States against Mexico. He was an old man at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was impressed as a gunner by the Southern Confederacy, and was many a time under the fire of the federal gunboats in the fortifications at Galveston.

Dances at 108 Years

Bernard W. Morris, a watchman in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, is a centenarian as hale and well as was old King Cole. He was born in Temple Court, County Cavan, Ireland, in 1792. He came to this country in 1825. He has been married three times. It was not long ago that his wife gave him a birthday party in his honor, at which he nimbly danced.

“I’m glad it is here at last,” said the old man, at his home, 264 Warren Street, Brooklyn. “There were many wonderful changes in the nineteenth century, and there will be more in the twentieth century. The world is marching forward, and I am thankful that it has been my good luck to have lived in three centuries. I do not feel my 108 years, and hope to live for at least a few years in the new century.”

Mr. Morris does not look as old as he is. He goes regularly every day to Prospect Park where he has been employed as a laborer for more years than many of the present employees have lived. His present duties are light. He tolls the park bell and carries messages for Park Commissioner Brower. He lives quietly with his family, and enjoys nothing more than his after-dinner smoke.

He can remember the borough across the river when it was only a village compared with its present size and importance. He recalls the days when Flatbush Avenue, now far down town, was considered quite in the wilderness of the city. His memory is quite good, and he can talk for hours about old Brooklyn. He thinks Brooklyn far superior in every way to Manhattan, and one of the regrets of his recent years was the consolidation of the two cities.

“If they had let Brooklyn remain a city,” he said last night, “it would soon be the biggest and most important city in the country. It’s too bad they had to make it a part of New York. To me one of the greatest things of the nineteenth century was the growth of Brooklyn, and it will continue to grow in the twentieth century.”

Mrs. Ann Slote, a Brooklyn centenarian, was reported yesterday as suffering from an attack of bronchitis. She was born in county Armagh, Ireland, on July 12, 1800. She is the mother of “Dan” Slote, immortalized in Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad. “Dan” Slote died several years ago.

There came to this city two years ago Andrew Montgomery, the descendant of an African king. He was more than six feet in height. In the years before he had to carry a century of years he measured six feet and six inches. Montgomery came to New York in the interests of an old folks’ home. He returned to Atlanta, Ga., and it was reported yesterday from that city that he was in good health.

He was born 104 years ago. He served as a slave for J.M.C. Montgomery, on whose plantation he was born. At one time his master refused an offer of $3,500 for him. Montgomery was for many years a porter in Atlanta. He is well read, having in the course of his life acquired much information. He is a preacher, and is famed among those of his race for his power as an exhorter.

Nicholas McQuillan, of Southold, L.I., will be 103 years old on New Year’s Day. His friends are making preparations to give a birthday celebration in his honor. McQuillan lives with his nephew, Joseph H. Thompson, and next door to Mr. Thompson’s house lives Mrs. Jane Thompson, McQuillan’s sister, who is 90 years old. When McQuillan reached the century mark his friends gave him a birthday celebration. During the festivities he and his sister astonished the guests by dancing a reel in a very lively fashion. Mr. McQuillan is exceedingly strong, considering his age.

He is never ill. He is as lively as a man of 25, and his eyesight is exceptionally good. His memory is good, and the only indication of great age about him is the stoop of his shoulders. McQuillan is a native of Drogheda, in the north of Ireland. He came to this country in 1864 with his wife, Bridget, who is now dead. They settled in Greenpoint, L.I., where he engaged in weaving. He prospered, and in 1880 he retired and placed the business in the hands of his son Lawrence.

Has Daughter of 71

Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. McQuillan. Nine of them were alive and grown up in 1864, when McQuillan came to this country. Only four of them are now living. They are Jane McQuillan, of Middletown, N.Y.; James McQuillan, of New York City; Lawrence McQuillan, of New London, Conn.; and Mrs. Dennis Mullin, of Bridgeport, Conn. Mrs. Mullin, the oldest, is 71 years of age.

Mrs. Sarah Allen, one of New Jersey’s centenarians, lives at 523 Van Vorst Place, Union Hill. She is looking forward to watching out the old year and the old century. She was yesterday suffering from a slight cold. She was born in Londonderry, Ireland, on January 1, 1800. She came to the United States with her husband 54 years ago. She lived for 39 years in this city [New York]. She lives with her daughter, Mrs. Margaret Summerville. Mrs. Allen attributes her good health to an abundant diet and plenty of sleep. She has been blind for three years. Her other faculties are still clear, however, and she delights to tell her reminiscences to her friends and neighbors.

Mrs. Sarah Bartow was reported yesterday from New Brunswick, N.J., to be in good health. She was born in New Jersey on May 1, 1796. Mrs. Bartow comes of a long lived family. Her mother, Mrs. Hoitwrack, lived to the age of 110 years, and her grandmother died at the age of 107 years. Mrs. Bartow in her girlhood was a waitress in the Whitehall Hotel, in New Brunswick, where the Marquis de Lafayette was once entertained at a banquet by the citizens. She tells with much pride that she shook hands with the Marquis. She has 13 children, 20 grandchildren, 52 great- grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

George Wray, who lives in a remote part of Brown County, Indiana, is still alive, as far as inquiries made yesterday could determine. He was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in 1796. He obtained a divorce from his third wife on the ground of incompatibility of temper. He spent half his life as a sailor, and most of the rest of it as a farmer.

Mrs. Sylvia Dunham, who lives near Southington, Conn., I was informed yesterday by relatives, is looking forward with much enthusiasm to the coming of the twentieth century. She was 100 years old last July.

Patrick Maloney, the veteran switchman of Jersey City, abides in the faith that the signals are set for the next century so far as he is concerned. He is 101 years old. Mr. Maloney was born in Clare, Ireland.

March Lamb, a mild-mannered Afro-American, lives at Vineland, N.J. He is more than 100 years old. He served in the War of 1812 as a sailor.

Miss Louisa Shaller, descendant of one of the founders of Haddam, lives near Middletown, Conn. She was born on Sept. 21, 1800.

Mrs. Elizabeth Sorden, born in Elizabeth, N.J., in 1799, lives in Bridesburg, Pa.

Jonathan McGee, who is now 112 years old, says that he has lived so long because he has subsisted upon a diet of uncooked food. “The sun,” said he a year or so ago, “does all the cooking that I need.”

Mr. McGee lives in the country near Ypsilanti, Mich. He concluded in 1898 that it was not good for man to be alone and took a young woman to wife. He describes his ancestry as half Indian, one-quarter Irish and one-quarter Scotch. He was a soldier in the War of 1812 and draws a pension. He is an expert rifle shot and he still tramps through the woods in search of game.

Recalls January 1, 1801

Mrs. Elinda Bonner Hunt, a colored woman residing at 84 Marion Street, Ravenswood, Long Island City [in New York City], is as much is as much interested as any one in the birth of the new century. Mrs. Hunt was born in Prince George, Dunwoodie County, Va., on May 3, 1793, and if she lives until New Year’s Day she will have lived in three centuries. Despite her great age Mrs. Hunt takes deep interest in passing events, and will remain awake Monday night to welcome the new year and the new century.

Mrs. Hunt was a little child when the nineteenth century was born, but she has some recollections of the event. She says that she was living in Virginia at the time, and that the people held celebrations and festivals and made much of the occurrence. She hopes to be able to attend the watch night services in the Ravenswood Presbyterian Church, of which she is a member, and on New Year’s Day will receive calls from relatives and friends.

Mrs. Hunt never saw General George Washington, but clearly remembers a visit paid to the Virginia town by General Lafayette. She says that every one welcomed the distinguished visitor and every house was thrown open to him.

About 75 years ago the family moved to Ohio, and from there Mrs. Hunt returned to the South several years later, and then came North again, and lived in New York and then in Brooklyn. She moved to Ravenswood several years ago, and is surrounded by relatives. She says her mother was a white woman and her father a slave, who, after being given his freedom by his master, Henry Bonner, was employed by the latter for years. Mrs. Hunt was the mother of five children, two girls and three boys. Her oldest son went away 30 years ago and has never been heard of since. If he is alive he is now 85 years old. She is living at present with another son, James Bonner, who is 61 years old.

Keeps Candy Store at 107

Despite her great age, Mrs. Hunt is still active, and attends to the business of a small candy store, and finds that it keeps her mind occupied and gives her sufficient exercise. the store is known as the “Little Candy Store Around the Corner,” and is very popular with the children of the neighborhood.

“I have lived a long time and have seen a great many come and a great many go,” said Mrs. Hunt yesterday. “I am thankful to the good Lord for His mercy in having spared me for so long. I am surrounded by those I love, and it is a great mercy that I can be with them.”

Mrs. Hunt said that her health had been good until a few days ago. She did not feel well, but stated that she had fully recovered and felt like herself again.

When the people of New Brunswick, N.J., hold the proposed celebration of the advent of the new year and twentieth century, one of those already selected to be serenaded by the bands will be Mrs. Hannah Bartow, a widow, of Washington and Catherine streets, who will welcome a century for the second time in her life. Few if any other women live who at the age of 105 show such remarkable vitality as New Brunswick’s oldest resident.

On the first day of May, 1901, she will celebrate her 106th birthday, if she lives, and on that day, as has been the custom for years, the little home of Mrs. Bartow will be thronged with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, whose ages vary from one year to 80 years.