Hidden Histories

'Young at Heart' or 'Robbing the Cradle?'

Monday, 2/1/10

On May 31, 2004 at the age of 97, Alberta Martin, the last surviving widow of an American Civil War soldier passed away at Enterprise, Alabama. She was only one of many young women who had married much older men who fought as soldiers in America's greatest military conflict.

'Longevity' is not a new phenomenon, as is recorded in many records available here at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania and elsewhere. However, though many individuals have retained most of their 'faculties' with age, others carried on surprising behavior at an advanced age, in stark contrast to their peers.

One of the most famous centenarians was the Englishman, Thomas Parr of Salop (1483-1635), of which much has been written, a man who at the age of 105 stood condemned in the Parish church of Alderbury for 'fathering a child out of wedlock,' the mother being one Katherine Milton (See, Carl Bridenbaugh, Vexed & Troubled Englishmen: 1590-1642 (NY: Oxford Univ. Press., 1968: 371).

Perhaps not to be outdone by his famous countryman, a marriage is recorded for October of 1737, in the Gentleman's Magazine & Historical Chronicle, for:

"Andrew Newton, aged 117, lately in Ireland,--to a young Woman of 19, who is big with Child by him; he has a Son living above 80, and is as hail and hearty as any Man of 50 in the Kingdom." (Vol.VII: p.637)

Also dated for October 1st, at Dublin, Ireland, The American Weekly Mercury (from Tuesday January 31, to Tuesday February 7, 1737,8), published in Philadelphia, records a few more details relative to the above marriage, by stating:
We are assured that one Andrew Newton, who lives at Larabryan which lies between Manooth and Kilcock, in the County of Kildare, aged 117 Years, marry'd a young Woman of 19 Years of Age, about 7 Months ago, and that she is now big with Child by the saidAndrew Newton, who has a Son now living upwards of 80 Years of Age.
We have it from an extraordinary good Hand, who saw the said Newton and his Wife on Saturday last, and vouches the Truth of it; and affirms that there is no Man in the Kingdom, of 50 Years of Age, heartier and brisker than the said Newton.
Nothing more needs to be said. The facts speak for themselves!