NORWAY – After a nearly 25-year hiatus, selectmen have agreed to award the Boston Post cane again to Norway’s oldest resident.

The problem will be how to determine who that person is.

“It’s not just as easy as giving it to the oldest resident,” said Town Manager David Holt, who told selectmen recently that the presentation does not go smoothly sometimes. “It’s not always easy to determine who is the oldest resident.”

The cane, which is kept in the local Historical Society building, was presented to Norway sometime after 1909 when Boston Post publisher Edwin Grozier, decided to give a gold-headed ebony cane to 700 towns and requested that it be presented compliments of the now defunct Boston Post to the oldest male resident in the town.

According to various Web sources, the canes were made by J.F. Fradley and Co. of New York from ebony shipped in 7-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa. They had a 14-carat gold head engraved with the inscription: “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) – To be transmitted.”

Selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane, and it was to be passed along once the death of the recipient occurred. In 1930, the award was opened to women.

Over the years, many canes were lost, stolen, destroyed by accident or taken out of town by recipients.

In some cases, Holt said, speaking from personal experience, getting the cane back from the recipient’s family is not easy. Also, sometimes the recipient simply doesn’t want to be acknowledged as the town’s oldest resident, he said.

In Norway, the cane was first given in 1931 and since then 17 people have had it. Each time, the town had an engraving placed on the cane with the recipient’s name and either the date the cane was given or the recipient’s birth and/or death date.

Selectmen said they are also concerned about keeping the cane safe.

“Maybe we can give them a certificate and put their names on it,” suggested Selectman Irene Millett.

Holt suggested a committee be formed to develop rules, such as Scarborough has, to make the distribution easier. In Scarborough, the eligibility rules state the resident be at least 90 years old and reside within the town for a minimum of the past 20 years. Because many older residents simply move to the town to live in a nursing home, and there may be no formal way to identify a resident by age, Scarborough put together a committee of three to identify residents. They include the town clerk, a member of the local Historical Society and a representative of the local Lions Club.

Historical Society curator Charles Longley said he believes the society, which opened in 1974, has probably had the cane since the building opened at its present site in 1982.

Previous recipients of the award were:

• Joshua Yeaton, Feb. 25, 1931;

• Gardner B. Wiley, March 18, 1934;

• Abion Hill, Nov. 20, 1938;

• Frank Russell, March 5, 1939;

• Eldrege Holt, Jan. 17, 1941;

• William Perry, no date;

• Ripley Wiley, age 94, 1945 through Feb. 18, 1951;

• Chas H. Brownell, age 95, who apparently died soon after receiving the cane March 25, 1951, died April 16, 1951;

• Chas McKeem, age 94, May 15, 1951, through Feb. 21, 1952;

• George Ames, no age, May 28, 1953, through Sept. 5, 1955;

• Jessie P. Edwards, no age, Oct. 1, 1955, through Dec. 14, 1960; and

• H. Arthur Robbins, born Jan. 3, 1901, after Oct. 1, 1955, through July 14, 1964.

Women awarded the cane were:

• Cora Wyman, March 10, 1969, through Sept. 23, 1974; and

• Abbie Byron, Nov. 3, 1975, through Jan. 16, 1978;

• Milan Bennett, who was caretaker for the C.A. Stephen property, born December 1881 and died Feb. 28, 1980;

• Retta Tyler, born Oct. 13, 1880, died March 22, 1984; and

• Bessie Packard, born Oct. 23, 1887, died Feb. 23, 1985.



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