HARRISON — Abbie Winslow, 97, has been declared the town’s oldest resident.

In a ceremony held at the Town Office on Monday, her son, Selectman William “Bill” Winslow, presented his mother with an engraved replica of the Boston Post Cane to designate the honor. She sat in front of a locked display case that holds the original 114-year-old slim, gold-headed ebony cane.

“I’ll be here next year,” quipped Abbie Winslow, who was born in 1916 and has lived almost all her life in “The Friendly Village,” as town signs read.

To put her age in perspective, Winslow was born the year the United States voted to enter World War I, the Boy Scouts of America was formed, women were first allowed to watch boxing matches, Boeing flew its first aircraft and the Boston Red Sox won its first World Series.

Winslow has lived almost all her life in Harrison. According to information from  town officials, she grew up in Bridgton and graduated from Bridgton Academy. She married Harry Winslow on Oct. 7, 1939, and settled on family land on Edes Falls Road in Harrison, where they raised three children, William, Martha and Brian. Her children were all present at the ceremony, along with grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

The Boston Post Cane was started by the publisher of the Boston Post, Edwin A. Grozier, on Aug. 2, 1909, seven years after Winslow was born. The canes were individually inscribed and sent to 700 town Boards of Selectmen in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. No cities were included and until 1930, only men could be recipients of the honor.


Today, many of the canes have been lost or are tucked away in town halls. Some are not given out because of the difficulty in determining who is the oldest resident. Others are retained for fear the cane will not be returned or will be lost.

“We share the concern of losing track of it as well,” Harrison Town Clerk Melissa St. John said. To reduce the chance of the cane being lost, the town has kept the original cane in the town vault. It has recently been placed in a locked display case in the selectmen meeting room.

“We use our voter registration list and word of mouth throughout town to find the oldest resident,” St. John said. “We are fortunate to still be a small enough town to have people that have lived here for many years, and they have good recall about these things.”

The last Harrison resident who had the cane was 105-year-old Edna Lord. She held it for six years, St. John said.

According to information from a 2012 survey by the Maynard, Mass., Historical Society, which oversees the Boston Post Cane information center, several other local towns still have and award their Boston Post canes or replicas. They include Lovell, Otisfield and Oxford. Scores of others, including Auburn, Dixfield, New Gloucester, Jay, Poland, Livermore and Farmington also have their original canes. Most provide replica canes for recipients.

The Maynard Historical Society reports that the canes were all made by New York manufacturer J.F. Fradley and Company from ebony shipped in seven-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa.

“They were cut to cane lengths, seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, coated and polished. They had a 14-carat gold head two inches long, decorated by hand, and a ferruled tip. The head was engraved with the inscription: “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) (to be transmitted.)”

The Boston Post went out of business in 1957, but many of the original 700 canes continue to be presented to the oldest town residents.


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