The Boston Post newspaper was founded in November 1831 and grew to be one of the largest papers in the country. The paper closed in 1956. In 1909, Edwin A. Grozier, head of the paper, came up with a way to get publicity. He proposed giving a special cane to towns in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire. Between 400 to 600 were made and donated. The ornate gold-headed canes were given with the specific request that they be given to the oldest male resident in each town. When the recipient passed away, it was to be given to the next oldest person and so on.
J. F. Fradley & Co. of New York, maker of the finest canes in the country, was hired to make these special canes. Logs of Gaboon ebony from the Congo, Africa were brought to America cut and dried for months (twice) before finally being shaped, layered with varnish, and hand polished. The ornamental head was made with 14-karat gold. Engraved on the top were the words: “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (the town’s name).” The specialized work took a year to make a cane.
Though 100s of these special canes were made and given to towns in New England, many have been lost, and others have been retired from use. There are towns that still continue with the tradition.
Rochester is one of those towns still presenting this very special cane honoring its oldest resident. Though the list is not complete, here are the names of some of those who were honored. Note: It was not until the 1930s, with some protest, that women were included in this honor. The first cane awarded by Rochester was given to Savery A. Morse who passed away June 22, 1910 at the age of 87. His daughter, Lucinda S. LeBaron, received the cane in August 1969. She had turned 99 that April. Rochester’s last Civil War veteran George H. Randall had held the ebony cane for many years before passing away at the age of 97 in 1939. His son, Edgar Randall, who was living in Freetown, held that town’s cane. Roxanne Metcalf received the honor on her 87th birthday, November 24, 1979. Another recipient, Arthur Lionberger, lived to be 105. Other Rochester residents to be honored were Harriet Rounseville at age 98 in 1963, Ethelbert Tripp in 1973, Louise Martin 1974, Hattie Slight 1974, Lila Brewer 1994, Henry Hartley at age 99 in 1995, Chester Rollins at age 98 in 2008, Ralph Walker at age 95 in 2009, Edna Chadwick in 2018, and Marion Thomas in 2019.
By Susan LaFleur