Interview with Benjamin Tibbetts of Liberty, Maine on his 100th Birthday, November 20, 1885


Our Liberty correspondent states a Mr. Benjamin Tibbetts of this town was 100 years old last Friday, the 20th and his friends and neighbors gathered in great number at the house of his son-in-law, Deacon Jason Dodge, to congratulate the old man upon his great age and general good health. He has been blind for the past ten years, but in other respects his health is very good indeed. He shook hands with about a hundred persons on this occasion, and recognized most of them by their voices. We were invited to be present on the occasion and make few notes for the JOURNAL, but was unexpectedly called away to Rockland that day.

Learning from Mr. William H. Hunt, who was present, that the old gentleman had been told that the Journal man would be present, and that he was greatly disappointed because we were not, as he said he had a few facts he wished published in relation to himself, we drove over Sunday and interviewed Mr. Tibbetts. When introduced he said he was glad that we had come and was disappointed because we were not present Friday, “but it is just as well as it is and a good deal better for I can talk to you now without so much confusion as there was on that day.”

Mr. Tibbetts is a stout man weighing about 200 pounds and is not much more wrinkled than many men at seventy-five and he has a good complexion. He sits erect as a man of forty and has possession of all his faculties to a remarkable degree with the exception of his eye sight and a slight deafness in one ear. If I had the time and space to chronicle all he told me of his life it would make quite a narrative. He told me the following without my asking any questions.

He was born at Boothbay, Maine, November 20, 1785 and spent the early parts of his life at sea, beginning at 14 and left off at 30. He went seven foreign voyages and the remainder wood coasting from Boothbay to Boston. When I told him that I too had spent 16 years of my life at sea he appeared much pleased to meet an old sailor, and told many a thrilling story of his life at sea which I have not time to relate. From my knowledge of seamanship I should judge that he was a thorough seaman of ye olden times. In 1809 he married Sarah Crummett of Edgecomb, Maine. He was a soldier for one year in the war of 1812.

He moved to this town, which was then Montville Plantation, in 1815 and settled on the farm now owned by Stephen Haskell, living there nine years. He says he lived with his wife in perfect accord for 66 years. She died in 1875. They had 14 children in all, and 12 grew up to be men and women, of whom ten are now living.

The eldest is Samuel Tibbetts of Palermo, aged 76 (who is also blind) and the youngest a Mrs. Benner of Portland , age 53. Mr. Tlbbetts said he had 50 grand-children but how many great grand-children he did not know as they were scattered all over the continent from Aroostook county, Maine to California. He has two sons in the latter state. He knew he had one great-great-grandchild, make five generations now living.

He said (to use his own words) ‘I have done some things that are worthy to be recorded. In my day I was the stoutest man in these parts. I was the best axeman for miles around. I felled in one day in June between 9 a.m. and sunset, one acre and eight rods of trees of mountain growth. I was then fifty years old, and if you doubt it there are men now living by whom I can prove it and I will do so tomorrow if you say so. I hoed in one day 3,200 hills of corn and hilled it up in the old-fashioned way. I helped to fell the trees on every farm around the mountain.’

We asked him in relation to his habits. Do you use tobacco in any form? He replied, ‘I smoked tobacco for 40 years, but left it off 30 years ago.”
Did you ever use spiritous liquors and if so to what extent? Answer: “Ha! Ha! I took a little something when I went a-coasting, didn’t you?” (As our answer has nothing to do with this sketch we omit it) “While I have not been a teetotaler, I have always been a temperate man, both in my meats and drinks. ’ What are your politics? “ I have been a Republican ever since the formation of that party.” Are you a professer of religion? “I joined the church when but eighteen years of age. Oh, I had good religion once, but lost it on a voyage to the West Indies. I went away a good Christian boy, but came back a rough, swearing sailor, and I was lost in the wilderness for forty years. But, thanks be to God, I came out of it just in time to get into the land of Canaan. I was a terrible swearer. I taught one young man to swear and have always been greatly condemned for it. I left off in this manner. I was out one day when about 60 years old, trying to break a pair of steers and they behaved so badly that I became very angry at them and swore at them fearfully. Suddenly I thought what if God should send a great white cloud and burst it over my head and kill me dead for my wickedness. I was so frightened at the thought, that I looked around to see the cloud, and I thought I saw it coming, and I held my head and covered my face with my hands, expecting every moment the cloud would strike me. But after remaining in that position for some time and finding I was not hurt, I lifted my head and found the cloud had passed by. I then and there promised God that if he would help me I would never swear another word as long as I lived, and would you believe it, I never has the least inclination to swear from that day to this. Shortly after that, Elder Brown, a one legged minister, came into the valley and converted us all. I was a Free Will Baptist for many years but for the past 20 years I have been an Adventist. There are some things in that doctrine, however, that I do not believe in, as for example, man’s fixing the time for the Lord to come. I believe in letting the Lord fix that for himself.’

After a few moments rest he continued: “Mr. Hunt was over Friday. He told me he would get the village choir, and come over and sing to me some day this winter. I wish he would for I am very fond of music, but have heard no singing for a great many years. I used to sing myself. They said I had a fine bass voice. My brother and I could sing every tune in the 7th edition of the Villiage Harmony. Do you remember it?” We told him that the book was used before our day. “Well” he said, on reflection, “it must have been”.

He said he could sing some yet and on inviting him to do so he sang in a strong clear voice three stanzas of a hymn and the choruses to each stanza. We give below one stanza and chorus.

Our souls in love together move,
Cemented, joined in one.
One heart, one voice, one faith, one love,
'Tis heaven on earth begun.


A Saviour! Let creation sing.
A Saviour! Let all heaven ring.
'Tis all with us, 'tis almost done
We are following those that have gone before,
We soon shall reach that blissful shore,
Where we shall meet and part no more.

There was a certain fascination about the old Pilgrim that bound us to him; something that was awe inspiring in his presence, and we very reluctantly took our leave from the person (as it appeared to us) whose footsteps could already be heard on the boundaries of another world.

J.[ohn] 0. J[ohnson) The REPUBLICAN JOURNAL [Belfast, Maine], November 26, 1885 - Page 2, Column 3.