The Boston Post Cane

Over 700 Boston Post Canes were given to New England towns for their oldest citizens in August 1909, as a publicity stunt. The canes were given out by the Boston Post Newspaper and originally went only to men as they had the Vote and were the only ones considered cisitzens. Women got the vote in 1919 but it appears Southwest Harbor did not award the Cane to women until after Charlie Haynes' death in 1958.


The Historical Society has been researching information on the Boston Post Cane.  The results of our research follows.

Past Recipients of the Southwest Harbor Cane
"Oldest Citizen"
Name Born-Died Recv'd Cane
Jacob S. Mayo b 14 Jun 1819
d 24 Apr 1912
Aug. 6, 1909
Robert S. Newman b 15 Apr 1825
d 25 Feb 1922
after Apr. 24, 1912
Thomas M. Newman b 28 Aug 1835
d 08 Sep 1942
after Feb. 25, 1922
Charles E. Haynes b 20 Feb1867
d 18 Dec 1958
21 Feb 1957
Ella Bates Spurling b 15 Oct 1877
d 21 Nov 1979
after Oct. 15, 1977
Laura (Boynton) Leonard b 12 Jun 1884
d 08 Sep 1989
Dec. 12, 1980
Ruth E. Carlson Wiberg b 06 Feb 1894
d 10 May 1996
Jan. 1989
Elizabeth Berry b 16 Aug 1897
d 16 Dec 1998
Summer, 1996
Cane not presented for 1.5 years
Hester (Lord) Martel b 06 Apr 1900
d 01 Apr 2006
Apr. 6, 2000
Cane not presented for 2 years
Elizabeth Thurston King b 27 Nov 1905
d 01 Apr 2009
July 16, 2008
Carrie Wentworth Morris b 01 Apr 1907
d 21 Oct 2010
June 26, 2009
Edna (Dolliver) Jellison b 25 Sep 1912
d 25 Dec 2012
Feb 2011
Raymond Morrris b 24 Jul 1915
d 14 Nov 2013
Feb. 4, 2013
Ferne (Rumill) Leonard

b 10 July 1917

d 05 April 2015

30 Jan 2014

Mary (Orcutt) Harkins

b 17 June 1919

d 05 August 2020

June 10, 2015
LaVerne Redlon

b 25 Jan 1921

Dec 23, 2020

Notes on the above named Cane recipients:


Robert Newman did have the Cane for 9 years and about 10 months.  Then it passed to his brother Thomas Newman, who had the Cane 20 years and lived until he was 107+.  


Laura Leonard was the mother-in-law of Ferne Rumill Leonard.  


Carrie Morris and Raymond Morris were husband and wife.


Elizabeth Berry is the mother of Mary Orcutt Harkins.


These people, who were the eldest in certain years, may have been presented with the Cane, but we have not found proof for them to be included:


George Washington Kent (1848-1945) 97 years old

John Thomas Lawton (1854-1954) 99 years old

Vilda Knowlton (1864-1963) 99 years old

Horace Edwin Stanley (1869-1964) 94 years old

Elizabeth Norwood (1875-1969) 95 years old

Arthur Taylor (1875-1973) 97 years old




Guidelines For Southwest Harbor

The Boston Post Cane tradition was established in 1909 by the Boston Post newspaper. A special cane was given to the Board of Selectmen in hundreds of New England towns, to be presented as an honor to each town’s oldest citizen. (Originally for males only, but later extended to women.) The recipient held the honor as long as he or she lived (or moved from the town). Upon his or her death (or move) the cane would be awarded to the next oldest person.


The cane belongs to the town and not the resident who received it. To protect the priceless original cane, it has been retired and will be displayed at the Town Office. A replica is now presented to the oldest citizen. Upon the death of the holder, the cane is returned to the Town to be passed to the new recipient. The Town has established guidelines and definitions to assist in determining the recipient of the cane. It is intended that the procedure remain flexible and be guided by common sense.

Eligibility and Selection

The holder of the cane must be 90 years old or older and must reside in the Town of Southwest Harbor for a reasonable number of years. The term “resident” refers to a person who has physically resided at a fixed, permanent, and principal home in this town. Maintaining an address, voting eligibility, and/or car registration are also indications of residency.


Recognizing that individuals sometimes establish residency here late in life but otherwise may not be engaged as residents of the Town of Southwest Harbor, selection of the honoree shall be by a committee of three. This committee will consist of the Town Clerk and two representatives of the Southwest Harbor Historical Society.

Method of Search for the Oldest Citizen

Click on the link here or below. There shall be a notice placed in the local media looking for nominations for those residents who are 90 years old or older and have been resident in the Town for a reasonable number of years. Nominations must be received in the Town Clerk’s Office 30 days from the date of posting of the notice in the media. The search may also include an informal survey, general public knowledge, voter registrations, and inquiries to nursing homes, senior citizen housing, civic groups, and churches or by nomination from family and friends. Click on the link here or below for a nomination form.


The Chair of the Board of Selectmen or his or her designee shall present the oldest resident with the cane, and cause the name of the honoree to be inscribed on a plaque to be eventually displayed along with the original Boston Post Cane at the Town Office. A photo of the recipient will also be displayed.


The location of the presentation will be determined according to the circumstances of the honoree.


The recipient will retain this honor as long as he or she remains in Southwest Harbor or in a nearby nursing home or residence. The Town Clerk’s Office must be notified if the recipient dies, changes residency outside of the Town, or otherwise refuses or returns the honor. At that time the Committee shall determine the new oldest citizen.


Boston Post Cane Nomination Form
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