Boston Cane Recipient 2019
On August 2, 1909, Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, Publisher of the Boston Post, a newspaper, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 700 towns (no cities included) in New England a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town, to be used by him as long as he lives (or moves from the town), and at his death handed down to the next oldest citizen of the town. The cane would belong to the town and not the man who received it.
The canes were all made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York manufacturer, 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 Board of Selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and keep it always in the the hands of the oldest citizen. Apparently no Connecticut or Vermont towns were included (at one point it was thought that two towns in Vermont had canes, but this turned out to be a bit of a myth).
In 1924, Mr. Grozier died, and the Boston Post was taken over by his son, Richard, who failed to continue his father’s success and eventually died in a mental hospital. At one time the Boston Post was considered the nation’s leading standard-sized newspaper in circulation. Competition from other newspapers, radio and television contributed to the Post’s decline and it went out of business in 1957.
The custom of the Boston Post Cane took hold in those towns lucky enough to have canes. As years went by some of the canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town and not returned to the Selectmen or destroyed by accident.
In 1930, after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well.
Bee Merrill – 2017
Born February 11, 1923 Bernice Annie Paine to Frank and Eva Paine of East Oxford. Bee’s mother Eva lived to be nearly 101 and was the recipient of the Boston Cane in the 80’s. Bee attended a one room schoolhouse called the Pratt School in East Oxford and then Oxford High School where she and sister June walked 4 miles each way quite often. She graduated in 1941. In 1942 she married her high school sweetheart, James F. Kane. They were the parents of 5 children. Jim passed in 1971 at the age of 49. Bee later met and married Clarence (Sonny) Merrill. They had 37 happy years together before his passing in 2015 at age 89. Bee’s hobbies included rug braiding and scrap-booking. Bee passed on December 18th, 2017 at the age of 95.
Jean Smith, Boston Cane Recipient, February 2019
Jean Smith was born in 1922 in Albany, Maine. She moved to the Town of Welchville (now part of Oxford) in 1962. She has been a resident of Oxford for over 56 years.
Music runs through Jean’s family. Great uncle, Gene Andrews, was a fiddle champion and Jean plays the piano and accordion. She played at many venues from Albany to Bethel. Jean’s love of music was instilled in several of her nine children, her many grandchildren and will pass down the line.
Jean ran Pigeon Hill Antiques with her husband, Bill, for several years from their home. In her sixties, Jean went back to work using her sewing skills she had learned as a young girl. She started working at Maine Machine and then started sewing for Marilyce Ferree Designs in Portland. Jean worked with Marilyce for many years as well as having her own clothing deign, UpTights by JJ.
Bill passed in 2004. Jean continued to live in their home in Oxford, tending the fires and plants, enjoying visits from her children and grandchildren and just being the tough Yankee that she is.
Margaret Virginia Barrows Russell – 2012
Margaret Virginia Barrows Russell was born on November 24 to Beatrice and Jesse Barrows in Fairmont, West Virginia the same year that the Titanic sank and LL Bean opened its store-1912. Her parents were missionaries and she spent time with them in the Philippines until she was seven. She grew up in Takoma Park Maryland, met her future husband Melvin at Columbia Union College. They married on August 4, 1935. For a while they lived in Boston and owned a bakery. They returned to Maryland and raised their three children in Takoma Park..
Margaret and her husband Melvin purchased the property on Allen Hill Road in Oxford in 1962 and spent many happy years there with family and friends till his passing in 2007. They were just shy of their 72nd wedding anniversary.
Margaret passed at 104 on February 16th, 2017
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P.O. Box 153
Oxford, Maine 04270