Watching a century of life takes time

During the 1950s and into the 1960s, there was probably no faster way to get your picture in the newspaper than to be 100 years old. had completed 10 decades.

So it was October 26, 1956, when the Augusta Herald helped “Miss Lillie” Frances Jones West, of Martinez, mark her 100th birthday with a full page of highlights. These included seven photographs and a long list of supporters, led by President Eisenhower; his longtime physician, Dr. Will Jennings (twice mayor of Augusta); Richmond and Columbia county officials and a description of her impressive birthday cake presented by Claussen’s bakery, which had provided her with her wedding cake 75 years prior.

More from The Way We Were:

Miss Lillie was actually “Mrs”. Lillie West, the child of a large family who started her own family. She was born in the last year of Franklin Pierce’s presidency and grew up on her grandfather Thomas Skinner’s farm near the Richmond-Columbia county line. Her father died a month before she was born. She was raised on this farm near Pleasant Hill Road until her widowed mother married James C. Warren, “an old bachelor”.

She attended what is now Hephzibah High School as a “boarding school”, graduating in 1872, and for years was honored as its oldest living graduate. After turning 100, the school’s Future Homemakers of America chapter celebrated its anniversary each year by passing by with a delegation of members and a bouquet of red roses.

Miss Lillie was also the oldest member of Warren Baptist Church and lived for many years in the house at 3202 Washington Road, opposite the church. It was the house in which she was married.

She was described as “vivid” and mentally sharp, and Dr Jennings, who visited her regularly, revealed that her memory was still formidable. For example, she remembered being baptized with 13 other girls, and she could still name 12, he once told a reporter. She was frustrated when she couldn’t remember the last one, and “Dr. Will” told her, “Don’t worry, you will.”

The next day, he said, she was eager to tell him she remembered.

After Ms West turned 100, she was regularly approached by journalists seeking perspective on the issues of the day versus those of the past.

She admitted little interest in politics, having voted only once. Of course, she was in her 60s before women were allowed to vote in national elections.

She didn’t approve of fast cars, short skirts, or late rides. She didn’t dance, but liked to ride horses.

When the nation celebrated the centenary of the American Civil War in 1961, Ms West told reporters she helped her mother bury the family’s silverware so it wouldn’t be accessible to General Sherman.

As Christmas 1957 approached, Carrol Dadisman, a Chronicle reporter who would become a successful newspaper publisher in Georgia and Florida, interviewed Miss Lillie about how the holiday was celebrated in the 1800s and was rewarded by a delicious story centered more on the family. and the church than on the acquisition of toys.

After Ms West’s 100th birthday, reporters would come back every year for an update.

The Chronicle archive includes stories from 101, 102, 103, 104, 105 and 106 birthdays.

The last story in the file records her death in 1963, which also suggests that she may have been the oldest woman living in Georgia at the time of her death.

Bill Kirby has reported, photographed and commented on life in Augusta and Georgia for 45 years.

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