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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

Israel Putnam Tisdale, KY; 116 years

Israel Putnam Tisdale, Barren Co., KY; 116 years old

Contributor
I would love to have known this fellow. Think of all the
history he could tell us!

LG
While I search for more material on other counties, I wanted to share this with you - a most interesting person in Barren County with quite a story to tell. This ran as an article in the Glasgow Times on 5 March 1907 and Martha Powell Harrison transcribed it. Please note
that the terms used are those of the newspaper correspondent, not mine.

The oldest person in Barren County, perhaps in the United States, is Israel Putnam TISDALE, a colored man, 116 years old of the Cave City Country. There is no doubt of his age, and he is a most remarkable character.

A correspondent of the Times recently visited the old man,
and sends the following communication concerning the interview:

There are very few people in Kentucky, perhaps in Barren County, who know that within the limits of this county probably resides Kentucky's oldest inhabitant. Although he is a colored man, he is so well preserved in body and mind, and can converse so fluently, that a visit to him will repay anyone for his trouble. It was only a short time since that I became aware that so noted a person was within so short a distance of me and I could not be content until I saw him.

I found a very small man who would possibly weigh somewhere near 120 pounds, about five feet high, straight as an arrow, carrying himself perfectly erect and walking as actively as a man in the first years of his life. He wore his hair rather longer than most darkies and it was almost straight and very fine. His complexion is very light, and
his features show that he is not a typical African. In fact he told me that there was white blood and some Indian also flowing in his veins. His hearing is not very acute, but by a slight elevation of the speaker's voice, he thoroughly understands. His eyes wee the only sure indication I saw of old age. They were ___ (black in paper) he sees quite well.

He was born in Louisa county, Virginia, 1790 on Pamunkey river and stayed there until twelve years old, his father and mother both dying when he was very young. His master's name was William TISDALE and in September "fodder pulling time" of his 12th year he came to Kentucky with his young master, George TISDALE, making the trip in a wagon, which he distinctly remembers, and he has lived in this State ever since.

He has been twice married, both of his wives being dead. His first wife gave birth to ten children, the youngest of whom is now 70 years old. The last wife had nine, the youngest of whom is now very small. I jokingly hinted at him concerning his matrimonial intentions of the
future, and a knowing nod toward a dusky damsel who has long since passed seventy. I took the hint and learned afterward that they were really "cortin". He has been a farmer all his life, and this year cultivated an acre of tobacco, some melons, corn, potatoes and other
truck patches. He owns a farm in the Green river knobs, near Jennie, which contains some fine onyx. He showed me a specimen of his stone which was almost as white as pearl.

He has not seen many illustrious men, in his time, but he remembers seeing General JACKSON. A few weeks ago Vice President FAIRBANKS came to Glasgow, the county seat of Barren, to make a political speech, and "Uncle Israel" was among the multitude that thronged to hear him
and shake his land for luck. "But nobody didn't 'duce me to him," said he.

In religious belief he is a Baptist and has been a member of that church for forty years.

He has always enjoyed the very best of health, but has had three sunstrokes and he fears them greatly. Plowing in a field on a very hot day and growing very thirsty, he went to the house in search of water. But found that there was none in the house and that his mistress had sent a servant to a spring for it, being so very dry, he did not think he could wait longer, and proceeded to take a bountiful
drink from a liquor jug which his brother had concealed in his bed, and it tasted so well that he continued it by taking a pint or more, which came near being the cause of his death, as he was seriously ill and also beastly drunk, which was the only time he has ever been intoxicated, although he has had numerous opportunities. That occasion cured him.

In answer to what cause he attributed his long life, he laughingly remarked: "I'se allus haved myself and tried to do right. I never is seen no man could outlift me, out rassel me nother. I loves everybody, black and white. I don't know what God is holding me here so long for but He knows and I'se done and I guess He is gwine to pay
me up for my meanness here. I ain't no way anxious 'bout dying, but when do Laud wants me He knows whar I is and date Israel am ready."

He has his third set of teeth, and I examined them closely, which look like little sharp round pegs that have grown from old roots -more like squirrel's teeth than anything else. "I supposed you had your second eyesight long ago," said I. "My Lawd, child. I'se had so many I don't know how many I is had," laughed he.

He is fond of most anything to eat, especially vegetables, and when I spoke to him of a savory dish of opossum garnished around with sweet potatoes baked to a crispy brown, he fairly leaped from the earth raising a loud yell as he snatched his hat from his head and slapped
his little puny legs with it and dropped back into a lively dance and said, "Oh pshaw, white man you done tuch me on a tender spot. I never would know when to stop eatin' if I des had 'possum and taters'.

"Yes, I'se allus voted on the LINCOLN side. Can't forget what Marse Abe done for me."

I told him from his present lease on life I saw no reason why he could not reach 125. His features expressed joy, but he cheerfully said, "I'se ready when the call comes."

When we remember that this old landmark has lived through every presidential administration, was born before Kentucky was a State, saw the wars of 1812, Mexican, Civil and Spanish-American wars, has lived during the age of some of the world's greatest men, truly we can say he is more than a mere man. He is indeed a wonder.

If he would live until the Jamestown celebration I think Kentucky should see that he attends, and is given a seat among her exhibitors. He is a son of Virginia and deserves the distinction.".

Sandi
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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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