From the: History of Macon County Missouri
pg. 742-744

Leslie Granat


Chariton township claims the honor of having the oldest inhabitant now living in the United States--in fact, we doubt whether there are half a dozen men living anywhere on the face of the earth who are older than the subject of this sketch.

Robert Gipson is the son of Stephen and Mollie Gipson (his mother's maiden name being Stilwell), and was born in Randolph county, North Carolina, December 25, 1765, and was, therefore, 118 years old on the 25th day of last December, 1883. He had two full brothers and one sister, Nathan and John and Rebecca, all of whom are dead. The names of his half-brothers and sisters were Larkin, Isaac, Thomas, Henry Stephen, Alfred, Betty, Polly and John. His stepmother's maiden name was Millie Jackson. His own mother died when he was five years old.

Randolph, the county of his nativity, is situated near the center of the State, Ashboro being the county seat. Here Robert grew to manhood, without the advantages of wealth, or even the common rudiments of an education. At that early period schools were scarce, not only in the Old North State, but everywhere in the New World. At about the age of 30 years, he married Gracie Smith, of his native county, and after the birth of their first two children he and his father and their families emigrated to Wayne county, Ky. Here he lived until about the age of 55, and then moved to Randolph county, Missouri, where he resided a few years, and then moved to Macon county, where he now lives. He was mustered into service for the War of 1812, but being beyond the age when men were compelled to do military service, he did not remain. His first wife died about the year 1844, and in 1851 he married Mrs. Hester Howe, of Macon county. He had sixteen children, all by his first wife, nine of whom are now living. The names of his deceased children are Albert, Nathan, Julia, Nancy, William, Alzadai, and an infant child that died without being named. The names of his children who are living are: Stephen, aged 87; Thanie, aged 78; Smith, aged 67; Jackson, aged 65, Millie, aged 62, Sabra, aged 57; Robert, aged __; Asa, aged 50; Hezekiah, aged 47.

When the last named, which is the youngest, was born, Mr. Gipson was 71 years of age. He has four great-great-grandchildren, 100 great-grandchildren, and 104 grandchildren. Eleven of his children married, and all raised families, the smallest number of children to any one (Hezekiah) being seven, and the largest number being 19 to Smith. Mr. Gipson has always followed the occupation of a farmer, and made a regular hand in the field until about 10 years ago, or until he was 108 years of age, since which time he has been living with his children. About the time he ceased working on the farm, he was riding horseback and his horse ran against the limb of a tree, which dislocated his left shoulder and injured one of his legs. His father was a strong man at the age of 75 years, and was thrown from a horse and killed.

Mr. Gipson is about five feet four inches high, has dark brown eyes and had brown hair (now white as cotton), and has weighed 125 pounds. He was very active during the first 50 years of his life, and could throw, in wrestling, any man in the regiment, in which he served for a short time. He says he never met a man who could throw him, and tells it with great pride. He has had a few chills and one spell of fever; excepting these, he has enjoyed excellent health. He never smoked tobacco, but has been chewing for about 50 years. Has used strong drink to a moderate extent, but was never intoxicated. His habits have been good and regular. He drinks coffee only at breakfast and milk (of which he is very fond) at other meals. He is now a hearty eater and always has been. He takes a nap of about two hours every day, and sleeps well at night. His hearing is greatly impaired, and was first affected about seven years ago. His eye sight began to fail in 1880; he cannot now distinguish one object from another. He, however, walks around by the aid of a cane, and quite recently walked to see a neighbor who lives a half mile away. He has lived an honest and industrious life, retiring early, and rising with the sun. "Early to bed and early to rise" has been his motto. He has been a member of the Christian Church for 60 years, and although he cannot read or write, he ha delivered a number of sermons, taking his text from memory. His recollection now is not good, especially his impressions of early events and dates. This, however, may be looked for in a man of his great age, but considering his age, his memory is wonderful.

There have been but few persons since the flood that have lived to be older than Mr. Gipson. Pliny enumerates 54 persons, who resided between the Apennines and the river Po, who reached the age of 100 years and more. Many of the ancient philosophers who lived abstemious, careful lives, lived to a great age. Sophocles died at 90; Zeno at 98, Democritus at 99, Diogenes at 90, Isocrates at 98, and Hippocrates was upwards of 100 years. The patriarch Jacob died at the age of 147 years, and Joseph at the age of 110. The oldest man of whom history makes mention since antedeluvian times, was Peter Czartan, a Hungarian peasant, the term of whose natural live covered a period of 185 years. His, however, was an exceptional case. Mr. Gibson has already lived longer than any of these mentioned, except Jacob and the Hungarian peasant. He lived contemporaneously with Washington, Lafayette, Marion, Green, and all the Revolutionary heroes of '76, and is still living. He was ten years old when the first gun of the Revolution was fired, and heard the drums and shrill whistle of the wry-necked fifes as they called the yeomanry of his native district to arms. He lived in Colonial days, when the American provinces were under British dominion, and is now, doubtless, the only survivor of those troublous times. He lived prior to the birth of our republic, and has seen our nation grow from 2,500,000 of people to 50,000,000. He has seen the increase of territory, beginning with the 18 original colonies bordering the Atlantic, and expanding until the galaxy of States numbers 38, and extending from ocean to ocean. He was 24 years of age when Washington was first chosen President of the United States, and has voted at every presidential election since Washington, the only man living or dead who has had that honor. Politically, Mr. Gipson was a Democrat prior to the was of 1861, and has cast his vote since that time for Republicans, except in the case of Gen. Hancock, for whom he voted in 1880. He was born before Clay, Webster, and Calhoun; more than a quarter of a century has passed since they left the stage of action, and yet he still lingers upon the shores of time. Yes, the aged patriarch, this wonderful old man, whose life is verging so closely upon the 20th century, still remains among the living, unknown to fortune and to fame, quietly and cheerfully awaiting the moment when Time with silent sickle shall mow him down.

Copyright 2003 Macon County MOGenWeb
All Rights Reserved.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ernie Miles