Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mrs. Singleton: The "Oldest Woman in the World" in 1853

While searching for a newspaper article about relatives who had measles in 1853, I came across this article about Mrs. Singleton, the oldest woman in the world.

The Charleston Standard,  Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois, 28 May 1853, page 2, column, 3, digital image,, (, accessed 5 February 2017. 

The Charleston Standard says that the oldest woman in the world is now living in Williamsburg district, South Carolina. Her name is Mrs. SINGLETON. She is now in the one hundred and thirty-first year of her age—enjoys good health—retains all her senses, except that of sight of which she was deprived by an attack of the measles at the age of ninety-nine—and is still able to walk briskly about her room. Mrs. S. has outlived all her children: her oldest descendant being a grand-daughter, upwards of sixty years of age. The most of her life has been spent in Williamsburg.

1850 U.S. Census, Williamsburg County, South Carolina, Williamsburg District, population schedule, page 298 [written], dwelling #480, family #480, Elizabeth Gibson household; image, ( : accessed 5 February 2017), citing National Archives microfilm M432, roll 860.

I decided to check the 1850 census to see if she was listed as being approximately 128 years old at that time. I found Mrs. Singleton, whose first name was Ann, living with a 49-year-old woman, possibly a granddaughter, named Elizabeth. Gibson. Ann Singleton's age on this 1850 census? 100 years old. I know censuses can be wrong, but was she truly 131 years old in 1853? (And, yes, she is listed as blind on this census record.)

Next, I decided to search for a mention of her death in the newspapers. I tried the next three years and didn't find anything. I expanded it to 10 years, and got another article about her. She was still alive 5 1/2 years later! Was she now 136 or 137 years old? According to the newspaper account, she was now 140 years old! (She ages quickly!)

The Oldest Lady, The Clarke County Democrat, Grove Hill, Alabama, 16
 December  1858, page 2, column 5, digital image,,(, accessed 5 February 2017. 

The Oldest Lady.—The Methodist Conference of South Carolina held its session last week at Columbia. From the reported proceedings in the Charleston Mercury, the following is extracted:

Among the donations was one of $400 from Rev. W. L. Pegues, to make the oldest member of this church, and the oldest woman in the State, with others of her family, life members of the Parent Missionary Society. This lady is Mrs. Singleton, of Williamsburg, aged 140 years, who has been blind for 60 years; her youngest grand-daughter, Mrs. Dukes, is aged 50.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find Ann Singleton on Find A Grave, nor was I able to find any record of her death in the newspapers. I need to get back to my own family, but I hope someone else is able to determine when Ann Singleton was born and how old she was when she died.


  1. Oh boy, that should be a fun rabbit hole to travel down. I can't think about it or I'll be on the trail soon.

    1. Yes... I had to make myself stop researching! :)


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