By Janet Morrison
Did you know?
Did you know that on Thursday, Jan. 30, 1930, the thought-to-be oldest living woman in North Carolina died near Harrisburg at the age of 112?
I happened upon this information while searching microfilmed newspapers for my own grandmother’s obituary. Grandma’s death was not reported in the paper, as obituaries were uncommon in those days; however, the front page of The Concord Daily Times carried an article about and a photograph of Mrs. Martha Fink.
Born in Montgomery County, N.C., Mrs. Fink could no longer remember just when she moved to Cabarrus County. She was born in 1817, during the Presidency of James Monroe.
Mrs. Fink and her husband, Martin Fink, were married in 1844. In her obituary, their children were listed as Ephraim, Peter and Milus Fink; Mrs. James Beam; and Mrs. C.B. Honeycutt. Mrs. Fink was also survived by 82 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The newspaper article says that Mrs. Fink attributed her longevity to hard work. She told reporters on an earlier occasion that, along with housework, she was no stranger to plowing, chopping wood and clearing land in her younger days.
Mrs. Fink told reporters that she worked the crops while her husband was away fighting in the War Between the States. She proudly told them that her husband “found the crops as fine on his return as when he left.”
Mr. and Mrs. Fink were living in Furr Township in Stanly County, N.C., when the 1870 U.S. Census was taken. Mr. Fink’s age was given as 58 and Mrs. Fink’s was listed as 30. Others in the household were Ephraim, Sarah, James and Jane, but their relationship to Mr. and Mrs. Fink was not indicated. (The census in 1870 did not require that information.)
The Finks were living in Furr Township in Stanly County, N.C., along with four sons and two daughters (Elizar, Moses, Hulda, Hartwell C., Peter and Miles) when the 1880 U.S. Census was taken. Mr. Fink was farming and Mrs. Fink was keeping house. Both their ages were listed as 40 years old at that time, which proves that people’s ages in census records, particularly in the 1800s, cannot be trusted. Mr. and Mrs. Fink’s eldest son, Ephraim, was their next door neighbor.
The 1890 Cabarrus County Census records were destroyed, and I could not find Martin or Martha Fink in the 1900 U.S. Census.
When the 1910 and 1920 U.S. Censuses of Cabarrus County were taken, Mrs. Fink was living with the family of her son, Milas, in Township No. 1.
Her age was given as 75 in 1910 and as 88 in 1920. No doubt the 1920 census taker did not believe she was 103 at the time. The 1910 census record indicates that Mrs. Fink was the mother of seven children, six of whom were still living.
Known as “Granny” to everyone, Mrs. Fink reportedly still had “very good teeth and her hair was not as gray as one would think for a person 112 years old,” shortly before her death in 1930, but her hearing had been impaired for many years.
The photograph in the 1930 newspaper was taken on the occasion of Mrs. Fink’s 110th birthday. She was wearing a floor-length dress. It is my hunch that a woman of her age probably never wore a shorter skirt than that.
Mrs. Fink died quietly in her sleep at the home of her son, Milus F. Fink. Her funeral was held at Fair View Church (now, Roberta United Methodist Church), and she was buried in the church cemetery. The newspaper reports, “Although several inches of snow covered the ground, scores of relatives and friends gathered in the church for the service and to render a final tribute of love to the centenarian.”
The Concord Daily Times, January 31, 1930.
US Census records for 1870, 1880, 1910 and 1920.