The Legend ...
Homer Voiles of Cherokee County sent this picture in 2001. The publication
it appeared in is unknown to him, but it appears to be a newspaper
article. According to several dates mentioned in the text on the back of the
photo [383KB GIF], this picture
was taken and the article appeared around 1895 or 96. It claimed he was
born in 1760 or 61 and was then 136 years old. Notice the pet raccoon
and the drinking gourd to his right.
The text may be valuable
for the names it contains. Uncle Jerry was a slave owned by several
different people, and took the name Akin from his last owner, John Akin
of Spring Garden. After the Civil War, Uncle Jerry lived on with his
old master until he died, then he and a woman named Rose went to live
with Capt. John Davis. Rose had a daughter, Maria, who cared for Uncle
Jerry at the end of his life so that he would not be sent to the poor
house against his will.
Spencer Roane, Annie Roane,
Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia, General George Washington, Mr.
King, Colonel Rollins, Brock Brothers, Mr. Patton (actually Paden),
John Bale, Capt. Jim Bale, John Akin, Rose, Capt. John Davis, Maria,
Capt. J. N. Hood, Thomas Allsup.
Death of Uncle Jerry Aiken, Aged One Hundred and Thirty-Three
The Piedmont Inquirer says: Everybody for forty miles around
Piedmont knew Uncle Jerry Aiken, the 133 year old negro who lived at
Spring Garden, five miles above this city, and they will hear with a
tinge of sadness of the good old man's demise, which occurred on
Monday of this week. He was in his 134th year.
Jerry Aiken was one of the few men over 100 who had proof of his
extreme age. There can be no doubt that the age given is nearly if not
Before the war he was owned by the father of Capt. J. A. Bale, of
Rome, Ga. Captain Bale, who is now over 70 years of age, counts among
his earliest recollections the figure of "Old Uncle Jerry,"
then an old man about the place. After the war, when the slaves were
freed, the former owner of Jerry gave him a life interest in a lot of
land, little thinking that the old man would live more than a few years
at the utmost.
Jerry Aiken was a picturesque and original character, and we shall
never again gaze on his like.
On the wall of the Inquirer sanctum hangs five pictures of
"Uncle Jerry" taken about a year ago. They are part of a
series taken just before Uncle Jerry was taken to the Atlanta
Exposition by Mr. Jeff Stewart and associates of this city to be
exhibited as the "only one of the kind on earth."
He stands before the door of his log cabin which looks almost as old
as himself. His face is as black as charcoal while his hair is as white
as snow. His clothing consists of a cotton shirt, a pair of pants,
which he has been wearing for forty years, and a string serves as
suspenders. By his side is his constant companion -- a very large and
The pictures show very few wrinkles on the old man's face and he
has a look of peace and happiness which passeth all understanding.
Perhaps no man has lived on the earth since the day of Methuselah who
has experienced more joy and contentment and fewer troubles and trials
than this simple negro who was a slaves for the major portion of his
The old man was tenderly cared for during his last days and wanted
for nothing. He was buried on Tuesday and many of his friends, both
white and black, attended the funeral exercizes.
Peace to his ashes. The (Calhoun County, Ala.) Weekly Times, 28 May
1896, p.5, c. 1.
County newspaper obituary transcriptions at Calhoun County
AlGenWeb. Thanks to Gail Harris, peaches[delete]@strato.net
The Facts ...
Summary. A capable
Tate, informed us in October
2002 that Jerry was on the 1860 slave schedule, when he was with John
Akin, as age 54, thus he was born 1806. The war referred to in
on the back of the photograph would have been the War of 1812, not the Revolution. Jerry was
prematurely grey and perhaps somewhat handicapped, because he was only
39 when he went from John Bale to John Akin. When the pictures was
taken he would have been about 90.
Discussion of the history of
Jerry Akin and the named individuals, by Les Tate. First a
correction. Jerry Akin is listed on page 426 of the 1880 Cherokee Co
Census, not 436 as I'd previously stated. The pages quoted about
other Akin's in that message also need to be dropped by 10 page
numbers (they now become 426-B and 427).
The 1895 newspaper article states (appproximately) "Jerry lived
with John Akins from 1845 and remained there during and after the Civil
War until Mr. and Mrs. Akin died. Then he and a woman named Rose went
to live with Capt John Davis. After Rose died, her daughter Maria took
care of him." As shown further below, John Akins died in 1868 and
his wife Rebecca died in 1880.
In the 1860 Slave Schedule, part 2, page 378-B, John T. Akin has only
two slaves: a 54 year old male and an 17 y old female. Based on the
info presented thus far, this puts Jerry's birthyear at 1806. This
would make him about 6 to 8 in the period 1812 to 1814 when he was then
"big enough to saddle a horse and wait on old marster" and
"saw the British warships...in the James River" and
"waited on soldiers in Richmond." This means that Jerry
witnessed the War of 1812 (which lasted for two years), not the
Revolutionary War. "Old Marster" may well have been in the
Revolutionary War since it lasted from 1776 to 1783.
Spencer Roane was born in 1762 but I find no record of his military
service on the internet and Roane would have been too old to
participate in the War of 1812, plus Roane was a judge at the time,
too. [The reference Jerry makes to seeing General George Washington in
a fancy uniform on a white horse is puzzling since Washington died in
1799; he may be referring to another general in the War of 1812.]
I'm not a historian, however I found reference to a skirmish in
Norfolk VA in 22 June 1813, but nothing about Richmond although it is
quite reasonable there were British ships there.
In searching Revolutionary War records and lists, I find a Christopher
Roane, but no Spencer Roane/Roan/Rone. Roane, Christopher (Va). Captain
of a Virginia State Regiment, 1777 to 1782.
Also I found a in list of War of 1812 soldiers from VA. I can't see
Judge Spencer Roane as a private at his age and with his
ROANE SPENCER † 6 REG'T
ART'Y (READ, JR.'S,) VIRGINIA MIL. † PRIVATE PRIVATE
† 176 602
ROANE SPENCER † 9 REGIMENT
(BOYD'S) VIRGINIA MILITIA. † PRIVATE PRIVATE † 176 602
Roane apparently graduated from William and Mary College (I found a
webpage stating he was one of the founding members of Phi Beta Kappa
there though the date of 1776 is unlikely... He married Anne Henry, daughter of Patrick Henry. I don't find
any info about Roane's education anywhere else, other than "He
studied the law and was appointed a judge of the Virginia general court
in 1789 and a judge of the Virginia court of errors in 1794. He was
appointed a justice of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1795
and served in that office until his death in 1822. He was a member of
the commission that helped in the establishment of the University of
Virginia in 1819. He died on September 4, 1822." Thomas Jefferson
with Spencer Roane in 1819.
Further notes | Spencer Roane at
Jerry would have been sold off to Georgia about 1822-1823 following
Spencer Roane's death.
More info on Roane (capitalization for emphasis is the Webmaster's)
Ruffin's uncle, Albert G. Ruffin (d.
1829), was the son of William (d. 1825) and Margaret Ruffin of Raleigh,
N.C. He had three brothers, William H., Robert R., and A. R. Ruffin.
Early in his career, Ruffin sought opportunity in the Mississippi
Territory, where he opened a law practice in Winchester in the spring
of 1818. He remained there until 1821, when he moved to St. Stephens in
the new Alabama Territory. Ruffin left ALABAMA upon his marriage in the
spring of 1825 to Eliza Roane of Richmond and took up planting at
SPRING GARDEN, her plantation near Hanover Town in Hanover County,
Virginia. He planted corn, wheat, and cotton and engaged in local
politics until his death in 1829. Albert and Eliza had one son, Spencer
(1826-1831). After her husband's death, Eliza moved with Spencer to
her Newcastle estate in Hanover County and continued planting. Her
brother, W. H. Roane, moved to Spring Garden.
Eliza and W. H. Roane were the children of Spencer Roane (1762-1822),
planter, politician, and judge of Hanover County, Va., and Elizabeth
Hoskins Roane (d. 1825). Judge Spencer was educated at the College of
William and Mary, where he studied law. Admitted to the bar in 1782, he
became a state representative and senator, an advisor to Governor
Patrick Henry, and a judge in the General Court and State Supreme Court
of Appeals. A staunch Anti-Federalist, he started the Richmond Enquirer
in 1804 as a vehicle for his political views. ...
Series 2 (1817-April 1829) consists of correspondence and legal and
financial papers pertaining to Albert Ruffin's law practices in
Mississippi and Alabama and to his plantation affairs in Hanover
County, Va. Scattered ESTATE papers appear for his father, William
Ruffin; his father-in-law, Spencer Roane; and his mother-in-law, Mrs.
Elizabeth Hoskins Roane. Financial and legal items include
correspondence, deeds, bonds, receipts, court petitions, warrants,
pleas, court dockets, accounts, and SLAVE BILLS OF SALE. ...
Financial and legal papers, including deeds, legal agreements, court
documents, land plats, correspondence, receipts, bonds, and
lawyer's accounts pertaining to Spencer Roane's purchase of
land in Hanover County, Virginia, near the town of Newcastle. ...
The above supportsJerry's claim of being born "near
Newcastle", however it is evident that Roane was already a
father-in-law to Ruffin by that time and thus would be known as
"old marster". In 1812, Roane would have been 50 years old.
1799 -- May 22: Anne Henry Roane died at the home of her sister, Betsey
Henry Aylett, in King William County. She was survived by her husband,
Spencer Roane, and six children. http://www.redhill.org/descendants_genealogy.html
The Virginia Herald and Fredericksburg Advertiser October 30, 1788
For sale, The seat and tract of land
whereon I now live, in Essex County, two miles from the town of
Tappahannock, known by the name of Mount Clement. It contains 315
acres, great part of which is fertile flat land, and about 30 acres
thereof is good marsh, bounded by Hodkins' Creek. The buildings on
this land are very valuable and consist of a large two story brick
dwelling house, with genteel and necessary offices. The situation is
agreeable, affording an extensive view of the adjacent town, river, and
country. Independent of its advantages as a farm, this place is a
desirable stand for a professional man, such as a physician or lawyer;
insomuch as nothing but its remoteness from my other lands, and the
occasion I have for money, could induce me to sell it. It may be
purchased very cheap for cash, tobacco, public securities, or NEGROES,
and if in cash or tobacco, credit may be had for part. Apply to me on
the premises, or during the sitting of the Assembly in Richmond.
Spencer Roane. Reference. The above indicates Jerry could have
been part of the payment for Roane's Essex County plantation.
Roane (of Spring Garden, Hanover County, Virginia)... [hmmm, kinda
makes you wonder where Spring Garden in Cherokee County got its name]
In 1845 when Jerry first came to the Akin household, he would have been
39. It may be that he was prematurely gray and not actually all that
old, but may have seemed old if he was partially crippled in his legs
as the photo at the Cherokee genweb website seems to indicate. One of
the men in the newspaper article states he plowed in a field adjoining
the one Jerry was working in (around 1845) and Jerry was then
white-headed. These physical conditions might also explain his low
purchase price in 1845 and why he didn't do much during the war
(except, as shown below, maybe help Mr Akin make wagons and grow corn
for sale to the Confederacy). In the 1880 census, where Jerry is listed
as 100, he would actually be 74 and in 1895 at the time of the article
he would be 99, which is still a respectable age for anyone! I noticed
while looking at the 1860 slave schedule a woman slave at one
plantation was listed as being 120, which indicates old slaves may have
sometimes overestimated their age to get easier work assignments and
generally be treated better by "white folks". Besides if
anyone lives long enough, there are fewer people to dispute your
The 17 year old female slave listed in John Akin's home might be
Rose. Did Rose and Jerry have children? Possibly. Although Maria is
listed as Jerry's granddaughter and the two other children there
are listed as his grandchildren in 1880, Maria is 18, which indicates
she was born about 1862 when Jerry and Rose (if that was her at the
Akin's) were together. However it may be that Rose was an older
woman who Jerry knew and was romantically involved with, and they went
with Rose's children to live at "Capt. John Davis" after
the Akins died.
Was Davis somehow related to John Akin (or Akins)? I can find no
evidence of a relationship among John Akin's children and John
Davis is too common a name to locate with certainty without additional
info...or perhaps a census index.
Regarding John Akin and wife Rebecca is this: "ROBERT ALEXANDER
MCCAGHREN was born July 31, 1835 in Pleasant Gap, Alabama, and died
March 20, 1897 in Spring Garden, Cherokee County, Alabama. He married
RACHEL AKINS, daughter of JOHN AKINS and REBECCA STEWART. She was born
November 14, 1831 in Morgan County, Georgia, and died March 24, 1910 in
Spring Garden, Cherokee County, Alabama."
Using McCaghren's info I found further info on John Thomas Akin and
wife Rebecca Stewart. Akin was a pvt in the SC militia in War of 1812,
made wagons and sold corn to Confederacy, and died in 1868. Rebecca
died in 1880, apparently shortly after the census where she is listed
at age 80 and was living with two daughters (1880, page 427). Both John
and Rebecca are buried at the Carmel Presbyterian Church Cemetery in
Cherokee Co, AL.
What are the oldest recorded ages?
A 2010 Wikipedia
article reveals the documented five oldest people ever
were aged 122, 120, 119, 117, 117. Reaching the age of 136 is an
extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof. None has