Conneaut’s Grand Old Lady Celebrated Her Life with Her Adopted Community

The Conneaut Harbor of Dorcas Welch Jones in 1910, when she celebrated her  102nd birthday.  Her son, Paul Jones, was a harbor fisherman.

April 21, 1909 – Happy 101st Birthday

Mrs. Dorcas Welch Jones, who lives in Conneaut with her son Paul and his wife Caroline at 615 Buffalo Street Extension, included celebrating her 100th birthday on her list of life wishes.  She achieved that goal on April 21, 1908.  Twelve months later, on April 21, 1909, she celebrated her 101st birthday feeling healthier and stronger than she had on her century birthday.

To commemorate her 101st birthday, “Grandma Jones,” as many of her friends and neighbors affectionately call her, took special pains combing her hair vigorously and slipping into her best black dress. She can dress herself and comb her hair and takes great pride in knowing that she is not a burden to her son and his wife. On this day, her birthday, she took special pains combing her hair and putting on her best black dress. She walked down the stairs alone, her heart beating with excitement, anticipating the visits of old friends and acquaintances who were coming in later to reminisce and share her birthday joy.

After breakfast, she opened the many postcards, cards, and letter from friends wishing her a blessed and joyous birthday. When the anticipated and welcomed guests filed through the house throughout the day, she greeted each one with a smile, a handshake and pleasant conversation.  

Family and friends noted that although Mrs. Jones had marked her 100th year, her faculties all remain finely tuned. The only exception is a slight decline in hearing the past year, that merely requires a slightly higher pitch of voice tone on the part of the speaker to enable her to understand the words perfectly.

Her memory remains excellent, and she recalls events that happened many years ago as well as remembering events of a year ago better than the ordinary person. Always fond of reading, she still reads often and since she recaptured her second sight 30 years ago, she does not need to wear glasses.

After suffering a sick spell two years ago, she began to walk with a cane, but she uses it effectively and gets around at a lively pace. She can climb up and down stairs alone as she had done on this birthday morning, and in fact, she could move around most places by herself. She said she felt as well today as on her birthday a year ago. Up until her sickness of two years ago, Grandma Jones spent much of her time sewing, and made most of her own clothes. After she recovered from her illness, she has lost her enthusiasm for sewing and has not used her needle very often in the last year.

Ordinarily, Mrs. Jones does not come downstairs in the morning; instead, she eats breakfast and lunch in her room, especially enjoying her milk. Grandma Jones loves milk, and it is one of her chief dietary pleasures. At night she sleeps with a glass of milk on a chair beside her bed, and often tops off a light midnight lunch with a glass of milk. She always dresses for dinner, looking forward to coming downstairs to enjoy a meal with her son, Paul, his wife Caroline, and whoever else is sitting at table. The 1870 Federal Census identifies Paul’s occupation as a fisherman and a hotel keeper and lists his wife Caroline, their daughter, Lydia, and three or four fisherman living with him.

Grandma Jones assured everyone that she felt as well or better on this birthday as she had on her birthday a year ago.

Longevity Creates Long History

Dorcas Welch was born in Marcellus, New York on April 21, 1808. She was the daughter of Daniel Welch. One of the several record discrepancies chronicling her life indicates that Daniel’s death certificate lists him as being from Vermont, but a Find-A-Grave Memorial (100709384) shows a Daniel Welch, born in Connecticut and buried in New York.

Longevity ran through the family tree of Dorcas Welch like Lake Erie waves. Her mother died at age 96. Her five brothers all lived to be over 90 years old and one of her sisters lived to be over 90 years old. She had a niece living in Auburn, New York who had reached the age of 82 years.

When Dorcas Jones was just four years old, the War of 1812 began, a conflict that would include her future husband. Henry Jones fought in the War of 1812 against British aggression in the fledgling United States.  Henry returned to Marcellus after the War of 1812, he and Dorcas Welch were married in 1827. In later years when she lived in Conneaut Dorcus would be one of the few widows in the country who received a War of 1812 pension, drawing his $55 pension for his service in the War of 1812. She always walked to town to draw her pension until about 1907. In 1830, their son Dwight was born, and their son Paul arrived on July 10, 1841 in Westfield, New York. The couple also had a daughter who died at an early age.

The 1855 New York State Census shows Henry Jones, 60, as head of the household; Dorcas Jones, 47, wife; Dwight Jones, 25, son; and Paul Jones, 15, son.

Fifteen years later, the 1870 United States Federal Census revealed that Henry and Dorcas Jones were living in Conneaut, Ohio, with their son, Paul, his wife, Caroline, and their daughter seven-year-old Lydia. Between 1870 and 1880, Henry died. The 1880 Federal Census lists Dorcas Jones as a widow living in Conneaut with her son Paul, her daughter-in-law Caroline, and their daughter Lydia. The record shows that on June 8, 1889, Dorcas filed a widow’s pension in Pennsylvania for Henry’s Civil War service in Company B of the 2nd Pennsylvania Cavalry.

The next two decades Dorcas lived peacefully with her son Paul and daughter in law Caroline. She celebrated her 105th birthday on April 24, 1913. The Carey Times of April 24, 1913, reported that Mrs. Dorcas Jones, the oldest inhabitant of Ashtabula County celebrated her 105th anniversary. The story said that her mental condition was good, “but she is frail physically and, on this account, did not hold her customary reception. She is able to see only her near relatives.”

Dorcas’s near relatives included her son Paul, daughter in law Caroline, two grandsons, Frank and Harry Jones, a granddaughter Mrs. W.W. Grant, and a great granddaughter Ruby Grant.

Conneaut Celebrates the Eternal Life of Dorcas Welch Jones

A New York Times story and stories in the local papers reported the next chapter in the life of Dorcas Jones.  The New York Times of October 25, 1913  pqge 13, noted that Mrs. Dorcas Jones, thought to have been the oldest woman in Ohio, died yesterday in Conneaut. She celebrated her 105th birthday last April 21st. The whole town will participate in the funeral ceremonies on Sunday.

The local Conneaut paper ran this story.

Grand Old Lady” of Conneaut Expired Last Night Without Warning – A Remarkable
Woman Who Retained Her Faculties to the Last.

“Grandma” Dorcas Jones, the ‘grand old lady’ of Conneaut, and one of the oldest women in the United States passed on at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. The end came suddenly, without premonitory indications. The flame of life died out without a flicker to signalize its extinction.

Mrs. Jones’ niece, Mrs. W. W. Grant had sent her supper to her room and the family then partook of their evening meal. After supper one of the family went upstairs after the dishes. Mrs. Jones was seated on the edge of the bed just finishing her repast, and suddenly expired.

The old lady had been in her usual health up to the time of her death, and was able to be up and around the room daily. She continued to dress and undress herself and comb her beautiful hair, of which she was very proud, and notwithstanding her great age her mental faculties were not noticeably impaired.

She was tenderly cared for by her son, daughter-in-law, and niece, who regarded her in the light of a rare jewel on account of her personality, her great age and remarkable preservation apart from the natural affection.

Dorcas Jones was almost a public character in the attention paid her by the community. She was a guest of honor on Memorial days, Old home Days and other public affairs up to within the past two years and she enjoyed and appreciated these honors thoroughly. She was especially interested in all matters pertaining to the G. A. R. and other organizations of veterans.

The death of Dorcas Jones hardly seems credible to the people of Conneaut, who somehow seemed to believe that she had found the fountain of eternal youth and had passed beyond the dominion of Death. Her recovery from pneumonia three years ago and the fact that each year found her apparently no nearer dissolution, strengthened this feeling.

Her private funeral services were held at the home of her son, Paul and daughter in law Caroline Jones, on Buffalo Street on Sunday, October 2, 1913, at 2 p.m. Reverend F.L. Johnson officiated and she was laid to rest in East Conneaut Cemetery.

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