Daytonian, 99, Wins Daily News Oldest Voter Contest (1936)




Dayton Daily News - November 8, 1936

Original picture from article.

Names in order as they appear, left to right.
Abram Kelch, John Leuhrs, John Lafferty, Bertha Lonnest, Mrs. Leah Swank
John C. Boyle, Sr., Jacob D. Shank, William Meyer, David Moody, John Lenz, Mary Clark


[transcription of article]

John Lafferty Cast His Ballot For Lincoln In 1860 and 1864 Campaigns
Picture old John Lafferty walking up the famous circular stone steps of the courthouse, as he did a few months ago, to get a divorce. But think of him, in his 99th year, taking those steps two at a time!

John, winner of the Dayton News "Oldest Voter" contest, was born at Lynchburg, O., July 7, 1836," just 25 presidential terms ago. He lives now with his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Warner, on Orchard rd., south east of Oakwood.

The centenarian voted for Lincoln in 1860 and in 1864, picking a winner each time; but in every succeeding election he voted Democratic, and was on the winning side twice with Grover Cleveland, twice with Woodrow Wilson, and twice with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since U. S. Grant, who followed Lincoln, no Republican nominee except McKinley has been reelected to the presidency.

Runners-up in the "Oldest Voter" contest were David Moody, 98, of 357 Mound st., and four bunched closely for third honors; Mrs. Mary Clark, Gordon, O.; William Moyer, Fort Loramie; Bertha Lonnsert, 1130 Beaumont av., and Jacob D. Shank, Miamisburg. Moyer was born July 17, 1839; Mrs. Lonnsert was born two days later, and Shank four days after Mrs. Lonnsert.

Mrs. Clark, who lives in the same cabin at Gordon into which she moved the year after the assassination of President Lincoln, keeps house for two young men, her great-grandsons.

Six other entrants also are over 95 years of age. Mrs. J. W. Thompson of Waynesville, Abraham Kelch of No. 5 Schaefer building, John Boyle of 448 Grafton av., and John Christ Luehrs of 2378 Wayne av., all are 96, Mrs. Leah Swank of Phillipsburg, and John Lenz of the Montgomery County home are 95.

Like Lafferty, John Boyle saw Abraham Lincoln. Boyle was a youth living 16 miles from Columbus when Lincoln was elected the first time, and the former traveled to the state capital to see the president-elect on his way east for inauguration.

But Lafferty's recollection of the great president is more intimate. It was during the Civil War. The Ohioan, then in his early twenties, was a soldier in the Union army, stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., when Lincoln visited that post.

"Do I remember Mr. Lincoln?" Lafferty repeats the question; "Why, I shook hands with him. Yes sir! And I remember that he said Fort Harrison might be used as a war hospital. Mr. Lincoln had a passion of twiddling his thumbs. Somebody asked him if he did that all the time, "No," he said, "sometimes I do it like this," and Lafferty reversed the direction of thumb motion, to show what he meant.

Lafferty spoke over WHIO Tuesday night, when first returns on the election were dribbling in, but before conclusive evidence of the landslide. He is a staunch Rooseveltian.

He recalls that in his early voting days elections were very different. To vote you simply marched up to a window and registered your choice, openly. Perhaps it was weeks before you knew who had been elected.

The "Oldest Voter" contest produced 18 entries between the ages of 90 and 94, and 57 between the ages of 72 and 89.

Lafferty also deceived a measure of national attention by voting at 100. Boake Carter, news commentator, mentioned George Perry of Troy, N.Y., 96, as perhaps the oldest active voter. Richard Withrow, Dayton attorney, wired Carter:

"You are jolly well all saturated on oldest active voter. My client John Lafferty is 100 years old. Voted twice for Lincoln. As to his activity, he obtained divorce 18 months ago in his 99th year."

Later Carter discovered an even older voter, Lucy Ann Jackson of Tarrytown, N.Y., who claims to be 114. But when Lafferty voted for Lincoln, who was to free the slaves, in 1860, Lucy Ann was a slave on a southern plantation.

Lafferty went to his polling place, the Pasadena schoolhouse, Marshall rd., which accommodates the electors of precinct B, Van Buren tp., accompanied by his daughter, Mrs. James Warner, and her husband.

It was about noon when he arrived and he was the 220th person to vote in his precinct.

Unable to read or write because of the lack of educational facilities when he was a boy, Lafferty placed his X under the Democratic rooster , while leaving the ballots without party emblems unmarked. He was escorted to the booth having the brightest light and was given some assistance in marking his ballot.

Lafferty was highly elated over the outcome of the election, recalling that he had voted the straight Democratic ticket throughout the years since the vote he cast for Abraham Lincoln.

Mrs. Warner explained that her father had sat at the radio election night until almost morning listening to returns from all sections of the nation while growing elated over the outcome as it became apparent that an overwhelming victory had been scored by the Democrats.

Lafferty served four years in the Civil War and then for several years, a soldier in the American regular army, saw service in the Black Hills, being in at some of the Little Big Horn campaign skirmishes. He has many interesting stories to relate of his experiences, including those having to do with his participation, with other United States soldiers, in searching for Jesse James, public enemy No. 1 of a former day.

The centenarian was still expressing his elation over the Roosevelt victory adding, "there are several dances left in this old boy yet and I'll be making my mark under the rooster again four years from now.

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