She died in 1906. They thought she was a mere 112. Turned out she was 116.

 

By La Porte County Historian Bruce Johnson 

La Porte County Historian Bruce Johnson

In 1901, when two journalists from The La Porte Herald went to interview Mrs. Ferdinand Reese in Hudson Township in La Porte County, she was 107 years old. At the door of the two-room cabin, her husband met the reporters with a revolver for fear the guests were robbers. The couple was also a little skeptical when they had their pictures taken with a camera for the first time. 

It proved to be a most interesting visit when the reporters learned about the life of Maria Pavleschinky Chappon Katschisky Reese! 

Mrs. Reese was born Maria Pavleschinsky in Volgravitz, Poland, in 1794. She came from a poor, lower-class family and as soon as she was able, she helped tend crops in the fields and went to the forests to collect bark for fuel. In 1812, when she was 15, Maria escaped to hide for safety after seeing Napoleon on horseback and thousands of French soldiers invade her native country, burn the crops and pillage the houses. When they were returning from defeat in Russia, she saw hundreds of French soldiers who froze to death along the way through Poland. 

A few years later, Maria married Conrad Chappon and had three children, two of whom died in Poland. Conrad died, and she married Andrew Katschisky, who also died. In 1870, Maria left for America and settled in Dunkirk, New York, where her daughter died. There, at the age of 82, she married Ferdinand Reese on July 5, 1876. 

After two years, the couple moved to La Porte County, Indiana, where Ferdinand had a 10-acre tract of land in Hudson Township. There they lived in a log hut with two rooms; one room was for storage and the other for living, eating and sleeping. They ate two meals a day of black coffee and cornbread and did not use tobacco or drink alcohol. 

In 1902, the authorities moved the couple to the county home, where Ferdinand died 2 years later. Maria passed away on Sunday morning, July 29, 1906, at the age of 112. Her funeral was at the Catholic chapel in Hudson Township and she was buried in the church cemetery. However, when the authorities recorded her death certificate, it proved she had been four years older – she was actually 116! This La Porte County woman had lived in three different centuries and was believed to be the oldest woman in Indiana, America, and the world.

Bruce R. Johnson is an educator, historian, genealogist, lecturer, musician, photographer, and world traveler. He serves on numerous boards of directors, including the La Porte County Historical Society. Email him at mrjsc@csinet.net.

10 Responses to “She died in 1906. They thought she was a mere 112. Turned out she was 116.”

  1. Diane Dorsett Kendall

    Apr 12. 2021

    Bruce; What an amazing story. Is the picture of the two of them saved somewhere in the archives? Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing the history of Mrs. Reese.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bruce Johnson

      Apr 15. 2021

      Unfortunately, I could not find any photo.

      Reply to this comment
      • Dr. Alva R. Miller

        May 08. 2021

        Bruce, Thank you for taking on Fern Eddie’s tough job.Your column keeps me up to date on happenings in my old home town!

        Reply to this comment
  2. ILUVLP

    Apr 12. 2021

    Great story Bruce. I can’t imaging all the things she saw during her lifetime.
    Personally I’ve been married 38 years and couldn’t have made it that long without alcohol. Lol.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jamie. Miller

      Apr 13. 2021

      Bruce – great stories. Keep reminding us of our wonderful history .

      Reply to this comment
    • Suzanne McKay

      Apr 13. 2021

      TEE HEE!! That’s funny!! I’m sure your wife isn’t reading this. And eating just Cornbread and Coffee!! Amazing. 😳😳

      Reply to this comment
  3. Patricia Tardell

    Apr 13. 2021

    Great story and an incredible life. A hard life indeed, was she a woman of faith?

    Reply to this comment
  4. Tammy

    Apr 13. 2021

    Fascinating, would love to see what she looked like! She must have been one tough lady.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Vernelle

    Apr 14. 2021

    Really interesting story. Thanks!

    Reply to this comment

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