Continuing a 1909 Tradition in Rehoboth, 99-year-old Gertrude (Lemieux) Messier to be awarded the Boston Post Cane
The Town of Rehoboth will continue its tradition of awarding the Massachusetts Boston Post Cane to the oldest citizen living in Rehoboth in a ceremony to be held on Sunday, September 12, 2021. The ceremony will honor Gertrude (Lemieux) Messier – “Gert” (99 years young) and will take place at the Rehoboth Veterans Memorial Gazebo – Redway Plain – 401 Winthrop Street (Corner of Route 44 and Bay State Road) at 3:30 PM.
”Gert has lived her life by example and has inspired others to do the same. She brightens a room with her presence and brings joy, wisdom, and warmth to all” said Laura L. Schwall, Rehoboth Town Clerk. “I am so pleased the Selectmen and the Rehoboth Senior Citizens Club are joining me celebrating Gert Messier’s place in Rehoboth’s history”.
Background information on the Boston Post Cane - the tradition began on August 2, 1909 when Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, Publisher of the Boston Post, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 700 towns (no cities included nor were the states of Vermont or Connecticut) in New England a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town, to be used by him as long as he lives, and at his death handed down to the next oldest citizen of the town. In 1930, after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well. The cane would belong to the town and not the man/woman who received it. The canes were all made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York manufacturer, from ebony wood shipped in seven-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa. They were cut to cane lengths, seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, coated and polished. They had a 14-carat gold head two inches long, decorated by hand, and a ferruled tip. The head was engraved with the inscription, — Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town) — “To Be Transmitted”. The Board of Selectmen and/or Town Clerk were to be the trustee of the cane and keep it always in the hands of the oldest citizen.
The custom of the Boston Post Cane took hold in those towns lucky enough to have canes. As years went by some of the canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town, were not returned to the Selectmen/Town Clerk or destroyed by accident. To date, only 517 of the 700 canes distributed have been found. Maine has 211, Massachusetts 155, New Hampshire 115 and Rhode Island 18. Several years ago, Otis Dyer, Jr. submitted an article on the history of the Boston Post Cane along with taking the photo above. Mr. Dyer’s update read: “ Rehoboth’s Boston Post Cane was regularly presente d until 2001. The last recipient passed away in 2005. The cane went missing. It appeared again in 2015 in storage at the Senior Center and given to the Selectmen’s Office . It is now in the possession of the Town Clerk and in their vault. They hope to one day revive the tradition, but keep the cane in secure display. ” (via email from E. Otis Dyer, Jr.)
Upon learning of the cane’s rediscovery, Town Clerk Laura Schwall made reviving the tradition a priority for the Town. Working in conjunction with the Selectmen, Schwall awarded Rehoboth’s Boston Post Cane to Francelina Veader, age 102, on July 25, 2016.
The Board of Selectmen and Town Clerk have decided that the original cane will be preserved in a secure case with brass name tags naming each Rehoboth recipient of the Boston Post Cane, back to 1909. Going forward, the eldest resident will receive a full-size replica of the original cane, a label pin replica of the cane, and their name added to the display housing the original cane.
Any questions should be directed to Laura Schwall, Rehoboth Town Clerk, Office hours: Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at 508 252-6502, Extension 3110.