Stories of Stoutsburg
Silvia Dubois, 116 years old
Most likely buried in Stoutsburg but has not been officially verified
Saturday, January 26, 1884
It is probably not known to many of our citizens, but ought to be, as a re- markable phenomenon, that we have, not only in New Jersey, but in new proxim- ity to Princeton, one who, if she lives till the 5th of March next, will be one hundred and sixteen years old.
She is a colored woman. There is no doubt that this is her true age, for reli able records of it have been kept.
C.W. Larison, M.D., of Ringoes, Hunterdon County, has investigated her history, and has written it out from her lips, and published it, in a book. Her story, graphically delineated by the Doctor, has all the interest of a romance. A cut of the heroine accompanies the volume as a frontispiece. The body of the work also contains two views of the log hut, place of her present residence.
Silvia was born a slave and on Sourland Mountain. In early life she went with her owner to Great Bend on the Susquehanna river. They were the first settlers of this place so noted both in the past and at the present time. Having whipt her mistress, and being presented with her freedom therefore, by her master, she re turned to the scenes of her childhood.
She is large, and was, and still is, for her age, a woman of prodigious strength. At one time, as mentioned in the Doctor’s narrative, she lived in the family of Vic tor Tulane, a brother of Paul Tulane and grandfather of the present young Victor. Within a year she has ridden to Lambertville, where he had her photograph taken; and has walked to Harlingen, a distance, from her home, of four and a half miles, which she accomplished in about two hours. She has had six children. One of them Rachel, the book says, now lives in Princeton. Silvia lives at Cedar Summit, a little back and west of Blawenburg on the mountain, with one of her daughters, Elizabeth, herself nearly eighty years of age.
This book of Dr. Larison is one which ought to have a large circulation, especially through this region. It ought to be on sale here in town. Many in and about Princeton have known Silvia. The author has struck an interesting historic vein in his narrative. It is very interesting.
The work is intended to serve two ends; the one a narrative of Silvia’s life and times, with local allusions and reminiscences; the other to illustrate Phonic Orthography, the book being printed in the new spelling, with diacritical marks. The Doctor is an enthusiast in this new orthoepy, has upon it, published a scientific volume and now two reading books. Personally, we do not admire the new spelling, and could wish that the author had given his narrative in the language of our children; still there are those who will be glad to the book, on this very account, either as something curious or in appreciation; while readers generally will be glad to get it even with this new tongue, which we can all spell out without difficulty, for the sake of the matter and style it brings us.
Silvia gives the history of her childhood her removal with her master, to Great Bend… (half a line illegible) which she gained her freedom, the journey with her child from Great Bend back to New Jersey on foot through an almost unbroken forest, her final settlement at the place where she now resides, her opinion of former and present neighbors, together with many facts and incidents that have occurred in her long life, each and all told in such quaint language, that they cannot fail to amuse the general reader. Her story also shows the habits and customs of people of long ago, their manner of living, the way in which the slaves were treated, etc., etc. Nor is the work lacking in the elements of humor; a vein of wit runs through the entire book.
We close this notice with an illustrative passage. Silvia is very outspoken con cerning people she has known. Here is part of a picture she gives of one who in life seems to have been much addicted to strong drink. Speaking of his monu- ment reared by his son, she says, “that he placed upon his grave a hand, with one finger pointing toward heaven.” Then she adds, “That looks pretty well; but he ought to have had a bottle of whiskey engraved just above the end of the finger; that would look better; would be more significant—specially to those of us who knew him.” (Quote from Dr. Larison’s book, Silvia Dubois: A Biography of the Slav Who Whipt Her Mistres and Gand Her Fredom.)
Princeton Press, Saturday, May 5, 1888
Sylvia Dubois is at last really dead. So, at least, the Hopewell Herald announces. She died last Sunday morning at her residence on Sourland Mountain, not of old age but of erysipelatous inflammation; aged 122. She leaves two daughters, respectively 94 and 73 years old. Her burial was from the African church, on the mountain; Rev. W. H. Pitman conducting the exercises.
Ms. Dubois had been reported dead in the great blizzard of 1888, a story which was later retracted.