The following undated, unidentified newspaper article was found in a copy of Helen Craft's Scrapbook at the Lowell Public Library. Unfortunately, the picture that accompanied the story was of too poor a quality to copy here.
One Hundred and Two
As has been briefly stated prior to this date, Mr. Peter Surprise, who lives with his son, Henry, four miles northeast of this city, is probably the oldest man now living in the state of Indiana. The records of his birth were destroyed by fire many years ago, but as near as can be ascertained he was born August 8th, 1793; making him 102 years old. He was born in the lower province of Canada, and in the year 1819 moved to New York, thence to Chicago, Illinois in 1820, and after a short time in Chicago he moved to this place, taking up a homestead on what is now known as the John Lynch farm just east of the incorporated limits of Lowell. He was a subject of the King of Britain until the 10th day of August 1837, when he took out naturalization papers at Crown Point, Indiana, before Solomon* Robinson, who was county clerk at that time. His wife, whose maiden name was Rosana Taylor, passed away to the spirit land in the year 1875. To this union eleven children were born. Those dead are one infant, Alonzo, and Mrs. Sallie Stilson. Those living are Elizabeth Hardin, of O.T.; Lavina Cohoe and Harvey, of Buffalo, Kansas; Armena Rosenbaur and William, of Paisley, Indiana; and Alvina Wheeler, Oliver and Henry of Lowell, Indiana. The picture which accompanies this article was caught on the fly in a wooded piece of land where the old gentleman was performing his daily toil, that of clearing up stumps. It was necessary for the artist to get a snap-shop on the old gentleman as he is a non-believer in such expensive luxuries as that of paying out money for photographs. Physically he is very active, probably as much so as many who are many years younger than him, but on account of the wear and tear of a century his mind is slightly impaired. He is a firm spiritualist and has many spells what he terms his "exercises." If he desires to convene with his wife, now deceased, he goes into a trance and commences his "exercise," that of talking with her. The difference between God, the maker of all things, and the devil is a matter far beyond his comprehension, but it is one of his chief topics. When asked by a reporter if he worked hard, he replied, "that he worked hard through the day and at night had his exercises with God and the devil." When asked if such work did not tire him, he replied: "Oh, yes, it did at first but now I am used to it and do not mind it any more." He is of the opinion that he will live 100 years more.
* NOTE -- In other articles, it was Solon Robinson (not Solomon) before whom Peter Surprise took out naturalization papers.
Obituary of Peter Surprise--unknown source. Clipping found at Lowell Public Library (LH--Vital Statistics, Vol. 1, p. 48.):
"A MEMORIAL. Peter Surprise was born of French parentage, in a province of Lower Canada, February 24, 1794. He was married in early manhood to Rosanna Taylor and with her, who had then become the mother of three children, he removed to the State of New York in the United States. There he was for a time a charcoal burner. In 1835, or perhaps in 1834, he came as one of the earliest of our pioneers into what became Lake county, Indiana, following a party of French neighbors who settled in Illinois near the present Momence. In the United States, in New York and in Indiana, were born eleven more children, making fourteen children in all, eight sons and six daughters. August 10, 1837, Solon Robinson, who was then county clerk, made out his naturalization papers, 'declaring him to be no longer a subject of of William IV of Great Britain, but a citizen of our free Republic.' [As a matter of fact Victoria had been for some months Queen of England, but the Atlantic cable and the 'ocean greyhounds,' and the long lines of railroad, were not in existence then.] Peter Surprise was born while Washington was President; he lived about seven years in the Eighteenth Century, through all of the Nineteenth Century, and through two full years of the Twentieth, reaching the advanced age of 109 years and 6 months, being the oldest citizen of Lake county, if not of Indiana. There is no record here of one older. The wife of his young manhood died July 10, 1876, then 75 years of age. Seven of the children have also died. For nearly forty-one years his home has been with his son Henry Surprise. For several years he was not very strong in mind, but took much exercise and interest in working on the farm, until in his last year of life his sight became so dim as to confine him to the house. After a few days of illness his long life closed at 8 o'clock in the evening, August 27, 1903. Seven of his children are yet living, by name, Elizabeth, Harvey, Henry, William, Oliver, Elvina, and Lavina; also twenty-two grandchildren and forty great-grandchildren are in this county. Burial services were held at Creston, August 29th, conducted by Rev. T.H. Ball. Six grandsons were pall bearers, Claude Binyon funeral director. A large assembly of people present."
This obituary of Peter Surprise, from an unknown source, was found in the Clipping Files at Lowell Public Library (LH--Vital Statistics, Vol. 2, p. 42):
Another Pioneer Gone
The oldest citizen of Lake county, perhaps the oldest, and surely one of the oldest, in Indiana, passed from life August 27, 1903, at the home of his son, Henry Surprise, having live 109 years and 6 months.
Peter Surprise, this pioneer, was born in Lower Canada Feb. 24, 1794. He was of French parentage, his ancestors kindred, probably, to the Acadians mentioned in Longfellow's Evangeline.
He was married in Canada to Rosanna Taylor and came into the State of New York with his wife and three children in 1820.
Following a party of French neighbors, who settled near the Kankakee Rapids in Illinois, he came into this wild region about 1835, and located with his family in what is now Lake county, August 10, 1837, his allegiance to William IV of Great Britain, supposed to be then king, was transferred to the United States of Amreica, Solon Robinson, the newly elected county clerk, making out his naturalization papers.
When he was born George Washington was president, so he was contemporary with all our presidents from Washington to Roosevelt. Beginning life in the 18th Century he live through the 19th and into the 20th Century of the Christian Era.
He was the father of fourteen children. His wife died at the age of 75 years in 1876. Seven of the children, of whom eight were sons, are yet living, four of the sons, Harvey, Henry, William, and Oliver. There are twenty-two grand children and forty more great-grand-children.
This Aug. 28, 1952, Lowell Tribune obituary (page 25) of Peter Surprise was also found in the clipping files at Lowell Public Library (LH--"Vital Statistics," Vol. 2, p. 79):
Lived in Three Centuries
Peter Surprise (1794-1903)
When George Washington was president of the United States, Peter Surprise was born, February 24, 1794. He was the only child of Peter Suprenois (Surprise) and Laconse Salebacas Surprise who lived in a little province of Canada on the northern shores of Lake Champlain, called St. Johns, where, they, too, were born.
In 1816 Peter, Jr., was married to LaRose Taylor, of the same province. The couple left St. Johns in 1829 and moved to a farm in New York, on the western shore of Lake Champlain, where they resided until 1834, when their house was destroyed by fire. He traded his land for a lot of boots and shoes and some money, and moved his family west, coming to Lake county. He followed up a party of French neighbors who had settled north and south of what is now Momence, Ill., and had engaged in trapping in the Kankakee river marshlands. Peter was among the first to take up a homestead under "squatter sovereignty". He erected a cabin on his land near the present side of Lowell. The cabin burned, together with his stock of boots, furniture and hundreds of dollars in paper money. He did not mourn his losses, but with iron courage worked to retrieve them.
A temperate user of tobacco and whiskey, he never sought medical advice, but made his own medicines from barks and herbs which he gathered.
He was a small man and always very active. His favorite pastime was dancing and even at the age of 100 years he danced with suppleness and agility. He boasted that no one in Lake county could keep up with him in dancing a "jig".
His wife died July 10, 1876, at the age of 75 years and for 40 years he made his home with his son, Henry, on his homestead northeast of Lowell, where Del Hayden and wife, the former Mabel Surprise, now live.
Stout of mind and frame, the little man's health began to fail as he neared the age of 109 years and he was forced to give up his tasks about the farm. He passed away August 27, 1903.
Although reared a Catholic he had drifted from the religion.
Funeral services were held in the Creston church at two o'clock on Saturday, August 29th. Rev. T.H. Ball preached the funeral discourse and C.E. Bunyon* had charge of the burial service. He was laid to rest beside his wife in the Creston cemetery. A large number of his old neighbors and friends gathered to pay a last triburte of respect to one whom they had long known and held in high esteem. Six grandsons served as pallbears.
When Lake county's government was organized March 28, 1937, Solon Robinson, "Squatter King" of Crown Court (later Crown Point), was elected clerk. He made out naturalization papers, declaring Peter no longer a subject of Great Britain, but a citizen of our free Republic. He lived in three centuries and lived longer than any other Hoosier to that date.
His children included: Henry and Oliver, Lowell; William, Cedar Lake; Armenia Rosenbauer and Alvina Wheeler, Lowell; Elizabeth Hardin of Oklahoma Territory; Lavina Vandicar Cohoe and Harvey of Buffalo, Kansas. He buried one son, one daughter and an infant while living in New York. At the time of his death in 1903, he had 47 grandchildren, over 55 great-grandchildren, and several great-great grandchildren.
* NOTE -- In this article and the next one, the funeral director was listed as C.E. Bunyon. His name was actually Claude Binyon.
This unidentified article came fromt he collection of Gwen Weiner:
DEATH OF PETER SURPRISE
He was 109 years old. Oldest Man in State of Indiana.
Peter Surprise was born in a province of lower Canada, February 24th, 1794, of French parentage.
In early manhood he was married to Rosannie Taylor. To them were born fourteen children, six girls, and eight boys.
In 1820 he emigrated to the United States with his wife and three children, and settled in New York. He worked as a charcoal burner, staying there until sometime in 1834 or 1835 when he came th Lake Co. Ind. Following up a party of French neighbors who had settled north and south of what is now Momence.
Aug. 10th, 1837, Solon Robinson (the Squatter King) of Crown Point, made out his naturalization papers, declaring him no longer a subject of Great Britain, but a citizen of our free Republic. He was born while George Washington was president and lived in three centuries. We have no record to show that any older person is now living in Indiana.
Three daughters and four sons were called to rest before the father. The wife of his youth died July 10th, 1876, aged 75 years. For nearly forty years he has been cared for at the home of his son, Henry Surprise. Although not strong he was able to do light work about the farm, about a year ago his eye sight failed, so that he was compelled to remain in doors; his health has failed gradually since then. He passed away Aug. 27th, 1903, aged 109 years, six months and three days.
His children are Harvey of Buffalo, Kan; Henry and Olive, of Lowell, Ind.; William, of Cedar Lake; Mesdames Elizabeth Harding, Levina Wheeler and Alvina Coho, of Buffalo, Kan. Also in this country there are twenty-two grand children and forty great grand children.
His funeral took place in the Creston Church at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29th. A large number of his old neighbors fathered to pay their last tribute of respect to one whom they had all known and respected for so many years.
Rev. T.H. Ball preached the funeral discourse. Funeral director C.E. Bunyon had charge of the burial service. Interment in the Creston Cemetery. Six grandsons acted as pall bearers. He leaves four sons, Henry, Oliver, Harvey and William and three daughters, Mesdames Levina Wheeler, Alvia Coho and Elizabeth Harding, twenty-two grandchildren and forty great grand children to mourn his death and to whom we extend sincere sympathy in this dark hour of sorrow.
Last updated on July 19, 2007.
Go to Peter Surprise, "Pioneer History Index," for further information.