Midcoast residents with deep local roots may be eligible for an increasingly rare New England honor.

Town clerks across the region are searching for the next recipients of their communities’ Boston Post Canes, which for more than 100 years have honored the eldest members of towns in Maine and beyond.

“One of my New Year’s projects is to find a new person,” Lisbon Town Clerk Lisa Ward said. “We haven’t found a willing recipient just yet.”

Ward is looking for a worthy successor to Eugene Dackmine, who after turning 100 wielded Lisbon’s cane for more than three years before his death in 2021.

Ward’s counterparts in Topsham, Harpswell and Bowdoinham are also all searching for the oldest members of their towns, who will join a long lineage of Boston Post Cane winners.

The tradition started in 1909, when Boston Post publisher Edwin A. Grozier mailed canes to 700 small towns in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, according to the Boston Post Cane Information Center. Each gold-tipped cane, carved out of ebony from the Congo, was to be given to the town’s oldest man until his death, when it would move to the next oldest.


Though the practice (minus the gender requirement) has survived long after the Boston Post shuttered more than 60 years ago, the history of the canes has branched into 700 unique stories.

The tradition died in Brunswick, as in other towns, when the cane went missing for several years, according to Aimée L. Keithan, museum services manager at the Pejepscot History Center. When Bob Naegely rediscovered the token in his office at 86 Maine St. in 1996, he donated it to the History Center.

Freeport has managed to keep its cane, but the tradition has fizzled out nonetheless, Town Clerk Christine Wolfe said. While the Town Council will sometimes give out honorary pins to centenarians upon request, it hasn’t given an official award to its oldest citizen in years.

Other communities have elected to revive the practice after long lapses. Though it hadn’t given the Boston Post Cane award since 2009, Topsham’s Town Council voted in 2017 to bring the honor back in a simplified form: Winners would now receive certificates instead Edwin A. Grozier’s original ebony.

Even after streamlining the process so town officials don’t need to chase down the physical canes, the process of finding the rightful honoree can still be complicated, according to clerks. Besides soliciting nominations from residents, they must spend time digging through annual town reports and voting records, consulting with tax and vehicle registration departments, and calling older residents to confirm they’re still alive.

Still, Bowdoinham Town Clerk Tina Magno said she’s excited to discover and share the story of a longtime resident — someone who will be almost as old as the cane they’ve earned.

“There’s so many people here in this town that do so much,” Magno said. “Just recognizing their efforts in making this town what it is, what it was and what it needs to become is what, hopefully, that cane can represent.”

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