Great Great Grandpa Jacob Atkins

Great great grandpa Jacob Atkins is on the left. That's me on mother Ruth Martin's lap. Back row--Jacob Atkins, William Atkins, Grandma Ethel Barker.

Jacob Atkins

The following article was in the Charleston Daily Mail on November 4th, 1952. Reporter Charles Connor says Jacob was 103 at the time of the interview. I was sixteen when Jacob died in 1953 at 104 years old:

       So you’re sitting in an easy chair and haven’t yet stirred out to vote? Comfortable? Conscience clear? Let the other fellow take care of the voting, you say? Okay, brother it’s your country.

          But it’s like 103 year old Jake Atkins, oldest man in Boone County, has been telling people ever since he cast his first Presidential vote for Horace Greeley in1872.

          “Folks who don’t vote should ‘hesh up’. If they don’t speak up when time comes to vote, they don’t deserve to speak in between elections.”

          That’s the way Uncle Jake feels about it. He “lost” his first vote in 1872. General U.S. Grant rode into office for his second term over the New York editor who advised young men to go west. Greeley was a Democrat, that’s what Uncle Jake is.

          “Yessirree.” He says, “As died in the wool a Democrat as my grand pappy was a hard-shelled Baptist preacher. I never missed voting in my life, young man. Today will be my 21st time to vote for a President of the United States. I reckon that is a record, yessirree.”

          Yessirree, I reckon it is, voting in 21 Presidential elections from 1872 to 1852—80 years.
Uncle Jake was born March 10, 1849. He was privileged to cast his first vote for a presidential nominee in 1872 when he was 23 years old.

          “ Horace Greeley lost that ’72 election, but I’ve voted for other fellows who’ve lost too,” observes Uncle Jake. “Leastwise, though, I’ve had the satisfaction of voting and then arguing with fellows on the other side of the fence about how the country should be run. A man who votes is entitled to that.”

          Uncle Jake, who says he’s blind in one eye and can’t see out  the other, voted today, too, with the assistance of an old friend who came by to take him to the polls.

          That is, he voted after a big breakfast of coffee (two cups), bacon and eggs and old dried beans and taters. Next to voting, Uncle Jake says he’s the eatingest man there is.

          “Only thing I never ate in my life was a tomato or onion. Tasted them both one time and decided they didn’t suit. But beans, now a meal wouldn’t be complete without them,” he says.

          Uncle Jake never used tobacco in any shape or form, nor whiskey. He says he used to get up and go out of the house when his own boys started smoking.

          “Course, my mother smoked a clay pipe but it didn’t hurt me none,” he points out. “It wasn’t ketching.”

          A farmer all his life in and around Rock Creek, he lives now with one of his daughters, Mrs. W. B. Halstead of 5205 Venable Av. S.E. The father of nine children, he has five still living.

          Besides Mrs. Halstead, there are D.W. Atkins of Ashford; Edgar Atkins of Barboursville; Mrs. Bernard Barker of Ashford; and Mrs. L. McElhatten of 820 Mathews Ave.

          “Peculiar thing about us Atkins fellows,” says Uncle Jake. “We live longer than anyone else. Guess it’s cause we’re up there at the beginning of the alphabet. One of my grandpappies lived to be 101 and the other one was 99 when he died. I’ve broken both their records.

          But proud as he is of living to 103 a neat feat in itself, Uncle Jake is prouder still that he’s never missed voting since ’72. He says it gives the rest of us something to shoot at.

          Who knows? Maybe you’ll live to break Uncle Jake’s record which now stands at 21 consecutive presidential elections. But you can’t keep in the running unless you stir out of that easy chair and hustle down to the polls before closing time at 7:30 p.m.

          As Uncle Jake says: “If’n I can get out and vote at 103, then dang nab it everybody can.”

          Dang nab it—he’s right! Vote!


About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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