THE OLDEST INHABITANT.
Death of a Man 134 Years Old.
(From the Kansas City, (Mo.) Journal.)
On Saturday evening last the oldest man in the State, if not the oldest man anywhere, died in Kansas City.
His name was Jacob Fournais, but know to everybody who knew him at all, as “Old Peno,” (or Pinau). — Nobody knew his exact age, not even himself, but he was known as an old man when men now four-score were children.
He was a Canadian Frenchman by birth, but for more than half a century was a hunter and trapper in the employ of the Fur Company, one of the French voyageurs, as they were called — most of that time with Major Andrew Dripps, the father of Mr. Charles A. Dripps, and father-in-law of Mr. William Mulkey, at whose house he died, and where he has been kindly and affectionately treated for the last thirty years.
He was never sick and only a few minutes before he died was walking about the room. He said to the family in the morning, that he would “never see the sun go down again,” and just before sunset, the machine stopped — the old man was dead.
He said he was working in the woods on a piece of land he had bought for himself, near Quebec, when Wolfe was killed on the heights of Abraham. This was September 13, 1759, and from what he told of his life previous th that he must have been over 21 years of age.
Thinking he might have confounded Wolfe with Montgomery — 1775 — we questioned him very fully, but his recollection of names and incidents were too distinct to leave any doubt, and the same account had been given to others before we saw him.
Another event which he remembered well, and which he seemed to always look upon as a good joke, was that, during the occupation of New Orleans by General Jackson — 1814-15 — he had been refused enlistment, “because he was too old.” The old man often told this with great glee. He must then have been about 80 years old.
Thus, taking everything into consideration, and we have been careful ever since we knew him to get all the facts about him we could find — from Major Dripps, the Chouteau family, Jim Bridger, Tim Goodale, Bent, Jim Beckwith and other old mountaineers — we put his age at 134 years.
He went from Canada to where Pittsburgh now is, thence down the Ohio in keel-boats, and was in New Orleans, it seems, in 1814.
Before this, however, he accompanied the expedition of Lewis and Clark, in their explorations of the Missouri and the discovery of the Columbia river in 1804-7. His experience during that trip, making him a valuable man to the Fur Company, he was afterward employed as we have stated, until thirty years ago; being then worn out and too old for active service, he came here to spend the evening of his life with the family of the man he had so faithfully served for so many years.
The last thirty years of his life were passed in quiet and comfort. — He preferred living by himself, and always had his own house, where he kept his pipe and tobacco pouch and such things as were articles of comfort to him, mostly such as he had from his residence with the Indians, not forgetting his rosary and a few religious pictures which hung above his bed. He was very neat in his person, clothes, and housekeeping, and up to the day of his death attended in summer to his tobacco plants and his cabbages. One of his great desires was to see a railroad, and when the first locomotive came screaming into the bottom which was in full view of his home, he was nervous as a child until he visited it. –
The wife of Mr. Mulkey, who has been his constant attendant from her childhood, took him down one day to the depot, where he had an opportunity to examine it, and saw it move away with a heavy train attached. — He expressed himself as satisfied, said he “could tell God he had seen a railroad,” and has never since expressed any curiosity on the subject.
Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Indiana) Aug 1, 1871
More on Fur Traders and Trappers HERE.
In the book, Forty Years a Fur Trader, Andrew Dripps is mentioned on pages 416-417, in the chapter, “Sketches of Indian Agents.” The book can be found on Google Books, or click the link above.