Patrick Kerwin: The State’s Oldest Voter

A Seward Man, Aged 107, Cast His Vote For Parker Yesterday.


The oldest voter in the United States yesterday was probably the venerable Patrick Kerwin, of Seward. His is over 107 years old, and has been voting the Democratic ticket since 1825.

His first ballot as a citizen of this country was cast for Andrew Jackson when John Quincy Adams was the finally successful candidate after the election had been thrown into the House of Representatives. From that day to this he has voted at every presidential election, and whenever possible at the State elections in the State of which he was a resident at the time. Mr. Kerwin is a most enthusiastic partisan and walks from his home on the farm into the village, one mile every day for his paper. In appearance he is a man about seventy and has the best of health. His intellect is as bright today as at any period of his life, and his reading is wide and in many directions remarkable.

Mr. Kerwin was born in Ireland March 9, 1797 [there is a crease in the paper right over the date, the 9th might be incorrect] and the old parish records of the little church in the county of Waterford tell of the christening at the home of John and Mary Kerwin on a day nearly 108 years ago. His first home in this country was in Massachusetts, where for six years he worked in the granite quarries. In 1820 he engaged with others in the fishing business and went to New Foundland. Thereafter this trip was made annually for fifteen years.

In 1848 he moved to Johnstown and was employed as a contractor by the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1864 he emigrated to Nevada, making the long trip across the plains in a wagon. In 1888 he returned to Seward, where his wife, to whom he was married in 1852, soon afterward died. He then went to make his home with Patrick Moore, where he has since resided.

Indiana County Gazette (PA) 09 Nov 1904

Incidentally, I would imagine Mr. Kerwin may not have been too happy with the outcome of the 1904 election. Here are some of the headlines:

Republicans Will Have a Majority of More Than a Hundred  in the Next Congress


Every Doubtful State Rallies to Their Support and Completely Swamps the Hopes of the Democracy.


States Bordering the Solid South and Which Were Depended Upon By the Democrats to Carry the Day For Parker, Come into the Rough Rider’s Camp.


Those were the good ol’ days.



Patrick Kerwin, of Seward Passes Away After Record-Breaking Career.


Despite Infirmities, However, His Mind Was Clear Until the End.

Patrick Kerwin, who would have been 111 years old on March 17, and who claimed to be the oldest resident of Pennsylvania, died Saturday morning at 8:45 o’clock at the home of Mr. and Mrs. James Bowker, with whom he had been living for a number of years. Mr. Kerwin had been confined to his bed for nine months and only last week seemed to have recovered from the last of several sinking spells which he suffered during December. The aged man was very bright Saturday morning and partook of light refreshments only a short time before he suddenly dropped over dead.

Patrick Kerwin has been a resident of Seward for many years and was well known throughout the surrounding country on account of his advanced age. His mind was very clear, and until the past years he could accurately recall all of the main events that had occurred in his lifetime. Kerwin was born in Ireland, where record of his birth is found in the parish church. He came to Newfoundland at the age of twenty and followed the fishing trade for fifteen years. He then moved to Ohio, and later to New York, where he was engaged in railroading for several years. Kerwin came to Pennsylvania when the Pennsylvania Railroad was built through Johnstown. Shorty after his arrival, he was married to Mrs. Rebecca Campbell, widow of James Campbell, a railroad contractor, and located on a farm along the old Canal just below Johnstown. At the time of the Flood, Kerwin and his wife removed to Seward, where Mrs. Kerwin died about two years later.

As far as can be learned Kerwin had no relatives. Two stepsons, who had provided for him, survive. They are M.R. Campbell, of Tennessee, and James of Nevada. The funeral was held Monday morning at 10 o’clock with services in the Seward Catholic church. Interment followed in the New Florence Catholic cemetery.

Indiana County Gazette (PA) 08 Jan 1908

After a little searching, I think I found Mr. Kerwin in the 1900 census. He year of birth is way off, but being he is in a Moore household and there is a James Bowker also in the household, it is more than likely him. His immigration year doesn’t match up either. Possible reason for this: someone else gave the information to the census taker.

Name:  Paddy Curwin
Home in 1900: St Clair, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania
Age: 88
Birth Date: Mar 1812
Birthplace: Ireland
Race: White
Ethnicity: American
Immigration Year: 1832
Relationship to head-of-house:    Boarder
Father’s Birthplace: Ireland
Marital Status: Widowed
Residence : New Florence Borough, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania
Household Members:
Name     Age
Harry Moore     24
Elizabeth Moore 47
Mary A Moore     31
Paddy Curwin     88
James Bawker     44

Here is a possible match for Patrick and Rebecca, but if it is them, his age is off once again, and so is the timeline in the above accounts of his life. I didn’t find anyone in 1880, Nevada that could have been them. Johnstown was in Cambria County.

Name:  Patrick Curwine
Home in 1880: Taylor, Cambria, Pennsylvania
Age: 70
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1810
Birthplace: Ireland
Relation to Head of Household:  Self (Head)
Spouse’s Name:     Rebecca W.
Father’s birthplace: Ire.
Mother’s birthplace: Ire.
Occupation: Farmer
Marital Status: Married
Race:     White
Gender: Male
Household Members:
Name     Age
Patrick Curwine 70
Rebecca W. Curwine 71

I did a little more searching, trying to find either of them in other census years, but no luck so far.

Johnstown Flood 1889

Johnstown Flood 1889

Here is a short account of the Johnstown flood from Wikipedia:

The Johnstown Flood disaster (or Great Flood of 1889 as it became known locally) occurred on May 31, 1889. It was the result of the failure of the South Fork Dam situated 14 miles (23 km) upstream of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, USA, made worse by several days of extremely heavy rainfall. The dam’s failure unleashed a torrent of 20 million tons of water (18.1 million cubic meters/ 4.8 billion U.S. gallons). The flood killed over 2,200 people and caused US$17 million of damage. It was the first major disaster relief effort handled by the new American Red Cross, led by Clara Barton. Support for victims came from all over the United States and 18 foreign countries.

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