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Tuesday October 24th 2017

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“The longer you lived, the longer you were likely to live.”

The slightest and subltest “tilt” of the tombstone after many decades of freeze/thaw cycles is one of the hundreds of such examples of Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery “patina.” Of the ages.  Abraham Fletcher died on August 25, 1854 at the age of 87. Margaret, who was born in 1772 died in 1861 at the age of 89 years and five days. Margaret and Abraham Fletcher are buried in a family plot (Lot 9, Block B) with four other family members including their son Asa and his wife Nancy. Nancy died in 1865 at the age of 41, and Asa died in 1889 at the age of 81.

The slightest and subltest “tilt” of the tombstone after many decades of freeze/thaw cycles is one of the hundreds of such examples of Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery “patina.” Of the ages.
Abraham Fletcher died on August 25, 1854 at the age of 87. Margaret, who was born in 1772 died in 1861 at the age of 89 years and five days.
Margaret and Abraham Fletcher are buried in a family plot (Lot 9, Block B) with four other family members including their son Asa and his wife Nancy. Nancy died in 1865 at the age of 41, and Asa died in 1889 at the age of 81.

By Sue Hunter Weir
100th in a Series

Abraham Fletcher, born the longest ago — 1776.

People often ask who is the oldest burial in the cemetery. They don’t mean whose was the first burial or who lived the longest. What they’re asking is who was born the longest ago.

That honor appears to belong to Abraham Fletcher who was born October 13, 1766, in Mendon, Massachusetts. He and his wife Margaret Crocker Fletcher moved to Territorial Minnesota with several of their adult children sometime in the early 1850s. At the time that they moved, Abraham was well into his eighties.

Life Expectancy Records of life expectancy for people born in the 1760s were not kept. But demographers later calculated that someone like Abraham Fletcher who was 83 in 1850 was likely to life another 5.9 years or until he was 89. Abraham Fletcher didn’t make it quite that long—he died on August 25, 1854 at the age of 87. Margaret, who was born in 1772 died in 1861 at the age of 89 years and five days.

Mortality rate tables reveal a fascinating pattern about life expectancies. A child under the age of ten in 1850 (presumably including those born in 1850) had an average life expectancy of approximately 38 years. Children who were between the ages of ten and twenty in 1850 had a life expectancy of 48 years, ten years longer. The same pattern persists up until 1920. While it seems nonsensical to say that the longer you lived, the longer you were likely to live, that was, within reason, the case. Infancy and very young childhood were perilous times and children who made it past their tenth birthdays had survived or sidestepped some of the leading causes of premature death—measles, teething, enterocolitis, cholera infantum, etc.

First Baptist Church 

Margaret Fletcher was 81 when she became one of the ten founding members of the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Five of the church’s original ten founders were members of the Fletcher family. Abraham’s name is not among them which may have been due to poor health or some other age-related reason.

In its earliest days, the church met in Fletcher Hall which was owned by Abraham and Margaret’s son, Asa. The building was located on what is now Portland Avenue. In his “History of Minnesota,” Isaac Atwater described the congregation’s meeting place:

“Access to this hall was by an outside stairway so frail in appearance, that nervous persons ventured upon it with trembling. The room was rough, and its furnishings of the rudest. Seats were few but not far between, made of planks and supported by empty boxes and nail kegs. The pulpit corresponded, a platform six or eight inches high, for top a board smoothed by a saw and supported by two side pieces of the same sort, with pieces of lath nailed on to brace it up. The worshipers, however, were not troubled by their uncouth surroundings. Prayer, praise and holy thoughts hallowed the place for them.”

It’s not hard to imagine Margaret being very nervous as she climbed a rickety stairway in order to attend weekly church services and Sunday School. But climb she did.

Margaret and Abraham Fletcher are buried in a family plot (Lot 9, Block B) with four other family members including their son Asa and his wife Nancy. Nancy died in 1865 at the age of 41, and Asa died in 1889 at the age of 81.

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