A salute for the journey

Anna Giles, 99, handed Boston Post Cane

By SHIRA SCHOENBERG

Monitor staff

February 16. 2008 12:51AM

Anna Giles is a country girl. Growing up on a Georgia farm in
the early 1900s, her family grew tobacco, cotton and pecans. When
Giles moved to Boscawen 70 years later, she covered her property
with gardens.

“Neighbors would say, why are you growing so much?” Giles
recalled. “I said, I can them for winter. I don’t run to the store
every time I want a can of beans. I got them.”

Giles, 99, was honored with the Boston Post Cane on Thursday, as
the oldest resident of Boscawen. The cane was fashioned by the
Boston Post in 1909. According to a town history, the newspaper
presented 700 inscribed, gold-headed canes to New England
communities as a way for towns to respect their oldest
citizens.

“It’s a congratulations for making it this far,” said town
administrator Michael Wright.

In Boscawen, the cane has been held by 18 residents, most
recently Edna Clark, who died last month. Holders of the cane carry
it in a parade on Old Home Day.

In Giles, the cane recognizes a homemaker who dedicated her life
to caring for family – her daughter, her granddaughter and her
husband.

Giles was born on Aug. 29, 1908, daughter of a prominent family.
Her father, Clayton Morris, was one of the first settlers in
Charlotte, Ga., according to Giles’s grand

daughter Pat Jenkins. The family farmed their estate, and
Giles’s grandmother operating a boarding house. Her mother was a
seamstress. They cooked in cast-iron pots over the fire.

Giles attended a country school populated by “farm kids,” she
said. The town was full of large families and Giles’s grandmother
had nine children. Giles had one brother and a sister who died as a
child.

“I hated school; it was a place to go to play,” Giles said. She
stayed until 9th grade then left to work in a restaurant owned by
her cousin.

Giles got into trouble often, Jenkins said. She used to defy her
parents’ warnings and sneak out of the house when her parents were
driving the bulls in. Once, she was sitting on a fence when a bull
knocked her off, Jenkins said. Another time, Giles was in her
bedroom when lightning came through the window and burned her back.
She was taken to the hospital in a horse and buggy.

At 17, Giles married Eli Fulton Mullis and gave birth to her
only child, a daughter. But the marriage did not last. “I was too
young, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Giles said.

She left Georgia because of the Ku Klux Klan. Jenkins said Giles
and a friend were coming home late one night and took a shortcut
through a field. There, they saw the Klan hanging a black man. She
was asked to testify but, Jenkins said, “Back then, you didn’t
testify. They’d go after your family.” Giles left Georgia and
moved to South Carolina.

It was in South Carolina that she found her second husband. “In
the country down there, everyone knows everyone else, like a
family,” Giles said. “Some of them married cousins, but I didn’t.”
Instead, Giles married a Yankee. Harvey Sias Giles was a Marine
from Danvers, Mass., stationed in South Carolina. Giles was a
waitress, and the first time he tried to talk to her, she slammed
the door on him. But he persisted. “He used to come in for his
lunch and supper and, before he went home at night, sometimes he
walked me home,” Giles said. They married in 1931 and stayed
together for 76 years.

Eventually, the couple moved to Danvers, Mass. Except for her
days in the restaurant business, Giles never worked outside the
home. Her daughter, Reba, was unable to have children, and a
botched surgery left her in need of care. Reba adopted Jenkins and
Jenkins’s brother, but was put into a nursing home when Jenkins
was 6 years old and died at age 54.

Giles cared for her daughter when she was sick, then raised her
granddaughter. She took care of the chickens and did the baking and
cooking, Jenkins recalled. Harvey Giles worked nights as a security
guard.

Giles was also strict, Jenkins said. When she wanted Jenkins to
come home, she would ring a bell. If Jenkins didn’t come, “she’d
start hollering,” Jenkins said. “I knew by the sound of her voice
how far I could push it.”

When Jenkins was in high school, the family bought a camp in
Enfield and spent summers there and winters in Georgia. They bought
the house in Boscawen in 1978, where Giles still lives with Jenkins
and her husband. Jenkins’s two children are grown up, and Giles
has two great-great grandchildren.

In the old days, Giles recalled, the area was woodland and
farms. There were fields where her neighbor’s house now stands.
Giles spent time reading, gardening and canning. She grew string
beans, butter beans, tomatoes, potatoes, okra, corn.

When she was younger, she and her husband would drive across the
state. “I’ve been all over New Hampshire, I don’t think there’s
any road I missed,” she said.

When her husband developed Alzheimer’s, Giles took care of him
until he entered a nursing home.

Now, Jenkins said when the weather is nice, she takes her
grandmother to see the state’s lakes and mountains. Giles loves
watching bull riding and seeing people working in the fields. She
wants to ride in a helicopter and looks forward to spring so she
can start walking.

“I told her, you might be 99, but you can still enjoy life,
learn things, see things you haven’t experienced yet,” Jenkins
said.

But Giles said she is mostly content to stay home. “I don’t
care anything about running around,” she said. “Why would I want to
go out? I’ve seen everything.”

Of all the places she’s visited, which is her favorite?

“Right here, right where I am,” she said.

Copyright 1997-2008

Concord Monitor and New Hampshire Patriot

P.O. Box 1177

Concord NH 03302

603-224-5301

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