Ottawa County’s Oldest Resident

Interesting Local Characters

Ottawa county has had some residents reach a ripe old age. Ottawa Indian Lizzie Cedar died on November 3, 1929 at Devil’s Promenade. She was 100 years old. Longtime Miami businesswoman Dena Ander is 103 years old at presstime, and is still chugging along beautifully, looking 30 years younger.

Jane Phelps at the age of 116.

But the grand champion in the age contest is an Ottawa Indian lady by the name of Jane Phelps.

Born on the Maumee River in Ohio in 1766, Jane King was the daughter of a Chippewa-French Canadian father and a French Canadian mother. Eventually she married Kenewabee, the 8th Ottawa signer of the Treaty of the Rapids of Maumee of Lake Eric in 1817. She took on the Indian name Chequah Watbee.  Kenewabee eventually took on the name of William Phelps.

In 1837, the Ottawa were forcibly relocated from Ohio to Kansas, and the Phelps’ had to move. Thirty years later, they relocated to the Ottawa reservation in northeast I.T., in an area which would someday be known as Ottawa county.

“Aunt” Jane learned the healing arts. She mastered the traditional Ottawa secrets of converting plants to medicine for healing. She acted as midwife to the tribe as well, helping bring hundreds of babies into the world. She also mastered three languages: French, English, and Algonkian.

Jane didn’t like sleeping in the dark, nor did she trust the white man’s coal-oil lamps. She slept with hand-dipped candles burning beside her bed.

Jane Phelps’ grave on the Ottawa reservation

In 1866, after an incredible 120 years of life that saw her go from living in an ancient Indian settlement to dwelling in what would eventually become Oklahoma, she passed on. Her grave lies on the Ottawa reservation.

In 1907, Oklahoma became a state, and Ottawa county was born.

So Ottawa county’s oldest resident actually died before Ottawa county was a thing. But she did live and is buried within the county confines, so she is most certainly the old age champion.

Someone tell our own beloved Dena Ander that she has a record to break!

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