A Chippewa chief commonly referred to as “John Smith” lived to be an incredibly ripe old age. If you eat a virtuous diet rich with sturgeon fresh from a lake, partake in vigorous regular exercise in the clear air of northern Minnesota, and stay sociable by getting married—eight times!—but never have the bother of raising children, how long might you count your years?
One man lived to the ripe old age of 137, according to reports at the time. Or maybe he was 100, or maybe 138. While his exact age remains in dispute, this much is certain: He sure looked pretty old.
The Chippewa Native American named Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce —which translates to Sloughing Flesh or Wrinkled Meat, depending on your source—was called John Smith by white people, according to a February 8, 1922, front-page obituary in the Minneapolis (Morning) Star Tribune.
Though John Smith had become blind in his last year, he’d been active—or as active as a centenarian+ can be—up until he contracted the pneumonia that claimed his life. He would walk out to wave to the trains passing through his area. His mind was reportedly, and remarkably, clear. At the end of his life, he lived with a nephew, whom he adopted as his son, Tom Smith, who took care of the old man.