Jessica Swift (left) in her centenarian years.
|Birth:||17 September 1871|
|Death:||2 January 1982|
|Age:||110 years, 107 days|
Jessica Swift (née Stewart; 17 September 1871 – 2 January 1982) was a American woman known for her longevity and for being recognized by Guinness World Records in 1981 as the oldest living person to be a passenger on a plane at age 110. Her age is verified by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG). She holds the record as the oldest person ever born in the state of Vermont.
Jessica Swift was born in Middlebury, Addison County, Vermont, as Anna Jessica Stewart into an influential family. She had a fraternal twin, Robert, but he was sickly and died in 1880. In total, she had four siblings. Her uncle owned thousands of acres of land in the state. Her father was governor, congressman and senator John Stewart. Jessica used to be his hostess since her mother was sick and wheelchaired back in Vermont. John’s work sometimes brought them to Europe, where she learned to play the piano and practiced singing.
When she was in her 20s, she began a relationship with a poor reverend named Joseph Sylvester. Due to his lower social status, her father didn’t approve of this. She defied him by continuing to meet him occasionally. In 1908, when the Joseph was dying, she ran away from home to take care of him for a year. They married on 16 October 1908. Joseph Sylvester passed away the subsequent year on 15 May 1909.
Jessica married businessman Charles Swift on 3 April 1913, and the couple travelled to various places including the Philippines. Charles Swift died in June 1929.
She returned to Middlebury 10 years later and became the area’s philantropist. At age 109, she cut the ribbon for the reopening of Pulp Mill Covered Bridge in 1980. The year after, she flew an airplane at age 110, an accomplishment that was noted by Guinness World Records (GWR).
Jessica Swift died in Florida on 2 January 1982 at the age of 110 years, 107 days. She is believed to be the only supercentenarian born in Vermont, which is one of the least populated states in the United States.
- Bennington Banner 14 October 1975
- Nashua Telegraph 19 December 1980
- Toledo Blade 4 January 1982
- Aiken Standard 23 July 1986
- Find A Grave
- Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History
- Swift House Inn