|Birth:||12 January 1860|
Elizabethtown, Ohio, USA
|Death:||10 July 1972|
Minneapolis, Kansas, USA
|Age:||112 years, 180 days|
Kittie Mary Harvey (née Bonham; 12 January 1860 – 10 July 1972) was an American supercentenarian who is currently unverified. Her longevity was highlighted in multiple American newspapers throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
At the claimed age of 109, she received an honorary college degree from the college she enrolled in during her youth, yet didn't complete due to illness.
At the time of her death in 1972, she was 112 years old and believed to be one of the oldest living people in the world.
Kittie (sometimes spelled 'Kitty') was born on 12 January 1860 in a village in Ohio called Elizabethtown. Her parents were Aaron Elijah & Nerissa Portia (née Olmstead) Bonham. They married in Switzerland County, Indiana, on 21 June 1854. The couple had three children in total; two sons followed by a daughter. Aaron died around 1861 (cause of death unknown). Six years later, Nerissa married a minister named Horace Bushnell. His line of work led to the family moving to Indiana, where Kittie’s stepsiblings Carrie, Alice & Herbert were born in 1867, 1869 & 1872 respectively.
Having developed a strong musical interest like her father, Kittie took private music lessons (vocals, reading music sheets, etc.) at the tender age of 11. In 1876, she moved to Oxford, Butler County, Ohio, where she attended the Western Female Seminary to study music. In her senior year, in 1878, Kittie was forced to leave college because of health problems. Her boyfriend at the time was Will Harvey, a triplet.
They moved to Minneapolis, Kansas, where they eventually married on 6 May 1879. The couple had 2 children in total, of whom one (a daughter) died as an infant. Their eldest child, Fred Harvey, was born on 2 November 1881. Kittie’s stepfather Horace died around 1908.
In the early 1890s, the Harvey family moved to Oklahoma City due to Will’s brother having to leave his farm for Washington D.C. and not wanting it to remain empty. Oklahoma had recently become a U.S. territory and wouldn’t become an official American state until 1907, and was still largely inhabited by Native Americans. When the family decided to move to a newly opened (22 September 1891) area called Chandler in Lincoln County, they encountered various tribes such as the Kickapoo & the Cherokee people.
Will, an attorney and postmaster in the county, eventually became Probate Judge in Chandler. Kittie herself used to help out at the post office as well as giving music lessons.
In July 1894, Kittie witnessed a bank robbery attempt by the ’Cook gang’. On 30 March 1897, she and her son survived a tornado that took 25 lives and injured 150 people in Chandler. In August 1900, Will became ill with malaria and died on 5 September 1900. The now widowed Kittie chose to return to Kansas, where she lived with Fred and Nerissa. Nerissa died in 1930, a few years away from her centennial birthday.
Kittie wrote a non-commercial autobiography that was published in 1956. At the time, she lived with her son Fred (who became a doctor) in Manitou, Colorado.
In 1960, it was reported that she voted in the 1960 U.S. presidential election. Whether she cast her vote on John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon was undisclosed.
On 22 June 1961, she was featured in a brief newspaper article about Kansas centenarians. Four centenarians were asked what the secret to their longevity was. Kittie was the only one admitting not having an answer, yet managed to outlive all three of them by far. Her son died the same year, close to his 80th birthday. As a centenarian, Kittie's hobbies included reading and sewing (crotcheting and embroidering).
On 21 November 1969, at age 109, she received an honorary bachelor of arts degree from the college she had to leave 91 years ago (by then, the name had changed from Western Female Seminary to Western College for Women). A scholarship fund named after her was opened for music students at Western College in Oxford, Ohio. The college merged with Miami University in 1974 and thus no longer exists as a separate entity. She was wheelchaired at age 109, but was still capable of writing letters and reading. She didn’t desire becoming getting much older.
At age 111, she stated that her eyesight and hearing were detoriating. It was also revealed that Kittie thought that "every birthday anniversary since her 80th would be her last". By the time Kittie approached her 112th birthday, she was bedridden and somewhat disoriented.
Kittie Harvey passed away in Minneapolis, Kansas, on 10 July 1972, at the claimed age of 112 years, 180 days. At the time of her death, she may have been the oldest living American as well as one of the oldest people in the world.
Depending on whether or not her childhood memories were intact during the final days of her life, she, along with the pending case Harriet Jordan, may have been one of the last surviving people to have recollections of the American Civil War era (1861–1865).
Age validation efforts
While Kittie received a significant amount of national media coverage (see reference section below) due to her longevity, her claim to being roughly six months older than Josefa was never submitted to GWR or any other age validation organizations of the time.
In October 2013, a thorough research into her age was submitted to the foremost authority on age validation Gerontology Research Group (founded in 1990). The application included multiple census matches from the first 80 years of her life.
As of 25 July 2017, her case is unverified.