BARNESVILLE — When Laura Elena Carpenter Gibson was born in January 1905, the czars still ruled in Russia, Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States and Albert Einstein was working on his Theory of Relativity.
Las Vegas was founded on 110 acres of Nevada desert that year, and the Wright brothers were still testing their early airplanes. Novocaine and the U-boat were among the inventions unveiled that year, and the Panama Canal was under construction.
Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii had yet to become states.
Gibson was in good company, too. Actor/ singer Tex Ritter, who died in 1974, also was born in 1905, as were actors Henry Fonda, who died in 1982, and Greta Garbo, who died in 1990.
As she celebrated her 105th birthday Sunday at Emerald Pointe Health & Rehab Center in Barnesville, Gibson knows that much has changed in her lifetime, and she clearly recalls and talks about many of the milestones along the way.
Born at her parents’ home in Calais, located in the northwest corner of Monroe County, Gibson has actually celebrated her birth on two different dates.
For many years, friends and family observed her birthday on Jan. 15. But when Gibson applied for Social Security benefits, she was informed that her “correct” birth date was Jan. 17.”
It probably took a couple of days to get the news (of her birth) to the courthouse in Woodsfield on horseback,” speculated her granddaughter, Donna Armstrong, who is 56.
Gibson grew up on the family farm, the daughter of Silas and Charlotte Carpenter.
She tended chickens, gathered eggs and helped her mother around the house.
They had no indoor plumbing, but their home was modern compared to the log cabin where her grandparents lived just up the hill.
She was married with children of her own before she lived in a home with running water, electricity or a telephone.
Gibson’s father raised tobacco, but it has been her lifelong mission to discourage her loved ones from using it.
When Armstrong prompted her to say why she had always “hated” tobacco, Gibson didn’t cite its many dangers.
Instead she replied, “Because I had to hoe it!”
Both World War I and World War II erupted while she was still a young woman, and Gibson remembers “the boys” coming home from both conflicts.
But her clearest memories are of the simple things that defined her life in rural southeast Ohio.
As a child, Gibson walked “a good ways” through the woods to attend school each day.
On her first day of class, Gibson kept her bonnet on her head and sat facing away from the teacher, Sam Hannahs, but he didn’t intervene.
The next day she felt relaxed enough to remove her bonnet and sit the right way.
“I loved school,” she said.
Walking to school one bitterly cold day, Gibson suffered frostbite on her feet that required daily treatment. Getting medical care was no easy task at that time.
Though her mother was a midwife who delivered “a good many babies” for people throughout the surrounding area, some conditions required a doctor’s attention.
Gibson recalls a time when she had whooping cough. She became so sick that her father carried her on horseback to see a doctor many miles away, holding her upside down for the entire trip.
She believes this probably saved her life.
Gibson also talks about her first “sweetheart,” Harold Snyder, whom she “went with” in high school. She said he gave her a ring and proposed, but she didn’t marry him.
She also received a ring with a “red set” from a soldier returning from WWI; he had found the ring in Europe during the war.
But it was James Carpenter who first truly captured her heart.
When Gibson was 18, she went with Carpenter by train from Quaker City to Zanesville, Ohio, to see the Barnum & Bailey Circus. They became engaged on the train ride home and were later married at a preacher’s house in Woodsfield.
Today, she still points out with pride that Carpenter was one of only a few young men in the area who had a car at the time.
Carpenter also had a 100-acre farm, where the young couple raised chickens and other livestock, including geese that Gibson would pluck to make the feather ticks they slept on.
They had three children — Ray Dempsey, who died when he was 17 months old, Geneva (Carpenter) Bewley and Iona (Carpenter) Bundy. Gisbon recalls that Ray Dempsey “got sick in the night,” so a doctor was called to come from Maysfield to examine him. The doctor spent the night at their home and said if the baby woke up on his own, he would be all right.
“He didn’t wake up,” Gibson recalled sadly.
After a few years on the farm, the family moved to Quaker City, where James Carpenter died of colon cancer in 1943.
So, at age 38, Gibson went to work — first at a nearby tobacco factory, then at the Broughton creamery and finally at the Quaker City Post Office.
She lived in that community for 50 years in the house where Armstrong lives today.
She married her second husband, Clyde Gibson, in 1966 or 1967, according to Armstrong.
He has since died, as have daughters Geneva and Iona. Gibson fondly recalls that Iona sang for a time with Evelyn Carpenter in a group called the Hoosier Sweethearts as part of Jamboree USA in Wheeling.
Gibson also loves music and sang first soprano then alto during her 25 years singing for the Quaker City United Methodist Church.
She said she realized at age 16 that she loved God and needed worship as part of her life.Today, she still sings a bit with the staff at Emerald Pointe.
She said her favorite song is “God Bless America.”
From coal furnaces to ice boxes and pie safes, Gibson remembers many relics of days past and how everything a family needed was made or grown at home, with a few items purchased at the general store in the nearest town.
She recalls how friends and neighbors raised each other’s children so that they could be closer to school or because some adversity had affected their own families.
She delivered her own children at home, without the help of a doctor, and survived difficult times, including the Great Depression.
She made the transition from horse-drawn transportation to driving a car, which she continued to do until age 93.
In addition to Armstrong, Gibson has four other grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
“It’s great to be alive at 105,” she said.
Laura Elena Carpenter Gibson, left, smiles as she plans her 105th birthday party with her granddaughter, Donna Armstrong.