HOOSICK FALLS.—[…]—The house of a colored man named Benjamin Van Tuyl was burned last night. Loss small.
Troy Daily Times. February 14, 1866: 3 col 5.
—A feature of the Republican parade of Monday evening at Hoosick Falls was a torch-bearer, Benjamin Van Tuyl, who claims to be in his one hundred and third year and who is able to endure a seven-mile march.
“Still Rejoicing Over the Triumph.” Troy Daily Times. November 15, 1888: 3 col 6.
The oldest man in Hoosick Falls is Benjamin Van Tyle, colored. He claims he will be 105 years old January 1.
Troy Daily Times. December 28, 1889: 3 col 4.
Benjamin Van Tuyl of Hoosick Falls was visiting in Lansingburgh yesterday. Mr. Van Tuyl claims to be 112 years old, having been born in 1781. He resided in Lansingburgh at one time and retains remarkable possession of his physical and mental powers.
Troy Daily Times. May 2, 1893: 3 col 4.
—Benjamin Van Tuyle, of Hoosick Falls, who says he was born 112 years ago, was in the ‘Burgh this week calling on Mrs. Kate Mando [(abt 1806-1895)].
“Local News and Seasonable Jottings.” Lansingburgh Courier. May 4, 1893: 3 col 2.
—Nancy, the wife of Benjamin Van Tile, the colored centenarian, died yesterday. She was the second wife of Mr. Van Tile and they had been wedded fifty-nine years.
“Hoosick Falls.” Troy Daily Times. August 13, 1892: 2 col 5.
—The funeral of Nancy, wife of Benjamin Van Tile, occurred yesterday afternoon and was largely attended.
“Hoosick Falls.” Troy Daily Times. August 15, 1892: 3 col 5.
HOOSICK FALLS—Benjamin Van Tyle, the Hoosick Falls celebrity of 114 years, is at the county house, Troy.
Troy Daily Times. December 31, 1894: 2 col 6.
Says He Shook Hands With Washington—And Has Seen a Century and Gone Fourteen Years Better.
Benjamin Van Tuyl, who claims to be 114 years old, called yesterday upon James Pine, father of J. K. P. Pine of Lansingburgh. The elder Mr. Pine has known Benjamin for sixty years, and the younger Mr. Pine can remember the centenarian forty years. The aged man called at the Times office yesterday afternoon. He was accompanied by a shy little dog, and appeared to enjoy the novelty of a newspaper atmosphere. Our artist sketched Mr. Van Tuyl’s portrait, which is given in connection with this article.
Benjamin’s knowledge of historical facts is somewhat limited. But he is well informed on the history of early agriculture in Washington and Saratoga counties, and he dwells with delight on the old-fashioned methods employed by the farmers in the early part of the century.
Old Mr. Van Tuyl was born on New Year’s day, 1781—that is, a family bible is said to record this momentous event,
and Mr. Van Tuyl says that family bibles never lie. The centenarian’s birthplace was Argyle, Washington county. He says that his father was John Van Tuyl, a white man, and his mother a southern black slave.
Benjamin says that he was bought and sold three times into slavery. His father was a harnessmaker and kept a tanyard at Fort Miller. When Benjamin was very young he was set to work in his father’s tanyard. He subsequently learned the business of currier, which trade he has worked at during most of his protracted life.
One of the most interesting events in Benjamin’s career was his first and only sight of Washington. He says that his father was accustomed to drive cattle from Washington county to Albany, where they were sold. When Benjamin was thirteen years old his father took him to the old Dutch city. General Washington was in the city at the time—according to Benjamin’s best recollection—for the purpose of seeing some persons of prominence. The father of his country was dressed in uniform, and he smiled and looked grand while he shook the hands of the black and white people that filed by. And little Bennie crowded forward, and he managed to get hold of Washington’s hand, and he squeezed the precious member.
When Benjamin was still a boy his father went West and he saw him no more. For a time the boy worked with his father’s brother, Abram Van Tuyl. When he was twenty-one years old, he went to Saratoga county and worked on a farm and did hardy jobs. Later he went to North Cambridge, where he was employed by Robert Wilcox. Benjamin can turn his hand to many things. This summer he expects to gain a livelihood at his home in Hoosick Falls by white-washing.
The centenarian has been twice married. He won his first wife in Washington county. The second wife, who has been dead three years, entered the matrimonial state at Hoosick Falls. Benjamin has had six children, two of whom are living. One of his sons lost his life while fighting for the North during the war of the rebellion.
All that Benjamin can remember about the war of 1812 is that his master was drafted to go and fight. He has often seen Indians in his section, but his recollections of the picturesque redman and the romantic episodes of the olden time are confined to “the way those fellows had to hustle to make a living.”
When Benjamin was asked to what he attributed his long life, he said: “‘Early to bed and early to rise.’ I don’t drink nothing but beer, and I don’t use terbaccer in no form but to chew it. I used to smoke once. But I went to work for a farmer and I says to myself, ‘Benjamin you got to run the chance of setting fire to the boss’s barn or giving up your smoke.’ Rather than see the boss’s barn smoke, I gave up the smoke. Now, I’ve kind of lost the habit.”
The old man said that when he was young he met an old gypsy woman. She took his hand and after looking at the palm said: “You are going to live to be the oldest man alive.” Benjamin feels assured that he has many more years to move around in, and he is planning for things a year hence. He is a member of the Hoosick Falls Baptist church, and was baptized into that denomination some years ago. Benjamin is still lively. He is well preserved, and does not appear to have reached the limit of man’s allotted time. He has been spending the winter at the Rensselaer county house.
Troy Daily Times. April 6, 1895: 3 col 3.
HOOSICK FALLS—Benjamin Van Tyle, colored, died Wednesday at the Rensselaer County Hospital from old age. In the death certificate his age is given as ninety-two years, but old residents, whose parents knew “Old Ben,” say he was hundred years old. He was born a slave at Cambridge, Washington County, N. Y. Since a young man he was a resident of the village. Up to within a few years he would prepare and plant gardens. In his younger days he was known as an expect shearer of sheep. “Old Ben” was a member of the Baptist Church of Hoosick Falls. The body was brought to the undertaking rooms of Haussier & Son, where brief funeral services were held at 2 o’clock this afternoon by Rev. W. E. Webster. The interment was in Maple Grove cemetery.
“News from Out of Town.” Troy Daily Times. May 11, 1900: 4 col 6.
Benjamin Van Tile
Maple Grove Old Cemetery
Hoosick Falls, Rensselaer, New York, USA