FLINT TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Don't ask Mattie Caldwell how many candles go on her birthday cake. "I don't remember," she said. Medicare records indicate Caldwell's birth date is March 5, 1901. An old family Bible gives the same date but three years earlier, in 1898. And there's no legal record of her birth because she was born at home.
In any case, Caldwell is celebrating this week with friends and family at her home in Genesee County's Flint Township, about 55 miles northwest of Detroit.
"It's special," she said.
The great-great-great-grandmother to at least seven — she stopped counting a while ago — grew up on a farm in rural Mississippi and relatives say she never learned to read or write. She was the oldest of seven children, and the only one still alive.
"They didn't send us to school too much," Caldwell told The Flint Journal. "Father had us working in the fields."
She later moved to Gary, Ind., with her husband and had one daughter, both of whom are deceased.
Caldwell uses oxygen, and a hip injury in 2005 left the avid dancer using a wheelchair. She says she has one more dance left in her, but won't break it out yet.
"I don't know when the Lord will be ready for me, but when he gets ready, I've got to move," she said. "I'm going to dance for him, too."