Would you be ready to spend almost 90 years with your spouse? 

That wasn’t a question for Sarah and Jacob Hiller, a couple from Ontario, Canada, whose lives spanned across the 19th Century.

Their marriage lasted a whopping 88 years and 349 days  becoming, in fact, the longest ever. 

The Hillers have been recognized as the record holders for the title of the longest marriage (different sexes) ever after a thorough study of Sarah Davy Hiller’s death certificate, dated 8 April 1898. 

Woman and baby, circa 1890. It was the year after Jacob's death.

Sarah lived an incredible total of 106 years and 23 days before passing away due to old age after a light illness. 

Born in 1792, on the certificate it’s possible to read that Sarah had been married since the age of 18 to her spouse, Jacob Miller, who was still alive at the time of her death.

The couple celebrated their wedding on 23 April 1809, in Jamestown, Canada.

The following year Napoleon Bonaparte would marry his second wife, Marie Louise of Austria, and almost exactly one year later (on 27 April 1810) Beethoven would compose the now-renowned piece "Für Elise".

Sarah’s husband, Jacob, was three years her senior: he was born on 20 October 1789 in Ernestown, in eastern Ontario. 

Even though the couple was originally from Canada, as explained in an article featured in an 1889 issue of The True Northener, they moved “to the United States shortly after the year of 1812."

As reported in an 1880 census document, after settling in the United States Jacob worked as a farmer while Sarah "tended to the house". 

They briefly settled in Marine City, and from there they went to Elkton, in Michigan, where they were both laid to rest at the Oliver Township Cemetery.

Victorian woman with flowers, circa 1890.

Even in his old age, newspapers of the time describe Jacob as a man that, “could not be called tall, but medium in height and build. He appears a man well calculated to endure hardship where larger and stronger men would fail.”

His step was reported to be "still firm," and his hand was steady. His eyes were still bright and, unlike his wife, he didn't need specs and sported a good eyesight. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer, which sent a reporter to interview the incredible couple and find out more about their life, went on to describe Sarah: “Time has dealt more harshly with her, who sat almost helpless in the corner, almost bent double with her many years.”

Despite her old age and complete blindness, Sarah’s hands and skin were noted to still seem soft. The ghost of the fair girl she used to be in her youth was still distinguishable, captured by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s writer in their description of the venerable centenary. 

However, in a striking contrast with her husband's overall good health, Sarah seemed to be in pain.

“I will not live much longer,” she reportedly said to the writer.

Illustration from "The Works of G.J. Whyte." The book was published in the late years of the Hillers' life

The story of the Hillers becomes all the more amazing when we remember the difficulties of the times: in 1841, the average life expectancy for women was 42 years. 

Men, normally, lived an average of 40 years. 

Medical advancements and an improved hygiene would later increase the general life expectancy for all genders but, especially at the time, it was impressive for a couple to reach such venerable age – both Sarah and Jacob greatly surpassed the average life cycle expectation of the era, and lived alone to the very end.
That in itself was source of great interest for national newspapers.

The incredible longevity of the Hillers, and the length of their marriage, also translated into a numerous family.

“The couple had 11 children,” it can be seen in a newspaper of the time. “The oldest is 87, and the youngest is 52.”

Of Sarah and Jacob's sons and daughters, seven of them lived past childhood – a scary time for parents of the time, as many babies didn’t survive the very first years of life. The Hiller family, however, seemed blessed with good genes: many of their surviving children and grandchildren lived a long life. Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hiller, one of their daughters, lived until the age of 82.

Ira Hiller, one of their sons, is reported to be 32 in the 1880 census, and worked with his father as a farmer. He, too, reached the impressive age of 88.

A house of the time, from Boston Public Library

The Napanee Beaver wrote that the couple, nearing old age, at a certain point decided to sell their belongings and went to live with one of their children. 

There, they could receive proper care during the last years of their lives. But after a while, still living in overall good health and not needing their children's assistance, the couple decided to move out again and find a separate house. 

Following that decision, the two lived alone and happy for almost eight years.

As the reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer was welcomed by "Grandpa Hiller" in their sober but lovely room, the centenary couple was still keeping their household in perfect shape. 

“In the farther corner of their little room was an ordinary bed,” the reporter writes, “the covering of which was spotless and arranged with careful hands, cheerful and cleanly as by any possibility could be expected from a fresh couple of 20 years.”

Three sisters photographed in 1893. From the Boston Public Library.

The sad instance of Sarah’s death once again stirred the interest of several newspapers across the United States, with the True Northerner revealing that Jacob was predictably devastated and that his health had started to fade following the loss of his wife.

“Her husband, who is 109 years of age, is very low and his death is expected at any moment,” writes the newspaper. The obituary dates back to 13 April 1898, five days after Sarah's death.

David Jacob Hiller passed one year after his wife, in 1899, at the age of 109.  

Throughout their long marriage, the Hillers lived through some of the most significant events in the world's history: during their lifetime, they witnessed the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Great Exhibition in London (1851, which holds the record as the world's first fair ever), and the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815. 

Together, they lived through conflicts and technological advancements that have changed the world.

Their life together spanned across an entire century, and it's easy to understand why they attracted the interest of the newspapers of the time. 

We are sure that their remarkable achievement and love story will live on.

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