The North Carolina woman's 12 children gave her 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren.

Born on August 15, 1905, Hester Ford lived through countless historical events.
Born on August 15, 1905, Hester Ford lived through countless historical events. (Twitter/@BlackNProud365)

A North Carolina woman who grew up picking cotton, got married at 14 and went on to become the oldest living American with more than 120 great-great-grandchildren has died peacefully in her home, according to her family.

The death of Hester Ford, 116, on Saturday was announced on Facebook by great-granddaughter Tanisha Myers, who said Ford passed peacefully at home, surrounded by family.

She had 288 descendants: 12 children, 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren and 120 great-great-grandchildren.

"Although she has passed, her legacy and memory will continue to live on through her family and everyone she has touched to make the world a better place for generations to come," the statement said.

"She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much needed love, support and understanding to us all," the statement added. 

Her exact birth date was unclear, but she had been recognised by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) as the oldest American.

Ford grew up in rural South Carolina, picking and planting cotton and plowing fields, according to WBTV, a CBS affiliate in Charlotte. She later worked for years as a nanny.

Ford's husband of 45 years died in 1963, and she never remarried.

She became the oldest living American after the death in 2019 of 114-year-old Alelia Murphy, according to the GRG.

Ford began each day with a half-banana for breakfast, but when asked the secret of her longevity simply replied, "I just live right, all I know."

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Thelma Sutcliffe is oldest surviving American

Though Ford reportedly suffered dementia in later years, she was able to recite a Bible verse on her 112th birthday.

Last year, commissioners in Mecklenburg County declared September 1 to be Mother Hester Ford Day.

"She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country," the family statement said.

"She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth."

The oldest surviving American, following Ford's death, is 114-year-old Thelma Sutcliffe of Omaha, Nebraska, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

The oldest living person in the world is believed to be Kane Tanaka, 118, of Fukuoka, Japan. 

READ MORE: Japanese woman turns 117 years old, extends record as world's oldest person

Source: AFP