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A look back at family size

U. S. births continued to fall in 2019, the number of newborn babies amounting to the lowest number in a year since 1984. Instead of a “baby boom,” in recent years, there has been a “baby bust.”   

Also, instead of more births because of the stay-at-home mandates in effect recently – as some hypothesized as the pandemic set in – it is speculated that the coronavirus will lead to an even sharper decline in births this year. The number of business closings due because of the pandemic has led to the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression, and many couples don’t want to bring children into the world at a time when family economic status is uncertain. 

Many years ago, before couples began limiting their offspring, large numbers of children in the family was the rule. Here in Morgan County, as in most of Alabama, the main occupation was farming, especially cotton, and every hand was needed as a gradual uptick in the economy was pursued following the disastrous Civil War and Reconstruction periods.  

Large size also characterized families involved in activities besides farming.  Life spans were shorter then, and older children were depended upon to take care of the younger ones if mother and/or father passed away. 

Nov. 28, 1889According to the Alabama Enquirer (predecessor to the Hartselle Enquirer), Robert Vest is a most excellent man, industrious, economizing and honest as a proverb. Robert and his wife Elizabeth have nine children. He owes no man anything. 

Jan. 31, 1907John M. Chenault, age 77 years, died at his home in south Decatur tonight. He leaves a wife and 10 children – two of his sons, C. S. and F. LChenault, being prominent physicians in New Decatur. 

July 24, 1907Hartselle’s Billie Vest has a large family. He is grandfather to 70 children and greatgrandfather to 96 children. Of this total of 166,133 are living. Uncle Billie Vest, as he is familiarly called, was 85 years old the 30th day of May, 1907. He was born, reared and has lived on the same place, barring a few years, all of his life. He is the father of 11 children, eight of whom are still living.   

Jan. 12, 1922W.W. Parker was laid to rest five miles west of Danville today.  He was a Primitive Baptist minister with that strength of character that has marked men of that faith for the past two or three centuries. Twelve of his 13 children are still living. 

Aug. 13, 1929Celebration of the golden anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Daves, of Hartselle, is being continued throughout this week. The six children of the couple and five of their eight grandchildren are staying here until the end of the week.   

Sept. 21, 1939Mrs. Edd Chaney and six children of Cold Springs, four miles east of Falkville, were brought to Hartselle Monday afternoon for treatment for food poisoning, caused from eating canned meatloaf. 

Dec. 2, 1948If all the little children had been such cotton pickers as little Audrey Nell Hogan, age 5, more cotton would have been picked. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Hogan of Route 2, Danville.  


June 13, 1981Evelyn Howell died. Prior to her retirement six years ago, she had taught 35 years at the Hartselle Elementary School. She was the youngest of the six children of the late Mr. and Mrs. Arthur P. Howell.