Lewis Hine caption: Hazel family (very poorly educated). Children have not been to school this year although living within 1 1/2 miles of school 5-7. Bowling Green vicinity, Kentucky, November 10, 1916.
Lewis Hine caption: Mrs. J.L. Hazel and children stripping tobacco. A very interesting and poorly educated family. See special card and Kentucky report. Location: Bowling Green vicinity, Kentucky, November 10, 1916.
“I don’t think we should have felt sorry for them, but I do think they needed help. What Hine was doing was trying to get the laws changed so life would be better for them. He must have worked pretty hard to make things better for people. I wish their life had been better, but we came along in another generation, and my brother and I have done well.” -Billia Campbell Moore, daughter of Nell Hazel
“I was shocked that they looked so poor. But then, I knew they were stripping tobacco in their work clothes. I have a picture of my grandmother and grandfather, and they are wearing nice clothes. I know that they owned their farm.” -Jean Davidson, daughter of Bessie Hazel (Bessie not shown in photos)
“She had a gracious smile. All the kids said Ruth was so pretty when she was growing up. -Richard Smith, son of Ruth Hazel
At the National Child Labor Committee’s Sixth Annual Conference, held at Boston in 1910, there was a presentation by Frank S. Drown, Chief Statistician for the Labor Division of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics. In his closing remarks, he quoted from a speech made the year before by E. Dana Durand, Director of the United States Census.
“In connection with the changes made in the population schedule with reference to the return of occupations, attention may be called to the changes in the instructions with regard to reporting the gainful occupations of children. The widespread agitation as to child labor makes it desirable that the statistics on this subject should be placed on a more scientific basis than has been done in past censuses. Important as it is that the abuses of child labor should be done away with, it is nevertheless essential that the extent of child labor in this country should not be exaggerated. The danger of such exaggeration arises principally in connection with those children who work for their own parents. A very large proportion of the children of the country, and particularly of the children of farmers, are employed more or less of the time outside of school hours and during school vacations in assisting their parents on the farm, in the shop or store or in housework. To distinguish between those whose employment in such a way is sufficiently extensive to justify reporting them as having a gainful occupation, and those whose work is too unimportant or discontinuous to justify classifying them as gainful workers, is very difficult. It seemed desirable to adopt a somewhat arbitrary rule and to instruct enumerators to report children who work for their parents as gainfully occupied only in case they work for at least half of the year. This instruction may possibly result in reducing the number of children reported as gainfully occupied, though this is by no means certain; but it seems far better to have a definite basis for classification than to leave it, under vague instructions, to the variable judgment of enumerators.”
“I may also note that in the case of children who work for their parents on farms, which is perhaps the most common form of child labor, we will instruct the enumerators to designate them as ‘farm laborers, home farm,’ in order to distinguish them from those who work for other employers, who will be designated as ‘working out.'”
The above photographs are two of five that were taken of this family by Lewis Hine. The tall woman in the middle of the top photo caught my eye. She looked so weary. Several weeks later, when I had tracked down living descendants, I was shocked to learn that she was only 14 years old at the time.
In his caption Hine expressed concern about the children not going to school (“Children have not been to school this year although living within 1 1/2 miles of school”). According to many reliable sources, tobacco stripping in Kentucky takes place mostly in November, so it is obvious that the reason the children were not attending school was so they could help their family at a critical time of the season, a long-standing tradition in farming towns.
When I began my search, I thought I found the family in the 1900 and 1910 census, listed as James and Angie “Haysell” and a total of nine children. They owned a farm in Stallard Springs, Warren County, Kentucky, a rural census district near Bowling Green. But I couldn’t find anything else of value after 1920, so I decided to contact the newspaper in Bowling Green to see if they would be interested in publishing the top photo to see if anyone recognized the family. A reporter for the Bowling Green Daily News, Alyssa Harvey, was interested right away. She interviewed me, and soon after, an article appeared, with the headline “Author in search of photos’ pasts.”
One day later, I received an email from Charles Curtis, a great-grandson of the father in the photograph, James Hazel. He has been compiling the family’s history for many years. He included portions of the family tree, and also got me in touch with Billia Campbell Moore, daughter of Nell Hazel (the tall girl), Jean Davidson, daughter of Bessie Hazel, and Rick Smith, son of Ruth Hazel (the baby in the photo). Several months later, another article appeared, with the headline “Family, circa 1916, identified.”
Lewis Hine caption: Hazel family (very poorly educated). Children have not been to school this year although living within 1 1/2 miles of school 5-7. See Kentucky report and special card. Location: Bowling Green [vicinity], Kentucky, November 10, 1916.
According to the census, Kentucky records online, and the information from Mr. Curtis, James Lonzo Hazel was born in 1855. He married Sarah Elizabeth Cox in 1877. They had eight children: Lillie, Maude, Dee, Henry, Charlie, Richard, Delmer and Rosie. Wife Sarah died in 1893. About three years later, James married Angie Norma Barnett, who was born in 1878. They had eight children: Bessie, Sam, Nell, Jesse, Blanche, Elwood (called Jack), Carl and finally Ruth, born in 1915. Two of the 16 children died young: Richard, who was born premature; and Jesse, who died at the age of four.
Less than five months after the photos were taken, James Lonzo Hazel died of gall bladder problems. He was 61. Wife Angie died only 25 months later, of tuberculosis. After that, son Sam took care of the younger children.
Edited interview with Billia Campbell Moore, daughter of Nell Hazel. Interview conducted by Joe Manning (JM) on November 26, 2007.
JM: How are you related to the persons in the photos?
Moore: My mother is the tall girl standing in front of the barn. Her name was Nell Gertrude Hazel. Her parents, James and Angie, owned their small farm. When they died, they left it to Ruth, who was the baby. In the picture, my grandmother is holding Ruth in her arms. Ruth married Shelby Smith. She moved to Detroit after they got married. He worked for a construction company, but he travelled a lot. She was manager of a Cunningham’s Drug Store for many years. They had one child, Ricky. She married again, to O. P. Williams. She died in Bowling Green in 1992, when she was 75.
JM: Who did your mother marry?
Moore: Joseph Clifford Campbell. My mother was 32 then. He already had five boys from a previous marriage. They had been in the Potter Home, an orphanage in Bowling Green. My mother raised them along with me and my brother.
JM: Is your brother still living?
Moore: Yes. His name is Marvin Eugene Campbell. He lives in Bowling Green. I’m 75, and he is 77.
JM: Did your mother work during her adult life?
BC: She worked at the Potter Home. She was a matron and took care of the boys’ floor. She started working there when she was in her late thirties. My father was a farmer at the home. We lived there on the property, in a two-story house. It was a beautiful house, and we just loved it there.
JM: Did you live there all of your childhood?
BC: No. My dad took sick and could no longer work there. So we moved to town, where my mother went to work in a grocery, and did that for many years. My dad died when I was 15 years old. He was in his sixties. He had emphysema.
JM: Your mother looks very tall in the photo. How tall was she when she grew up?
Moore: She was six foot tall. She was a lovely lady, tall and thin.
JM: What was your mother like?
Moore: She was very patient. She never lost her temper, and would never argue about anything.
JM: When did she die?
Moore: She died in 1975, in Bowling Green.
JM: Did you know about this photo before I sent it to you?
Moore: None of the family did. When I saw it, I cried, because it looks like they were just poor dirt farmers. But they were not as poor as the picture seems to show. I loved the picture. It was a piece of their lives, but I was shocked to see my mother looking so worn. But every day was a hard day’s work for them. As a rule, in those days, people would put on their good clothes when their picture was taken.
JM: Hine’s mission was to help create support for laws that would give more opportunities to children, and make their lives better.
Moore: My mother did not get the education she needed. But she was self-educated. She was a wonderful seamstress. She could make stitches almost like a sewing machine. She made all of our clothes.
JM: In the caption, Hine says, ‘a poorly educated family.’ Should we have felt sorry for them then?
Moore: I don’t think we should have felt sorry for them, but I do think they needed help. What Hine was doing was trying to get the laws changed so life would be better for them. He must have worked pretty hard to make things better for people. I wish their life had been better, but we came along in another generation, and my brother and I have done well.
During the Depression, we always had enough food. We got electricity a little later, and we were a happy family. There was a lot of love in our family. We weren’t as poor as my mother was when she grew up. There were a lot of people who were poorer than we were. Mother would pack our lunch for school, and we’d get on the bus and want to change with the people up the street even though they had an apple, and we had bacon or an egg on a biscuit. We thought theirs was as good as ours.
Edited interview with Jean Davidson (JD), daughter of Bessie Hazel. Interview conducted by Joe Manning (JM) on December 17, 2007.
JM: What was your immediate reaction to these photos?
JD: Shock. I knew who they were right away. I recognized my grandmother and my Aunt Nell. But my mother wasn’t in the picture. Her name was Bessie Vergie Hazel, but she was called Bessie. She was about 15 when she got married, and she was already out of the home by then.
JM: Who did she marry?
JD: Asher Green Davidson.
JM: Did you know who Lewis Hine was, or that there were photos like this taken in the Bowling Green area?
JM: What did your mother do for a living when she grew up?
JD: She was a stay-at-home mom taking care of her home and family.
JM: How many children did she have?
JD: Three boys and me.
JM: When were you born?
JD: I was born in 1933, in Detroit. My parents had moved up there.
JM: Why did they move to Detroit?
JD: My dad didn’t want to be a farmer, so they left Kentucky, and he went to work at the Packard car factory in Detroit. He did that during the war, and then he worked for an ambulance company. Even though we lived in Detroit, we would drive back to Bowling Green every year on vacation. My parents finally moved back there in the 1960s.
JM: Why did they move back?
JD: To be closer to me, I guess. I was the baby of the family. I had already moved to Bowling Green because I married somebody from there.
JM: Did you work outside the home when you grew up?
JD: I owned a medical supplies and uniform shop. The last two years I worked, I was a financial aid officer for some vocational training centers.
JM: Did you go to college?
JD: No, but I graduated from high school.
JM: Do you have children?
JD: I have a daughter.
JM: Was your mother in relatively good health all her life?
JD: Yes. She had breast cancer when she was in her seventies, but she got over it. She died at age 86.
JM: Did she tell you much about working on the farm as a child?
JD: The only thing she told me was that she only went to the fourth grade. She couldn’t go to school unless it was raining. Otherwise, she had to work in the fields. But she was well read. She was not illiterate.
JM: I am interested in knowing about the children in the photos. What did Sam do when he grew up?
JD: He owned and operated a shoe repair shop in Bowling Green. I remember Nell as a housewife, but in her early years, she worked for the Potter Orphan Home in Bowling Green. She had one daughter and one son. Blanche married Churchill Martin in 1949. She and her husband operated Martin’s Grocery Store in Bowling Green, in a little area called Forest Park. They did that until her husband died, and then she married again.
JM: What about Elwood?
JD: His name was Elwood, but they called him Jack. He was an engineer for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. He had three sons and four daughters.
JM: And Carl?
JD: I don’t know what his specific job was, but I think he was financially well off. He owned his home in Utah. He was an avid dune buggy guy, and a golfer.
JM: How about Ruth?
JD: She was employed as a manager of the cosmetic department in a department store in Detroit. She later moved back to Bowling Green. She had one son.
JM: Hine was trying to show examples of poverty and child labor. What do you think about that the fact that your family was portrayed in this way?
JD: I was shocked that they looked so poor. But then, I knew they were stripping tobacco in their work clothes. I have a picture of my grandmother and grandfather, and they are wearing nice clothes. I know that they owned their farm.
Edited interview with Richard Smith (RS), son of Ruth Hazel. Interview conducted by Joe Manning (JM) on January 24, 2008.
JM: When were you born?
RS: December 4, 1952.
JM: Were you surprised at these pictures?
RS: I’d never seen any pictures of the family at that time. Ruth, my mother, is the little child in the picture. Her mother is holding her. She was born about 1915. She lived here in Bowling Green almost all of her life. But she lived for a short time in Detroit. My dad was Shelby Smith. He was from Kentucky. My mom married him when she was about 16 or 17. He worked for the state most of his life. He drove a bulldozer. They moved to Detroit so he could work in the car factories, but we only lived there about two years. My mom became ill with TB. My (paternal) grandfather was Emmet Smith. He was a magistrate here in Bowling Green, and my mom was allowed to stay with them. My dad went into the service. I was about 17 months old when they got divorced. She remarried when I was about 15 or 16. My stepfather was a successful businessman.
JM: How did she support the family between marriages?
RS: Well, I had one sister who died at birth, so I was the only child. My mother worked at a ladies’ department store in downtown Bowling Green. It was called Martin’s. She ran the beauty and jewelry department. She worked in her later years as a host at a restaurant at the Holiday Inn.
JM: When you saw the pictures, did you think differently about your family, seeing those conditions?
RS: I knew they had grown up on the farm. I knew that the parents died at an early age, and that the oldest boy, Sam, took over the farm and raised the kids. He was married twice, and had a son, Harold, by his first marriage.
JM: How far did your mother get in school?
RS: She finished the eighth grade.
JM: What was your mother like?
RS: She had a gracious smile. All the kids said Ruth was so pretty when she was growing up. One time, when I was down and unemployed, she bought me a pickup truck. She always loved cars, and always seemed to have a new car. I think she enjoyed life pretty much. The transition from her time to my time was basically horse and buggy to automobile. We don’t understand the hard times they went through, and how they had to work in the fields. I spent quite a bit of time with her as I got older, and we talked some about the past. She died on December 2, 1992, and I buried her on my birthday.
Ruth Hazel: 1915 – 1992
Angie Hazel: 1875 – 1919
Blanche Hazel: 1910 – 1965
Nell Hazel: 1902 – 1975
Carl Hazel: 1911 – 1999
James Hazel: 1855 – 1917
Sam Hazel: 1900 – 1989
Elwood Hazel: 1908 – 1993
*Story published in 2010.