Archived Story

A look back at the fear of debt

Published 1:44pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

During a recent appearance in Hartselle, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks pointed with alarm to the mammoth size – and continued growth – of the national debt. Historically, people in this area have had a fear of debt – and for good reason. Staying out of debt has been highly prized.

Nov. 28, 1889 – 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.

April 22, 1891 – The per capita indebtedness of Jefferson County is $157, of Colbert $70, and of Morgan County $65. These three counties have the largest ratios in the state. The average decreases down to $3 of debt to one of population in Marion and Winston counties. Winston is Alabama’s strongest Republican county.

July 6, 1893 – H. Kracke is quitting business in Hartselle and is offering his wagon and repair shop business and material for sale at a bargain. He also has a new two-horse wagon and hock for sale cheap.

Nov. 20, 1893 – B. G. Hardwick of Cedar Plains community is undoubtedly one of the best and most successful farmers of our county. He raises everything to live on at home and sells the surplus. He has made money out of farming and is free to say that, during all these distressed times, he has not felt it, from the fact he did not have to go in debt for anything.

Aug. 25, 1897 – A man named Stewart, accompanied by his young wife, hailing from McComb, Miss., came to Morgan County a little over a week ago and put up at a boarding house. The man seemed to be in a deep depression about something and was silent and moody. It was evident he was in deep financial trouble, and being a man of education and refined sensibilities, it weighed upon his mind. Last Wednesday night he disappeared, leaving no trace, only a short note to the boarding house proprietor. His wife knew nothing of his leaving until the next morning, and she is now convinced that he has committed suicide. Stewart was known to be an inveterate cigarette fiend.

May 30, 1904 – The Evening Sentinel, New Decatur’s daily paper, is a thing of the past, having been suspended because it didn’t pay and the publisher was over his head in debt.

June 1, 1905 – News of business indebtedness is widely reported. The Nashville American published a story to the effect that J. C. Hartselle and Son, merchants at Hartselle, had failed.

July 25, 1910 – The bankrupt stock of goods formerly belonging to W. C. Harman and Co. was sold here yesterday to J. H. Hartsell. Mr. Hartsell has moved the goods into the Turney brick store just across the street, where he will continue in business. Mr. Harman had sunk into debt in his business and was unable to pay his numerous creditors.

Jan. 6, 1925 – John R. Witt, one of the most successful farmers of Morgan County, won the first prize of $150 cash for the best suggestion for southern farmers for 1925, offered by Cotton News, published at St. Matthews, S.C. Mr. Witt urges his fellow-farmers to get out of debt and operate on a cash basis. As much as possible, they should stay away from towns and country stores.

Dec. 14, 1926 – F. B. Hiestand, doing business as the Cash & Carry Grocery Company of Hartselle, has filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy in the federal district court in Huntsville. Unfortunately for his business, Mr. Hiestand had allowed too many of his customers to “carry” even though they had not first paid him the needed “cash.”

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