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Della H. Hearn by Joe Ed Hearn

Della Hearn
Della Hearn



By Joe E. Hearn (1946)

Della Jane Hubbard was born January 10, 1884, on a farm in Chulafinnee, Clay County, Alabama. Her mother was the former Sarah Jane Bean, a member of the prominent Bean family of South Centra1 Alabama. Her grandmother, whose name was Jane Walker, had come from Georgia in the l830's and was the daughter of Jesse Walker who was active in the Revolutionary War in North Carolina. Her father was Isaac Edward Hubbard, the youngest son of the large Hubbard family of that section. His people also came from Georgia many years before the War Between the States.

Della was the eldest of five children and even in her childhood has assumed a position of responsibility in caring for her younger brothers and sisters, a training which was later to make her a devoted mother and competent housewife. The names of her brothers and sisters were: Thomas Coleman, Asa George, Beulah Estelle, and Lou Ceil.

"Uncle Ike" and "Aunt Sally," as everyone affectionately called her parents, moved many times following their marriage on December 29, 1881. At the time Della was born her father owned a blacksmith shop on the farm but in 1889, when she was five, the family moved to Delta, Alabama, where he became postmaster. It was here that she first started to school. She said of this early schooling: "I started to school at the age of seven and had to walk over three miles every day, going to and from the schoolhouse. We carried our lunches in tin buckets. The lunch usually consisted of some biscuits, a piece of meat, a baked potato, and above all, a jar of syrup. We spent eight hours a day on hard, old-fashioned benches with no desks and with a blueback speller as our only textbook. This lasted for only about five months out of each year because in those days the roads were bad during the winter months and so many of the children were needed during the spring and fall to help their parents on the farm. It sounds rather harsh and monotonous but I think the children got a lot of enjoyment out of it all because we had so few opportunities to meet and play with large groups of children in the country."

In 1892 when Della was eight and her sister Beulah was a baby the family moved to Heflln, a town of several hundred people, in Cleburne County, considered a fairly large community in those days. Her father ran a livery stable, an establishment which corresponds to our garages of today, where he kept mules for sale and hire and in the mean time continued with his blacksmith shop. The popular mode of travel being by buggy in these early years of the "gay nineties," and with wagons in wide use on the farms, her father's business began to prosper. Within a few years he had bought a hotel and added the management of it to his varied and sundry duties.

It was here in Heflin that Della remembers the most about her early life: "I spent my childhood days in Heflln and since our large house was located between the house of my mother's brother Coleman Bean and his family on one side and that of my father's brother, Billy Hubbard and his family on the other side we always had plenty of playmates and never tired of finding something to do with a good time always in the offing. My favorite cousin was Nannie Walden, the daughter of my mother's sister, Tiny Bean Walden and Uncle Dan Walden, a distinguished Civil War veteran. Although Nannie was eight years older than I, we found great enjoyment in each other's company. I spent many delightful weeks in Atlanta visiting her during the summer months. The chief places of attraction in the city then were the dome of the State Capitol, from which we could get a good view of the city, and the famous Cyclarama in Grant Park, depicting the Battle of Atlanta. My mother's people were always active in civic, church, and social activities and the atmosphere in Heflin was most helpful and enjoyable during this period of my life."

Mrs. Nannie Walden Cunningham has vividly described Della during these days as "a little girl with blue eyes and black hair which she wore in pigtails. Many was the time when I would carry her around on my back and I would look after her by the hour. As she grew older we became close friends and even today we are maintaining our correspondence which began over fifty years ago. It was always a special treat for me to visit Uncle Ike and Aunt Sally."

In 1889 Della's father bought her a new bicycle. She remembers very well a terrible fall she had while riding with companions some three miles from town. Going to ride in the buggy on Sunday afternoons and going on hayrides and to church socials were some of the more popular social gatherings. There were many incidents she likes to remember about her glorious days in Heflin: Of the time when she and her friend Jesse Henry went buggy riding and the harness broke with the horse running away with them (Della hurt her arm slightly but they finally got the horse under control); of the times they would go to Anniston, a city of some six thousand, to attend the circus or go shopping; and of the times when her brother Tom, just younger than she, would walk and talk in his sleep. He was always doing something alarming and on one occasion the family was awakened by his nightly wanderings and found him with his head stuck up the chimney, completely smothered by smut. On other mornings when his pillow was found black and his face dirty, they knew where and what he had been doing during the night.

It was in 1902 that her father bought the hotel, a large wooden building consisting of ten bedrooms with washstands but no indoor bathrooms, a large porch with plenty of chairs, and a place near by where horses could be hitched. It was located by the railroad where trains passed by every day going to and from Atlanta. Her father's mother, Dolly Haines Hubbard, had first made her home with them shortly after her parents were married and living in Delta and she lived with them until her death in 1915. In describing her grandmother Della said: "She was so small that we all called her 'Little Grandma.' This helped to distinguish her from my mother's mother, a rather large woman who came to live with us several years later. Both my father and mother had been the youngest child in their respective families and throughout my early life one of my grandmothers or both made their home with us. 'Little Grandma' was thrifty, industrious, and had an excellent disposition which made her pleasant to live with. She was an unfortunate victim of asthma and suffered greatly from it, especially in the latter years of her life."

In August, 1903, when Della was nineteen, the Heflin days came to an end when her parents moved to Albertville, a progressive community in the new and prosperous Sand Mountain country of North Alabama. For many years her father had wanted to move to Albertville and as early as 1891 he had made a journey there and bought some land. It was considered a land of opportunity, just opening up, and he felt that the advantages were many with great possibilities for a young man of ambition. He sold his entire holdings in Heflin and departed by train for Albertville with his family where a new life began for them.

Coming to Albertville meant making new friends because the Hubbards knew practically no one but they were Baptists and there was a very active Baptist church there. Della had lacked only a few months finishing high school in Heflin when she began having eye trouble. Her father took her to Atlanta to an eye specialist who advised her to give up her scholastic pursuits for several months. She never returned to high school to get her diploma. Shortly after their arrival in Albertville her parents decided to send her to Alabama College for Women at Montevallo but her eyes continued to give her trouble and she was forced to abandon the idea. Although she could not attend school she did study piano with Mrs. Fontain for the first three years she lived in Albertville. Many times she played the piano at the Albertville Baptist Church.

One Sunday a few months after the Hubbards arrived in Albertville Miss Lizzie Walker introduced Della to Charles L. Hearn, a young man who had come to the town from Blount County to attend school and to work with his mother's first cousin, Dr. W. P. Hall. A strong courtship gradually developed between them and they were married on May 9, 1906, at Della's home on College Street. Her father gave her in marriage, Miss Betty Moore Hansard played the wedding march, and Dr. J. R. Stodghill performed the ceremony before numerous friends and relatives. The bride and groom spent their honeymoon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and attended some of the sessions of the Southern Baptist Convention which was meeting there at that time. They enjoyed the scenery of Lookout Mountain and Rock City.

Della and her husband returned to Albertville to make their home, where "Charlie" had a position as rural mail carrier. Their first house was located on McCord Street near the present home of Dr. B. C. Scarborough but on Christmas, 1906, their new house was completed on the corner of Jackson Street and Baltimore Avenue. They moved in early in 1907. Their four eldest children were all born in this house: Charles Aubrey, April 6, 1907; Mildred Della, July 14, 1908; Thomas Kermit, March 27, 1910; and Fred Wilson, July 14, 1912. Since Mildred and Fred had the same birthday their mother would sometimes have the same party for them.

In 1910 Della's father traded a piano for a lot across the street from the one where she lived. He sold his house on College Street and built a large house at his new location. When Della and Charlie moved to Birmingham on October 1, 1912, it was always a great treat for the children to return to Albertville in the summers to visit their grandparents.

The move to Birmingham for Della, after nine years in Albertville, was an interesting experience. She grew to like the city during the seven years they lived there. They had moved because her husband wanted to study medicine and become a doctor, an early ambition which he hoped to fulfill. But shortly after they were settled the medical center moved away. He secured a position in the Birmingham Post Office. Two more children were born during their sojourn in the city: Glenn Hubbard, April 27, 1914, and Mary Nell, September 8, 1915.

They lived at 1110 North l5th Street in Fountain Heights and were members of Calvary Baptist Church. They were there during the years of the first World War and experienced meatless and breadless days. On Sunday afternoons Della and her husband would take the children to the park and listen to the music of the military bands. One of her most vivid recollections was of the armistice, November 11, 19l8: "I was in our back yard that morning hanging out clothes. The children were in school and I had made plans for my day's work when about 8:30 A.M., every whistle and bell in the city began blowing and ringing. People were shouting and celebrating and there was much excitement in the air. Soon the children rushed home from school breathless and all were happy that the world was at peace once more."

In the spring of 1919 they returned to Albertville and Charlie began working at the Albertville Trading Company, a large dry goods store owned by Della's father in which he had become a stockholder. The end of the war found prices rising and the opportunity for making money in the mercantile business was good. They had grown to like Birmingham and the return to Albertville was not too welcomed at this time in spite of the good financial outlook. But the ensuing years proved that this was a wise move for their children could have the advantages of growing up in a small town, enjoying certain rights and privileges which as city children they had not had.

Following their return to Albertville, another son, Joe Edward, was born February 28, 1920, at a house on East Main Street in which the family lived for only a few months. In 1921 they moved into what was known as the Galloway House on Baltimore Avenue to await the day when they could move into the large brick home which was being erected on the same site as their first house, at the corner of Jackson Street and Baltimore Avenue. While they were living in Birmingham that first house, which had been rented out, was burned to the ground, an event which in the end proved fortunate because it would have been far too small for the ever-growing Hearn family, and the attractive and desirable location had demanded a beautiful home.

The new house was completed at Christmastime, 1922, and on Christmas Day the family moved in. At the time the house was considered the finest in Albertville. Of brick veneer it contained nine large rooms, including five bedrooms, a living room, parlor, dining room, kitchen and bath, quite large enough for a family of seven children and an ideal place to call home. In 1934 another bath was added. All around was a lawn and in the back there was a barn for the cow and a large garden, things which Della had always had. With so many mouths to feed, expenses were high. There was also room later on for some boarders, teachers from the high school, and others during the summer months, people who helped in a small way and provided advantages and disadvantages to the growth and personalities of the children. In later years a long procession of "hired girls" trekked in and out, working several months at a time, but occasionally Della found a good one who would work for a year and maybe two or three. Help was not always easy to get and the children were taught at an early age to help with the housework, milk the cow, and otherwise be of service in the home.

In the spring of 1923, Aubrey graduated from the State Secondary Agricultural School, later the Albertville High School, and in the fall entered Howard College in Birmingham. On December 6 Jack Carey Hearn was born. Thus Della's family was completed and in the succeeding years she saw the older ones graduate from high school and go on to college, where they found a place of their own in life, and where she, in reflected glory, would reap the fruits of the advantages and opportunities which she and her husband had sought to give them. Many of her children won medals and awards for scholarship and athletics and were leaders in both high school and college. For over twenty years there was a Hearn enrolled in the Albertville High School. All of her children have gone to college; five have graduated and two have master's degrees.

In February, 1924, Della's father was stricken with a heart attack and for weeks hovered between life and death. It was only through much personal care that he was able to survive and remain in excellent health until his death seventeen years later. Her mother had lost her health in 1920, following the extraction of her teeth, and although she lived many years she was not physically strong. In 1926, Lou Ceil, Della's youngest sister, married Walter M. Thompson and made her home in Gadsden, Alabama. After spending the winter of 1927 in Florida, her parents returned home and thereafter took their meals with their eldest daughter.

Until the deaths of her parents, Della cared for them and gave them a helping hand. She became a mother to the children of her brothers and sisters who so often found companionship with her own children. On Sundays she delighted to have them all for dinner. Family reunions were frequent. Her mother died in 1936. In September, 1941, her brother Tom was killed in an automobile accident. Then in February, 1942, her father died, having lived a long life of usefulness. He was always steady, thrifty, and practical.

Being the mother of eight children, vacation trips for Della were rare but in 1932 she and Charlie, along with Cousin Nannie and two of her younger children, Mary Nell and Joe Ed, made an extended trip to Texas to visit relatives. They returned via New Orleans and spent several days at the St. Charles Hotel in that fascinating city. The next year they went to Chicago to see the World's Fair. It was 1933 and the Century of Progress was in full regalia. On this trip her eldest daughter Mildred accompanied them. Although Della has taken no more long trips since then she always tries to visit her children at least once a year; Aubrey in Nashville, Kermit in Montgomery, her cousin Nannie in Atlanta, and her husband's people in Birmingham.

The Second World War has ended and all of Della's children who were in the army and navy returned home safely. Seven are married and as of the summer of 1946 there are fourteen grandchildren, all of them strong and healthy and looking forward to the days when they can come to the big house in Albertville to see "Mama" as she is called.

Della's favorite songs have always been "In the Garden" and "When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day." The Scripture verses she loves best are those of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.

Having reared her large family and having the satisfaction of knowing that they all appreciate what she has done and accomplished during her life, there can be no doubt that she herself is loved by all and that the most appropriate thing that may be said of her is that she is kind to everyone.

Written at Albertville, July, 1946.