Mary Etta’s father, “Willie” Hazlewood spent his entire life in Hart County, Kentucky. He was born a post-Civil War baby to parents Daniel and Parthenia Hazlewood on a farm north of Munfordville. Daniel abandoned the family about 10 years later. His son would prove to be a better husband and father.
Willie married Alice Tennison in 1886 just eight days shy of his twentieth birthday. Together they raised a brood of nine children in the rolling hill country near Mammoth Cave. The kids called him “Pop.” His daughter Gracie remembered him as the kind of man that “always said what he thought, (and) never smoked or chewed tobacco.” He was a respectable man of the community; a civic-minded farmer who always voted Republican. The following begins with Willie in his mid-50s. The year is 1920.
“Return to Normalcy”
Warren G. Harding campaigned that what the country needed was a return to “normal.” The Great War (WWI) had ended nearly two years before. It was time to roll back government. Get on with business. With a good speaking voice and a handsome face, the former Ohio Senator won the Presidential election by a record-breaking landslide. Willie Hazlewood was no doubt pleased as punch.
The 1920 political landscape changed dramatically: a new President plus an expanded electorate made up of millions of women. How Willie felt about the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is unknown. As long as wife Alice supported the Republican ticket, Willie was likely pleased to have another voter in the household.
Suddenly in the summer of 1923, Harding suffered a fatal heart attack in San Francisco. Vice President Coolidge assumed the Presidency. Shortly thereafter, the Congressional investigation of the Teapot Dome Scandal became widely known. Calvin Coolidge, never implicated in the bribery corruption, ran as the Republican Party nominee in 1924. All would be determined on November 4th.
Willie set out early that morning. He dressed in layers wearing a coat over his ubiquitous overalls. Alice probably wrapped a biscuit or two for him to stuff in his pocket as a snack for later. He put on his hat, and went out to the barn to saddle his horse.
As a Republican election official, Willie and his Democrat counterpart oversaw the election process in the nearby crossroads town of Cub Run. He knew almost everyone who showed up to vote. Not only had he lived in the area all his life, he had also gone house to house as a census taker.
Lever ballot machines were first used in the national election of 1920, but not in Hart County. Kentucky voters marked their paper ballots then deposited them into a box. After the polls closed, Willie sealed the lock box. Then he climbed on his horse and rode about 20 miles to Munfordville carrying the ballots with him.
The November air felt cold on his face. The narrow road ran up hill and down. Occasionally a Model T may have passed him by on the long 2 1/2 hour trip. Once Willie arrived in town, he delivered the lock box to the court house. It wasn’t quite the end of his long day though. There was still the ride back home through the darkness to Alice.
The next day’s evening newspaper touted a win for the incumbent President. WHAS radio in Louisville covered the election results in Kentucky. (The first radio station in the state, WHAS began broadcasting two years earlier.) Telephones in Munfordville rang in the news. But the typical farmer had none of these resources. The Hazlewoods probably found out that Coolidge had handily beaten the opposing candidates the way they heard most news: by word of mouth.
In later years Willie commented on how his daughters all married Democrats, except one who opted for a Republican man. With a smile he’d say he “guessed the Devil owed him and was repaying him by giving him Democrats for sons-in-law.”
“A historical look at our nation’s county courthouses through postcards.” Courthousehistory.com, courthousehistory.com/gallery/states/kentucky/counties/hart.
Young, Betty. Family History.