The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

This interesting story was furnished me by Mr. Ben Hager a pioneer settler of hear Huntsville Madison County, Ark. "In the year 1859 while we lived on Holmans Creek two miles south of Huntsville I went to town with my father one day to help him carry some chickens to sell to the merchants there. While we were there two wagons loaded with household goods arrived in town and stopped. They belonged to movers and were drawn by ox teams. I was in Hugh Berry’s store when the man that the wagons belonged to came into Mr. Berry’s store and ask the proprietor if he had any hats, and Berry answered in the affirmative and began to take down the hats and put them an the counter for the man to look at. After he examined a few of them he says, "Mr. Store keeper, what will you charge me for all the hats for my boys" and Mr. Berry says "I do not know sir but tell me how long you have been married and it may be that I can guess how many you want". "I have been married 13 years, 3 months and 10 days", "I guess then I will charge you $5", said the merchant. "AU right", "I will go out and bring my boys in", says the mover. And in a few minutes he taken 20 boys out of the covered wagon that were old enough to walk and took two more younger boy children in his arms that were too small to walk and brought the 22 children into the store and his wife followed him with two infant boys in her arms which numbered 24 boys in all. Mr. Berry was astounded and so was the bystanders. Mr. Berry acted as though he wanted to run, but after looking at the crowd of children for a minute he ask in a doubting way, "Is them all your children" "Yes, they are all mine! " said the man addressed. "I cannot believe it" answered the astonished merchant. Why do you disbelieve me" said the man. "It is too unreasonable" said Mr. Berry. And the man and his wife explained to the merchant how it was that they had such a big family of children in less than 14 years. A pair of twins which were all boys were born to them a little more than a year apart. But Berry was not satisfied with the man and wife’s account but after reflecting a short time he says to the man and woman "Are you both willing to swear that these 24 children are all your own", and they both declared that they were willing to go before the proper authorities and swear that they had been married the time named and that all these children had been born to them as the result of the marriage. The non-plussed merchant seemed to believe them now and says "By the great God of Heaven that made me, the hats shall not cost you anything" and willed all the children a hat apiece, then he began putting all the small hats down on the counter he had and told the man to pick them out. There were a number of settlers in town that day and a crowd soon collected in Berry’s store for the two dozen of children or 12 pair of twins attracted the attention of every one in town. After all the children - babies too - had received a hat each Mr. Berry told the man of the numerous prodigy to not start off yet awhile and he had a talk with the other merchants of the town. Then Mr. Berry go up on the curb stone and told the people of the great number of children belonging to one father and one mother and says "I have give each one of these children a hat. And I think it is the duty of the merchants and other citizens of this town to supply all these boys with a suit of clothes each." And it was not long before the citizens responded freely and the children were taken to the different stores where they received a bountiful supply of clothing and before they left town Mr. Berry gave the mother of the children a large leg horn hat worth $5. It was made of fine straw and adorned with the finest ribbon of various colors. But the people of Huntsville were not satisfied with what they had done for them and concluded to do better for them and gave the man enough provision to last him several days. I cannot call to mind the mans name but I remember that he said he was going south where there was plenty of cotton to pick to get employment for the children. There was another man with them who said that he was hired to drive one of the team of oxen.

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