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24 Pegues and counting

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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The average family is shrinking, but only by about one person per family in the last 65 years.
The Census data FOX13 News found shows the average population per household now stands at 2.55, down from 3.67 in 1948. Much of that decline is attributable to the growth in one-person households, which now account for 27% of all households.
It may have to do with the cost of big families. A 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that in 1960 the average middle-class family spent $25,000 per child.

Almost 50 years later in 2009, it's a whopping $220,000 per child cost from birth to age 17.

The largest family in north Mississippi, at one point, was the Pegues family with 24 kids.
Average grandparents have six grandchildren. Grandpa and grandma Pegues had 127 grandchildren upon her death. The Pegues started their family in the early 30s and continued having those babies for four decades. FOX13 News recently revisited the Pegues of north Mississippi.

At the soft blue house, with the bold blue wheels out front, no meal is served without blessing the food first. Today is brother Leonard Earl's time to lead prayer.

"Thank you God for the food, for brothers and sisters, cousin, for in-laws."

The center of activity in Peguesville is their Panola County home, where Lela Mae and Joe Walter taught life's lessons to their 24 children: work hard, go to church, pray, stay together. She gave birth to 17; they took care of seven others.

Brothers and sisters show their concern and love every time they get together.

"Hey baby, how you going?" - and "I love you" is heard throughout the day.

On this day the Pegues kids and their sons and daughters gather at the light blue house again. They grew up picking cotton, and farming on part of their 110 acres of land -- cotton, corn, tomatoes, peas, and greens. They have more than 30 different houses and trailers that stretch out over user friendly hill after hill after hill.

Sister Lois inquires about who came today,

"Ernest ain't you the oldest here? Then Arthur Lee?" Lois said.

Ernest, Arthur Lee, Lois, Patricia, Leonard Earl, Ezell, Gilbert Earl, Johnny, some middle names were repeated, so many Pegues, that this part of Batesville, Miss., is called Peguesville.

There is one way in and one way out, by way of Pegues Circle.

"Ezell normally is designated cooker. Still pulling out trays and I'm the gofer," said brother Gilbert Earl. He and Lois were the tour guides through the family. There are a lot of things they never could do.

-Never rode together in the family's brown LTD Ford car.
-Never could miss church or school
-Never shopped together in the local convenience store because Blacks weren't allowed. Their White dad was.
-Never forget to register to vote on an 18th birthday

Twenty-four kids, mom and dad, 127 grandchildren and they never went hungry, because they raised their own food and chickens and hogs to eat.
Brothers and sisters routinely crowd around and tell jokes about the family. Matriarch Lela Mae died four years and one day before FOX13 News shot this report, and 14 years after the family was featured in a Commercial Appeal article by Kevin Robbins and Karen Pulfer Focht.

She was smiling in the article, smiling over the joy of her grown children being back home eating and singing together.

One can only imagine what she and Papa Joe Walter are thinking now, looking down on the sixth generation of little Pegues.

One is a football player for South Panola High School; another, a nose guard for Ole Miss University; and yet another, a middle linebacker at the University of Memphis. And there's a pretty, tall girl who is a sharpshooter in the ROTC.
They are still coming to gather with their parents, at the soft blue house.

Sixteen of the kids are still alive and 13 live in either Mississippi or Tennessee.

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