“Hartselle, Alabama, was founded in 1870 with the arrival of the South and North Alabama Railroad. It takes its name from George Hartsell, one of the railroad’s owners. The post office opened in 1873. It was formally incorporated on March 1, 1875. Most of the oldest buildings were destroyed by fire in 1916.”
Since we are camping in Hartselle only tonight, and not unhooking the truck from the Sphinx, I am not able to walk the town and talk to the townspeople about their history. I am therefore relying on the above quote from Wikipedia.
It has been my experience that the information on Wikipedia differs from what the locals tell me, which is why I do not rely on it much.
Okay, Okay, I couldn’t resist. How many noticed that the city name has an extra “e” at the end? My curiosity got the best of me, so I did some research (It’s amazing what you can do with some time and a computer). The answer was in an obscure booklet by David Burleson, “Hartsell before the ‘E“, who wrote that George Hartsell was born May 7, 1802 in North Carolina and married Delany Morgan in 1822. They moved here in 1834 and were the first real settlers of the property that wound up being incorporated in the city of Hartselle. After starting with 40 acres, they eventually owned as much as 800 acres.
George Hartsell’s property became one of the places in the county “where people came together,” Burleson writes, and by 1853 George Hartsell’s home was used as a gathering and voting place. The general area eventually was referred to as Hartsell’s — even though Scott L. Rountree and John Brown Stuart had more to do with developing what became the downtown business center of the future Hartselle. “George didn’t really found the town; he was just the namesake.” The city was founded in 1870 and was officially incorporated by the state as Hartsell’s in 1875. Around 1891 the federal government dropped the use of apostrophes in place names, and that made the name “Hartsells” show up on official documents, even though residents had started replacing the s on the end with an e. By 1920, the spelling Hartselle had become accepted for the city. So, a bureaucrat in the federal government decided to not use apostrophes, and that changed a city’s name.
TIDBIT OF INFORMATION: President Benjamin Harrison signed executive order 28 on September 4, 1890, establishing the Board on Geographical Names. “To this Board shall be referred all unsettled questions concerning geographic names. The decisions of the Board are to be accepted by federal departments as the standard authority for such matters.” Decisions of the board were accepted as binding by all departments and agencies of the federal government.
An interesting note: Burleson’s booklet indicates Hartsell was a merchant and businessman, with no mention of him as an owner of the South and North Alabama Railroad. A search of the railroad does not list Hartsell as an investor. I think Wikipedia is wrong again.
Sorry, no pictures, unless you want to see the view outside my window of another RV.
Montgomery, Alabama to Hartselle, Alabama: 158.9 miles
3 hours 14 minutes