Hartselle is located in north-central Alabama in Morgan County. It has a mayor/council form of government. Hartselle is included in the book The 100 Best Small Towns in America. It is the birthplace of novelist and journalist William Bradford Huie and noted progressive U.S. congressman and senator John J. Sparkman. For its connections to Huie, the city is a stop on the Southern Literary Trail.
Downtown Hartselle Named for one of its early settlers, George Hartselle, the community appears on maps as early as 1870 but was not incorporated until 1875. A railroad station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad was established in 1872, and the town was laid out alongside the railroad. The first post office was established in 1873. In 1883, the first school was established; it became known as the Hartselle Male and Female Academy in 1895. It remained open until 1908, when Morgan County High School was established.
One of the primary industries that sustained the city, especially after the railroad came through, was logging and timber processing. Peaking at the turn of the century, it began a gradual decline and was no longer a significant industry by 1932. Hartselle also was a cotton-ginning center for the county.
Hartselle New Deal Mural In August 1916, a devastating fire swept through the downtown area, destroying all 21 buildings, but the town rebuilt. A public waterworks was constructed in 1926, and a plant to generate electricity was built in 1938. One of the town’s most notorious events occurred in 1926, when a group of robbers took over the bank, holding hostages for some four hours and making off with approximately $15,000 in cash and gold. Hartselle’s population expanded with the growth of industrial areas of Decatur and Huntsville, as it became a popular place to live for commuters.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Hartselle recorded a population of 14,421. Of that number, 83.2 percent identified themselves as white, 6.9 percent as African American, 5.9 percent as two or more races, 2.6 percent as Hispanic, 2.2 percent as Asian, and 0.8 percent as Native American. The city’s median household income was $56,323, and per capita income was $28,731.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Hartselle was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (23.3 percent)
- Manufacturing (17.4 percent)
- Retail trade (15.0 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.8 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (6.5 percent)
- Construction (6.1 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.6 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (4.8 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (4.4 percent)
- Public administration (2.3 percent)
- Wholesale trade (2.3 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (1.5 percent)
- Information (0.8 percent)
Schools in Hartselle are part of the Hartselle City School District; the city has three elementary, one junior, and one high school.
Hartselle Depot Hartselle is intersected by U.S. Highway 31 (north-south) and State Highway 36 (east-west), which connects the city with Interstate 65, located approximately two miles to the east. The Hartselle-Morgan County Regional Airport with one runway is located south of the city.
Events and Places of Interest
Hartselle is home to four municipal parks, a municipal swimming pool, and a civic center. Sparkman Park, an 80-acre complex named for John Sparkman, includes baseball, softball, and soccer fields, basketball courts, an 18-hole golf course, walking trails, and picnic areas and pavilions. It is also home to the Military Order of the Purple Heart Memorial.
Military Order of the Purple Heart Memorial On the last Saturday in September, the town hosts its annual Depot Days Festival, a celebration of Hartselle’s railroad heritage featuring arts and crafts, an automobile show, children’s activities, food, and musical entertainment. The city also holds an annual Halloween Carnival in October, Christmas Parade and Tour of Homes in December, and Easter Egg Hunt each spring.
Downtown Hartselle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Hartselle Downtown Commercial Historic District. The area hosts more than 30 antique and gift shops. The city is a stop on the Southern Literary Trail.
The Heritage of Morgan County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Knox, John. A History of Morgan County, Alabama. Decatur, Ala.: Morgan County Board of Revenue, 1967.