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A Look Back at Falkville

Hartselle’s neighbor to the south, Falkville, was incorporated at roughly the same time as Hartselle, the 1870s. One man, Decatur merchant Louis M. Falk, named the area close to where he had established a store in 1859.

In contrast, naming Hartselle was a collective process in which men such as S. L. Rountree, father of Enquirer founder Asa Rountree, played leading roles.

As I have pointed out previously, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia makes a serious mistake spreading the idea that the name “Hartselle” was the name of one of the South and North Alabama Railroad’s owners. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. George Hartsell was one of the early settlers of this community, and his offspring have played significant roles in Hartselle from the beginning of its history.

In contrast, Mr. Falk stayed only a relatively short time in “his” town before he moved on west of Hartselle to Danville, where he established another store.

Unlike Mr. Hartsell, who originally came to Alabama from North Carolina, Mr. Falk was born in Prussia Dec. 7, 1830.  After landing in the U.S., his first stop was in Philadelphia; next was another major metropolitan area, New York. From NYC he went south to Florence, Ala., where he was in the general store business.

During the Civil War Mr. Falk was captured and sent to Camp Douglas until hostilities ended.

As noted in the first paragraph, Mr. Falk traveled a lot before he finally got settled. This was in the late 1870s, when he moved to Decatur, where he stayed put. Local historians of that period of Morgan County history say at the time of his passing, he was the oldest merchant in Decatur.

Since he liked Decatur and chose to make it his permanent home, he immersed himself in city affairs. For example, he was a city alderman – equivalent to our city council – and a member of the school board. He also had numerous business interests, including the Decatur Land Company, the Electric Light Company, the Artificial Ice Company and the Decatur Wire and Fence Manufacturing Company, of which he was vice president.

Without the continuing presence of its namesake, Falkville did not grow as Hartselle did. At the turn of the 20th century, Falkville’s population was 1,202, while Hartselle’s was 12,177.  Without the leadership Hartselle had in its early years, Falkville’s government was unstable. It had to be incorporated three times – 1876, 1886, and 1898 – while once, 1875, was sufficient for Hartselle.

Nevertheless, when governmental positions opened, there was a lot of citizen interest in filling them. Mr. Falk, naturally, was the first postmaster. His successor was A.J. Stinson, who served several decades in this job before resigning in 1913 because of feeble health. Seven people took the examination required of persons seeking to be post -master or mistress.

Churches were important in the life of Falkville from the beginning. In 1913 it was reported the Methodist congregation was receiving bids for the new pews, which would take up most of the space in the newly completed church building.

Like Hartselle and many other Alabama towns, Falkville also had a normal – that is, a teachers’ – college, which was said to be generously enrolled and under capable management in the person of Professor Woodruff.

Like Hartselle also, Falkville had a train station, where persons could board to go first from north to south – or vice versa – and make connections as needed. The Falkville passenger service was discontinued first, but it was not long afterward that Hartselle serviced only freight trains.

In the age of newspapers, beginning in the late 19th century, Falkville had its own, just as Hartselle did. However, its paper, under the leadership of Adli West, had a short lifespan.