My love for Hartselle
By Bettye English
My, what I have learned about Hartselle during the past few years! It is amazing!
From the 1830s until around the 1960s, Bethel Road area was considered to be the “country.” As I was growing up, I very seldom was privileged to go to town. We raised most of our food – except for sugar, flour and chicken feed; we ordered some of our clothing – what was not made from chicken feed sack or guano sacks – from the Sears-Roebuck catalog; and we generally stayed at home or went to church.
When I started school, I made a lot of friends who lived in the city. They brought peanut butter sandwiches and cookies for lunch, but they wanted my meat sandwiches, so we would trade. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized I was attending school with some students named “Hartselle” – my relatives, but I did not know at the time. It was then that I began to ask my parents questions about the family.
I learned Hartselle was named for my great-great-grandfather who had settled in Hartselle with five children in 1833. He fathered seven more after coming to Morgan County. George Hartsell – no “e” – was a close friend to Dr. Rountree, the local doctor who suggested the town be named Hartsell in honor of his dear friend.
In 1953 when I graduated from Morgan County High School, I started working at Citizens Bank of Hartselle. There I began to learn more about Hartselle, meet more people in Hartselle and discover how I was related to some of them. It was during my years at the bank, around the 1970s, that I really began to take interest in learning about Hartselle and my Hartselle heritage.
My boss at that time, Horace Broom, asked me to become involved in a booklet he wanted printed about the History of Banking in Hartselle. I learned through this project how my great-grandfather, William Chunn Hartselle, had a hand in organizing of the Bank of Hartselle that was robbed in 1926.
Then I continued to learn more and searched for more information about Hartselle.
In 1999 I received a call from Tim Hartselle, a great-grandson of Jacob Hartselle, who was the youngest child of George Hartsell and was a cousin I had never met. Tim lived in Florida. His parents, uncles and aunts had attended MCHS and grew up in Hartselle. He wanted us to plan a George Hartselle Reunion for 2000.
You can image how we searched for the children of 11 people who belonged to George! He had a 12th child who died at birth. We worked for a year getting names and addresses together. At the 2000 reunion, we had about 80 people who attended. With the help of David Burleson, we introduced them to the before and after of downtown Hartselle and some of the information David had gathered.
We had a very exciting time together. They came from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. We met relatives we had never before seen or knew existed. Since then, we have met every three years and continue to have some attend who have never been to Hartselle. One of our reunions was when the plaque about the railroad was unveiled at The Depot.
Since all this started, I have had contact with relatives located in Guam, Michigan, Utah, California and Colorado. Some have visited Hartselle but not during a reunion.
It was also during my time at Citizens Bank of Hartselle that my boss, Mr. Broom, showed me his interest in Hartselle’s history. He permitted me to use some of my time in helping organize the Hartselle Historical Society. I have been so grateful and blessed to be a part of this organization.
I have said all this to explain why I love Hartselle. I want to learn more about it, share with anyone who is interested and brag on our “Southern Hospitality” city any time I can. It is a great place to live, work, play and be a part of our school system. With the exception of two years in east Morgan County, I have lived my 85 years in Hartselle. Oh, how it has grown and improved!
Lee Greene Jr. has set up a Facebook page with many, many pictures of Hartselle. It is called Hartselle Historical Society. I hope you will visit it when you have several minutes to spare. It is hard to leave it once you get started.
If you have pictures of Hartselle you do not see there, Lee, Jr. would love to scan them and add to our collection. Should you see a picture that does not have a caption or has incorrect or incomplete information, please let us know so we can correct or add to it.
Bettye English is a lifelong resident of Hartselle. She is the president of the Hartselle Historical Society and was instrumental in saving the historic Burleson Center from demolition.