Unveiling of new city sign highlight of Depot Days fun
A highlight event of Saturday’s Depot Days Festival in Hartselle was the unveiling of a historic marker in front of The Depot. It was presented by the Alabama Tourism Department and erected by the city in keeping with Hartselle’s participation in the state’s 2010 “Small Towns—Downtowns” tourism promotion.
The marker was unveiled by Mayor Dwight Tankersley and Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce President Susan Hines in front of a large crowd of festival goers. Among those attending were about 40 descendants of the city’s founder, George Hartsell.
The marker’s wording, which is visible on both sides, gives a brief history of the town. It reads as follows:
“Hartselle, named after early pioneer George Hartsell, (with no “e”) rose from modest beginnings to an important position in the growing economy of Morgan County. Founded in 1870, the town owes its existence to the construction of the North and South Alabama Railroad (later the L&N), which began construction through the area in 1869 in an effort to connect the mineral rich areas in the southern part of the state with major shipping areas in North Alabama. Originally a mile north of the depot’s current location, Hartselle consisted of a general store and saloon for workers. The town was relocated to its present site in 1873 and grew quickly around the first depot building, a converted boxcar. Railroad construction opened the Hartselle area to agriculture and timber production and the town became an important shipping point. The town’s growth followed the fortunes of the railroad and farmers for more than 60 years. The Great Depression took a heavy toll on the local economy. Railroad and farming are no longer mainstays of today’s economy.”
Some 40 of Hartsell’s descendants were recognized prior to the marker’s unveiling, and they remained afterwards for family group pictures in front of the depot.
On Friday evening, they gathered for a family reunion at the Hartselle Fine Arts Center and regrouped early Saturday for a breakfast. Later in the day they visited Down Memory Lane historic displays in the Fine Arts Center, Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery and the historic Burleson family home north of Hartselle.
The Hartselle descendants included Judy Harris of Mason, Tex., Adra Hayward of Portland, Ore., Raynell and Jerald Newberry of Florida, Bootsie McLellan of McCarley, Miss., Jennifer Minyard of Greenville, Miss., Lillian Grace Minyard of Greenwood, Miss., Jean Doss Kerr of Marietta, Ga., Michael Newberry of Lewisburg, Va., Virginia Hartselle of Rock Ledge, Fla., Laurie Hartselle Chapman of Southside, David and Phyllis Hartselle of Mobile, Libby and George Thornton of Huntington, Tenn. and Cyndee and Tom Cash of Cleveland, Tenn. and grandchildren Aib and Asa of Benton, Tenn.the
Hines said Depot Days event was one of the most successful in its 30-year history. It was topped off with a festival attendance in excess of 18,000, according to estimates of vendors.
All vendor spaces were filled, the car show attracted a record 300 entries and the tractor show had more than 40 entries, the most ever in its history.