Situated amid rolling hills and scenic valleys of the Tennessee River, Morgan County covers nearly 600 square miles in the northcentral part of Alabama. The county seat and largest city is Decatur. Morgan County lies just southwest of Redstone Arsenal. In 2017, nearly 120,000 people called Morgan County home, according to the U.S. Census.
The Alabama Territorial Legislature created Morgan County in 1818 with land acquired from Cherokee and Chickasaw Indian tribes two years earlier.
The county was first named Cotaco but was changed in 1821 in honor of Gen. Daniel Morgan, an American Revolution hero. Until 1892, Somerville was the first county seat, when it was transferred to Decatur.
During the Civil War, Union and Confederate armies marched through the area numerous times. Hundreds of Morgan County men fought in the war, with the majority of white soldiers fighting under the Confederate banner. Nearly 100 fought for the Union. Morgan County was the only county in the state to form an African-American infantry made up of former slaves who went to Decatur during the Union’s occupation. After the war, the county experienced hardship but rebounded after the Louisville and Nashville Railroad laid tracks in the 1870s. Over the years, the county continued to have ups and downs but always bounced back through new industry and innovation of local leaders.
Today the county has a strong industrial base with one full industrial park and another that is beginning to fill. The county is increasing its technology base, and major retail chains have located here.
For more information about Morgan County, go to www.co.morgan.al.us.
Communities in Morgan County near Redstone Arsenal include Decatur and Hartselle.
402 Lee St. NE
Decatur, AL 35601 256-341-4500
Decatur straddles Morgan and Limestone counties in northern Alabama. Known as “River City,” Decatur lies along the Tennessee River, on the banks of Wheeler Lake. Decatur is Morgan County’s largest city and the county seat with an estimated population of 54,405, according to the U.S. Census in 2017. Decatur covers nearly 54 square miles.
Lying 23 miles from Redstone Arsenal, the city has a large economic center. Like many Southern cities in the early 19th century, Decatur’s early success was based on its location along a river. Railroad routes and boating traffic pushed the city to the front of North Alabama’s economy. The city rapidly grew into a large economic center in the Tennessee Valley and was a hub for travelers and cargo between Nashville and Mobile, as well as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and New Orleans. Throughout the 20th century, the city experienced steady growth but was eclipsed as the regional economic center by fast-growing Huntsville during the nation’s space race. The city finds its economy heavily based on manufacturing, cargo transit and high-technology industries such as General Electric and the United Launch Alliance.
Decatur is home to Old State Bank. Built over 170 years ago, it is the oldest bank building in Alabama.
Attractions include the Princess Theater, which has provided theater performances for more than 25 years, including concerts by jazz groups and bluegrass legends. Cook’s Natural Science Museum provides collections of exotic insects and animals and interactive exhibits.
Decatur has many city parks and lots of playgrounds. Families can also picnic by the river at Rhode’s Ferry, exercise around the lake at Wilson Morgan’s track or enjoy the quiet at the Japanese garden at Frasier Park. At Delano Park, you can stroll through the rose garden or cool off at the splash pad. The newly opened Playground for All Children at Delano is designed for all children regardless of abilities. The adjacent Riverwild children’s garden celebrates the story of the Tennessee River and the plants and animals unique to Decatur with plantings, boulders and sculptures.
Annual events include the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon & Music Festival, Riverfest, Southern Wildlife Festival, North Alabama Birding Festival and Spirit of America Festival. The city also features a “battle for Decatur” Civil War re-enactment for history buffs, concerts by the river and an annual Racking Horse Spring Celebration.
Median gross rent was $625 in 2017, and median selected monthly owner costs with a mortgage were $1,029. Mean travel time to work is 21 minutes.
200 Sparkman St. NW
Hartselle, AL 35640 256-773-2535
Hartselle is the second-largest city in Morgan County, about 10 miles south of Decatur. The town’s 16 square miles are home to 14,373 people, according to the 2017 Census estimates. Redstone Arsenal is 32 miles to the northeast.
Hartselle was founded in 1870 with the arrival of the South and North Alabama Railroad and is named for George Hartselle, one of the railroad’s owners. The post office opened in 1873. The town was incorporated in 1875. Most of the oldest buildings were destroyed by fire in 1916.
Attractions include the Quail Creek Golf Resort and the Hartselle Military Museum, with exhibits from the Revolutionary War to the present. The Chamber of Commerce, in the restored historic Depot Building, offers displays of the region’s rich history.
Median gross rent was $651 in 2017, and median selected monthly owner costs with a mortgage were $1,125. Mean travel time to work is 24 minutes.