Mooresville, Alabama, was incorporated as a town in 1818, the year before Alabama became a state (www.mooresvilleal.com). Its location in Limestone County, just off Wheeler Lake and the Tennessee River and between Huntsville and Decatur, is an area that is rapidly growing. The expansive farming fields of just a few years ago are giving way to more prosaic development. I have lived in north Alabama for more than twelve years and am still astonished at how much farmland has disappeared from the area in just the past decade.
All of Mooresville, however, is in the National Register of Historic Places. It retains the feel of a village from another time and is worth the short exit off the interstate when you are in the area and have time for a breather. Its residents are good stewards of their community and the town is well-maintained, protected, and cared for.
Only a few dozen people live in Mooresville and it is small enough that one can park the car and walk the entire village in a fairly short time. There are large houses of note and smaller houses of charm; lovely private gardens; and ample green space.
Two particularly great old church buildings are located in the town. Mooresville Church of Christ has held services since 1854. Future president James A. Garfield preached a sermon in that building when he was stationed nearby as a federal soldier during the Civil War. It is a simple white clapboard building with Greek Revival basics and minimal adornment.
The Old Brick Church, built in 1839, is a Greek Revival brick structure with an elegantly sculpted hand at the tip of its steeple pointing directly up to the heavens. The Old Brick Church is available for weddings and special occasions but lacks modern conveniences and no longer holds regular services.
There are other small businesses in the village including the 1818 Farm (www.1818farms.com), a fairly recent enterprise with various happy farm animals and a strong organic orientation. When I was a boy and a ravenous reader of history and historical trivia, I first heard about Mooresville as the site of the oldest still operating post office in the state. I am happy to report that the Mooresville Post Office is still there and still operational.
The whole village covers just a few blocks but some of the town’s roads continue on into the woods and backwaters of the lake and the river. I stopped to take a photograph on one of the backroads on a recent visit and realized that I was parked next to an ancient and overgrown cemetery. Tombstones from the 19th century, some of them broken, were scattered through the trees and brambles and provided intriguing history of the area.
Whenever I go to Mooresville, I try to head over to Greenbrier and Greenbrier Restaurant (www.oldgreenbrier.com) before I head back into town. From Mooresville, you cross over the Interstate and take the road past Belle Mina (the name of both a 19th century mansion and the community that surrounds it). Turn on Old Highway 20, go past massive fields and farmland to the four-way stop at Greenbrier, and Greenbrier Restaurant is on your right at the stop sign. It’s known for its barbecue but I’m partial to the fried catfish. The fish is flaky and moist in the middle with a peppery crisp crust. The place also has the finest hushpuppies I have ever tasted and a generous portion of succulent hushpuppies comes with the meal.
I sometimes grab a catfish plate to go. The order will come with a paper bag of hushpuppies that I put on the seat next to me and pop as I head into Huntsville. The hushpuppies are always gone by the time I pass the Space and Rocket Center and re-enter the 21st Century.