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Before Alabama became a state in 1819, Morgan County was already established. On February 6, 1818, Cotaco County was formed from the lands acquired from the Cherokee Indians by the Treaty of Turkeytown. Cotaco County was named after the Indian tribe that lived along the banks of the Cotaco Creek. Summerville (now Somerville) was the county seat for Cotaco County. On June 14, 1821, Cotaco County was renamed Morgan County after Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, one of the heroes of the Revolutionary War best known for his strategic victory at the Battle of Cow Pens.

In 1881 the county seat was moved to present-day Decatur, named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, a hero of the War of 1812. One of the first schools in Morgan County was a one-room school in Hartselle in 1868. Early records also document a Male and Female College in Hartselle in 1883, which is considered one of the best early colleges in North Alabama. In 1890, the Male and Female Institute of Moulton was moved to Danville. The school was upgraded from eight years of age to young men and women. In 1891, thirty-four students were admitted to this school. The faculty consisted of Dr. Josephus Shackleford, Professors Lila and John Tidwell (later a Morgan County Superintendent of Education). The building was destroyed by fire in December of 1898 and later moved to Trinity. There was also a Morgan County College created sometime after 1891 which was located in the old Morgan County Court House in Somerville. The college later became a military academy for a short time and then in 1855 the Somerville Female Academy was formed and remained open into the 1900s. The Falkville Normal College was founded by Professor J.B. Sherrill. The first annual catalog of the Falkville Normal College bears the date of 1896-97. Classes for the Normal College began in the Masonic Lodge at Falkville and were later moved to the two-story structure when construction was finished.

In 1907 the student enrollment in Morgan County was 3,907. There were seventy-five different school locations. In many communities, there were two schools, one for Caucasian students and one for African-American students. The first county high school was legally named at Hartselle before the building could be constructed. Classes were held in the Hartselle College Building. In February 1910 classes were moved to the new building. In the early years, many honors were captured by the school in music, speaking, and debating. Enrollment records from 1927 document that 4,946 students attended sixty-six different schools in Morgan County. In 1928 the number of schools was reduced to forty-eight with an enrollment of 4,987. Schools continued to close and merge as some buildings were destroyed by fire and communities joined together in building larger structures with four or more rooms that would house more students and several teachers.