“In fact, when I was in school, I didn’t care much for history at all,” Hodges said.
Still, as a resident of the town of Branchville since 1936 — with many of those years spent as a councilman or as town clerk — Hodges was best suited to write a book about the history of the place that was located between Odenville and Moody. Begun in 1996 with his late wife, Mary Willie, Hodges recently published “Branchville, Alabama: The History of a Little Town” in conjunction with Rocky Heights, in Pelham.
The book details the history of the town, from 1819-2007, when the town was officially merged with neighboring Odenville.
“People keep moving out here,” Hodges said. “I figure in two or three generations, people will forget Branchville ever existed.
“That was one reason I wanted to do it. We all knew one day the town was going to be extinct — Moody kept moving out and Odenville kept spreading out. We were just squeezed to death.”
Hodges says he researched the history of the town in the Archives in Ashville, and received a number of calls from various families in the area with information. He and Mary Willie, who passed away in 2002, also visited a number of cemeteries as part of their research.
Even now, he says, he receives calls from people with information.
“I decided if this goes alright, there might be enough information to do a second edition,” he said. “The ladies at the (Fortson) Museum want me to do a signing, to drum up some interest. We might draw more customers than we have books, so I’ll have to order some more.”
The book is dedicated to Hodges’ late wife, who, according to his daughter, Dianne, pushed him to write it.
“Without Mama pushing him to do the book, he wouldn’t have gotten it done,” she said. “That’s why he dedicated the book to Mama.”
The book will be available at the Fortson Museum in Odenville, the Archives and Museum in Ashville and the Odenville public library. Paulette Gilchrist, a Branchville native and member of the St. Clair County Historical Society, said the book will be invaluable for future generations.
“The community’s been here long before it became a town,” she said. “We still wanted to keep our identity, and I think publishing the book will help people be aware of the word Branchville, and maybe help us to keep its identity.
“My family moved here in 1953, so we grew up here. My son lives here and my grandson, and we want to keep the name Branchville, the community, the fellowship – even though we lost the town.”
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.