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Christopher Maloney, Auburn University
Vance, in west-central Alabama, is located primarily in Tuscaloosa County, except for a small portion in the south that extends into Bibb County. The town has a mayor/council form of government.
Battle of Trion Flag
The area now encompassing present-day Vance was first settled prior to 1830 and was known as Trion, a trading center and stagecoach stop on the Huntsville Road, present-day Highway 11. A post office was established there in 1849. On April 1, 1865, the Trion area was the scene of a skirmish during the closing weeks of the Civil War in which a 1,500-man cavalry brigade under Union general John T. Croxton was chased by a 3,500-man division under Confederate general William Hicks Jackson. Croxton and his men would double back and raid Tuscaloosa on April 3.
In 1872, Trion was renamed Smallwood after Charles Smallwood, who owned a local sawmill; the lumber industry remains important in the area. In 1873, the Alabama Great Southern Railroad built a line through the area, quickly ending the delivery of mail by stagecoach. The town was renamed Vance in 1879, the official year of its founding, after William Vance, a physician who had relocated there from North Carolina, established a long-time medical practice there, and helped found the Lee Institute school in 1873. Vance's daughter Lucy was the postmistress for about 40 years. In 1923, the institute was replaced by a 12-grade school. Vance was incorporated in 1972.
Mercedes Plant in Vance
In 1993, automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz U.S. International> announced it would build a plant there. It was completed in 1996 and production began in 1997. It was the first Mercedes-Benz plant in the United States, and the production facility has since been expanded; it directly employs approximately 5,000 individuals and contributes to thousands of other jobs and has prompted a tripling of the town's population since 2000.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Vance recorded a population of 1,325. Of that number, 91.3 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 6.0 percent as African American, 5.5 percent as Hispanic, and 1.1 percent as two or more races. The town's median household income was $72,585, and the per capita income was $25,374.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Vance was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Manufacturing (17.6 percent)
  • Retail trade (17.0 percent)
  • Educational services and health care and social assistance (13.0 percent)
  • Public administration (8.7 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (8.4 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (7.6 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (5.8 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (5.6 percent)
  • Construction (5.1 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (4.2 percent)
  • Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (3.0 percent)
  • Information (2.3 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (1.7 percent)
Public education in Vance is overseen by the Tuscaloosa County School System, which administers one elementary school in the town.
Vance is accessed by U.S. Route 11/State Highway 7, which runs east-west through the center of the town, and Interstate 59/20, which runs east-west through the northern section of the town. Norfolk Southern Corporation operates a rail line that runs through Vance. The town is convenient to the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport.
Events and Places of Interest
Vance maintains several athletic fields and a nature trail and hosts a community farmers' market at the Vance Civic Center. It also hosts a Christmas celebration, typically the second Saturday in December.

Additional Resources

Hoole, William Stanley, and Elizabeth Hoole McArthur. The Yankee Invasion of West Alabama, March-April, 1865, Including the Battle of Trion (Vance), the Battle of Tuscaloosa, the Burning of the University, and the Battle of Romulus. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Confederate Publishing Company, 1985.
The Heritage of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Published:  September 3, 2013   |   Last updated:  January 22, 2021