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James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Ethelsville is located in northwest Pickens County in the west-central part of the state close to the Mississippi border. It has a mayor/city council form of government.
Ethelsville, originally called Yorkville, was one of the earliest settlements in the state and also the location of the first Baptist church in Pickens County. It took its current name from Ethel Hancock, who was the daughter of local physician J. T. Hancock. His son Thomas was the town's first postmaster. The town was incorporated in 1952 or 1956, depending on the source. It was still an active railroad stop when it was incorporated, with four freight trains and six passenger trains stopping there daily. When the railroad discontinued stops in Ethelsville, the population began to decline.
In 1843, local resident John H. Alexander uncovered a shield and pair of copper scales while plowing his fields. The shield was engraved with the word "Hispana," which most historians have recognized as evidence that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto likely passed through Pickens County. Local legend claims that De Soto and his men spent a winter on the hill where Ethelsville Baptist Church stands.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Ethelsville recorded a population of 171. Of that number, 52.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 43.3 percent as African American, 4.1 percent as two or more races. The town's median household income was $36,000, and the per capita income was $10,821.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Ethelsville is divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (34.3 percent)
  • Retail trade (22.9 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing and utilities (22.9 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (14.3 percent)
  • Manufacturing (5.7 percent)
  • Public administration (5.0 percent)
Students in Ethelsville attend Pickens County schools; no public schools are located within the town limits.
County Road 75 bisects Ethelsville running northeast/southwest, and State Highway 82/County Road 6 is located just to the northeast of town. The Alabama Southern Railroad operates a line through Ethelsville.
Events and Places of Interest
McShan Lake lies about three miles to the east of town. Its association with DeSoto has made the hill where Ethelsville Baptist Church stands popular with the geocaching community.

Additional Resources

Pickens County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Pickens County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Published:  August 22, 2016   |   Last updated:  February 22, 2019