Monroeville is located in south Alabama between Montgomery and Mobile and serves as the county seat of Monroe County. The city was named for Monroe County, previously named in honor of President James Monroe. Today, Monroeville is considered the "Literary Capital of Alabama" because it has been home to literary giants Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Monroeville has a mayor-council form of government consisting of an elected mayor and nine council members.
What is now known as Monroeville once was called Burnt Corn Springs. Because of continuous conflicts among England, Spain, and the Native American groups in the area, the only major settlements in what was at the time the Mississippi Territory were along the Tombigbee River. These lands were ceded to the English by the Choctaw Nation in 1765. By 1795, Secretary of State James Monroe negotiated the purchase of this area from Spain.
For a number of years, the area of Monroeville was known as Walker's Mill and Store, named for the area's first settler, Major Walker, who built a store, a tavern, and a grist mill there. In 1831, Probate Judge Henry W. Taylor received a land grant of 80 acres from the U.S. government, from which the town subsequently developed. By 1832, the county seat was moved to Walker's Mill and Store from Claiborne, which had served as the county seat for 22 years. After becoming the county seat, the town's name was briefly changed to Centerville because it was located at the "center" of the county. The town was then renamed Monroeville after all the legal papers were transferred from Claiborne.
In 1833, the first courthouse burned and all records were lost. A new courthouse was constructed by enslaved laborers with bricks made locally in the 1850s. Despite its status as the county seat, Monroeville was not officially incorporated until April 15, 1899. This 1850s courthouse burned in 1928 but was restored and remained in use until 1963, when the current courthouse was built. The old courthouse currently houses the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Monroe County Heritage Museum.
At the Civil War's end in 1865, Monroeville began a rebuilding effort that continued until 1900. The early years of the twentieth century were difficult economic times for Monroeville. Many locals grew cotton on small farms, and northern companies exploited the area's timber. Steamboat traffic along the Alabama River between Mobile and Selma initially was an important contributor to the economic development in the area. But with the construction of the L&N Railroad from Pensacola to Selma, river port towns such as Claiborne saw an economic downturn. This proved to be a boon to Monroeville's economy as many people began to move inland to the city because of the railroad. From 1912 to 1952, the M&R Railroad, connected to the L&N Railroad, carried freight to and from Monroeville.
In 1928, the first airport was built, but it did not have paved runways until 1932 or a hangar until 1937. This airport was used during World War II for military training and today serves as the Monroe County Airport, officially established in 1967.
In the 1920s, the first hospital in Monroe County was in the private home of Maggey Bussey, a registered nurse in Monroeville. Also, in 1923, city water and electric power were brought to Monroeville. Sewage service for the town came around 1930, although only the jail and courthouse had plumbing for some time. In 1934, the streets were paved, and in 1938 the first traffic lights were installed. The current city hall was built in 1940.
Early industries included merchandising, agriculture, steam shipping, timber, sawmills, turpentine, and later automobile manufacturing. In 1937, Vanity Fair apparel manufacturers came to Monroeville, opening the first sewing plant in the area and serving as the town's first major industry. In 1977, the town saw the opening of the Georgia-Pacific plant, and Alabama River Pulp opened in nearby Claiborne.
Monroeville's population according to the 2010 Census was 6,519. Of that number, 55.7 percent identified themselves as African American, 42.1 percent as white, 0.8 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 0.3 percent as Native American, 0.3 percent as Asian, and 1.2 percent as two or more races. The city's median household income was $31,593, and per capita income was $20,553.
The workforce in present-day Monroeville is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing (25.0 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.4 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (9.4 percent)
· Retail trade (8.8 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (6.1 percent)
· Construction (5.6 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (4.9 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.6 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (4.6 percent)
· Public administration (4.1 percent)
· Information (2.4 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.8 percent)
Schools in Monroeville are part of the Monroe County school district; the town has approximately 2,046 students and 114 teachers in one elementary school (pre-K-2), one middle school, (3-5), one junior high school (6-8) and one high school (9-12). The city also has an alternative school (K-12) and a career/technical center (7-12). Two private schools (both pre-K-12) serve approximately 739 students with 53 teachers. Alabama Southern Community College in Monroeville offers two-year associate's degrees or certification in a variety of programs.
The Monroe County Airport is located near Monroeville and is a public airport owned by Monroe County, averaging 55 general aviation flights a day. Monroeville is also served by two major highways. Alabama Highway 21 runs northeast to southwest and merges in Monroeville with Alabama Highway 41, which runs northwest to southeast toward I-65. Also, the Alabama Railroad Company and the Alabama and Gulf Coast Railway run through the city of Monroeville.
Events and Places of Interest
Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926, where she grew up as the youngest child of four. She became a renowned author after publishing To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. Truman Capote was a close friend of Harper Lee's and frequently visited Monroeville during the summers of his childhood. Because of his time in Monroeville, Alabama became the setting of many of his works. In addition, novelist Mark Childress and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Cynthia Tucker were born in Monroeville.
In Monroeville today, there are events and attractions that celebrate the literary history and culture of the town. The Old Courthouse Museum is located in the Old Monroe County Courthouse in the Monroeville town square. A play based on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is performed there each May by a local group called the Mockingbird Players. There are three permanent exhibits at the museum: on the courthouse itself, on Truman Capote's childhood in the town, and of course on Harper Lee. Also, in downtown Monroeville, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual Mockingbird Market, which includes food, jewelry, glassware, silver, linens, and other goods.
In February, the Heritage Arts Festival turns the historic downtown square into a place for crafts, quilts, woodworking, soul
food, and art. The event also includes a fashion show, gospel music, and a variety of dance performances. In March, citizens
of Monroeville participate in the Alabama River Heritage Days, an event featuring Creek traditions, 1812 frontier camps, river music, and events at the Alabama River Museum, located 20 miles north of Monroeville. In April, Monroeville hosts the annual "Peddlin' for a Cure," a 100-mile bike ride
to Mobile, Montgomery, and other areas that raises money for the American Cancer Society. In October, the Monroe County Fair
is held at the fairgrounds in Monroeville. Every first Saturday in December, the City of Monroeville sponsors a Christmas
parade, holiday market, and tree lighting in the Downtown Square, and at the end of the day's festivities, the mayor gives
the annual Christmas address.
The Heritage of Monroe County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.
Published May 21, 2009
Last updated December 18, 2012