Chatom is the county seat of Washington County. It is located in southwest Alabama about 15 miles from the Alabama-Mississippi border. It has a mayor-city council form of government with elected terms of four years.
The area that is now Chatom was first settled around 1902; a post office was opened there in 1904, before there was even a town. In 1905, local resident F. J. Jordan suggested that the new community be designated as the county seat, given its location near the geographic center of the county. Other residents supported the idea, and in 1907 county voters elected to move the county seat from St. Stephens to Chatom. The town remained small until the Alabama, Tennessee, and Northern Railroad constructed a line through the town in 1906. The first courthouse was built in 1908 and served the county for more than 50 years. Chatom's first bank, also the county's first, was established in 1909.
The county's first high school was built in Chatom in 1916; it included a student dormitory for those who lived too far away to commute every day. Electric power lines were run in the town in 1929, the same year that a telephone exchange was established. Prompted partly by soldiers returning from World War II who wanted to see the town grow, voters elected to incorporate the town in 1949; by 1950, the town had begun constructing a city water system and had created a fire department. In 1960, construction began on a new courthouse and county health department, which were completed in 1965 and dedicated by Gov. George Wallace.
Chatom’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 1,288. Of that number, 68.2 percent identified themselves as white, 31.1 as African American, 0.6 percent as Hispanic, and 0.4 percent as two or more races. The city's median household income was $23,250, and per capita income was $14,791.
The workforce in present-day Chatom is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (27.7 percent)
· Manufacturing (27.2 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (10.9 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (8.0 percent)
· Retail trade (5.7 percent)
· Wholesale trade (5.7 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.4 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (2.8 percent)
· Construction (2.6 percent)
· Public administration (2.3 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (1.8 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (0.8 percent)
Schools in Chatom are part of the Washington County School District; the city has approximately 981 students and 64 teachers in three public schools (elementary, high, and a vocational school).
Chatom is intersected by State Highway 56 (east-west) and State Highway 17 (north-south). It also is served by the Roy Wilcox Airport and the Hawthorn Pines Airport.
Events and Places of Interest
The Chatom Community Center and the 22-acre Lake Ellis offers picnic and barbecue areas and a walking trail. The Deerfield Golf Club has an 18-hole course and a club house. Each February, the town holds a parade in celebration of Mardi Gras. The county courthouse in Chatom is home to the Washington County Museum, which displays artifacts and historical documents relating to town and county history.
Matte, Jacqueline Anderson. The History of Washington County, The First County in Alabama. Chatom, Ala.: Washington County Historical Society, 1982.
The Heritage of Washington County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2005.
James P. Kaetz
Published March 1, 2010
Last updated August 21, 2013