The first settlement located at the present site of Pelham, established in 1820, was named Shelbyville; it served as the location of the first county courthouse until Columbiana was named county seat in 1826. The town was renamed Pelham in 1867 after Civil War hero Major John Pelham, who reportedly camped overnight with his troops near Shelbyville during the war. The town remained relatively small, with a population of only around 250 in 1887.
In response to an attempt by Alabaster to annex the area, Pelham was incorporated in July 1964, with the first city elections held the following September. Population at the time was listed at 654. Construction of a city water system followed in 1967. Like other towns in Shelby County, Pelham has benefitted from the expansion of population and businesses south from Birmingham in the latter half of the twentieth century.
According to the 2010 Census, Pelham's population was 21,352. Of that number, 81.2 percent identified themselves as white, 14.9 percent as Hispanic, 7.5 percent as black, 2.4 percent as Asian, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $65,212, and per capita income was $28,979.
The workforce in present-day Pelham is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (17.4 percent)
· Retail trade (12.3 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (11.6 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (11.3 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (11.0 percent)
· Construction (10.2 percent)
· Manufacturing (8.0 percent)
· Wholesale trade (4.8 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.8 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (3.4 percent)
· Information (3.2 percent)
· Public administration (2.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.4 percent)
Schools in Pelham are part of the Shelby County School District; the town has approximately 2,214 students and 142 teachers in one elementary school, one intermediate school, and one high school. Three private schools have approximately 279 students and 29 teachers.
Pelham is bisected by State Highway 31 (north-south) and County Road 52 (east-west). Interstate 65 lies just east of the city. The closest major airport to Pelham is the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, approximately 20 miles to the north.
Events and Places of Interest
Pelham has five area parks, including a city park complex that features baseball and softball fields, football fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds. The other area parks include walking trails, fitness areas, outdoor basketball courts, and picnic areas. The Pelham Civic Complex has two full-sized ice hockey rinks and meeting areas and halls that can be rented for business and private events.
The Ballantrae Golf Club offers an 18-hole course, and the Pelham Racquet offers 20 clay and five hard tennis courts.
Oak Mountain State Park is located just four miles northeast of the city and offers swimming, boating, hiking, and camping among its many activities.
Shelby County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Shelby County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
James P. Kaetz
Published July 18, 2011
Last updated July 27, 2012