Montevallo lies on land that the United States acquired from the Creek Indians in 1814. That same year, the first white settler arrived in the area, and by the early 1820s, a small settlement known as Wilson's Hill had developed on the northeast bank of Shoal Creek. In 1826, while under consideration as a site for the University of Alabama, the community changed its name to Montevallo. Situated at a crossroads, it became a market town for local farmers and incorporated in 1848. Increased agricultural production, the completion of the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad between Montevallo and Selma in 1853, and the establishment of a coal mine near town in 1856 all contributed to a period of economic growth in Montevallo in the 1850s.
During the American Civil War, Union General James H. Wilson's troops camped in Montevallo in the spring of 1865 and skirmished with Confederate forces near the railroad depot. Commercial growth in Montevallo after the war owed much to the expansion of the nearby coal mine. In 1873, Truman H. Aldrich leased the mine and increased production to meet the demands of the growing iron industry in the region. Even after the construction of company-owned worker housing in 1890, workers and managers continued to live and shop in Montevallo. The mine closed in 1942.
The University of Montevallo has played an important role in the society and economy of Montevallo since its founding in 1896 as a state-supported vocational and technical school for white women known as the Alabama Girls' Industrial School. In the early 1890s, local residents enthusiastically entered a competition to be the site for the school and raised funds to purchase the land and buildings of an antebellum academy for use by the new institution. The school was renamed Alabama College in 1923 and began admitting men in 1956 and African Americans in 1968. In 1969, it became the University of Montevallo.
In the decades after the college opened, Montevallo saw increases in population and commerce. In 1900, the town was re-chartered with a mayor-council form of government. The new municipal government established a public school for whites in 1901 and one for African Americans in 1902. During the Great Depression, the presence of the college brought a measure of economic stability to Montevallo. The town also benefited from several projects funded by New Deal programs, including school construction, a railroad overpass, and a post office.
According to the 2010 Census, Montevallo had a population of 6,323. Of that number, 70.2 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 24.6 percent as black, 5.7 percent as Hispanic, 1.8 percent as two or more races, 0.6 percent as Asian, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The town's median household income, according to 2010 Census estimates, was $40,417, and the per capita income was $19,741.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Montevallo was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (26.9 percent)
· Retail trade (15.7 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, and recreation and accommodation and food services (10.7 percent)
· Construction (7.5 percent)
· Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (6.9 percent)
· Manufacturing (6.8 percent)
· Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (6.4 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (5.6 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (3.6 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.2 percent)
· Information (2.7 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.0 percent)
· Public administration (2.0 percent)
Schools in Montevallo are overseen by the Shelby County School System. Montevallo city schools enroll some 1,000 students in one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school and employ approximately 100 teachers. The University of Montevallo is a four-year public university located in the town.
The city of Montevallo is served by State Highway 25, which runs east-southwest through the town, State Highway 155, which runs southeast, and State Highway 119, which runs northeast. Shelby County Airport, which serves general aviation, is located approximately 10 miles to the northeast.
Montevallo's Orr Park is popular for its recreational offerings, including a walking trail, six baseball fields, and a football field. Its most fascinating feature, however, is the collection of carvings made by local artist Tim Tingle in dead cedar trees along the walking trail. Montevallo Golf Course is a municipal 18-hole facility that is open to the public.
American Village is a living history park focusing on the events and people connected with the American Revolution. Visitors can vote to join the American side in the Virginia House of Burgesses, march in formation with the Minutemen militia, and carry a secret message to a local tavern. Nearby Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park offers visitors the opportunity to view structures and objects relating to Montevallo's mining and industrial past.
Each year, the city of Montevallo hosts an annual Easter Egg Hunt, a Hometown Halloween celebration, and a Christmas Parade.
Orr Park hosts an arts festival in April and a vintage automobile show, Cars by the Creek, in September.
Hultquist, Clark, and Carey Heatherly. Montevallo. Images of America Series. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2011.
Meroney, Eloise. Montevallo: The First One Hundred Years. Montevallo, Ala.: Times Printing Company, 1977.
Nutting, Alissa. "Montevallo: Mound in a Valley." Alabama Heritage 84 (Spring 2007): 18-29.
Evelyn D. Causey
Published June 12, 2012
Last updated June 14, 2012