West Blocton sprang up in the late nineteenth century near mines owned by the Cahaba Coal Company. It was the fastest-growing town in the coal-mining district and had the reputation for lawlessness. It first was dubbed Suttletown after an early store owner in the area, then Smith, and finally West Blocton to differentiate it from the nearby town of Blocton, which no longer exists. Both towns supposedly derived their names from the huge intact blocks of coal, some weighing as much as a ton, that were removed from the mine. West Blocton was incorporated in 1901.
Several businesses quickly opened, including in 1901 a dispensary that gave half of its profits to the town. Other businesses included dry goods stores, a stable a photographer, and so on. A rudimentary water system was available by 1902, and the first public school opened in 1903. The first post office opened in 1904. The town was notable for its large Jewish community, which had largely disappeared by the 1920s.
In 1903, West Blocton was hit by a tornado, then by a flood in 1916, and then by a major fire in 1927. The town rebuilt each time. In 1935, the town's high school was declared structurally unsound and a new one was built.
According to the 2010 Census, West Blocton had a population of 1,240. Of that number, 85.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 13.2 percent as African American, 0.6 percent as two or more races, 0.4 percent as Native American, 0.1 percent as Hispanic, and 0.1 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 Census estimates, was $34,844, and the per capita income was $22,224.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in West Blocton was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (25.4 percent)
· Construction (11.6 percent)
· Retail trade (10.4 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (8.7 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (8.2 percent)
· Manufacturing (7.8 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (6.8 percent)
· Public administration (5.9 percent)
· Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (5.6 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (3.9 percent)
· Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (3.3 percent)
· Information (1.4 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.0 percent)
Public education in West Blocton is overseen by the Bibb County Public Schools in one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. The schools enroll approximately 1,260 students and employ approximately 75 teachers. There is also a 9-12 vocational high school.
West Blocton is traversed by State Highway 5, which runs north-south on the west side of the town, and County Road 24, which bisects the town running east and west.
Events and Places of Interest
Each year, West Blocton holds the Cahaba Lily Festival in May to coincide with the blooming period of this Alabama native aquatic plant in the shoals of the nearby Cahaba River. The festival features lectures, craft vendors, a luncheon, and canoe tours of the blooming area. Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, located in West Blocton, is home to the largest occurrence of Cahaba lilies in the state.
Blocton Italian Catholic Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the West Blocton Commercial Historic
District (c. 1922) is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Adams, Charles Edward. Blocton: The History of an Alabama Coal Mining Town. Brierfield, Ala.: Cahaba Trace Commission, 2001.
Ellison, Rhonda Coleman. Bibb County, Alabama: The First Hundred Years. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1984.
James P. Kaetz
Published November 8, 2012
Last updated March 26, 2013