The area now known as Carbon Hill was first settled in the early 1820s and remained primarily a farming community for many years. In 1886, the Kansas City, Memphis, and Birmingham (later the Frisco) Railroad built a line through the area, bringing with it a new and convenient mode of transportation for both people and local products, goods, and soon more people settled there. Mines soon began to open in the area, bringing new employment opportunities. The first post office opened in 1887, and the town incorporated in February 1891. By 1900, the population was more than 1,600.
The Great Depression hit Carbon Hill particularly hard as the coal mines on which it depended for three-quarters of its employment and income shut down completely. With the monetary aid of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA), which was supplemented by local sponsors, many Carbon Hill residents found work on projects that improved the town's infrastructure. In addition to street improvements, townspeople helped put in a new sanitary sewer system, built a new high school that included a vocational education building, constructed a swimming pool and recreation area, and built a new jail, among other projects. William C. Pryor, chief of the WPA's photographic section, documented many of the projects.
According to the 2010 Census, Carbon Hill had a population of 2,021. Of that number, 89.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 8.2 percent as African American, 1.4 percent as two or more races, 1.2 percent as Hispanic, 0.2 percent as Native American, and 0.1 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 Census estimates, was $25,481, and the per capita income was $15,167.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Carbon Hill was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (23.7 percent)
· Manufacturing (17.6 percent)
· Retail trade (15.9 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, and recreation and accommodation and food services (12.2 percent)
· Construction (9.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (6.7 percent)
· Public administration (5.6 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (2.8 percent)
· Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (2.5 percent)
· Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (2.4 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (1.3 percent)
Carbon Hill is part of the Walker County School System. The town has one public high school that serves approximately 400 students and employs approximately 25 teachers.
Carbon Hill is served by State Highway 118, which runs east-northwest, County Road 11, which runs northeast from the center of town, and County Highway 63, which runs north-southwest. Interstate 22/U.S. Highway 78 runs southeast-northwest through the northeastern corner of the town.
Events and Places of Interest
The town maintains a municipal park, a football-themed splashpad, and a public swimming pool.
Dombhart, John Martin. History of Walker County: Its Towns and Its People. Thornton, Ark.: Cayce Publishing Company, 1937.
Walker County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Walker County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Claire M. Wilson
Published March 5, 2013
Last updated March 7, 2013