Originally called Ebenezer, Courtland was first settled during Alabama's territorial period, as early as 1800. A group calling itself the Courtland Land Company bought the land on which the town would be built in 1818 and subdivided it into 300 lots. These land speculators went so far as to reserve a plot for a town square in case the town became the county seat. Courtland had enough settlers within two years that it incorporated on December 13, 1819, the day before the state itself was admitted to the Union. It was reincorporated in 1829.
In 1835, local physician Jack Shackleford organized a militia group that went to Texas to aid Texans in their war for independence. The unit was captured in 1836, and the majority of the soldiers were executed. Only eight, including Shackleford, were spared.
Courtland became a stopping point on one of the earliest railroads in the state when its citizens joined together to build the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur railroad in 1832, with the goal of avoiding the treacherous shoals on the Tennessee River to get cotton and other products to outside markets. The 50-mile-long railroad initially used horses to draw the train, although a steam engine was used beginning in 1834. The line was bought by the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in 1850, was destroyed during the Civil War, and was rebuilt and eventually became part of the Great Southern Railroad.
Courtland was a prosperous town in the late nineteenth century, with businesses that included several saloons, a grist mill, three cotton gins, three blacksmith shops, and an ice house. The U.S. Army established an Army Air Force Flying School near Courtland in 1942, and in 1971 Champion Paper opened a processing plant near the town; it is now owned by International Paper. The Norfolk-Southern Railway still runs through Courtland.
Courtland 's population according to the 2010 Census was 609. Of that number, 57.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 38.4 percent as African American, 2.3 percent as two or more races, 1.3 percent as Native American, 0.3 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.3 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $35,536, and the per capita income was $18,924.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Courtland was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (22.3 percent)
· Retail trade (18.5 percent)
· Manufacturing (17.1 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (11.4 percent)
· Construction (8.1 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (6.2 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (4.7 percent)
· Public administration (3.8 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (2.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.4 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.9 percent)
· Information (1.4 percent)
Schools in Courtland are part of the Lawrence County school system; the town has approximately 240 students and 20 teachers in one K-12 school.
U.S. Highway 72/State Highway 20 runs through and just north of the town roughly east-west. The Lawrence County Airport is located in Courtland; it has two runways.
Events and Places of Interest
The Courtland Heritage Museum features exhibits on the region's agriculture, business, transportation, history, and military connections.
The Byrd Log House, the Courtland Historic District, and Albemarle are all on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Courtland Historic District, the John McMahon House, and the Joseph Wheeler Plantation are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Valley Landing Golf Course is located in Courtland; it is a full 18-hole course that features six lakes in its layout.
Courtland also is located about five miles south of Wheeler Lake on the Tennessee River.
Lawrence County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Lawrence County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Gentry, Dorothy. Life and Legends of Lawrence County, Alabama. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Nottingham-SWS, Inc., 1962.
James P. Kaetz
Published June 20, 2013
Last updated June 20, 2013