Arriving around 1814, a number of the early notable settlers in present-day Steele were veterans of the Revolutionary War, including Capt. Edward Beason, David Brown, and Noel Battles. In the 1820s, a Methodist church was organized and a stage coach stop was constructed; a Baptist church was constructed around 1830. The town was named for Joshua Toliver Steele, who bought property from one of the early homesteaders. He later donated four acres of land for a depot for the Alabama Great Southern Railroad, which then named him as the first station agent. Steele's son Abraham operated a tannery there that was of such importance he was granted an exemption from service in the Confederate Army. Citizens in the town were divided during the Civil War, with some joining the Union Army. These Union recruits drowned in the sinking of the paddle wheeler S.S. Sultana, which exploded in April 1865 near Memphis, Tennessee.
After the war, the town's first store was constructed and a hotel was built that also housed the post office, and the town soon boasted gristmills and a sawmill. In 1880, a two-story school house was constructed to replace a log cabin structure and was later known as the Valley Grove Academy. Around 1900, townspeople tried to incorporate Steele, but the effort was unsuccessful. A peach packing plant was established about this time that also made baskets for the peaches harvested from nearby Chandler Mountain. Another factory produced charcoal for the local iron furnaces. Steele was finally incorporated in 1952.
The population of Steele at the time of the 2010 Census was 1,043. Of that number, 94.6 percent reported itself as white, 5.1 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 1.2 percent as two or more races, 0.4 percent as African American, 0.4 percent as American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1 percent as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. The median household income according to Census estimates is $36,736 and per capita income, $19,222.
According to Census estimates, the Steele workforce is divided among the following major industrial categories:
· Manufacturing (18.9 percent)
· Construction (17.6 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (14.8 percent)
· Retail trade (14.3 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (8.4 percent)
· Public administration (6.1 percent)
· Finance and insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing (4.6 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (4.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.8 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (3.1 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (3.1 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (1.3 percent)
Public education in Steele is administered by St. Clair County Board of Education, which oversees a junior high school that enrolls approximately 170 students and employs approximately 20 faculty and staff.
Interstate 59 runs northeast-southwest through the southeastern portion of the town. U.S. Highway 11/State Route 7 run parallel to the interstate through the center of town. The Norfolk Southern Corporation operates a rail line through Steele. The Northeast Alabama Regional Airport, a public-use aviation facility in Gadsden, lies approximately 10 miles to the east.
Events and Places of Interest
Steele sponsors an all-day Fourth of July celebration with a fireworks show provided by the Steele fire department. It also
supports a city park with a ball field. Just across Interstate 59 is the Alabama International Speedway dragstrip. Nearby,
Horse Pens 40, a privately owned nature park open to the public, is located on adjacent Chandler Mountain. Aquatic recreational activities
are available at nearby Lake Neely Henry, a reservoir on the Coosa River.
Crow, Mattie Lou Teague. History of St. Clair County, Alabama. Huntsville, Ala.: Strode Publishers, 1973.
Published June 21, 2013
Last updated August 16, 2013