The first settlers in the area now known as Edwardsville arrived around 1828 from South Carolina and Georgia; the community was first known as Fair Play after a post office was established there in 1847. By 1860, there were several mechanics, a blacksmith, a teacher, two ministers, and at least one individual selling liquor. The town became known as Edwardsville in 1866 for William Edwards, one of three landowners who donated land to establish a town that might serve as the county seat of the newly created Cleburne County in 1867. The post office also served as the county courthouse. Edwardsville soon attracted an influx of settlers and businesses prompted by people coming to town on county business. Sources differ as to when the town was incorporated, with some citing 1867 and others citing February 7, 1891.
The Edwardsville Methodist Seminary was established in 1896, and the school drew students from throughout the county and the state. The school later offered courses in reading, writing, arithmetic, Latin, logic, history, geography, nature studies, art, and music. It was central to the Edwardsville community and provided various forms of entertainment, including plays and concerts. The seminary burned in 1921 and was not rebuilt.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Edwardsville boasted numerous and varied businesses, a cotton gin and grist mill, three saloons, a two-story hotel, a doctor and a dentist, and access to the Southern Railway. In December 1905, Cleburne County held an election to decide if the county seat should be moved to Heflin. According to some local sources, Edwardsville won by about 80 votes, but county officials took the ballots from the county courthouse and then declared Heflin the winner. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in Heflin’s favor on July 1, 1906. Edwardsville then began a slow decline from lost revenue. This decline was also attributed to the lack of industrialization in the community. The old Edwardsville county courthouse burned down in 1964.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Edwardsville recorded a population of 238. Of that number, 99.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white and 0.4 percent as Asian. The town’s median household income was $72,188, and the per capita income was $26,940.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Edwardsville was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (25.7 percent)
- Manufacturing (25.7 percent)
- Construction (13.3 percent)
- Retail trade (10.5 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (7.6 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (4.8 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (4.8 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (3.8 percent)
- Public administration (1.9 percent)
- Wholesale trade (1.9 percent)
Students in Edwardsville attend Cleburne County schools; no public schools are located within the town limits.
U.S. Highway 78/State Highway 4 runs the length of Edwardsville traveling northeast-southwest. The Norfolk Southern Corporation operates a rail line through Edwardsville.
Events and Places of Interest
Edwardsville is located on the eastern border of Talladega National Forest, which offers numerous outdoor recreational activities, including camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, and swimming. The Edwardsville Cemetery is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Shoal Creek Church, just north of Edwardsville, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Edwardsville Baptist Church hosts an annual Sacred Harp Singing in the church each April.
- Cleburne County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Cleburne County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
- Stewart, Margaret Estelle. Alabama’s Cleburne County: A History of Cleburne Country and Her People. Centre, Ala.: Stewart University Press, 1982.