Forkland is located in south Greene County in the west-central part of the state. It has a mayor/city council form of government. Forkland was so named because it is located in the “fork” of the Tombigbee and Warrior Rivers.
St. John’s-In-The-Prairie Episcopal Church White settlers were arriving in the area as early as 1818 because the rich alluvial soils between the two rivers made the Forkland area a prime location for cotton plantations. By the mid-1850s, the area had approximately 90 white residents as well as two stores and a wagon manufacturer. One important early settler was James Innes Thornton, Alabama’s third secretary of state. In 1833, he completed Thornhill Plantation, which is believed to be the design of noted architect William Nichols Sr. In 1845, Thornton erected a small schoolhouse on the property for the education of his children and those on neighboring plantations and hired private tutors from Tuscaloosa to instruct them. Thornton also built two houses on his estate for his wife’s two sisters’ families: Movern and Ben Lomond. In 1860, at the height of its productivity, Thornhill’s cotton fields extended over 2,600 acres cultivated by more than 150 enslaved persons. Rosemount Plantation, the massive plantation house built by Williamson Allen Glover and completed in 1832, lies two miles northwest of Forkland. Designed by Nichols, the 20-room mansion took seven years to complete. The colonnade is supported by six fluted Ionic columns and the great hall is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide.
Organized in Greensboro, Hale County, in 1834, St. John’s-in-the-Prairie Episcopal Church is one of the area’s oldest houses of worship. The building was designed by the English architect Richard Upjohn (who also designed Trinity Episcopal Church in New York City) and constructed in 1859 to honor John Avery, the first rector, who died in 1837. In 1878, a wealthy Greene County man named Glover (possibly a descendant of William Allen Glover, the builder of Rosemount Plantation) was blackballed out of his congregation for operating a saloon. Glover purchased the St. John’s Church from the congregation and moved it to Forkland in 1878.
After World War II, the Greene County economy was still heavily reliant on the agricultural sector, particularly cotton, so county judges and mayors of municipalities like Eutaw‘s William H. Tuck made a concerted effort to pitch the county as an attractive destination for industry. His leadership, along with that of Greene County probate judge Dennis Herndon, led to the construction of an Alabama Power Steam Plant near Forkland in the mid-1960s. The plant created more jobs and the town’s population nearly doubled in the 20 years between 1970 and 1990. The town incorporated in 1974.
Forkland’s population according to 2020 Census estimates was 1,229. Of that number, 80.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as African American, 16.4 percent as white, 3.1 percent as American Indian, and 0.4 percent as Hispanic or Latino. The town’s median household income was $26,534, and the per capita income was $12,632.
According to the 2020 Census, the workforce in Forkland is divided among the following occupational categories:
- Manufacturing (30.6 percent)
- Retail trade (16.5 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (12.0 percent)
- Public administration (10.3 percent)
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (9.6 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing and utilities (7.9 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.8 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (5.2 percent)
- Information (1.0 percent)
- Wholesale trade (1.0 percent)
Students in Forkland attend Greene County schools; no public schools are located within the town limits.
U.S. Highway 43 bisects Forkland running southeast-northwest. County Road 69/41 runs through north Forkland, going southwest-northeast. The Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc., operates a rail line through Forkland.
Events and Places of Interest
Bird’s Farm Sculptures The farm of James Bird, who creates whimsical sculptures out of hay bales, scrap metal, and other discarded materials, is located just outside Forkland. His most prominent work is a 32-foot-tall sculpture of the Tin Man, complete with a heart, from the Wizard of Oz. Plantation houses Rosemount (ca. 1832) and Thornhill (ca. 1833) and St. John’s-in-the-Prairie Episcopal Church (ca. 1859) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and all were documented by the Historical American Buildings Survey in the 1930s, as were many other buildings in the Forkland vicinity. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates Forkland Park, a 43-site campground on Demopolis Lake on the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway. The facility is open all year and has amenities for recreational vehicles, a boat ramp and opportunities for fishing, a large picnic shelter, and a playground.
Glass, Mary Morgan, ed. A Goodly Heritage: Memories of Greene County. Clarksville, Tenn.: Josten’s, 1977.
Greene County Heritage Committee. Heritage of Greene County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 2001.