Gurley Historic Homes The Gurley area was first settled in 1830, when several families bought land and established homesteads. The town is named for early settler John Gurley. His son Frank Gurley gained notoriety during the Civil War era for his involvement in the death of U.S. Army general Robert L. McCook in an early August 1862 attack somewhere around New Market, Madison County. Captain Gurley and his Fourth Alabama Cavalry, under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, have been described as “guerillas” and “partisans” in some accounts for their lack of Confederate uniforms when the incident took place. McCook’s death was thus considered murder by federal authorities, and Gurley was tried and sentenced to hang. The case was dropped in 1866, however, and he later was elected sheriff of Madison County, became a business leader, and donated land for a school. The town was known variously as Gurley’s Place in the Woods, Gurley’s, Gurleysville, or Gurley’s Water Tank (named for a water tank at the depot used for refilling the boilers on trains after the Memphis and Charleston Railroad came through the area in 1851).
When the first post office opened in 1866, the town was called Gurleysville, but it incorporated in 1891 as Gurley. An abundance of cedar trees around the town resulted in the establishment of a number of businesses, including sawmills, a bucket manufacturer, a stave and hoop factory, and a pencil mill. A year after incorporation, the town’s population had quadrupled to around 1,000.
Gurley had a working phone system by 1905. The first high school in the county was established in Gurley in 1907, and the first automobile came to town around 1911. In 1923, a fire ravaged the downtown business district.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Gurley recorded a population of 574. Of that number, 85.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 7.5 percent as two or more races, 6.1 percent as African American, 1.6 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 1.0 percent as American Indian. The town’s median household income was $46,667, and the per capita income was $21,480.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Gurley was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (25.7 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (13.9 percent)
- Manufacturing (9.9 percent)
- Retail trade (9.9 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing and utilities (9.4 percent)
- Construction (8.4 percent)
- Public administration (7.9 percent)
- Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.5 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (4.0 percent)
- Wholesale trade (3.0 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (2.0 percent)
- Information (1.5 percent)
Schools in Gurley are part of the Madison County school system; the town has one elementary school (K-8) and one high school (9-12).
U.S. Highway 72 bisects Gurley running northwest-southeast.
Events and Places of Interest
The Gurley Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Gurley Historic District are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Gurley Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Madison County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Madison County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.