Monroeville Monroeville is located in south Alabama between Montgomery and Mobile and serves as the county seat of Monroe County. Like the county, the city was named in honor of Pres. James Monroe. Today, Monroeville is considered the “Literary Capital of Alabama” because it was home to literary giants Harper Lee and Truman Capote and is a popular tourist destination, hosting people from all over the world annually. Monroeville has a mayor-council form of government consisting of an elected mayor and nine council members.
Old Monroe County Courthouse Monroeville was originally known as Burnt Corn Springs during the period when it was part of the Mississippi Territory. Later in the territorial era, it was known Walker’s Mill and Store, named for the area’s first settler, Major Walker, who built a store, a tavern, and a grist mill there. In 1831, Probate Judge Henry W. Taylor received a land grant of 80 acres from the U.S. government, from which the town subsequently developed. By 1832, the county seat was moved to Walker’s Mill and Store from Claiborne, which had served as the county seat for 22 years. After becoming the county seat, the town’s name was briefly changed to Centerville and then to Monroeville after all the legal papers were transferred from Claiborne.
In 1833, the first courthouse burned and all records were lost. A new courthouse was constructed by enslaved laborers with bricks made locally in the 1850s. Despite its status as the county seat, Monroeville was not officially incorporated until April 15, 1899. The courthouse burned again in 1928 but was restored and remained in use until 1963, when the current courthouse was built. The old courthouse currently houses the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Monroe County Heritage Museum.
At the Civil War’s end in 1865, Monroeville began a rebuilding effort that continued until 1900. The early years of the twentieth century were difficult economically. Many locals grew cotton on small farms, and northern companies exploited the area’s timber. Steamboat traffic along the Alabama River between Mobile and Selma initially was an important contributor to the economic development in the area. But with the construction of the L&N Railroad from Pensacola to Selma, river towns such as Claiborne saw an economic downturn. This proved to be a boon to Monroeville’s economy, as many people began to move inland to the city because of the railroad. From 1912 to 1952, the M&R Railroad, connected to the L&N Railroad, carried freight to and from Monroeville.
In 1928, the first airport was built, but it did not have paved runways until 1932 or a hangar until 1937. This airport was used during World War II for military training and today serves as the Monroe County Airport, officially established in 1967.
Frank Boykin at Monroeville Hog Festival In the 1920s, the first hospital in Monroe County was in the private home of Maggey Bussey, a registered nurse in Monroeville. Also, in 1923, city water and electric power were brought to Monroeville. Sewage service for the town came around 1930, although only the jail and courthouse had plumbing for some time. In 1934, the streets were paved, and in 1938 the first traffic lights were installed. The current city hall was built in 1940.
Early industries included merchandising, agriculture, shipping, timber, sawmills, turpentine, and later automobile manufacturing. In 1937, Vanity Fair apparel manufacturers came to Monroeville, opening the first sewing plant in the area and serving as the town’s first major industry. In 1977, the town saw the opening of the Georgia-Pacific plant, and Alabama River Pulp opened in nearby Claiborne.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Monroeville recorded a population of 5,812. Of that number, 63.1 percent identified themselves as African American, 35.3 percent as white, 1.3 percent as Asian, and 0.3 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.1 percent as two more races. The city’s median household income was $29,543 and the per capita income was $24,097.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Monroeville was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (28.7 percent)
- Manufacturing (23.3 percent)
- Retail trade (11.7 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (8.6 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (8.4 percent)
- Public administration (4.7 percent)
- Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.6 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (3.4 percent)
- Wholesale trade (3.1 percent)
- Construction (2.5 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.3 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing and utilities (0.6 percent)
Schools in Monroeville are part of the Monroe County school district; the town has one elementary school, one middle school, one junior high school, and one high school. The city also has an alternative K-12 school and a career/technical high school as well as two private schools. A branch of Coastal Alabama Community College in Monroeville offers two-year associate’s degrees or certification in a variety of programs.
The Monroe County Airport is located near Monroeville and is a public airport owned by Monroe County, averaging 55 general aviation flights a day. Monroeville is also served by two major highways. Alabama Highway 21 runs northeast to southwest and merges in Monroeville with Alabama Highway 41, which runs northwest to southeast toward I-65. Also, the Alabama Railroad Company and the Alabama and Gulf Coast Railway run through the city of Monroeville.
Events and Places of Interest
To Kill a Mockingbird Outdoor Stage Set Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926, where she grew up as the youngest child of four. She became a renowned author after publishing To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. Truman Capote was a close friend of Harper Lee’s and frequently visited Monroeville during the summers of his childhood. Because of his time in Monroeville, Alabama became the setting of many of his works. In addition, novelist Mark Childress and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Cynthia Tucker were born in Monroeville.
In Monroeville today, there are events and attractions that celebrate the literary history and culture of the town. The Old Courthouse Museum is located in the Old Monroe County Courthouse in the Monroeville town square. A play based on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is performed there each May by a local group called the Mockingbird Players. There are three permanent exhibits at the museum: on the courthouse itself, on Truman Capote’s childhood in the town, and on Harper Lee. Also, in downtown Monroeville, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual Mockingbird Market, which includes food, jewelry, glassware, silver, linens, and other goods.
Veterans Memorial Park In February, the Heritage Arts Festival turns the historic downtown square into a place for crafts, quilts, woodworking, soul food, and art. The event also includes a fashion show, gospel music, and a variety of dance performances. In March, citizens of Monroeville participate in the Alabama River Heritage Days, an event featuring Creek traditions, 1812 frontier camps, river music, and events at the Alabama River Museum, located 20 miles north of Monroeville. In April, Monroeville hosts the annual “Peddlin’ for a Cure,” a 100-mile bike ride to Mobile, Montgomery, and other areas that raises money for the American Cancer Society. In October, the Monroe County Fair is held at the fairgrounds in Monroeville. Every first Saturday in December, the City of Monroeville sponsors a Christmas parade, holiday market, and tree lighting in the Downtown Square, and at the end of the day’s festivities, the mayor gives the annual Christmas address. Veterans Memorial Park offers athletics fields, a pool, and other outdoor recreation opportunities and also hosts the town’s memorial to citizens who served in the U.S. military.
The Heritage of Monroe County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.