Russellville is the county seat of Franklin County and is located in the northwest corner of the state. In the Reconstruction era, Russellville was a center of the iron and steel industry. Russellville has a mayor-council form of government.
Old Franklin County Courthouse Russellville was first known as Russell’s Valley when it was settled in 1815 by Maj. William Russell, who served with Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813-14. After the war, Jackson advocated for the construction of a federal military road through the area to New Orleans for national defense. Russellville arose along this route and was officially incorporated by the Alabama State Legislature on November 27, 1819. The following year, Russellville was chosen as the county seat; it lost this status in 1849, when the more centrally located Frankfort was chosen. Early industries in the town included grain mills and cotton gins, but Russellville’s economy began its greatest expansion with the arrival of mining and industrial enterprises, including Sloss-Sheffield Coal and Iron Company facilities, Sheffield Coal & Iron Company’s iron-ore mines and coal mines, and the Alabama Fuel & Iron Company’s iron ore and coal mines. In 1889, Southern Railway constructed a subsidiary line, the Northern Alabama Railway, through the town that connected Southern Railway with the existing U.S. rail system.
Russellville was once again designated the Franklin County seat in 1891, after a portion of the existing county was carved out to form Colbert County, thus making Russellville the most centrally located city again. During the twentieth century, Russellville’s economy diversified and then faced the general decline shared by most cities in north Alabama, as industry and mining operations left the area.
Russellville’s population according to 2020 Census estimates was 9,803. Of that number, 61.1 percent identified themselves as white, 40.6 percent as Hispanic, 8.7 percent as African American, 2.6 percent as American Indian, 2.5 percent as Asian, 1.7 percent as two or more races, and 0.1 percent as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The city’s median household income was $54,477, and per capita income was $19,590.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Russellville was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Manufacturing (35.1 percent)
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (16.4 percent)
- Construction (11.7 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (7.5 percent)
- Retail trade (6.9 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (5.0 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (3.8 percent)
- Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.5 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.0 percent)
- Public administration (2.6 percent)
- Information (1.9 percent)
- Wholesale trade (1.5 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.9 percent)
The Russellville City School System has two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.
Russellville is served by County Highway 48, which runs east-west through the city and connects with U.S. Highway 43, and County Highway 55, which runs north-south through the city. The city of Russellville operates the Russellville Municipal Airport, which serves general aviation.
Events and Places of Interest
City Lake Park The city of Russellville has four municipal parks—Hal Kirby Junior Park, Eastside Park, Southside Ball Field, and City Lake Park—which offer residents numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation and athletics.
Every August, the town of Russellville hosts the annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival, which features a pageant, a 5K race, arts and crafts, and tennis tournaments. The historic Roxy Theater hosts local events. The privately owned Alabama Iron Works is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Heritage of Franklin County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Stewart, Margaret Estelle. Alabama’s Franklin County: A History of Franklin County and Her People. Centre, Ala.: Stewart University Press, 1988.