Stevenson Settlers began coming to the area as early as the 1820s, even though the land still belonged to the Cherokees at the time. The settlement began to expand after the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad came through the area on which the town now stands; the line was completed in 1854. Vernon K. Stevenson, for whom the town is named, and John F. Anderson bought land near the railroad route, divided it into lots, and sold the lots in the early 1850s to form the town.
Because of its importance as a railroad transportation and supply center, Stevenson became a target for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. The town contributed many members of Company G of the Seventh Regiment of Alabama 12 Month Volunteers to the war effort. In 1862, the town was first occupied by federal troops, who maintained a supply depot there. The Confederacy countered in August 1862, only to find out that federal forces had already pulled out of the town. In July 1863, soldiers under the command of U.S. Army general William Rosecrans retook the town and maintained control of it until after the surrender of Robert. E. Lee in 1865. Sources list the incorporation of the town as either 1866 or 1867, although that seems to conflict with the dates given for the town being granted a charter.
William and Emma Austin College opened in town in 1878, eventually closing in the early 1920s and being reincarnated as the grammar school. During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Stevenson underwent an economic boom because of the location of a number of lumber mills and textile manufacturers in the area. The textile factories remained a major part of the town’s economy until the general demise of the textile industry in Alabama in the 1990s. The first town charter was granted in 1890, but apparently no municipal elections were held, and the charter had to be reissued in 1908.
In 1911, a major fire struck the downtown area, destroying most of the business district. A new high school opened in 1922.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Stevenson recorded a population of 2,326. Of that number, 74.3 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 25.4 percent as African American, 0.2 percent as two or more races, and 0.1 percent as American Indian. The town’s median household income was $38,321, and the per capita income was $22,530.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Stevenson was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Manufacturing (31.5 percent)
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (14.7 percent)
- Wholesale trade (11.1 percent)
- Retail trade (9.6 percent)
- Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (8.4 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing and utilities (8.4 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (3.6 percent)
- Construction (3.5 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (3.3 percent)
- Public administration (2.8 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (2.7 percent)
- Information (0.6 percent)
Schools in Stevenson are part of the Jackson County School System; the town has one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school.
State Highway 117 runs northwest-southeast through Stevenson, and U.S. Highway 72 runs northeast-southwest. The Stevenson-Bridgeport Municipal Airport lies two miles east of town.
Events and Places of Interest
Stevenson Railroad Depot The Stevenson Depot Museum, built in 1872 after the original depot building burnt down after the Civil War, commemorates Stevenson’s history as an important shipping center. The depot closed in 1976 and opened as a museum in 1982. Stevenson Depot Days, celebrating the railroad era in Alabama, takes place in early June and includes live music and a car show. The town also holds an annual Christmas Parade.
The Stevenson Railroad Depot and nearby and now-closed Stevenson Hotel are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Fort Harker, the Gen. William Rosecrans Headquarters, the Stevenson Historic District, and the Stevenson Railroad Depot and Hotel are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stevenson is also the location of the remains of Fort Harker, a U.S. Army fort constructed in 1862 and expanded in 1864.
- Knox, Allen L. Jr. Rivers and Rails, Truth and Tales of Stevenson, Alabama. Montgomery, Ala.: Alabama State Department of Education, 1968.
- Jackson County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Jackson County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
- Woodall, Eliza B. The Stevenson Story. Stevenson, Ala.: Stevenson Depot Museum, 1982.