History of

Shelby County

Discover all about Shelby County, Alabama from its humble beginnings to the bustling county it is today!

History of Shelby County

You’ll find this interesting! The county got its name from Isaac Shelby, who was a true hero in the Revolutionary War’s King’s Mountain Battle. Quite an impressive title! But that’s not all. Shelby was actually the very first governor of Kentucky. He even turned down a second term as governor just so he could fight in the Indian wars.

Early History of Shelby County

When it comes to the county’s first courthouse, it was quite a rustic affair. Made entirely of logs, it was situated in Shelbyville, Alabama. Although Shelbyville is no longer around, people believe it was actually located within the modern-day city of Pelham. In 1820, Shelbyville was chosen as the county seat, and a gentleman named Thomas Amis Rogers, who happened to be Alabama’s first Secretary of State, built the county’s first courthouse.

Rogers and his neighbor George Phillips represented the county in the state’s first Constitutional Convention back in 1819. They must have been quite influential figures! The very first judge to preside in that courthouse was Judge Joab Lawler.

The courthouse in Shelbyville was constructed for a total of $53 and remained in use until 1826, at which point the decision was made to relocate both the courthouse and the county seat.

Moving The Courthouse and County Seat

The decision was made to move the courthouse to an old school building in Columbia, which was located right in the heart of Shelby County. However, things took an interesting turn. On January 13, 1832, the Legislature passed an act that changed the name of the place to Columbiana. And you know what? They decided to make Columbiana the permanent county seat from then on.

The “Petition to Incorporate Columbiana” is found in Will Book “K” dated August 10, 1853, and was signed by:

  • Wm. M. Allen
  • Jno. Baker
  • R.H. Brasher
  • S. Brasher
  • D.W. Caldwell
  • A.J. Donus
  • A.M. Elliott
  • L.F. Elliott
  • E.G. Lawley
  • Samuel Leeper
  • N.B. Mardis
  • D.N. McClanahan
  • John T. McComic
  • B.O. Nabors
  • H.V. Nabors
  • A. Parnell
  • Jos. Roper
  • A.A. Sterrett
  • J.A. Teague
  • J.L. Wilson

Building A New Courthouse

In 1854, a new courthouse was constructed and is now known as the “old courthouse.” Fast forward to 1982, the Shelby County Historical Society and Shelby County Museum and Archives moved in and are still there today.

The stone courthouse we have today was built in 1905, costing $300,000 at the time. The cornerstone ceremony took place on April 5, 1906. They added an extension in 1954 and gave it a multi-million dollar renovation in the early 1990s. On March 4, 2006, the contents from the cornerstone were taken out and displayed at the Shelby County Museum & Archives, coinciding with the “100-year celebration and cornerstone ceremony” on June 24, 2006.

On July 15, 1983, the first “satellite license office” opened in Pelham, Alabama. Then, on Monday, July 17, 2006, they opened the second “satellite license office” in the Inverness Corners shopping center on U.S. 280.

Shelby County’s Earliest Records

The earliest official records of Shelby County can be traced back to 1820. During that time, the early white settlers claimed their lands through a system called Squatter Sovereignty. It wasn’t until 1821 that the government officially granted titles to their properties. Due to concerns about potential attacks from Native American groups, the settlers remained vigilant, fearing theft or destruction of their belongings.

However, when the government Land Offices opened, a wave of farmers and other individuals who had already settled on desirable land quickly rushed in to secure official titles for their properties. It was an exciting time as people eagerly applied for and received legal ownership of their valuable plots of land.

Settling In Shelby County

The initial settlers who arrived in this region following the victorious Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 hailed mainly from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. After the battle, they returned to this area, bringing along their families and household belongings. Their preferred mode of travel was primarily by pack horse, and they intended to settle permanently in this part of Alabama.

The earliest settlements in the region were established in places like Montevallo, which was then called Wilson’s Hill, as well as Harpersville, Wilsonville, and Shelbyville. According to the 1820 census records of Shelby County, which was just two years after its creation, the county was home to 2,492 people. Among them, there were 2,044 Caucasians and 448 African-Americans.

It’s fascinating to note that Shelby County has witnessed significant population growth over the years. Between 1970 and 1990, the population experienced a staggering 210 percent increase. As of 1992, the population stood at 107,261 residents, residing in a land area spanning 646 square miles, which averages out to approximately 166 people per square mile.

Present-Day Shelby County

Shelby County boasts a diverse and thriving economy, which is a testament to its appeal for industrial and corporate growth. One area that has particularly experienced rapid development is the Highway 280 corridor, located in the county’s north-central portion. This corridor has gained a reputation as Alabama’s fastest-growing hub for corporate establishments. On the other hand, Shelby County’s Interstate 65 corridor has become a magnet for light industrial activities and wholesale distribution. These strategic locations have played a crucial role in shaping the county’s economic landscape and attracting a range of businesses to thrive in the area.

One Of The Fastest-Growing Counties In Alabama

As of 2010, the population of Shelby County reached 195,085 residents. This figure marked a substantial increase of 51,792 individuals or a growth rate of 36.1% compared to the previous census conducted in 2000.

The 2010 census reaffirmed that Shelby County maintained its position as the fastest-growing county in the state of Alabama throughout the previous decade in terms of percentage growth. Remarkably, Shelby County has held this distinction as Alabama’s fastest-growing county in every decade since 1970. The county’s consistent growth over the years is a testament to its ongoing appeal and desirability as a place to live and thrive.

Shelby County Then And Now

Shelby County continues to be a booming county in the state of Alabama. Discover all there is to do present-day, step back in time at a museum, or explore the great outdoors at a local park. Discover Shelby is your place for all things Shelby County!