· Area: 609 square miles
· Population: 140,247 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterways: Chattahoochee River
· Major Highways: Interstate 85, U.S. 280, U.S. 431
· County Seat: Opelika
· Largest City: Auburn
Lee County was created by an act of the Alabama legislature on December 5, 1866. The land that would eventually become Lee County came from a land cession to the United States by the Creek Indians in the 1832 Treaty of Cusseta. Lee County was created from lands carved out from Macon, Russell, Chambers, and Tallapoosa counties. Lee County was named in honor of General Robert E. Lee. The earliest settlers came to the area from Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Some of the first towns included Opelika, Auburn, Salem, and Loachapoka. During World War II, Camp Opelika in Lee County served as one of four major prisoner-of-war camps in Alabama that housed mostly German soldiers captured in Africa and Europe. The camp then served as temporary housing for returning servicemen before the area was converted to an industrial site in the 1950s.
Major Cities and Demographics
The population of Lee County, according to the 2010 Census, was 140,247. Of that total, 71.3 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 22.7 percent as African American, 3.3 percent as Hispanic, 2.6 percent as Asian, 1.6 percent as two or more races, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The largest city in Lee County is Auburn, with an estimated population of 53,380. Other significant population centers include Phenix City (partially located in Lee County) and Opelika. The median household income was $39,381, compared with $40,547 for the state as a whole, and the per capita income was $21,184, compared with $22,732 for the state as a whole.
Like most of Alabama's counties, farming was the prevailing occupation of Lee County until well into the twentieth century. Cotton, corn, and cattle served as the county's main agricultural products. With its proximity to the Chattahoochee River and Georgia markets, however, shipping and other forms of transportation were also important parts of Lee County's economy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first major industry in Lee County was the Opelika Cotton Mill, which opened in 1900. Industrial development increased during the 1940s after the construction of dams on the Chattahoochee and Tallapoosa rivers provided hydroelectric power to the area. In recent decades, the economy has shifted to service and industry. As the home of Auburn University, Lee County is also recognized as a center of education in the state of Alabama.
· Retail trade (12.4 percent)
· Manufacturing (11.6 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (9.5 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (7.9 percent)
· Construction (7.1 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (6.4 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.0 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (3.8 percent)
· Public administration (3.5 percent)
· Information (2.2 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.1 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.6 percent)
Comprising just over 600 square miles, Lee County is located in east-central Alabama along the Alabama-Georgia border. The northern half of the county is part of the Piedmont physiographic section, whereas the county's southern portion is part of the Coastal Plain physiographic section. Some sources place the county in the eastern part of Alabama's Black Belt, but others do not. Loblolly and shortleaf pine forests dot the county's landscape. The county is bordered by Chambers County to the north, the state of Georgia to the east, Russell County to the south, and Macon and Tallapoosa counties to the west.
Events and Places of Interest
There a number of recreational opportunities for visitors to Lee County. Chewacla State Park in Auburn offers 696 acres of hiking and biking trails as well as overnight camping facilities. The park also boasts a 26-acre lake for swimming, fishing, and boating as well as tennis courts, a playground, and picnic areas. Located on the campus of Auburn University, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum is home to 150 different tree species native to Alabama and the Southeast. The arboretum features a walking trail through the trees as well as a guide to help identify the different species. The Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, run by the Auburn University school of Forestry and Wildlife Science, is located just north of campus. The 110-acre preserve includes a number of walking trails as well as a wetland preserve and butterfly garden. Other outdoor recreational opportunities in Lee County include Kiesel Park, the Lee County Public Fishing Lake, and Saugahatchee Lake in Opelika.
The Heritage of Lee County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.