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Wilsonville

James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Howard Hill Ad
Wilsonville is located in east-central Shelby County in the central part of the state, on the banks of the Coosa River above Lay Lake. It has a mayor/city council form of government. Well-known archer Howard Hill was born and raised in Wilsonville.
History
The area that encompasses Wilsonville was first settled by 1812, with one family buying 1,000 acres; the town itself began to grow in the early 1830s, after the Cherokees were forcibly removed from their land. A store and a saloon were two early businesses in town. The town was named for Adam Wilson, an early settler in Shelby County. Originally situated on a stagecoach road to Montgomery, Wilsonville was further connected to the rest of the state when a wide-gauge railroad was built to connect the town with Talladega. A depot was built in town sometime later, the first in Shelby County. The track was modified to standard gauge in the early 1880s.
After a period of economic hardship during the Civil War and Reconstruction, Wilsonville grew rapidly, having a population of 1,600 by 1900. The town had three hotels to accommodate railroad passenger traffic, as well as general stores, a drug store, a grist and flour mill, a bank, and three blacksmith shops. The town was incorporated in 1897. A school in town burned in 1918 and was replaced with a brick structure in 1919. Alabama Power Company began supplying electricity to the town in 1929, and a telephone system was installed and working by 1930. Wilsonville had its own water system by 1939.
E. C. Gaston Steam Plant
During the Great Depression, the town suffered from the failure of its only bank and by the downturn in cotton farming, one of the town's sustaining businesses. Wilsonville recovered somewhat during World War II when a DuPont gunpowder plant was built nearby. The population continued to increase until the end of the war, and the plant was converted into a paper mill. Only some families who had come to work in the powder plant remained.
A further boost to the economy occurred in 1957, when Alabama Power constructed the electricity-generating E. C. Gaston Steam Plant, beginning operation in 1960. A new post office also was built in 1960. In 1968, the water level of the Coosa River was raised 14 feet when Lay Dam was increased in height, producing a small boom in riverside real estate sales.
Demographics
According to 2016 Census estimates, Wilsonville recorded a population of 2,119. Of that number, 85.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 12.6 percent as African American, 2.0 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 1.2 percent as two or more races, and 0.4 percent as Native American. The town's median household income was $46,964, and the per capita income was $25,209.
Employment
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Wilsonville was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Retail trade (23.2 percent)
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (15.2 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (9.3 percent)
  • Manufacturing (8.8 percent)
  • Construction (8.7 percent)
  • Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (8.5 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing and utilities (8.0 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (7.4 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (3.8 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (3.0 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.3 percent)
  • Public administration (0.9 percent)
  • Information (0.8 percent)
Education
Schools in Wilsonville are part of the Shelby County school system; the town has one elementary school.
Transportation
State Highway 25 bisects Wilsonville going roughly northeast-southwest. County Road 61 loops into the town from the southwest and northwest.
Events and Places of Interest
Lay Lake
The John E. Densler House and Jackson's Four-Mile Farm are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Just east of Wilsonville on Route 25, a historic marker notes the location of the remains of three forts built by Confederate troops under the command of Maj. William T. Walthall to protect the railroad trestles across the nearby Coosa River.
Nearby Lay Lake encompasses approximately 12,000 acres with 289 miles of shoreline. It offers a range of water sports, including fishing, boating, water skiing, sailing, and swimming.

Additional Resources

Shelby County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Shelby County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Published:  July 3, 2013   |   Last updated:  November 21, 2019