Elba is the county seat of Coffee County; it is located at the juncture of Whitewater Creek and Pea River. Elba has a mayor-council form of government with officials serving four-year terms. Elba has suffered numerous floods in its history but was recently protected by the implementation of a flood-control program.
The town was first known as Bridgeville in the early 1830s after a ferry was built to connect east-west traffic across the Pea River; in 1850 the name was changed to Bentonville in honor of Col. Thomas H. Benton, who fought in the Creek War of 1813-1814. On December 8, 1851, citizens agreed to choose a different name; suggested names were placed in a hat and Elba, after the island to which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, was the one selected. Elba became the official name in 1852, and it was designated the county seat that same year. The town was incorporated officially on April 13, 1853.
Because of its location at the confluence of two rivers, Elba has suffered a number of destructive floods during its history. Probably the most devastating flood ever recorded in Elba, in terms of dollar cost, was March 17, 1990. The Pea River crested at 48 feet, and a broken levee on Whitewater Creek caused the town to be inundated. The entire town was under water for four days before the levee on the opposite side of town broke, allowing the water to recede. Subsequent serious floods occurred in March 1994 and March 1998. In the early 2000s, the Army Corp of Engineers constructed a new levee complete with adequate flood gates to provide better flood control.
Elba's population at the time of the 2010 Census was 3,940. Of that number, 62.1 percent identified themselves as white, 34.3 percent as African American, 1.2 percent as two or more races, 1.2 percent as Native American, 1.1 percent as Hispanic, 0.3 percent as Asian, and 0.2 percent as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The city's median household income was $28,975, and per capita income was $14,878.
Employment and Economic Development
The workforce in present-day Elba is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (24.4 percent)
· Manufacturing (22.2 percent)
· Retail trade (9.8 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (9.0 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (6.4 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.0 percent)
· Construction (4.9 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.8 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (3.4 percent)
· Public administration (3.3 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.8 percent)
Elba City Schools include one elementary school (K-6), one high school (7-12), and a vocational school serving approximately 920 students and employing approximately 80 teachers.
U.S. Highway 84 is the main road serving the area. Carl Folsom Municipal Airport has two runways, the longest at 3,400 feet.
Events and Places of In terest
Elba citizens enjoy the 85-acre Elba Country Club, which features a nine-hole private golf course. Hawkins-Williams Park offers
visitors an Olympic-size swimming pool, ball fields, and tennis courts. Additional parks offer many other amenities and activities.
The city also maintains a boat ramp to the Pea River and fishing opportunities at the Coffee County Lake. In 2008, the city
initiated the Foggy Bottom Bar-B-Que Bash and Arts and Crafts Festival, held in November. Among the most notable individuals
who call Elba their hometown are former Alabama governor James E. "Big Jim" Folsom Sr., the only Coffee County native to serve as governor of Alabama, and Cornelia Austin Wallace, second wife of Governor George C. Wallace.
Coffee County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Coffee County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
Published August 24, 2009
Last updated October 26, 2012