Camden is the county seat of Wilcox County; it is located in southwest Alabama. It has a mayor/city council form of government with elected terms of four years. Author and poet Viola Goode Liddell (1901-1998) was a long-time resident of Camden, and Governor Benjamin Meek Miller (1864-1944) maintained a law practice in the town for much of his life.
In 1832, Thomas Dunn, an early settler, donated the land on which Camden now is located for the express purpose of establishing a county seat. The city was incorporated in 1841. Initially called Barboursville, in honor of Virginia Senator Phillip Barbour, the town was renamed in 1842 for Camden, South Carolina, site of an important Revolutionary War battle. Early industries in the area included a brickyard, a sawmill, and a window fabricator. The Camden Phenix was probably the town's earliest newspaper. Camden also was home to the Wilcox Female Seminary and Female Institute, established in 1850. Its original building currently houses the Wilcox County Historical Society.
During the Civil War, many of the male residents of Camden joined Confederate forces as members of a number of local volunteer groups. In 1865, the county courthouse was ransacked by Union forces, but advance warning allowed county officials to remove the county records to safety prior to their arrival.
The community suffered through the same difficult economic times after the war as did much if the South. Two massive fires in 1869 and 1870, the first of which reportedly destroyed two-thirds of the town, increased Camden's economic woes. The economy recovered slowly through the 1880s, with Camden's first bank being incorporated in 1894. Camden benefited economically in the 1960s, as did the rest of Wilcox County, with the construction of a paper mill by Canadian timber company MacMillan Bloedel and Miller's Ferry Lock and Dam, which created Lake Dannelly. The paper mill was purchased by Weyerhaeuser in 1999, and in 2009 the company closed its plant, laying off 300 people. Wilcox County is today one of the poorest counties in the state.
Camden’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 2020. Of that number, 57.4 percent identified themselves as African American, 42.0 as white, 0.7 percent as Hispanic, 0.4 percent as two or more races, and 0.1 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $34,390, and per capita income was $20,467.
The workforce in present-day Camden is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (32.8 percent)
· Manufacturing (13.1 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (10.7 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (9.0 percent)
· Construction (6.4 percent)
· Retail trade (6.3 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (5.6 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.9 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.4 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (1.7 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (5.3 percent)
· Information (1.7 percent)
· Public administration (1.4 percent)
Schools in Camden are part of the Wilcox County School District; the city has approximately 1,662 students and 108 teachers in four public schools (elementary, middle, high, and an alternative school). It also has one private school serving K-12 with approximately 345 students and 20 teachers.
Camden is intersected by State Highways 41 (roughly north-south) and 221/10 (roughly east-west). It also is served by the Camden Municipal Airport.
Events and Places of Interest
Camden town center offers visitors a number of historic buildings, and the town takes part in the annual Wilcox County Tour
of Homes. Roland Cooper State Park is located six miles northwest of Camden and offers camping, fishing, golfing, picnicking, and swimming along the banks of
the 22,000-acre William Dannelly Reservoir (Lake Dannelly), an impoundment of the Alabama River. In addition, Camden hosts
an office of the Gee's Bend Ferry which traverses the river just north of the city.
The Heritage of Wilcox County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
James P. Kaetz
Published February 22, 2010
Last updated April 21, 2014