Russellville is the county seat of Franklin County and is located in the northwest corner of the state. In the Reconstruction era, Russellville was a center of the iron and steel industry. Russellville has a mayor-council form of government.
Russellville was first known as Russell's Valley when it was settled in 1815 by Maj. William Russell, one of the soldiers who helped Gen. Andrew Jackson construct the Military Road, which was cut through the area by troops returning to Tennessee from the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Russellville was officially incorporated by the Alabama State Legislature on November 27, 1819. The following year, Russellville was chosen as the county seat; it lost this status in 1849, when the more centrally located Frankfort was chosen. Early industries in the town included grain mills and cotton ginneries, but Russellville's economy began its greatest expansion with the arrival of mining and industrial enterprises, including Sloss-Sheffield Coal and Iron Company facilities, Sheffield Coal & Iron Company's iron-ore mines and coal mines, and the Alabama Fuel & Iron Company's iron ore and coal mines. In 1889, Southern Railway constructed a subsidiary line, the Northern Alabama Railway, through the town that connected Southern Railway with the existing U.S. rail system.
Russellville was once again designated the Franklin County seat in 1891, after a portion of the existing county was carved out to form Colbert County, thus making Russellville the most centrally located city again. During the twentieth century, Russellville's economy diversified and then faced the general decline shared by most cities in north Alabama, as industry and mining operations left the area.
Russellville’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 9,830. Of that number, 68.5 percent identified themselves as white, 9.2 percent as African American, 26.0 percent as Hispanic, 1.8 percent as two or more races, 0.8 percent as Native American, and 0.3 percent as Asian. The city's median household income was $31,213, and per capita income was $16,641.
The workforce in present-day Russellville is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing (24.8 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (19.9 percent)
· Retail trade (11.3 percent)
· Construction (7.9 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (7.1 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.7 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.3 percent)
· Public administration (3.9 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.8 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.6 percent)
· Information (2.5 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.3 percent)
The Russellville City School System has two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school serving approximately 2,300 students and employing approximately 145 teachers.
Russellville is served by County Highway 48, which runs east-west through the city and connects with U.S. Highway 43, and County Highway 55, which runs north-south through the city. The city of Russellville operates the Russellville Municipal Airport, which serves general aviation.
Events and Places of Interest
The city of Russellville has four municipal parks—Hal Kirby Junior Park, Eastside Park, Southside Ball Field, and City Lake Park—which offer residents numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation and athletics.
Every August, the town of Russellville hosts its annual Watermelon Festival, which features a pageant, a 5K race, arts and crafts, and tennis tournaments. The historic Roxy Theater hosts local events.
The privately owned Alabama Iron Works is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Heritage of Franklin County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Stewart, Margaret Estelle. Alabama's Franklin County: A History of Franklin County and Her People. Centre, Ala.: Stewart University Press, 1988.
Claire M. Wilson
Published September 3, 2010
Last updated July 27, 2012