Present-day Gordo sits on land that was part of some of the earliest U.S. land grants in the area, issued around 1821. Tradition has it that a soldier returning from the Battle of Sierra Gordo during the Mexican Revolution dubbed the area Gordo. A sawmill opened in the area in 1831 and a post office was established in 1847.
During the Civil War, men in Gordo formed a company that was attached to the 19th Alabama Regiment. The railroad came through in the late 1890s, and the town was relocated to be closer to the rail line. The first school was built in 1898. Gordo incorporated in 1900, with initial municipal elections being held the following year.
By 1905, Gordo had grown enough to support six businesses; by 1913, that number had increased to around 30. A new brick schoolhouse was built in 1911, and by 1913, the town had a telephone system, a bank, a bottling works, and two cotton gins. An elementary school was built in 1936.
Gordo's population according to the 2010 Census was 1,750. Of that number, 58.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 37.8 percent as African American, 2.0 percent as two or more races, 1.5 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 0.2 percent as Native American, and 0.2 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $21,652, and the per capita income was $16,712.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Gordo was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (23.4 percent)
· Manufacturing (21.9 percent)
· Retail trade (19.2 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (9.8 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.9 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.7 percent)
· Construction (4.6 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (4.2 percent)
· Public administration (4.0 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (2.2 percent)
Schools in Gordo are part of the Pickens County School System; the town has approximately 1,117 students and 68 teachers in one elementary school and one high school.
U.S. Highway 82 runs northwest/southeast through town, and State Highway 159 runs north from the town.
Events and Places of Interest
Gordo has held an annual Mule Day/Chickenfest celebration the first week of June since 1988. It features a parade, musical entertainment, food vendors, and a carnival.
The Going-Craft House, Benevola Community, is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Clanahan, J. F. The History of Pickens County, Alabama, 1540-1920. Carrollton, Ala.: Clanahan Publication, 1964.
Pickens County Genealogical Society. Gordo Area History and Chronicles: Centennial, 1901-2001. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Camco Printing, 2001.
Pickens County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Pickens County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
James P. Kaetz
Published August 15, 2012
Last updated August 15, 2012