Cottonwood is named after a lone cottonwood tree that was alive at the time the town was founded, in the early 1840s. In 1844, W. S. Wood purchased land and built a general store that spurred more settlement in the area. The post office opened around 1873.
The town incorporated in 1901, and the first school was built in the early 1900s. That structure burned, and a new building was built in 1927. That same year, after a small earthquake, a local resident discovered petroleum floating on the surface a local well. A brief oil exploration boom followed until it was determined that the substance was simply gasoline that leaked from underground storage tanks as a result of the earthquake.
Oil prospector J. R. Sealy hit a mineral hot spring during his explorations and opened Sealy's Springs, which became a popular tourist destination because of the alleged restorative power of the mineral water. The resort remained open until it was destroyed by fire in 2001.
Cottonwood's population, according to the 2010 Census, was 1,289. Of that number, 71.8 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 25.4 percent as African American, 1.9 percent as two or more races, 1.1 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.6 percent as Native American. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $26,570, and the per capita income was $15.090.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Cottonwood was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (24.1 percent)
· Retail trade (15.0 percent)
· Construction (13.2 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (11.8 percent)
· Manufacturing (8.8 percent)
· Public administration (6.7 percent)
· Wholesale trade (5.6 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (3.9 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (2.5 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.3 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (2.3 percent)
· Information (1.9 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (1.9 percent)
Schools in Cottonwood are part of the Houston County Schools; the town has approximately 720 students and 46 teachers in one high school.
County Roads 55 runs through the center of Cottonwood roughly north-south, and State Highway 53 runs northwest-southeast through
Houston County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Houston County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2003.
Watson, Fred S. Hub of the Wiregrass: A History of Houston County, Alabama, 1903-1972. Anniston, Ala.: Higginbotham, Inc., 1972.
James P. Kaetz
Published October 24, 2012
Last updated October 24, 2012