Cowarts was first settled in the mid-nineteenth century, at the time under the name Cowart. In the late 1890s, a sawmill opened that eventually would employ around 500 people. In 1889, the Midland Railroad built a spur to the area that allowed logs and other products to be transported to outside markets. When the train depot first opened, a sign painter added an 's' to the town's name on the depot sign, and the mistake became permanent.
The town's growth was derailed by two major events. First, the sawmill shut down in 1910, dealing a severe blow to the town's economy. Then on September 17, 1918, a tornado hit the town, killing nine and injuring many more, and destroying many of the town's structures. The same tornado killed two people in nearby Webb. The town incorporated in August 1961, with a population of around 225. A water system was constructed in 1966 with the help of a federal grant.
Cowarts's population according to the 2010 Census was 1,871. Of that number, 80.8 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 14.6 percent as African American, 3.2 percent as two or more races, 1.7 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 0.7 percent as Native American, and 0.1 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $36,014, and the per capita income was $19,808.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Cowarts was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (26.6 percent)
· Retail trade (18.8 percent)
· Construction (11.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (10.6 percent)
· Manufacturing (7.0 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (6.5 percent)
· Public administration (5.2 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.0 percent)
· Wholesale trade (4.0 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (1.7 percent)
· Information (1.6 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (1.6 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.3 percent)
Students in Cowarts attend schools in the Houston County Schools; no public schools are located within the city limits of Cowarts.
U.S. Highway 84 runs roughly east-west through Cowarts, and County Road 41/65 bisects the town running north-south.
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 25, 2012