The earliest white settlers of what is now Cherokee area called the community Buzzard Roost. Population increases by 1838 spurred construction of more roads to the area. The area remained primarily agricultural. The first post office opened in 1856, and the U.S. Postal Service gave it the name Cherokee. In 1857 the Memphis and Charleston Railroad came through the area. A depot built in 1858-1859 to serve a new rail line through the town prompted a building boom, and lots laid out around the depot sold quickly. By 1862, the town had grown enough that the citizens voted to incorporate, officially adopting the name of the post office.
Primarily because of its location on a railroad line, the town became a strategic target during the Civil War. Union Forces occupied the town three times. The town suffered badly economically during Reconstruction but recovered and continued to expand. By the early 1900s, the town had numerous stores, a grist mill, and a hotel. The first telephone system was installed in 1914 and electricity followed in 1920. Growth in Cherokee slowed as the nearby towns of Florence, Tuscumbia, and Muscle Shoals expanded and drew business away, causing many downtown establishments to close.
According to the 2010 Census, Cherokee had a population of 1,048. Of that number, 77.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 18.3 percent as African American, 2.3 percent as two or more races, 1.7 percent as Hispanic, 0.5 percent as Native American, and 0.3 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 Census estimates, was $36,875, and the per capita income was $18,038.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Cherokee was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Manufacturing (23.9 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (17.0 percent)
· Retail trade (11.9 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (11.0 percent)
· Construction (7.4 percent)
· Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (6.3 percent)
· Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (6.1 percent)
· Public administration (5.7 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.5 percent)
· Information (1.9 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.3 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.1 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (0.9 percent)
Cherokee public schools are overseen by Colbert County Schools and enroll approximately 675 students and employ approximately 45 students in one elementary school and one high school.
Cherokee is served by U.S. Highway 72 and County Road 20, both of which run east-west through the town, and County Road 21, which runs north-south through the town.
Events and Places of Interest
Each July, Cherokee celebrates Independence Day with an annual Cherokee 4th of July Street Dance. The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, just outside Cherokee, is a cemetery devoted to coonhound breeds. Barton Hall (ca. 1825) is a National Historic Landmark and is located just off the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs past Cherokee, as is the Buzzard Roost Spring, the site of an inn owned by Chickasaw leader Levi Colbert between 1800 and 1824.
The Hodge-Blackburn-Twitty House (c. 1844) is on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Barton Hall and Buzzard Roost
are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Colbert County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Colbert County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Claire M. Wilson
Published November 6, 2012
Last updated November 6, 2012