Childersburg is located in southwest Talladega County in north-central Alabama. It has a mayor/city council form of government. Childersburg uses the promotional slogan "the oldest city in America" based on its possible location along the route Hernando de Soto and his men took through the Southeast.
After the forced removal of the Creek Indians from their territory in 1836, white settlers began to come to the area. The first post office was opened in 1855, and the community was named Childersburgh (the ‘H' was later dropped) after one of the prominent early families in town.
The earliest industry in the area was a sawmill built in 1868, and timber and timber products became one of the area's sustaining industries. The charcoal business also thrived, making use of the scrap wood discarded by the sawmills to create fuel for the coke ovens of the burgeoning steel industry to the north. The Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad came through the Childersburg area in 1868, allowing businesses to bring their products to market; this line eventually became the Southern Railway.
A flood devastated the town in 1886, with as much as five feet of water deluging downtown businesses. President Grover Cleveland stopped in town on October 21, 1887, and delivered a speech. The town was incorporated in 1889, and its first school was built in 1904. The high school was built in 1922 but burned in 1957 and was rebuilt in the same location.
The town's population remained at about 500 individuals until 1941, when a munitions plant was constructed there in the lead-up to World War II. The population quickly surged to around 6,000 and remained at that level until the plant closed after the war; the bulk of those workers left soon thereafter.
Important industries in the area now include a pulp and paper plant and a rayon manufacturer.
According to the 2010 Census, Childersburg had a population of 5,175. Of that number, 60.1 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 36.9 percent as African American, 1.8 percent as two or more races, 1.3 percent as Hispanic, 0.5 percent as Asian, and 0.4 percent as Native American. The town's median household income, according to 2009 Census estimates, was $38,310, and the per capita income was $20,221.
According to 2009 Census estimates, the work force in Childersburg was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (19.9 percent)
· Manufacturing (18.8 percent)
· Retail trade (15.2 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (14.7 percent)
· Public administration (7.0 percent)
· Finance and insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing (6.5 percent)
· Construction (4.6 percent)
· Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (3.9 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.1 percent)
· Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (2.7 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (2.0 percent)
· Information (0.9 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.8 percent)
Childersburg schools are part of the Talladega County School System. They serve approximately 1,690 students and employ 106 teachers in two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.
Childersburg is served by U.S. Highways 280/231, which run north-south through the town, and State Highway 76, which runs east. Merkel Field-Sylacauga Municipal Airport is located eight miles to the south.
Events and Places of Interest
The Charles Butler House and the Kymulga Mill and Covered Bridge are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Charles Butler House, DeSoto Caverns, the Robinson House, and the Strozier Building are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Butler House also doubles as a local museum. The Kymulga Grist Mill had remained a working mill, but flooding in March 2012 damaged the mill's foundation and it was later closed as being structurally unsafe.
The privately owned DeSoto Caverns, a popular tourist destination, is located about six miles northeast of Childersburg. The
town also is located on the Coosa River and is about 10 miles northeast of Lay Lake, both featuring fishing, camping, boating, and other watersports.
History of Childersburg: Coosa — Oldest City in America. Childersburg, Ala.: Tallaseehatchee Historical Society, 1978.
Mathis-Downs, J. Leigh. Images of America: Childersburg. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
Talladega County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Talladega County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.
James P. Kaetz
Published December 12, 2012
Last updated December 17, 2012