The first settlers in the area that now encompasses Brookside arrived as early as 1838. The town itself grew up around the Brookside Mine, opened in 1886 by the Coalburg Coal and Coke Company and bought by Sloss Iron and Steel Company the following year. The mining operation was technologically advanced for its time, having its own coal washer and a series of beehive ovens that turned the coal into coke. The coal washer had such a large capacity that Brookside was able to provide that service for other nearby mines that lacked a washer.
Brookside incorporated in 1898. By 1900, the town had a railroad depot, dry goods stores, several saloons, and a drugstore. The first school was built in 1900 as well; it was replaced in 1923 by a larger structure.
Brookside was unusual in Alabama for its notable Eastern European immigrant population. Facing a persistant shortage of labor, Sloss recruiters went overseas to what was then Czechoslovakia and recruited miners to work at Brookside and other area mines. The number of miners at Brookside peaked at around 600 in 1914. In 1920, the combination of a United Mine Workers strike and a worldwide drop in coal prices caused Sloss to close the mine.
In 1925, the film Coming Through, starring Wallace Beery, was shot in Brookside, with many locals acting as extras; the film was based on a novel by Alabama writer Jack Bethea titled Bed Rock. Alabama Power Company brought electricity to town in 1927. A city hall was built in 1953.
Disaster struck the town in 2003 when a series of storms dropped 10 inches of rain in 10 hours, causing nearby Five Mile Creek to flood the entire historic downtown area, damaging many buildings and some residences beyond repair. Today Brookside is trying to recover by becoming a tourist destination, primarily by constructing part of the Five Mile Creek Greenway, a biking/hiking/canoeing trail that will connect it with the nearby towns of Tarrant, Fultondale, and Graysville.
Brookside's population according to the 2010 Census was 1,363. Of that number, 79.5 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 18.5 percent as African American, 1.4 percent as two or more races, 0.7 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 0.3 percent as Native American, and 0.1 percent as Asian. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $36,037, and the per capita income was $18,246.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Brookside was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (16.5 percent)
· Retail trade (15.8 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (12.2 percent)
· Construction (11.9 percent)
· Manufacturing (9.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (6.4 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (6.2 percent)
· Public administration (6.0 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (5.3 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.3 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.3 percent)
· Information (1.2 percent)
Students in Brookside attend Jefferson County schools; no public schools are located within the town limits.
Interstate Highway way 65 lies about 2 miles east of Brookside running north-south, while Interstate Highway 22 is located about a mile south of town, running southeast-northwest.
Events and Places of Interest
Brookside holds the St. Nicholas Russian/Slavic Food Festival on the first full weekend in November each year. Members of the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church prepare typical foods of their Eastern European heritage. In June, the town holds a running-biking "duathlon" to support the Brookside Greenway Park alongside Five-Mile Creek.
The Brookside History Museum is housed in the renovated Burrell-Country House. The Bivens Chapel Cemetery and the Five-Mile
Creek Bridge at Bivens Chapel are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Jefferson County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Jefferson County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
James P. Kaetz
Published June 17, 2013
Last updated June 18, 2013