Settlers resided in the area that now encompasses Wadley from the 1830s, but the town itself was not founded until 1906. It was established by the Callaway Development Company of LaGrange, Georgia, largely because it was midway between LaGrange and Birmingham, Jefferson County, and thus provided a convenient stop for the Atlanta, Birmingham, and Atlantic Railroad. The town was named after Charles Dole Wadley, a railroad official overseeing the construction of the line.
Shortly after construction of the town center began, the Atlanta, Birmingham, and Atlantic Railroad came through. The railroad was economically important to the town and the county because it provided quicker access to distant markets, and Wadley became a shipping center. By 1910, the population had reached 426.
Land sales and timber were economic mainstays for Wadley in the first half of the twentieth century. Later industries included a shirt manufacturing facility (began operating in 1957) and a wrought-iron furniture factory (opened in 1963); both had closed by 2009. The rail line ceased operation in 1964. Southern Union State Community College is now one of the town's largest employers.
Wadley's population according to the 2010 Census was 751. Of that number, 57.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 36.2 percent as African American, 4.4 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 2.7 percent as two or more races, and 0.1 percent as Native American. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $24,432, and the per capita income was $12,183.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Wadley was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (41.6 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (15.3 percent)
· Manufacturing (12.0 percent)
· Retail trade (8.1 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (7.7 percent)
· Construction (6.7 percent)
· Wholesale trade (4.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (1.9 percent)
· Public administration (1.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.0 percent)
Schools in Wadley are part of the Randolph County school system; the town has approximately 405 students and 24 teachers in one K-12 school. Wadley also hosts a campus of Southern Union State Community College.
State Highway 77 terminates in Wadley, coming in from the northwest. State Highway 22/77 runs through the southern tip of town, going east and southwest.
The Gay Craft House is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Wadley Railroad Depot is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places; it is one of only four Mission-style depots surviving in the state (the others being
in Bridgeport, Cullman, and Mobile).
Randolph County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage, of Randolph County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Smith, Eugenia Elizabeth. "A History of Randolph County." Master's Thesis, Auburn Polytechnic Institute, 1938.
"Wadley Railroad Depot Listed in the National Register." The Randolph Leader, July 27, 2011. http://www.therandolphleader.com/news/article_254a6522-b85f-11e0-ae67-001cc4c03286.html
James P. Kaetz
Published August 16, 2013
Last updated August 23, 2013