10 Oldest Cities In Alabama

We scoured the internet to determine the towns and cities in Alabama that have been around the longest.

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You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.

That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.

That’s older than America for those playing at home.

So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Alabama? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?

Because even if your Alabama city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.

And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.

These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Heart Of Dixie according to their ‘date of foundation’:

  1. Huntsville (Photos)
  2. Mobile (Photos)
  3. Athens (Photos)
  4. Montgomery (Photos)
  5. Tuscaloosa (Photos)
  6. Russellville (Photos)
  7. Tuscumbia (Photos)
  8. Decatur (Photos)
  9. Florence (Photos)
  10. Tallassee (Photos)

For being 207 years old, Huntsville doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Alabama? That would be Mountain Brook — a brand spanking 76 years old.

Read on for a look at the oldest places in Alabama or feel free to check out the best places to live in Alabama or the safest.

How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Alabama… Or Is It Settled?

Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.

So what did we do instead?

Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!

For the majority of cities in Alabama, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):

  • Founded
  • Settled
  • Incorporated
  • Approved
  • Chartered

And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.

If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.

All in all, we were able to collect data on 77 out of 115 in Alabama with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 67.0% completion rate.

We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Huntsville turning out to be the matriarch of Alabama at the ripe old age of 207.

Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.

1. Huntsville

Huntsville, Alabama

Population: 190,501
Founded: 1811
Age: 207
The first settlers of the area were Muscogee-speaking people. The Chickasaw traditionally claim to have settled around 1300 after coming east across the Mississippi. A combination of factors, including depopulation due to disease, land disputes between the Choctaw and Cherokee, and pressures from the United States government had largely depopulated the area prior to Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt’s arrival and settlement in the land around the Big Spring in 1805. The 1805 Treaty with the Chickasaws and the Cherokee Treaty of Washington of 1806 ceded native claims to the United States Government. The area was subsequently purchased by LeRoy Pope, who named the area Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope.

Twickenham was carefully planned, with streets laid out on the northeast to southwest direction based on the Big Spring. However, due to anti-British sentiment during this period, the name was changed to ‘Huntsville’ to honor John Hunt, who had been forced to move to other land south of the new city.

2. Mobile

Mobile, Alabama

Source: Public domain

Population: 192,085
Founded: 1814
Age: 204
The European settlement of Mobile began with French colonists, who in 1702 constructed Fort Louis de la Louisiane, at Twenty-seven Mile Bluff on the Mobile River, as the first capital of the French colony of La Louisiane. It was founded by French Canadian brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, to establish control over France’s claims to La Louisiane. Bienville was appointed as royal governor of French Louisiana in 1701. Mobile’s Roman Catholic parish was established on July 20, 1703, by Jean-Baptiste de la Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier, Bishop of Quebec. The parish was the first French Catholic parish established on the Gulf Coast of the United States.

In 1704 the ship Pélican delivered 23 French women to the colony; passengers had contracted yellow fever at a stop in Havana. Though most of the ‘Pélican girls’ recovered, numerous colonists and neighboring Native Americans contracted the disease in turn and many died. This early period was also the occasion of the importation of the first African slaves, transported aboard a French supply ship from the French colony of Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean, where they had first been held. The population of the colony fluctuated over the next few years, growing to 279 persons by 1708, yet descending to 178 persons two years later due to disease.

3. Athens

Athens, Alabama

Source: Public domain

Population: 24,735
Founded: 1818
Age: 200
Founded in 1818 by John Coffee, Robert Beaty, John D. Carroll, and John Read, Athens is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the State of Alabama, having been incorporated one year prior to the state’s admittance to the Union in 1819. Limestone County was also created by an act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818. The town was first called Athenson, but was incorporated as Athens after the ancient city in Greece. The town’s first mayor was Samuel Tanner, and the Tanner area, south of Athens, was named on his behalf.

4. Montgomery

Montgomery, Alabama

Population: 200,761
Founded: 1819
Age: 199
Prior to European colonization, the east bank of the Alabama River was inhabited by the Alibamu tribe of Native Americans. The Alibamu and the Coushatta, who lived on the west side of the river, were descended from the Mississippian culture. This civilization had numerous chiefdoms throughout the Midwest and South along the Mississippi and its tributaries, and had built massive earthwork mounds as part of their society about 950–1250 AD. Its largest location was at Cahokia, in present-day Illinois east of St. Louis.

The historic tribes spoke mutually intelligible Muskogean languages, which were closely related. Present-day Montgomery is built on the site of two Alibamu towns: Ikanatchati (Ekanchattee or Ecunchatty or Econachatee), meaning ‘red earth;’ and Towassa, built on a bluff called Chunnaanaauga Chatty. The first Europeans to travel through central Alabama were Hernando de Soto and his expedition, who in 1540 recorded going through Ikanatchati and camping for one week in Towassa.

5. Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Population: 97,373
Founded: 1819
Age: 199
Nearly 12,000 years ago, Native Americans or Paleo-Indians arrived in what today is referred to as the Deep South. They were hunter-gatherers who pursued the megafauna that became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. After thousands of years, successive indigenous cultures developed a rich and complex agricultural society. Archaeologists called these people the Mississippians of the Mississippian culture; they were Mound Builders. Their large earthworks, built for political and religious rituals roughly from 900AD to 1500AD, expressed their cosmology. Their earthwork mounds and great plazas survive throughout the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, as well as their tributaries in the Southeast.

Descendant Native American tribes include the Creek (Muskogee people). Also among the historical tribes living in the area of present-day Alabama at the time of European contact were the Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee in the interior, believed to have migrated south centuries before from the Great Lakes area. The tribes of the coastal plain and Piedmont included the Muskogean-speaking Alabama (Alibamu), Chickasaw, Choctaw, Koasati, and Mobile.

6. Russellville

Russellville, Alabama

Population: 9,715
Founded: 1819
Age: 199
After the War of 1812, the U.S. government appropriated money to improve a route from Nashville to New Orleans. It was named Jackson’s Military Road after Andrew Jackson, and it passed through what became Russellville. (Present-day Jackson Avenue and Jackson Highway, U.S. Route 43, follow portions of the original road.)

7. Tuscumbia

Tuscumbia, Alabama

Population: 8,452
Founded: 1820
Age: 198
Tuscumbia had its beginnings when the Michael Dixon family arrived about 1816. They traded with Chief Tucumseh for the Tuscumbia Valley and built their home at the head of the big spring. From these humble dwellings quickly developed a village known as the Big Spring Community. The men of the community requested that the state legislature incorporate them as a city. The town was incorporated in 1820 as Ococoposa and is one of Alabama’s oldest towns. In 1821, its name was changed to Big Spring and on December 22, 1822, to Tuscumbia, after the Chief Rainmaker of the Chickasaws.

8. Decatur

Decatur, Alabama

Population: 54,844
Founded: 1826
Age: 192
Initially the area was known as ‘Rhodes Ferry Landing’, named for Dr. Henry W. Rhodes, an early landowner who operated a ferry that crossed the Tennessee River in the 1810s at the present-day location of Rhodes Ferry Park. The city was incorporated as Decatur in 1821. It was named in honor of Stephen Decatur; after he was killed in a duel in 1820, President Monroe directed that the Alabama town be named for him.[citation needed]

9. Florence

Florence, Alabama

Population: 39,824
Founded: 1826
Age: 192
Florence was surveyed for the Cypress Land Company in 1818 by Italian surveyor Ferdinand Sannoner, who named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. Florence, Alabama was incorporated in 1826.

10. Tallassee

Tallassee, Alabama

Population: 4,970
Founded: 1835
Age: 183
The historic Creek peoples in this area are believed to have descended from the Mississippian culture, which flourished throughout the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys and the Southeast from about 1000 to 1450. They were mound builders, who created massive earthwork mounds as structures for political and religious purposes. They relied greatly on fishing and riverway trading at their major sites (c.f. Moundville, Tuscaloosa).

Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Alabama

So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Alabama. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Alabama.

And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Heart Of Dixie.

And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Alabama:

  1. Mountain Brook (Founded in 1942)
  2. Gardendale (Founded in 1942)
  3. Jacksonville (Founded in 1942)
  • These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Alabama
  • 10 Worst Places To Live In Alabama
  • 10 Safest Places In Alabama
  • Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Alabama

    City Rank Age Year Founded
    Huntsville 1 207 1811
    Mobile 2 204 1814
    Athens 3 200 1818
    Montgomery 4 199 1819
    Tuscaloosa 5 199 1819
    Russellville 6 199 1819
    Tuscumbia 7 198 1820
    Decatur 8 192 1826
    Florence 9 192 1826
    Tallassee 10 183 1835
    Hoover 11 168 1850
    Ozark 12 148 1870
    Birmingham 13 147 1871
    Anniston 14 146 1872
    Clanton 15 145 1873
    Albertville 16 127 1891
    Jasper 17 114 1904
    Bay Minette 18 114 1904
    Childersburg 19 114 1904
    Spanish Fort 20 114 1904
    Greenville 21 114 1904
    Demopolis 22 114 1904
    Montevallo 23 114 1904
    Smiths Station 24 114 1904
    Daleville 25 114 1904
    Guntersville 26 114 1904
    Helena 27 114 1904
    Jackson 28 114 1904
    Homewood 29 114 1904
    Selma 30 114 1904
    Trussville 31 114 1904
    Daphne 32 114 1904
    Troy 33 113 1905
    Southside 34 113 1905
    Bessemer 35 113 1905
    Arab 36 113 1905
    Enterprise 37 113 1905
    Opelika 38 113 1905
    Alabaster 39 113 1905
    Hamilton 40 113 1905
    Oneonta 41 113 1905
    Tarrant 42 113 1905
    Monroeville 43 113 1905
    Roanoke 44 113 1905
    Chickasaw 45 113 1905
    Robertsdale 46 113 1905
    Prattville 47 113 1905
    Brewton 48 113 1905
    Gadsden 49 113 1905
    Auburn 50 113 1905
    Harvest 51 113 1905
    Vestavia Hills 52 113 1905
    Fultondale 53 113 1905
    Prichard 54 113 1905
    Andalusia 55 113 1905
    Foley 56 113 1905
    Hueytown 57 113 1905
    Talladega 58 113 1905
    Cullman 59 113 1905
    Alexander City 60 113 1905
    Hartselle 61 113 1905
    Saraland 62 113 1905
    Pell City 63 113 1905
    Fairhope 64 113 1905
    Calera 65 113 1905
    Sylacauga 66 113 1905
    Eufaula 67 113 1905
    Irondale 68 113 1905
    Leeds 69 113 1905
    Fairfield 70 113 1905
    Pleasant Grove 71 113 1905
    Oxford 72 113 1905
    Boaz 73 113 1905
    Tuskegee 74 113 1905
    Jacksonville 75 113 1905
    Gardendale 76 113 1905
    Mountain Brook 77 76 1942
    About Chris Kolmar

    Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

    He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

    If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

    You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.