Carbon Hill has a long history as a small town in Walker County, AL. Nestled in northwest Alabama, Carbon Hill, was established in 1886 after the development of the railroad that brought a convenient mode of transportation for both people and local products and goods. Not long after the introduction of the railroad, several coal mines began to pop up in the community, and more people began to settle here for this employment opportunity. In the 1930s, the Great Depression hit Carbon Hill particularly hard as the coal mines on which it depended on shut down completely. The city then became known for its “savvy utilization of federal resources” provided by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). Residents used the funding to build a new high school, and made improvements to sewers, sidewalks, and streets.
The city was restored and shaped by the impact of these federal programs, and still utilizes some of these resources today. In 2002, a fire and a tornado destroyed much of Carbon Hill, taking lives, homes, and both of the town’s schools. This left many commentators to wonder if the town was not on its last legs. As of today, Carbon Hill has managed again to endure disaster and utilize its resources to build a new school facility and take care of the needs of the community.
Perhaps this quote in 1938 by William C. Pryor, Chief of the Photographic Section of the WPA, says it best: “There is in fact nothing beautiful in Carbon Hill but the spirit of the people. That, however, seems to be quite enough to have enabled the town to survive through a period of economic disaster.”
Wilson, C. (March 5, 2013). Carbon Hill. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2/10/2017, http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3415
Pryor, W. C. (October 20, 1938). A New Deal for Carbon Hill, Alabama: A Photographic Document by William C. Pryor. Retrieved 2/10/2017, http://newdeal.feri.org/carbonhill/