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James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Historic Downtown Cordova
Cordova is located in central Walker County, in the north-central part of the state. It has a mayor/council form of government. Doyle Alexander, former major league baseball pitcher, was born in Cordova.
Early settlers came to the area now comprising Cordova in the early 1830s. By 1840, the first coal mine, long a sustaining part of the local economy, was opened. The town was originally called Dent, after an early local family. In 1859, Benjamin Long established a store in the area and built a number of rental houses, and a community began to grow up around the store. Long, a veteran of the Mexican-American War, dubbed the town El Cordova; the "El" was later dropped. The name has several possible meanings, as a variant of the Spanish word "Cordoba," including being the name of a town in southern Spain and of Spanish explorer Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, the first European traveler to the Yucatán Peninsula.
Indian Head Mills Cotton Workers
The first post office opened in 1884, and the Kansas City, Memphis, and Birmingham Railroad (later the San Francisco Railroad) and the Georgia Pacific Railroad (later the Southern Railroad) came through in 1886. Sources differ as to when the town incorporated; it was in either 1897 or 1901. Indian Head Mills, a textile business, opened around 1898 and in addition to the coal mines provided ample employment for the town's expanding population. The mill built its own village and school for employees. The 1910 Census lists a population of more than 1,700, three times that of the 1900 Census. Like so many other places, Cordova suffered severely during the Great Depression; most of the local coal mines had been mined out and closed by 1929, and the textile mill closed around mid-century.
Four people were killed in Cordova when two tornadoes struck the city during a devastating storm system on April 27, 2011. Much of the downtown historic district was severely damaged, and in April 2013 the city commenced demolition of the downtown district to clear the way for rebuilding, the majority of which will be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Cordova recorded a population of 2,030. Of that number, 86.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 12.4 percent as African American, 0.5 percent as two or more races, and 0.2 percent as Native American. The town's median household income was $20,917, and the per capita income was $14,047.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Cordova was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (21.2 percent)
  • Retail trade (17.1 percent)
  • Construction (16.8 percent)
  • Manufacturing (14.0 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing and utilities (5.8 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (5.2 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (5.0 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (4.5 percent)
  • Public administration (2.8 percent)
  • Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (2.6 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (2.2 percent)
  • Information (1.7 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (1.1 percent)
Long Mansion in Cordova
Schools in Cordova are part of the Walker County School System; the town has approximately 1,000 students and 62 teachers in one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school.
U.S. Highway 78 runs north-south through Cordova, and County Road 20 runs east-west.
Events and Places of Interest
The Gilchrist House, located southwest of the city, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Long Mansion, a private residence, was built by Cordova founder Capt. Benjamin McFarland Long around 1883.

Additional Resources

Cordova Lioness Club. Reflections of Cordova, Alabama. Sumiton, Ala.: Mapco Printing, 1994.
Walker County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Walker County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Published:  August 16, 2012   |   Last updated:  July 30, 2018