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James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Gurley is located in east-central Madison County in the northeast part of the state. It has a mayor/council form of government.
The Gurley area was first settled in 1830, when several families bought land and established homesteads. The town is named for John Gurley, one of these early settlers. The town was known variously as Gurley's Place in the Woods, Gurley's, Gurleysville, or Gurley's Water Tank (named for a water tank at the depot used for refilling the boilers on trains after the Memphis and Charleston Railroad came through the area in 1851).
When the first post office opened in 1866, the town was called Gurleysville, but it incorporated in 1891 as Gurley. An abundance of cedar trees around the town resulted in the establishment of a number of businesses, including sawmills, a bucket manufacturer, a stave and hoop factory, and a pencil mill. A year after incorporation the town's population had quadrupled to around 1,000.
Gurley had a working phone system by 1905. The first high school in the county was established in Gurley in 1907, and the first automobile came to town around 1911. In 1923, a fire ravaged the downtown business district.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Gurley recorded a population of 775. Of that number, 84.5 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 12.6 percent as African American, 2.5 percent as two or more races, 1.2 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.4 percent as Native American. The town's median household income was $31,964, and the per capita income was $17,633.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Gurley was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Manufacturing (19.0 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (17.3 percent)
  • Retail trade (13.7 percent)
  • Construction (9.9 percent)
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (9.2 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing and utilities (8.5 percent)
  • Public administration (7.7 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (5.6 percent)
  • Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (2.8 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (2.5 percent)
  • Information (2.1 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (1.1 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.7 percent)
Schools in Gurley are part of the Madison County school system; the town has one elementary school (K-8) and one high school (9-12).
U.S. Highway 72 bisects Gurley running northwest-southeast.
Events and Places of Interest
The Gurley Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Gurley Historic District are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Gurley Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Additional Resources

Madison County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Madison County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Published:  June 20, 2013   |   Last updated:  February 13, 2020