Aerial view of Gurley
Picture taken in 2002 by Vincent G. Schneider during BSA troop 96 aviation merit badge
Thanks to Pilot Jim Patterson of Moontown Airport
Gurley has all the history, charm, strategic location, and
potential to regain its former prosperity
The new Gurley USPS office - 2000
History of name's changes:
Gurley's - Gurley's Tank - Gurleysville - Gurley
Sketch by Edward Rosenfeld
Interesting information associated with Gurley Alabama:
The book Black Family Reunion Cookbook : Recipes and Food Memories
page 41 refers to "The walnuts were sent to us by Grandma Frances Gurley Ross from
The book Don't Shoot That Boy! Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice page
199 refers to "... The sound of a quail filtered through the woods near Gurley's
The book The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N. B. Forrest and of Forrest's Cavalry
page 189 refers to "... the lead was given to the four veteran Alabama companies of
the General's old regiment,* under Captain Frank Gurley, with orders to charge upon the
Federals as soon as..."
US War Reenactment in Gurley -
- In a beautiful fertile valley some six miles long and three miles wide, formed between
two rivers and two mountains, lies the little town of Gurley, Alabama. Gurley is located
in Madison county, 16 miles east of Huntsville and 80 miles west of Chattanooga on the
Memphis and Charleston railroad line (now called Southern railroad). It started in 1857 as
a water tank near railroad tracks on the large and fertile farm of the father of Captain
Frank B. Gurley, of Civil War fame. Because of the abundant supply of water from this
tank, a few people began to build their homes near it. Mr. R. T. Hall and a Mr. Morrow
erected the first stores near this water tank, and thus was laid the foundations of what
is now the little town of Gurley.
- In 1830, several families, including that of John Gurley, purchased land and built homes
in this area. John Gurley became the owner of the greater portion of the land and
continued to have a nice home with a large plantation into the civil war. His son, Captain
Frank Gurley, was a confederate veteran and confidential assistant of General Forrest.
Captain Frank Gurley was said to be one of the most noted guerrilla chiefs of this region
during the civil war. To quote the editor of the Gurley Herald, G. T. Shelley, in 1909 who
said "Captain Gurley's soldier life was a varied and checkered one, full of
heroism, tragedy and pathos from beginning to end. No braver or truer soldier shouldered a
gun in the south that our own Captain Frank B. Gurley." After the war, Captain
Frank Gurley donated a one mile square area extending in equal proportions from the water
tank for the town site.
- Article from The Gurley Herald - June 3rd, 1909
- Gurley's was first incorporated in 1890 with a population of 250. A year later the town
had grown to approximately 1,000 (an increase of 200%).
Gurley Herald - June 3rd, 1909
Captain Frank B. Gurley
The subject of this sketch (see picture of Captain Frank B. Gurley) was born on the 8th day of
August, 1843, near where Gurley now stands - many years before the town was thought of.
His father being a farmer, he chose that as an occupation. He owned one of his finest
plantations in Madison County when the war between the states was declared and everything
was on this place that a man could wish for, and indeed there were few men better
"fixed" in this section of the country than our progressive fellow citizen, of
whom we have the honor of penning this brief sketch. Tho time has silvered his
locks, he still possesses that undaunted enterprise and southern chivalry so
characteristic of the true Southerner before our great country was torn asunder by the
ravages of war.
The war coming on and the call for troops being heard in the land, and feeling that he
was duty bound to enlist in the cause of just and right, home and native land, he joined
what was then known as the old Kelly troopers, commanded by Capt. D. C. Kelly, (and we
give below a brief history of some of his war record, which is absolutely correct as far
as it goes:) They went to Memphis and was there formed into a regiment commanded by
Lieutenant Col. Forrest. From this point they went to Fort Donnellson and from there to
Hopkinsville, Ky, and from Hopkinsville to (........) nellson, and after the fall of that
place back to Huntsville, where circumstances placed him at the head of a company of 115
as game a band of little boy soldiers as was ever huddled together. They were later formed
into the 4th Alabama cavalry regiment and commanded by Col. Russel: remained with that
regiment until the close of hostilities. Capt. Gurleys soldier life was a varied and
checkered one, full of heroism, tragedy, and pathos from beginning to end. No braver and
truer soldier shouldered a gun in the South than our own Captain Frank B. Gurley.
He returned after hostilities were over to find, instead of the nice home he had left
only piles of ashes strewed over the ground. With that vim and determination, for which he
is noted, as soon as he gathered enough money together to buy farming tools he went to
work again, and regardless of the man obstacles which confronted him he has continued on
until he is regarded as the leading agriculturalist in this section.
Gurley, the prosperous and thrifty little city, owes a great deal to Capt. Gurley for
its growth and prosperity; from a very modest beginning, it has gradually gone ahead,
increasing in wealth and population, until today it numbers 1,200 souls within its
corporate limits. He has never allowed himself to follow, but takes the lead in (........)
the town. In our schools he has particularly interested himself and they owe a great deal
to him in the very front ranks of the schools in the state. There is no effort made to
advance the interest of the place, but what finds in him a strong advocate, ever ready and
willing to extend a helping hand, by words, acts and money. He has one of the most
handsome residences in this section, as well as farms, which gives an indication of the
prosperity, happiness and content which pervades his home life.
On another page will be found a picture of the survivors of Capt. Gurleys company
during the war. Each and every year these old veterans meet in re-union, and a great time
they have, exchanging stories of privations and sufferings during the war, as well as the
social feature which now exists among them. True friends of long standing are these old
soldiers of the Confederacy. Bound together by bonds as strong as steel, as true as the
friendship which exists between any set of men that inhabit the globe.
In Capt. Gurley this town has a citizen in whom it is proud and one in whom it could
not well dispense with. He is a man of high integrity, a true friend and charitable to a
fault. A man with whom it is a pleasure to meet, and who is loved and respected by all who
know him (........)
Special thanks to Jim Pearson for collecting facts related to
The Gurley Herald, stated on the June 1909 that "The most of its business houses
are substantial brick, built after the most modern style, and the homes of its citizens
are an indication of prosperity, happiness, and content. 1,200 Souls were living in its
Mr. T. R. Hall, a mail carrier on Rural Route No.1, owned one of the best hotels in the
South, and was considered by the travelers as "The best kept house between Huntsville
and Chattanooga". This hotel was one of 27 places of business; including two gins and
a Farmers' warehouse.
Terry D. Lee volunteer and webmaster for the Madison
Co. Records Center shared this document. Thank you Terry! (Madison County Treasures)
See photo album
The three churches built were Methodist, Missionary Baptist, and Cumberland Presbyterian. From its earliest
beginnings as one of the three original churches established in Gurley in 1892, the
Cumberland Presbyterian church has played an integral role in the religious and
educational development of the community. The present structure was built in 1912 on the
"garden spot" property donated by Postmaster Cobb under the guidance of building
committee members A. E. Smith, Henry Smith, J. D. Champion, and Dr. Benjamin Emmett Graham.
First Baptist Church
See photo album
The Gurley Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in conjunction with the
Robert Donnell Presbytery were instrumental in donating/deeding land to the State for the
Madison County High School and in donating the land and building which facilitated
establishment of a female college in 1893. This campus now has 570 K-8 Madison County
Elementary School students in attendeance. This is another portion of the K-8
Madison County Elementary School. The Gurley Cumberland Presbyterian Church stated
that the property that Robert Donnell Presbytery donated must remain an educational
institution in order for the State of Alabama to continue their ownership.
Today the Madison County High School is located in a new building at 174
Brock Rd in Gurley.
Gurley had the first water-works of any town in Madison county. View Sketch by Edward
Rosenfeld above. This attracted many homes and businesses to be built in the
area. In 1999, Joplin Street is still an attractive center of the town.
See photo album
See photo album
The Methodist Church of Gurley is another fascinating structure located in
the Historical District of Gurley which hasn't change since it was built in 1891.
The Smith-Given House, Victorian style located on Section Line Road. Was built in 1897
by Mr. Smith, a building contractor. Mr. Smith lived in the house all his life. This house
is listed on the official Gurley historic register.
A Victorian style located on Section Line Road.
Archive picture by D. G. Schneider 2001
Mr. and Mrs. Traylor owned this house and have really done a wonderful job
of fixing it up. This house sits on the corner of Gate Street/Wood Street and Gurley Pike.
Archive picture by D. G. Schneider 2002
Alabama Historical Commission
Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage