Gurley Community & History

Gurley Community & History

Gurley - A small town in North Alabama

Page created in April 1998
Mesage from Previous Mayor Stan Simpson
Gurley Madison County Alabama - The Gurley Historical Society

Aerial view of Gurley
Picture taken in 2002 by Vincent G. Schneider during BSA troop 96 aviation merit badge requirements.
Aerial view of Gurley Alabama - Picture solely taken for the Gurley web site
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
The new Gurley USPS office - 2000

History of name's changes:

Gurley's - Gurley's Tank - Gurleysville - Gurley

Gurley's Tank
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 Gurley, Alabama"
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 Tank, Alabama..."
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 - July 1999
US War Reenactment in Gurley July 1999

  • 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 Historic District

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. Gurley’s 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. Gurley’s 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 Gurley.

Joplin St. Gurley 1909

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 corporate limits".

Hall House Hotel

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.

Hall House T. R. Hall Document 1910 Place Sold
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
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.

New Gurley High School

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

The Play Ground

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 Southern Homes Historic Houses in the Town of Gurley
Archive picture by D. G. Schneider 2001

Southern Homes Historic Houses in the Town of Gurley
Picture by Bud Hollingsworth 2005

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.

Southern Homes Historic Houses in the Town of Gurley
Picture by Bud Hollingsworth 2005

Southern Homes Historic Houses in the Town of Gurley
Picture by Bud Hollingsworth 2005

A Victorian style located on Section Line Road.

Section Line and Gurley Pike
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.

This house sits on the corner of Gate Street and Wood Street and Gurley Pike.
Archive picture by D. G. Schneider 2002

Alabama Historical Commission

Alabama Historical Commission

Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage