First Iron Made In County Was Forged In Wilton

Shelby County Reporter
Thursday, July 1, 1976
As Written By Bert Seaman

Copied by Bobby Joe Seales


Before Wilton received its present name around the turn of the century it had been known by no less than seven different names since the area was first homesteaded in the early 1800's.

Having been known primarily as a railroad town, it is assumed the community was named after Wilton, England, which is also a railroad center.

The first settlers, who were farmers of Scotch-Irish descent, who came down from the Carolinas, called it Woodsborough. The spelling was later changed to Woodsboro.

An 1856 timetable of the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad lists it simply as Woods. Tram lines built in 1850 enabled coal from the mines in Aldrich to be hauled to the railroad and loaded on cars of this time.

The town became known as Junction in 1872 which was later changed to Birmingham Junction in 1889 when the tracks of the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad and the Brierfield, Blocton and Birmingham Railroad came through.

Shortly after this a telegraph and post office were established and both were operated by R.O. Camp who also built the first store.

The town was next called Bismarck after the German chancellor. During World War I the name became unpopular and Camp changed it to Catoosa after a town in Georgia.

The first railroad to reach Wilton was the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad in 1853. Other lines which later came through the town included the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad: Selma, Rome and Dalton, and the 3B line all of which were finally taken over by the Southern Railroad.

Repair shops were located here to fix engines, boilers, etc. A long time resident of the town said he recalled seeing as many as 12-15 engines in the shop at one time. When the shop was moved to Selma, the town lost some of its prosperity as the population declined.

One of the first homesteads in the area was located on the property which the Cleveland family now owns. In 1818 Jonathan Ware built a forge at Thompson's Mill, located just south of the town and it was here the first iron in the county was made.

It is noted in one source that along with Edmund King, who settled in Montevallo, Ware had an iron works on Shoal Creek during the Civil War.

Wrought iron pipes were made at the mill and water pumped through them to the nearby homes, making it the first place in the county to have running water. The place was later owned by the Gunlock family.

Some of the early families to settle in the area were the Camps, Mahans, Fanchers, and Wm. P. Brownes who operated the Montevallo Coal Mines. One of the most prominent citizens was Bennett Ware who was one of the county's first chief justices.

The town was incorporated in 1918 and the first mayor was L. McMilian whose daughter, Mrs. Sam Vest, was postmaster for many years. The city hall, which is still used, was built in 1934 when L. Cochran was mayor.

Councilmen at this time were: O.T. Gay, E.W. Moreland, J.E. Milstead, B.B. Curry and A.L. Milstead. Both Curry and Gay had stores in the community in the early 1900's. B.B. Curry operated his store from 1913-1916 when he sold it to his sister who continued to run it until two years ago.

Other stores were operated by G.H. Cosby and George L. Ewing. A barber shop, where one resident remembers getting his hair cut as a boy, was run by Hardy Edwards.

In addition to the Southern Railroad, the oldest principal business, located in Wilton today is the Kimberly Clark Newsprint office and pulpwood loading yard.

Visit Town of Wilton website.

Wilton Town Hall

Wilton's attractive little municipal building is a product of the work crews of the Depression.
In the 1970's the building was renovated, with a new police office added in back.