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Shelby County, Alabama facts for kids

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Shelby County
Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana
Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana
Official seal of Shelby County
Map of Alabama highlighting Shelby County
Location within the U.S. state of Alabama
Map of the United States highlighting Alabama
Alabama's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Alabama
Founded February 7, 1818
Named for Isaac Shelby
Seat Columbiana
Largest city Alabaster
 • Total 810 sq mi (2,100 km2)
 • Land 785 sq mi (2,030 km2)
 • Water 25 sq mi (60 km2)  3.0%
 • Total 223,024
 • Estimate 
226,902 Increase
 • Density 275.3/sq mi (106.3/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 6th
  • County Number 58 on Alabama Licence Plates

Shelby County is located in the central portion of the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2020 census the population was 223,024. The county seat is Columbiana. The largest city is Alabaster. The county is named in honor of Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky from 1792 to 1796 and again from 1812 to 1816. Shelby County is included in the BirminghamHoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Shelby County was established on February 7, 1818, and it was named for the Revolutionary War hero and the first Governor of Kentucky, Isaac Shelby. Beginning in 1820, the first county seat was located at Shelbyville. This settlement, long defunct, was located within the modern city limits of Pelham. The first courthouse was built of logs. The seat was moved to Columbia, now Columbiana, in 1826. Initially housed in an old school building, a new brick courthouse building was completed in 1854. It is now known as the Old Shelby County Courthouse and houses the Shelby County Museum and Archives. The current limestone courthouse was built from 1905–06, at a cost of $300,000.

Shelby County has a long history in agriculture, and since about 1990, it has become an important location for growing soybeans, which has exceeded cotton as the most important crop grown there.

Shelby County was the home of an early inland waterway, the Coosa River, and it was also the location of a very early east-west railroad in Alabama that connected Atlanta, Georgia, with locations to its west. Shelby County was also crossed by an early north-south railroad, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, that connected Louisville, Nashville, Decatur, Birmingham, and Montgomery.

With the advent of the automobile and the truck, Shelby County was soon crossed from north to south by U.S. Highway 31, the major one that followed the same route as the Louisville and Nashville Railroad did. (All U.S. Highways, with "one" as their last of two digits are major north-south ones: e.g. U.S. 11, 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, and 71.) The eastern part of Shelby County was later crossed by U.S. Highway 231 and U.S. 280

Decades later on, Shelby County was crossed by Interstate Highway 65. Hence, an important ingredient in the eventual growth of Shelby County has been its ready access to modern systems of transportation. Interstate 65 and U.S. Highway 31 have long provided strong connections between Shelby county and the more populous Jefferson County directly to its north, leading to suburban development in towns such as Pelham, Helena, Alabaster, and Chelsea.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 810 square miles (2,100 km2), of which 785 square miles (2,030 km2) is land and 25 square miles (65 km2) (3.0%) is water.

Parts of Shelby County are crossed by the southernmost extensions of the Appalachian Mountains, such as Oak Mountain and Double Oak Mountain. However, large parts of Shelby County are much flatter, giving good land for farms and pastures. Shelby County also has lowlands along two rivers, and one large man-made reservoir, Lay Lake, which also borders Coosa, Talladega and Chilton counties.

Most of Shelby County is drained either by the Cahaba River, which flows along the northern edge of the county, and then to the southwest, or by the Coosa River, whose valley includes the eastern end of the county. These are both important rivers in Alabama. Much farther south, both the Cahaba River and the Coosa River flow into the Alabama River, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico. To be more precise, the Coosa River and the Tallapoosa River flow together at Wetumpka, Alabama, to form the Alabama River, and then the Cahaba River is a tributary to that one farther to the west. Waxahatchee Creek, a major tributary of the Coosa River, forms the southeastern portion of the border between Shelby County and Chilton County.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 2,416
1830 5,704 136.1%
1840 6,112 7.2%
1850 9,536 56.0%
1860 12,618 32.3%
1870 12,218 −3.2%
1880 17,236 41.1%
1890 20,886 21.2%
1900 23,684 13.4%
1910 26,949 13.8%
1920 27,097 0.5%
1930 27,576 1.8%
1940 28,962 5.0%
1950 30,362 4.8%
1960 32,132 5.8%
1970 38,037 18.4%
1980 66,298 74.3%
1990 99,358 49.9%
2000 143,293 44.2%
2010 195,085 36.1%
2020 223,024 14.3%
2021 (est.) 226,902 16.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2020

2010 census

At the 2010 census, there were 195,085 people, 74,072 households, and 53,733 families living in the county. The population density was 249 people per square mile (96/km2). There were 80,970 housing units at an average density of 103 per square mile (40/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 83.0% White, 10.6% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 2.8% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. 5.9% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The largest self-identified ancestry groups in Shelby County were

  • English – 15.8%
  • Irish – 13.9%
  • German – 11.1%
  • American – 11.0%
  • African American - 10.6%
  • Italian – 4.3%
  • Scots-Irish – 3.9%
  • Scottish – 3.7%
  • French (except Basque) – 2.7%
  • Polish – 1.5%
  • Dutch – 1.3%
  • Welsh – 0.8%
  • Swedish – 0.7%
  • Arab – 0.6%
  • Norwegian – 0.5%
  • Greek – 0.4%

Of the 74,072 households 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.7% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.5% were non-families. 23.2% of households were one person and 6.2% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.08.

The age distribution was 25.6% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 29.2% from 25 to 44, 26.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.6% 65 or older. The median age was 36.9 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.0 males.

The median household income was $68,380 and the median family income was $81,406. Males had a median income of $57,405 versus $41,692 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,978. About 5.4% of families and 7.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.3% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.

2020 census

Shelby County racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 162,712 72.96%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 28,711 12.87%
Native American 478 0.21%
Asian 5,114 2.29%
Pacific Islander 91 0.04%
Other/Mixed 9,458 4.24%
Hispanic or Latino 16,460 7.38%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 223,024 people, 84,048 households, and 57,918 families residing in the county.


Major highways

  • I-65 (AL).svg Interstate 65
  • US 31.svg U.S. Highway 31
  • US 231.svg U.S. Highway 231
  • US 280.svg U.S. Highway 280
  • Alabama 25.svg State Road 25
  • Alabama 70.svg State Road 70
  • Alabama 76.svg State Road 76
  • Alabama 119.svg State Road 119
  • Alabama 145.svg State Road 145
  • Alabama 155.svg State Road 155
  • Alabama 261.svg State Road 261



  • Shelby County Airport – General Aviation
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport – Commercial passenger and freight service in an adjacent county Jefferson County




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Places of interest


Shelby County Schools operates public schools in the county. Alabaster City Schools operates the six public schools in Alabaster. In 2014, Pelham began operating their own school system with three schools taken over from the Shelby County School System: Pelham High School, Riverchase Middle School, and Valley Elementary School. On May 5, 2015, ground was broken for the construction of Pelham Ridge Elementary School which opened during the 2016–2017 school year. Also that year, Valley Elementary School closed and teachers relocated to Valley Intermediate School, renamed Pelham Oaks Elementary School (now serving kindergarten through fifth grade).

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Shelby (Alabama) para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Prominent Hispanic scientists
Severo Ochoa
Sarah Stewart
Mario J. Molina
Rodolfo Llinás
F. J. Duarte
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