Pelham’s History

The City of Pelham was incorporated on July 10, 1964 with a population of 654. Prior to that time, very little is recorded about the city.

Three months after Shelby County was formed, county court was established in what is today the City of Pelham. At that time the settlement was called Shelbyville and some historians have referred to it as Middleton (supposedly because it was near the middle of what was considered Shelby County at that time). For additional information about Pelham and Shelby County, please visit Shelby County AlGenWeb.

In 1820, the first court house was built in Shelbyville by Thomas A. Rogers. It was twenty-four feet long, twenty feet wide, built of logs, lined and chinked. The cost was recorded as fifty-three dollars. The judges of the court were George Phillips, Bennett Ware, Patrick Hayes, and Needham Lee. This structure was intended to be only a temporary court and in 1826, the court house was moved to Columbiana.

From this point until sometime after the Civil War very little has been recorded about Shelbyville. However, sometime after the Civil War the settlement of Shelbyville was renamed Pelham in honor of Major John Pelham. Major Pelham, a Civil War hero, fought in more than 60 battles. His greatest battle was at Fredericksburg where he confused a federal army of 120,000 men with his brilliant one-gun barrage from their flank. His contribution to the Confederate victory that day was a major one and General Robert E. Lee cited the part played by “the gallant Pelham” in his official report. Major Pelham was killed at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford in 1863. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel after his death. According to his biographers, John Pelham “was among the most illustrious of Alabama’s sons that supported the Confederate cause.”

In the 1960s an annexation attempt by the neighboring City of Alabaster prompted local residents to seek incorporation of the community into a city. In 1964, the City of Pelham was formed and Paul Yeager, Sr. became the first mayor. The first city council consisted of the following individuals: Joe Hodges, A.M. Hinds, J.T. Shelton, Burk Dunaway, and Allen Wilson. The first city clerk was Willie Mae Dennis. The first city hall was located in the old Pelham school, a wooden building built by the WPA. In 1975, this building was demolished and the present city hall was built on the site.