Shelby County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama and a part of the Birmingham–Hoover–Cullman Combined Statistical Area. It is named in honor of Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky from 1792 to 1796 and again from 1812 to 1816. The county seat of Shelby County is Columbiana. As of the 2010 census the population was 195,085. Shelby County ranks among the 100 highest-income counties in the United States, and is the fastest-growing county in the state. Shelby County's growth has accompanied the decline of Birmingham and Jefferson County. The county's newspaper is the Shelby County Reporter.
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 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.