The town charter for Pell City was granted in 1887. The town was named for George Hamilton Pell, a prominent New York industrialist and president of the East and West Railroad. In 1901, the town was almost deserted when a young man named Sumter Cogswell passed through the area. After seeing the potential for growth here, he set out to rebuild the town. In 1902, he secured a cotton mill named Pell City Manufacturing Company. Later PCMC was purchased by Avondale Mills. The young town began to prosper and in that same year an election was held and Pell City was established as the county seat along with Ashville. The town soon acquired a post office, a saloon and the Maxwell Brick buildings. As the mill began to prosper a mill village was established and the town grew by 1500 people. Over the years, a steady growth continued.
Pell City's second period of great growth began during the 1960s when Alabama Power Company built a dam on the Coosa River and created Lake Logan Martin. The lake created recreational activities in close proximity to Birmingham and the entire area experienced a residential and business building boom. Also during the 1960s, Interstate 20, connecting Birmingham and Atlanta, was built. The lake, I-20 and the existing railroad established Pell City as a premier location for new business and industry in the Birmingham-Atlanta corridor. In 2006, the State of Board of Education approved the request of Mayor Guin Robinson and Dr. Judy Merritt to establish a campus of Jefferson State Community College in Pell City.