Alba, also known as Simpkins Prairie and Albia, is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and Farm Road 17, south of Lake Fork Reservoir and ten miles west of Quitman on the western border of Wood County. Probably the first to settle in the area was gunsmith Joseph Simpkins, who arrived with his family from Missouri around 1843. Next came W. W. Dale, who settled on Dale's (now Dale) Creek near the site of Alba. In 1881 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad came through Alba. One of the earliest shipments to the community was a telegraph office, and among the first telegraphs received was one telling of the assassination of President James Garfield (d. September 19, 1881). Late in 1881 Alba received a post office, which closed briefly early in 1882, then reopened later that year. For a time the railroad station and school may have been known as Albia. According to one story the town got its name because it was intended for white settlers only; another says it was named for the son of a railroad official. By 1882 the townsite had been laid out and several stores were opened to serve the influx of railroad-tie cutters. By 1884 the population of fifty was served by a church and a school. The population reached 300 by 1896, when the community had at least fifteen businesses, as well as Methodist, Baptist, and Christian churches and a school with 134 students.
Around 1900 lignite coal was discovered in the vicinity, and in 1902–03 the Texas Short Line Railway was built to ship coal from Alba and Hoyt to Grand Saline. By 1908 the Alba weekly News had been established, and the community had expanded its school and acquired a large farmers'-union warehouse. By 1911 five area mines were producing 40,000 tons of coal a month, and Alba had two banks and a population of around 1,500. In 1914 the community also had a waterworks, a telephone company, and a hotel. By the mid-1920s Alba was incorporated. The population ranged from 1,600 to 2,000 in the late 1920s, then fell to 662 in the early 1930s, by which time the banks had closed. At that time the community newspaper was the Herald; it was probably followed by the Reporter. Although the Alba oilfield was discovered by F. R. Jackson just south of the community in 1948, by 1952 the population had fallen to 545. That year the town had twenty-two businesses. Alba had 408 residents in the late 1960s, 676 residents and ten businesses in 1980, and 594 residents and fifteen businesses in 1988. In 1990 the community had extended into Rains County and had a population of 489. In 2000 the population dropped to 430. See also COAL AND LIGNITE MINING.