Purley is at the junction of Farm Road 900 and State Highway 37, seven miles south of Mount Vernon in southwestern Franklin County. The area was settled by farmers in the 1850s, and Purley received a post office in 1879. By 1884 the community had several stores, four saw and grist mills, and a population of 150. By 1896 it had a population still estimated at 150, a mattress manufacturer, and a one-room, one-teacher school that served sixty-six children. The population of the community declined during the twentieth century; in 1966 it was estimated as twenty, and Purley had no businesses. The population increased slowly until 1972, when it reached an estimated eighty-one. In 1988 the community had one business and through 2000 still reported eighty-one residents.