Altoona had its start in the year 1900 as a mining town, and was named for another coal town, Altoona, Pennsylvania. It incorporated in 1908. A post office has been in operation at Altoona since 1900. It is located in the Murphree Valley at the base of Altoona Mountain.
The racial makeup of the town was 95.43% White, 2.54% Black or African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.91% from other races, and 1.02% from two or more races. 2.54% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.