The small town of Gainesville is located on the Tombigbee River in north Sumter County. The land on which the town of Gainesville now stands was originally owned by John Coleman, husband to a Choctaw Indian of the area. In 1831, he sold the land to Colonel Moses Lewis, who had the town divided into lots. The town is named for Colonel George Strother Gaines, who was an American Agent to the Choctaw Indians and had helped negotiate the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. The first groups of settlers were from Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and they settled on a street close to the river known as Yankee Street (which still exists today). The town grew very rapidly and by 1840 had become the third largest town in the state of Alabama, with a population of over 4,000. Gainesville was also a major port, shipping 6,000 bales of cotton to Mobile each year by steamboats on the Tombigbee River. In 1855, fire destroyed a large portion of the downtown area. Then the Civil War came, followed by Reconstruction. This along with the end of the riverboat era lead to the decline of Gainesville.
The town’s Confederate Cemetery is the final resting place of 250 Civil War soldiers who were injured in the Battle of Shiloh and brought to the hospital in the Female Academy in Gainesville. In addition to Civil War history, Gainesville offers an abundance of pioneer history and features many historical homes and churches. Provided are details about some of the historic sites that you will find at Gainesville.
Clark Chapel United Methodist Church was founded in 1867 by freed slaves shortly after the Civil War ended. The church pictured below is believed to be the original 1867 building constructed by the church congregation. It still has its original pews. T …learn more
The town of Gainesville was laid out in 1832 by Moses Lewis. By 1840 Gainesville had become the third largest town in the state of Alabama, with a population of over 4,000. Confederate Cemetery has the graves of Gainesville’s earliest settlers, includi …learn more
This house is one of the least altered of Gainesville’s early buildings. The building’s vernacular Greek Revival character suggests a construction date of ca. 1835-1840. This house is a contributing property to the Gainesville Historic District that wa …learn more
During the 1860 – 1880 period, Edward N. Kring (1836-1910) emerged as the leading carpenter and builder of Gainesville. He built several businesses and homes in the area. He also built the church that’s shown for Gainesville Methodists in 1872, and the …learn more
This is Gainesville’s oldest church. The congregation was organized in April of 1837 through the joint efforts of a small group of Southern-born Presbyterians and New England Congregationalists, including the family of Col. Moses Lewis who established …learn more
At the site of this monument, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his troops were paroled by Gen. Canby thus being the last troops east of the Mississippi to do so. The date was May 15, 1865. The Ellis home stood on this site. When it burned years later, …learn more
This is a Greek Revival style house with Victorian additions. It was probably built in the 1840-1850 time period. The original owner of the house is not known. This house is similar in form and arrangement to the Fall House located next door. However, …learn more
This Vernacular “I” style home, built about 1865, was the home of Edward N. Kring who was Gainesville’s leading late 19th-century builder. He built both the Methodist Church and St. Alban’s Episcopal Church as well as several homes and businesses. It …learn more
This was the home of Moses Lewis, founder of Gainesville. Lewis was responsible for laying out the town in 1832. This house was built circa 1835 and it occupies Lot Number 1 on the original plat. It has a large hand-carved wooden staircase and two unde …learn more
In 1831, Colonel Moses Lewis purchased the land where Gainesville is currently located and he had the land divided into lots for a town. The new town grew very rapidly and by 1840 it had become the third largest town in the state of Alabama, with a pop …learn more
Most towns have a town square. Gainesville is unique in that it has a town triangle. (However, a picture shows the original to have been larger and more of an octagon shape.) The park dates from the antebellum period. It is enclosed by an iron fence. T …learn more
This small house was built for Richard Haskins Roberts ca. 1851. It has a center-hall with a single large room on either side and shed rooms behind. There have been few changes with the building except for a room added to the SE corner in 1908. The hou …learn more