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.