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Gainesville Town

Gainesville Town Hall is located at 9380 State Street, Gainesville, AL 35464; phone: 205-652-7551.

Beginnings [1]

Gainesville is located on a spur of elevated land in a sandy wooded bluff overlooking the Tombigbee River amid the low-lying swamplands and rich bottom-lands to the north, east, and west. By the terms of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, of 1829, the future town site was conveyed to an early settler named Coleman who had taken an Indian wife and settled among the Chickasaws. Three years later, in 1832, Coleman sold the 400-acre tract to Colonel Moses Lewis, a New Hampshire born entrepreneur who subsequently hired Isaac Wright to survey the land. Wright laid the town off into lots oriented 12 degrees east to north, and following the usual grid pattern. Col. Lewis named the new town Gainesville in honor of his friend George Strother Gaines, agent to the Choctaws and a figure instrumental in the settlement of west central Alabama.

The community flourished between 1835 and 1837. Settlers from older parts of Alabama, and from the North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, were joined by an influx of New Englanders, due, perhaps, to the influence of Moses Lewis. Annually, 6,000 bales of cotton were shipped down river to Mobile, and in 1836, as indicative of Gainesville's prospects and status, the imposing American Hotel was erected. Two-and-a-half stories high, with broad double galleries across the front and an ornate two-tiered belvedere, the hotel became the symbolic locus of the town.

Although hard-hit by the Panic of 1837, Gainesville soon assumed a more solid character and entered upon half a century as an entrepot for the planters of the upper Tombigbee. While most of 'the structures surviving today cannot be dated precisely, at least five buildings appear to have been erected before 1840. The oldest is the William Colgin House or "Colgin Hill," a clapboard-covered log dwelling, reputedly first erected on the bluff overlooking the river and moved, in 1832, to its present location on the southern outskirts of Gainesville, where it was afterward remodeled as it stands today.

  1. Michael Bailey, Alabama Historical Commission, Historic Resources of Gainesville Alabama, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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