The Nineteenth Century
Chartered in 1821 as the seat of government of Hall County (created in 1818), Gainesville,
The town was renamed in honor of General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, a hero of the War of 1812 (1812-15) who held a command in Georgia during the ensuing struggles with the Creeks. The discovery of gold near Dahlonega, in adjacent Lumpkin County, in 1828 sealed the fate of the indigenous peoples in northeast Georgia. The gold rush also brought a business boom to Gainesville. Templeton Reid, a Milledgeville silversmith and machinist, established America's first private mint for gold coins in Gainesville in 1830, creating elusive treasures in the world of coin collectors.
As the gold fever waned, agriculture and livestock grew apace in the area, expanding Gainesville's service and supply role with hardware, hatters, wagon builders, lawyers, schools, and houses of worship, primarily Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian. Gainesville prospered as agricultural activity increased along the rich valleys of the Oconee River and Chattahoochee River, where abundant corn fattened livestock for the citizens' tables and allowed for homemade production of corn whiskey.
In the late 1850s, as the division between the North and the South deepened, most residents of Gainesville and Hall County were opposed to secession. After Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency in 1860, however, sentiment swung decisively in favor of the Confederacy, although pockets of Unionist sentiment remained. Possibly because there were no rail lines into Gainesville at the time, the community escaped the brunt of the Civil War. In 1871 the Airline Railroad, later named the Southern Railroad, connected Gainesville to Athens, Winder, Commerce, and other nearby communities.
Late in the nineteenth century the community claimed ties to significant figures on the state, national,
The Twentieth Century
By the turn of the century Gainesville had become a popular resort town. Electrical power came to Gainesville in 1902, and an electric trolley was soon in operation, providing easy access to Chattahoochee Park,
In January 1903 a devastating tornado struck Gainesville, killing more than 100 people. That tragic event was,
In the late 1930s a local entrepreneur named Jesse Jewell launched what would become the most important economic endeavor in northeast Georgia: poultry raising, processing, and distribution. By the beginning of World War II (1941-45), chickens had replaced cotton as the area's leading agricultural moneymaker. By war's end Gainesville was known as the "Poultry Capital of the World." Since 1995, the state of Georgia claims that title officially.
While the population of Gainesville proper has remained at about 26,000, by 2000 Hall County was home to more than 139,000 people. The Hispanic population, which increased by almost 500 percent in the 1990s, now forms the county's largest minority group.
The attractions of high employment, varied cultural opportunities, and close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Lanier, and Atlanta make Gainesville one of Georgia's most favorably situated communities.
Sybil McRay, ed. and comp., Pictorial History of Hall County to 1950 (Gainesville, Ga.: Hall County Library Committee, 1985).
Gordon Sawyer, Gainesville: 1900 to 2000 (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 1999).
Steve Gurr, Gainesville
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.