Located in the Wiregrass region of south-central Alabama just north of the Florida panhandle, Geneva is the seat of Geneva County. Known as Alabama's Old River Town for its proximity to the Choctawhatchee and Pea Rivers, Geneva was an important trade and transport center in the nineteenth century. It was located in Henry, Dale, and Coffee counties before Geneva County was established in 1868. The city has a mayor-council form of government.
The settlement that would become the city of Geneva was founded in 1819 as a trading post by brothers Henry Alexander Yonge and Walter S. C. Yonge. Soon they were joined by settlers from Georgia and the Carolinas seeking cheap farmland. As the settlement grew, Henry Yonge began to refer to the village as Geneva, after his wife's home town in New York State. By the mid-1830s, the town had become an important center for trade and travelers. The Yonge brothers expanded their interests to a shipping company, owned with other town residents, and by 1836, Henry Yonge was serving as the town's first postmaster.
In 1865, the Lincoln Flood, named for then-President Abraham Lincoln, destroyed the town, and the residents reestablished Geneva higher up the river bank from the original site. In 1868, Geneva County was formed and named after Geneva, its largest settlement. Court was held in the local school in 1869 until a log courthouse was constructed that same year. The town was officially chartered by the state of Alabama in 1875. The first courthouse was replaced at some point with a brick structure, but this building burned in 1889 and was replaced. This new courthouse burned in 1911 and was replaced in 1912. In 1969, the fourth courthouse was demolished and replaced with the current structure. In 1929, the Hoover Flood, named after then-President Herbert Hoover, forced townspeople to build a levee with the assistance of the federal Works Progress Administration. The town is still threatened by periodic flooding.
Geneva’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 4,452. Of that number, 83.2 percent identified themselves as white, 14.0 percent as African American, 1.8 percent as Hispanic, 1.5 percent as two or more races, 0.4 percent as Asian, and 0.4 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $26,898, and per capita income was $19,767.
The workforce in present-day Geneva is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing (22.4 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (21.6 percent)
· Construction (12.1 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (10.6 percent)
· Retail trade (7.6 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.7 percent)
· Public administration (5.1 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (4.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.7 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.4 percent)
· Information (1.5 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (1.1 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.0 percent)
Public education in Geneva is administered by the Geneva City School District and consists of an elementary school, middle school, and high school. Collectively, the schools enroll approximately 1,300 students and employ approximately 90 teachers.
Geneva lies at the juncture of State Routes 85, which comes in from the north; 52, which comes in from the east; 196, which comes in from the northwest; and 27, which runs southwest-north through the town. Geneva Municipal Airport serves general aviation in the area.
Events and Places of Interest
The city of Geneva holds its annual Festival on the Rivers every April. Events include canoe races and other competitive sporting activities, including the Annual Worm Fiddlin' Contest. Robert Fowler Memorial Park
offers Geneva residents picnicking and recreational opportunities and is home to the Constitution Oak. This tree, with a spread
of 175 feet and a height of 75 feet, is thought to be the largest live oak in the world.
Heritage of Geneva County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2003.
Claire M. Wilson
Published September 3, 2010
Last updated July 13, 2012