The area was settled in the early 1830s, just before the removal of the Cherokee Indians. It was known originally as Sulphur Springs and was an agricultural center for cotton, corn, and hay. But later it was named Gaylesville, possibly for John Gayles, an early inhabitant, or John Gayle, the governor of Alabama from 1831 to 1835.
Nearby deposits of iron ore were mined and used to produce iron at the Cornwall blast furnace, located between Gaylesville and Cedar Bluff; the iron later was used by the Confederacy during the Civil War. In 1863, Union colonel Abel D. Streight hoped to destroy the furnace on his raid, but he and his forces were pursued and captured by Confederate general Nathan B. Forrest just outside Gaylesville. The furnace was disabled by several Union actions in 1864. Also that year, Union general William T. Sherman encamped at Gaylesville during the Nashville-Franklin Campaign. The furnace was restored after the war and operated until 1875. It is now a historic park. Samuel Russell established the Gaylesville Academy in 1871, and it was chartered in 1875. Located in a house, it was one of the first schools in northern Alabama. The town was incorporated in 1886.
The population of Gaylesville at the time of the 2010 Census was 144. Of that number, 96.5 percent of the respondents identified themselves as white, 3.5 percent as Hispanic, and 1.4 percent as two or more races. The median household income in 2010 according to Census estimates was $48,000 and the per capita income was $22,003.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the Gaylesville workforce was divided among the following major industrial categories:
· Manufacturing (25.0 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (25.0 percent)
· Construction (13.2 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (11.8 percent)
· Retail trade (11.8 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (5.9 percent)
· Public administration (5.9 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (1.5 percent)
Public education is administered by the Cherokee County Board of Education, which oversees one K-12 grade school, which serves 425 students and employs 28 educators in Gaylesville. Gadsden State Community College operates its Cherokee Campus in nearby Centre.
Gaylesville is accessed by State Highway 68, which runs east-west, and State Highway 35, which runs north-south. The closest airport is the Centre Municipal Airport, approximately 10 miles to the southwest.
Events and Places of Interest
Listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage is the Webb Chesnut House (ca. 1850). On the National Register of Historic Places near Gaylesville is Barry Springs, also known as the Fort Likens Site. There, a temporary camp was constructed in June 1838 to support and facilitate the removal of Cherokee Indians to the west. Nearby is Lake Weiss, often called the "Crappie Capital of the World"; it also supports numerous other species of sport fish.
The Heritage of Cherokee County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Miller, Dixie C. Visiting Our Past: A History of Cherokee County. N.p., 1986.
Stewart, Mrs. Frank Ross. Cherokee County History: 1836-1956. Birmingham, Ala.: The Birmingham Printing Company, 1958.
Published May 6, 2012
Last updated October 7, 2012