Cornwall Furnace 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 governor John Gayle, who served in office 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, U.S. Army colonel Abel D. Streight staged a raid through the area in the hope of destroying the furnace, but he and his forces were pursued and captured by Confederate general Nathan B. Forrest just outside Gaylesville. The furnace was disabled by several federal actions in 1864. Also that year, U.S. Army general William T. Sherman camped 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.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Gaylesville recorded a population of 178. Of that number, 100.0 percent of the respondents identified themselves as white. The median household income was $48,125, and the per capita income was $26,6721.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the Gaylesville workforce was divided among the following major industrial categories:
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (40.0 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (24.6 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (7.7 percent)
- Public administration (7.7 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (4.6 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (3.1 percent)
- Manufacturing (3.1 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (1.5 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (1.5 percent)
- Retail trade (1.5 percent)
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
Webb Chestnut House 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, where 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.