Landmarks of Dekalb County, Alabama

History of Rainsville ›

Rainsville was incorporated in the fall of 1956. The area was called Parker Town due to the large number of people in the Parker family living in the area. It was renamed for Will Rains, who built the first store.

The area of DeKalb County where Rainsville is located was not populated as early as many others in Alabama. The Cherokee Nation owned the counties of DeKalb, Cherokee, and Marshall until their forced removal. These three counties were founded shortly after the Cherokees ceded their lands to the federal government in 1836. The Cherokees began to leave the area in 1837 and settlers began to move in. Most settlers preferred the valley land to the steep slopes and cliffs of the mountain, leaving the area of Rainsville a frontier crossing for many more years.

Most settlers came from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia. By the Civil War, Wills Valley was becoming more populated with a railroad and a growing population. Eventually settlers started moving to Sand Mountain and the Rainsville area. Between 1885 and 1895 the Thompson, Dawson, Wooten, Parris and Alphonso Robertson families had settled in the area that was to become downtown Rainsville.

In the early 1890’s, brothers Joe Franklin Parker and John Tolbert Parker moved to Rainsville. At one time these brothers owned several hundred acres of land in the area. Will Rains moved to the area in 1902 and built the first store close to the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 75. By 1908, Tom Everett had started a cotton gin. By 1910, Joe Parker operated a saw mill, grist mill and a gin.

Edward Elijah McCurdy moved to Rainsville in 1911. His wife Susan Lofton McCurdy taught at the Rainsville school in 1912. Mr. McCurdy was elected to the county commission in 1926 and campaigned for the roads into Rainsville to become state highways.

From the early 1870s to the late 1890s a Methodist church was housed in a log building. Robertson Chapel United Methodist Church developed from that church, and is located adjacent to where the log cabin stood.

The Parker School in Rainsville circa 1912.
The Parker School in Rainsville circa 1912.

Parker School was the first school to open in downtown Rainsville in 1907. It shared a building with Will Rain’s store. Lillie Durham was the first teacher. Tol Parker is credited with starting the school and the children of the extended Parker families comprised most of the first students. Later that year a new school was opened on the grounds of the present day First Baptist Church. A new three-room school was built in 1912 with Susie McCurdy as the teacher. Plainview Junior High School opened in the 1930s and represented the merger of Chavies and Rainsville schools.

For more information on the history of Rainsville, visit the Rainsville Heritage Project.