Latitude / Longitude:
30°21’04 N 89°38’23 W
Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Gainesville is a ghost town located in Hancock County, Mississippi. Formerly a thriving port on the Pearl River, the town experienced decline due to the emergence of railways in the mid-19th century. The land was acquired by NASA in 1962, later becoming home to the Stennis Space Center.
The land where Gainesville would be founded was part of the Piney Woods region, known to be used by natives for timber purposes- mainly wooden structures and canoes- carved by primitive tools from an abundance of longleaf pines. It was these same tall standing and sturdy trees that drew the attention of early European explorers to the area as a source for ship masts. The earliest recorded European settlement of the areas was circa 1790, as a port for cotton (later timber) shipments headed downstream to New Orleans. This first settlement was known as Cottonport.” Documents indicate that, in later years, the settlement was also known as “English Bluff.”
Gainesville began to experience decline in the latter half of the 19th Century, due largely to the emergence of railroads as a means for timber transportation. When a major rail-line bypassed the town by ten miles, residents began to leave the area in search of better jobs. In 1961, NASA first began considering the area for a research and development center, which would later become the Stennis Space Center. Several of Gainesville’s abandoned buildings were utilized by NASA in the early days of its ownership.
In 1810, an official Spanish land grant of approximately 500 acres was acquired by Dr. Ambrose Gaines, who subsequently named the settlement “Gainesville.” In 1813, Andrew Jackson’s Union forces marched through Gainesville just prior to the Battle of New Orleans. The Pearl River Lumber company was founded in Gainesville in 1832, becoming the largest lumber company in the South at the time, and helping to establish Gainesville as one of the most prosperous pre-Civil War settlements in Mississippi. The town of Gainesville was officially incorporated in 1843, and served as the seat of Hanckcock County for nearly a decade, until the courthouse burned.