Gainesville, VA is a census-designated place in western Prince William County, Virginia, United States. It has a long and fascinating history, with ties to the present that many may not be aware of. The city was named after one of the first prominent landowners, Thomas Gaines, and the ending -ville, which indicates its origin as a town, is a common ending in many Virginia cities of this period. Most people familiar with local history know that Gainesville is named after General Edmund Pendleton Gaines. However, fewer may be aware of why.
Ms. Somerville Gaines ceded land, including the Gaines family cemetery, to the Gainesville Methodist Episcopal Church congregation in the south in 1883. This church grew over time and the cemetery was extended to become the final resting place for many of its members. During the American Civil War, both Confederate and Union armies occupied Gainesville. The nearby Thoroughfare Gap, in the Bull Run Mountains, served as a road for soldiers to reach the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. In one instance, two accused of murder from Fauquier County were being transported to the Gainesville train station when an angry crowd reached them and lynched them. In 1994, construction began on Gainesville's first townhome community, which was named Crossroads.
Since 2000, considerable commercial and residential development has taken place, resulting in Gainesville having six large shopping centers. The History of Its Places and People, published in 1941, reveals much about the city's past. Even today, it continues to be an integral part of Virginia's history. The second part of this book, to be released in December, is about Gainesville in the 20th century and the impact of the most recent changes.