Home to one of the South’s oldest covered bridges, Sumter County is located in the west-central part of Alabama in the Black Belt region. Sumter County was also the birthplace of Ruby Pickens Tartt, who helped to collect African American narratives and local musical traditions, and of Vera Hall Ward, a blues singer whom Tartt helped bring to fame. The County was also home to Julia S. Tutwiler: a pioneer advocate of women’s education, prison reform, and women’s rights, and wrote the state song. Sumter County was created by the Alabama legislature on December 18, 1832, from former Choctaw Indian lands ceded to the United States in the Choctaw Treaty of 1830, also known as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Sumter County was named in honor of General Thomas Sumter of South Carolina, a Revolutionary War hero. In 1832, Livingston became the first and only county seat.
The first courthouse was built of logs in 1833 and a second framed courthouse was built in 1839 on the same site and burned in 1901. In 1902, the third and present courthouse was built on the same site – a domed, brick structure that has undergone several renovations yet is still in use today. The earliest settlers came to the county from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Some of the first towns included Gaston, Gainesville, Paynesville, Bluffport, Warsaw, Tompkinsville, and Sumterville, of which half are now only county roads. Because of Sumter County’s diverse and rich history, as the Choctaw Indians, French, British, and Spanish have all settled or inhabited parts of the county, it is home to numerous historical markers, sites, homes, and churches; there are approximately 128 historical sites in Sumter County.
Sumter County is governed by an elected six-member commission and includes the incorporated cities of Livingston and York and the incorporated towns of Cuba, Emelle, Gainesville, and Geiger.