Huntsville was named after John Hunt, one of the first white men to settle in the area (1805). Although his land claim was later sold, the name the new owner used ("Twickenham") was preserved only for one locality. When the town became Alabama's first incorporated town, the present name was fixed.
For a brief time (1819-1820) it was the state capital.
After the Civil War the town developed cotton mills.
Even until 1940, it was still not a very big town, and its population was hardly 13,150. However, Huntsville's fortune changed with the location of military manufacturing plants, and later the space program.