In 1790, land speculators representing the Scioto Company persuaded several hundred French immigrants to come to the United States. The immigrants built a settlement in the Ohio Country called Gallipolis, meaning "city of the Gauls." Once the French arrived, they discovered that the company's representatives had misled them. The land that they had purchased actually belonged to the Ohio Company of Associates rather than to the Scioto Company. Many of the immigrants returned to the East. Those who chose to stay had either to pay the Ohio Company for their land or move to the area set aside for them by the American government known as the French Grant. The French faced great difficulties during the early years of the town's settlement. Disease was common in the community due to the town's swampy conditions. Approximately one-third of the French settlers died from these diseases.
Gallipolis grew relatively slowly, despite its location along the Ohio River. The community is the county seat of Gallia County. By the 1880s, just over one thousand residents lived in the town. Numerous businesses operated in Gallipolis. Many of the manufacturing establishments made furniture, stoves, or carriages. Today, Gallipolis has a population of just over five thousand people. Most residents have found employment in the Bob Evans Farms Sausage plant, a Shell Chemical plant, the Southern Ohio Coal Company's mines, a Toyota automobile plant, and several smaller industries.
One of Gallia County's claims to fame is the longest running Emancipation Proclamation Day Celebration in the United States. This event commemorates the freedom of African-American slaves in areas in rebellion during the Civil War. The celebration in Gallia County began on September 22, 1863 on the one-year anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. It has been held every year since that time.