Rainsville was incorporated in October 1956.
An EF5 tornado struck this city on April 27, 2011 leaving twenty-five fatalities. It touched down in Lakeview initially causing structural damage to small buildings and snapping trees. It grew in intensity and the path width increased from around fifty yards to a half a mile as the rotation entered the Rainsville and Sylvania communities. Damage included houses that were completely removed from foundations and debris scattered for about one mile, trees debarked, and a few mobile homes were destroyed with debris strewn for about a mile downstream. In Sylvania, some of these houses removed from foundations contained anchor bolts and foundation straps.