Waverly is the county seat of Pike County, Ohio. M. Downing established the community in 1829. Originally known as Uniontown, Francis Cleveland suggested changing the name to Waverly. It is believed that he did this because he was an admirer of Sir Walter Scott's Waverly novels. The town grew slowly and had a population of only 306 people in 1840. By 1846, the town contained two churches and four stores.
Since the 1830s, Piketon, Pike County's original seat of government, and Waverly had battled for the right to be the county seat. In 1861, residents agreed to move the county seat to Waverly. This decision primarily resulted from Waverly's location on the Ohio and Erie Canal, as well as the plans of a railroad to pass through the community. Waverly surpassed Piketon in size and prestige during the 1850s.
In 1880, 1,539 people resided in Waverly. By 1886, there were two newspapers, six churches, and one bank in the town. Several manufacturing establishments provided goods and services to the people living in the surrounding countryside. The town's largest employer was James Emmitt, who paid fifteen people to make flour and wine. A number of other residents distilled grain into alcohol beverages and shipped their products across the United States on the canal and railroad.
During the nineteenth century, former slaves Madison and Eston Hemings resided in Pike County. Both of these men claimed to be descendents of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, and one of Jefferson's slaves named Sally Hemings. DNA evidence has proven that Madison Hemings was not fathered by Jefferson, but this same evidence did prove that a Jefferson male possibly fathered Eston Hemings. Both men gained their freedom after Jefferson's death on July 4, 1826. They eventually moved to Ohio, where Madison helped construct several buildings in Waverly.
During the twentieth century, Waverly continued to grow. With a population of 4,433 people, Waverly was Pike County's largest community in 2000. Most residents are employed in the town's sixty retail businesses or forty health care and social service agencies.