Flow of Time in the Dan River Region

History, reflections, and memories of the residents in the Dan River Region of Virginia and North Carolina from 1700 to the present.

This timeline was created in 2013 by Danville Regional Foundation interns as part of the History United Project. This timeline is still a work in progress--we recognize that there may be errors and gaps in the research and we are working to correct these. Thanks for visiting!

1728-10-12 00:00:00

Arrival of William Byrd II

William Byrd II arrived in the fall of 1728 to survey the land of the Virginia and North Carolina border. He was guided by Bearskin, a member of the Saponi tribe that inhabited the region. Bearkskin taught Byrd about the land and the Saponi beliefs.

1740-06-01 00:00:00

Saponi Tribe Leaves Region

The Saponi tribe inhabited the region around the Virginia and North Carolina border before the arrival of the English settlers, and interacted with them on numerous occasions in the late 17th century and early 18th century. In 1740, the tribe migrated further north, eventually settling around Pennsylvania and Ohio.

1767-06-01 00:00:00

Pittsylvania Created

The county of Pittsylvania is comprised of land that had formerly been part of Halifax County. The county was named after William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham. He also served as the British Prime Minister to George III.

1773-07-01 00:00:00

The Boston Tea Party

1775-06-01 00:00:00

Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War veterans used to convene in Wynne's Falls (now Danville) every year to fish and reminisce about the war.

1776-07-04 00:00:00

The Declaration of Independence

1777-06-01 00:00:00

Caswell County Created

Once a part of Orange County, North Carolina, Caswell County was formed in 1777 and was named after the governor of North Carolina, Richard Caswell. In its early years, Caswell was home to many of the state's top political leaders and was the founding place of the bright-leaf tobacco curing process, bringing wealth and notoriety to the area.

1793-11-23 00:00:00

Founding of Danville

The city of Danville, known previously as Wynne's Falls, was founded by an act of the Virginia Legislature. Col. William Byrd II surveyed the area in the early 18th century and he also named the Dan River. He envisioned the area to be a place where residents could live with "much content and gayety of heart."

1803-07-01 00:00:00

The Louisiana Purchase

The signing of the Louisiana Purchase under the presidency of Thomas Jefferson in 1803 doubles the size of the United States, taking it as far west as the Rockies and as far north as British North America.

1820-06-01 00:00:00

Roman Eagle Masonic Founded

The first Masonic Lodge of Danville, founded by J. B. Roy, Stokeley Foster, Thomas White, Thomas Rowlings, Dabney Sneed, Edmund Cabell, James Conner, and Matthew Sims.

1824-06-01 00:00:00

Thomas Day Furniture

Thomas Day, a free black cabinetmaker, opens woodworking shop with brother in Milton, NC. By 1850, Day was the largest furniture manufacturer in North Carolina.

1828-06-01 00:00:00

Danville Manufacturing Company

Danville first cotton mill was established in 1828. The city had just entered it's "boom" period, making it the perfect time for new industries to open there.

1831-06-01 00:00:00

Moses Roper Jailed in Caswell County

Born in Caswell County in 1815, the son of a white slave owner and one of his female slaves. After escaping to England, Roper connected with prominent British abolitionists, who paid for him to be formally educated and employed him on the anti-slavery lecture circuit. Roper's Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery was first published in London in 1837. Extremely popular with abolitionist audiences in both England and America, Moses Roper's Narrative was published in ten different editions between 1837 and 1856.

1839-06-01 00:00:00

Bright Leaf Tobacco

A slave named Stephen, owned by Abisha and Elisha Slade, accidentally discovered the process of flue-curing for tobacco, which enabled tobacco to have high levels of sugar and simultaneously medium to high levels of nicotine, making the tobacco sweeter and more addictive. This was termed the Bright Leaf tobacco process and was discovered in Caswell County, NC. Caswell County accumulated a great amount of wealth due to flue-curing, and today tobacco still remains the main crop of the region.

1846-07-01 00:00:00

Irish Immigration

A massive potato famine in Ireland caused in influx of immigrants into the United States.

1847-03-09 00:00:00

Danville Richmond Rail

Bill passed to charter the Danville/Richmond Railroad. During the Civil War, this rail line connected the Confederate capital, Richmond, to the rest of the Confederacy.

1850-06-01 00:00:00

World's Best Tobacco Market

The WBTM, "The World's Best Tobacco Market" is established in the 1850s. With the establishment of the tobacco warehouse, it serves as Virginia's largest market for bright leaf tobacco. Danville started to be recognized for its tobacco.

1851-06-01 00:00:00

Danville Register Founded

Danville's newspaper, the Danville Register, was founded in 1851. There was also an evening paper, the Bee. The two eventually merged in the late 1970's, forming the Danville Register & Bee, which is still in print today.

1854-06-01 00:00:00

Danville Female College

The Danville Female College is said to have begun in 1854. It later became Randolph Macon School for Girls, which was renamed to Stratford College in 1930. The incorporation was approved by the Virginia Legislature in 1859.

1858-01-01 00:00:00

Danville System

Invented in Neal's Warehouse, the Danville System refers to a specific system of selling tobacco. Before the Danville System, tobacco was sold by sample, but after 1858 the markets favored the Danville System of selling tobacco wholesale in loose piles that buyers could examine before purchasing.

1859-06-01 00:00:00

Averett University Established

What is now Averett University was originally established as the Union Female College. From 1917-2001, it was Averett College.

1860-06-01 00:00:00

First Telegraph to Danville

The first telegraph message was sent into the city of Danville from Richmond in 1860. Setting up a telegraph system was crucial in Danville during the Civil War, because they needed timely updates on the growing tensions between the Northern and Southern states.

1861-06-01 00:00:00

The American Civil War

Danville played a very active role in the American Civil War. Tobacco warehouses were transformed into prisons, the railway helped to transport soldiers and supplies, and Jefferson Davis relocated the capital here for the last 3 days of the war after Richmond burned.

1861-09-01 00:00:00

Caswell County Courthouse Completed

When Caswell County was formed, one of their top priorities was establishing a courthouse in the center of the county. The building that still stands today in the county seat of Yanceville is the county's fourth courthouse. Construction had begun in 1857.

1863-01-01 00:00:00

The Emancipation Proclamation

1865-04-03 00:00:00

Confederate Capital

Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet relocate the Confederate capital to Danville after the fall of Richmond. This serves as the "Last Capital of the Confederacy".

1865-04-11 00:00:00

Arsenal Explodes

Accidental explosion of the Confederate arsenal in Danville, located at the end of Craghead Street.

1869-06-01 00:00:00

Danville Tobacco Association Formed

The founding of the Danville Tobacco Association marked the first time official records of the city's tobacco sales were kept.

1869-07-06 00:00:00

Virginia Occupation Ends

Occupation of VA ends with election of Gilbert Walker as governor. He ran as a Republican provisional governor from 1869-1870, and a Democratic governor from 1870-1874.

1870-05-21 00:00:00

Murder in Caswell Courthouse

John W. "Chicken" Stephens was appointed to help end the violence of the Ku Klux Klan in Caswell County. During a courthouse meeting on May 21, 1870, Stephens was taken aside, locked in a meeting room, and murdered by members of the KKK. It is said Stephens's ghost still haunts the historic courthouse.

1872-04-25 00:00:00

First National Bank Founded

First National Bank opened it's doors in Danville in 1872. It now has eight branches all over Virginia.

1875-07-01 00:00:00

The Statue of Liberty

Construction began on the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor in the fall of 1875.

1878-06-01 00:00:00

Whitmell Farm-Life School opens

Pittsylvania had no public school system, just scattered private academies. Named after Whitmell Tunstall, founded in 1878, Whitmell Farm-Life School became the first rural consolidated school in Pittsylvania County where the principal's motto was "the country school must be the center of community life."

1878-07-01 00:00:00

Sacred Heart Church founded

Danville's only catholic parish, Sacred Heart Church, was established in Danville in 1878 behind Millionaires Row. It later moved to a new chapel on West Main Street, and its Gothic architecture made it quickly become one of Danville's most iconic structures. It has since relocated to join with its counterpart, Sacred Heart School. The second Church building has been renovated into a home.

1878-10-17 00:00:00

Cherrystone Founded

The Cherrystone Missionary Baptist Association was formed in 1878 by 39 delegates and 19 church representatives to provide a religious center for the region's African American community. Their mission is to promote Christianity and Christian education, as well as a gathering place in the community. Through the years, they have established Sunday School programs, formed partnerships with other organizations across the state of Virginia, and have created a Congress on Christian Education. They are currently located in Ringgold, VA, which is part of Pittsylvania County.

1879-05-19 00:00:00

Lady Astor Born in Danville

Nancy Witcher Langhorne was born in Danville in 1879. Her and her sisters were known for their elegance and beauty. One sister even went on to inspire the "Gibson Girl." Nancy moved to England in 1905, where she become Lady Astor, the first woman to sit as a Member of the Parliament in the British House of Commons.She was known for her scathing wit and opinionated personality.

1879-06-01 00:00:00

Readjuster's Party Formed

The Readjuster's Party formed in Virginia after the Reconstruction Era. Their goal was "to break the power of wealth and established privilege" through things like public education. This brought them support from the African American community, as well as those who were not a part of the planter elite.

1879-11-01 00:00:00

Union Street Bridge Opens

The Union Street Bridge was built to connect North Danville to the White Mill and the tobacco warehouses. Because of this, it helped to expand Riverside Mill in 1887.

1880-07-01 00:00:00

Millionaires Row

Danville's elite, made up of tobacco and textile executives, built grand mansions up and down Main Street throughout the 19th century. The homes are emblems of Danville during the Gilded Age, and monuments to the wealth and power of tobacco. It is also home to the Sutherlin Mansion, which is known for being the "Last Capital of the Confederacy." This row of mansions has come to be known as Millionaires Row.

1882-06-01 00:00:00

Riverside Cotton Mills

The Riverside Cotton Mills are founded by six local men, including James Schoolfield. It would later merge with Dan River Power and Manufacturing Company to form Dan River Inc.

1883-06-01 00:00:00

VA Democrat Party Formed

The Virginia Conservatives change their name and become the Democrat Party.

1883-06-01 00:00:00

Controversial Danville Election

The Danville Election of 1883 stands out in Virginia for bringing attention to race issues as many members of the black population in Danville supported the Readjusters Party, whereas the whites were in strong opposition to them. A riot ensued, and ultimately the Readjusters Party dissolved after the 1883 election.

1883-11-03 00:00:00

Danville Riot

Many members of the black population in Danville were in support of the Readjusters Party, whereas the whites were in strong opposition to them. A riot ensued, and ultimately the Readjusters Party dissolved after the 1883 election.

1884-05-13 00:00:00

Danville Chamber of Commerce Organized

1886-06-01 00:00:00

Lighting Danville

Gas was not enough to light Danville, so a city council committee decided to switch to electricity for lighting the city's streets. This would be owned and operated municipally.

1887-06-01 00:00:00

Main Street Bridge

The Main Street Bridge in downtown Danville was constructed. The original iron bridge burnt down in 1927, and a new concrete bridge replaced it.

1890-06-01 00:00:00

Danville Military Institute Established

The school was Danville Military Institute until 1939. It was then utilized as a World War II prison. After the war, it became Virginia Polytechnic Institute, which later merged with Danville Technical Institute. In 1966, the school became Danville Community College.

1893-10-01 00:00:00

Wednesday Club Founded

Augusta Yates founded the Wednesday Club which provides cultural programs for the community.

1894-06-01 00:00:00

Booming Textile Industry

By 1894, the area is the largest textile operations in the South.

1895-06-01 00:00:00

Dan River Power & MFG Company

Five of the six founders of the Riverside Cotton Mills established the Dan River Power and Manufacturing Company to develop water power on the Dan River.

Flow of Time in the Dan River Region

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