An Early History of Danville, VA

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This article is sponsored by the abuse lawyers from Danville. Discover the early history of Danville and how the city is working to redevelop its historic districts.

Danville: From Past to Present

Danville is an independent city on the fall line of the Dan River. Part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it was a major center for Confederate activities during the American Civil War because of its location on the Richmond and Danville Railroad. Before the area was settled by English colonists, it was inhabited by Siuan language-speaking tribes. In 1792, the first settlement, "Wynne's Falls," was developed downstream from Byrd's campsite on the Dan River. In 1793, a tobacco warehouse was constructed in the town. Because of this warehouse, the town would become known as "The World's Best Tobacco Market." The act of November 23, 1793, also changed the town's name to Danville. In 1833, a charter for the town was issued.

By the mid-1800s, the planter and entrepreneur William T. Sutherlin became a major industrialist in the area. He was the first to use water power to run a tobacco press. During the Civil War, Sutherlin was appointed as the quartermaster of the strategic center for Confederate activity in Danville. His mansion also became known as the last "Capitol of the Confederacy" as President Jefferson Davis wrote and issued his last Presidential Proclamation while staying there from April 3rd to the 10th of 1865.

After Reconstruction ended, tobacco processing and the textile mills were a major source of wealth for business owners in the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The industrial town grew rapidly and attracted single workers and gambling, drinking and prostitution establishments to the region. However, the late 1900s saw a turn in the economy for Danville. The restructuring of the tobacco, textile and railroad industries resulted in the reduction of the number of jobs in the area. The textile industry also relocated offshore to cheaper labor markets. Today Danville is working to create new bases for the economy by preserving and redeveloping the River District and stimulating heritage tourism.

Follow along with the journey through our cities with Petersburg, Virginia.

The River District

Now named the River District, the development project began in early 2000 and aims to beautify the city's riverfront district by adding visitor amenities, pedestrian walkways and venues. Planned amenities include the following:

  • Riverwalk Trail
  • Asses to Dan River
  • Historic Architecture
  • The Crossing at the Dan
  • Broadband

The area consists of the Historic Downtown and Tobacco Warehouse District of the City of Danville. It is home to the oldest and most architecturally attractive and significant buildings in the city.


Served by the Danville Public Schools District, the city of Danville is home to a number of elementary, middle and high schools. Catering to students in the area, these schools are the elementary schools of Woodberry Hills, Schoolfield, Park Avenue, G.L.H. Johnson, Forest Hills and E.A. Gibson, Woodrow Wilson Intermediate School, the middle schools of Westwood and O.T. Bonner, Piedmont Govern's School for Mathematics, Science and Technology, and the high schools of George Washington and Galileo Magnet.

Besides the schools of the Danville Public Schools System, there are other schools located in the city. The private schools Westover Christian Academy and Sacred Heart Catholic School and the colleges and universities Averett University, Danville Community College, and American National University serves the city and its surrounding areas.

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