In 1728, Colonel William Byrd and 19 others were sent on an expedition to determine the boundary between the colonies of Virginia and North Carolina. The men were guided by a member of the Saponi tribe, Bearskin. The surveying party began marking the line at the mouth of the Currituck River on the coast of Virginia, and went westward toward the mountains. When they reached this area, Colonel Byrd and his party encountered “the South Branch of the Roanoak River the first time, which we call’d the Dan.” He described the river as “exceedingly Beautiful.”
Why the “Dan”? Colonel Byrd never explained his choice of name for the river. However, the biblical limits of Canaan were “From the Dan to Beersheba.” Because the northern limit of North Carolina was in question, “Dan” seemed to be an appropriate name for the river which at that time fixed the boundary in this area between the two colonies.
In 1746, William Wynne purchased land and settled in the area near the site of Byrd’s camp. He established a ferry below the falls of the river, probably near where the bridges enter downtown today. His settlement became known as “Wynne’s Falls.” After the Revolutionary War, the area became popular with veterans who met annually to fish and talk over old times. With the activity generated by the settlement and the growing importance of tobacco, Virginia’s General Assembly established a tobacco inspection station at Wynne’s Falls early in 1793. Late that same year, the Legislature renamed the village Danville.
The original town started on a 25 acre site. The original trustees of Danville were Thomas Tunstall, Matthew Clay, William Harrison, John Wilson, Thomas Fearn, George Adams, Thomas Worsham, Robert Payne, James Dix, John Southerland, John Call and Thomas Smith. They laid out one acre lots along Salisbury Road (now Main Street in downtown Danville) and offered them for sale beginning in 1795. By 1800 the new town was big enough to need a post office.
Retrieved from Danville Historical Society