Friday, July 16, 2010

In 1793, the Virginia General Assembly established the town of Danville. Twenty-five acres were divided into 50 lots along the old road from the ford. The shallow water just below the “Great Falls of Dan River” was for many years the best river crossing for miles in either direction. The land for the town did not include the valuable river front lots and waterpower. At that time the town land and surrounding 165 acres belonged to Larkin Dix. His father John Dix was operating a water-powered grist mill just below the town tract in 1781. He advertised his mill and “Palm Tree Springs” tract for sale in Williamsburg that year. (see:
The legislature also authorized a tobacco inspection station at the new town of Danville.
Postmaster Thompson Coleman descbibed the town of Danville was it was in 1829 when he came here. Capt. Samuel Stone was an early manufacturer of tobacco in the town.

Danville lots and owners in 1819. By 1800, only half of the original 50 lots had been sold. By 1819, the town had expanded to the east and more lots were surveyed. Capt. Samuel Stone purchased lots 7 and 51 which are highlighted here.

1877 map with lots 7 and 51 highlighted. This courthouse was built in 1874.

Tobacco was so important that it replaced money as a medium of exchange. Even the preacher was paid in hundreds of pounds of tobacco. (see: )
A race was cut from above the falls beginning at the present Union Street Bridge. In the 1820s, this race was widened, four locks were installed and the Roanoke Navigation canal was completed around the falls.

Samuel Pannill of Campbell built a warehouse on Bridge Street, not far from the old mill, for the inspection and sale of tobacco. Another warehouse, built by Col. Leonard Claiborne was built at the top of Main Street.

Leonard Claiborne, who lived in a large mansion across the Dan River where Bellevue School was later located, married Lettice White Clark. Her sister Phoebe Hanson Clark, both daughters of Col. William Clark of “Pineville” in Pittsylvania, married Capt. Samuel Stone. Samuel Stone was appointed a lieutenant in the militia in 1809 and served as a captain during the War of 1812. He was a tobacco grower on his 390-acre “Spring Garden” plantation.

In 1817, Capt. Samuel Stone began buying property in Danville. That same year he was granted a license to operate an “ordinary” (the equivalent of today’s Holiday Inn Express) on the busy Main St. of Danville. On February 20, 1818, Samuel and Phebe Stone bought a large house on one acre of land in the heart of the town of Danville. The large lot was just above the present Market St. and fronted on both “Old Street” (Main) and “Back Street” (Patton). He paid $12,000 to Capt. Thomas Stewart (another War of 1812 captain). In March of 1818, Samuel Stone was granted a license to “stem and manufacture” tobacco and he built his factory next to his brother-in-law’s warehouse on upper Main St.

Business seems to have prospered during the administration of Pres. Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s wife, the former Rachael Donelson was born on Banister River, not so far from Spring Garden. Andrew Jackson fulfilled a campaign pledge to pay off the national debt. When he left office just after the year 1836, he had cut spending and sold enough public land to pay off the deficit. This was the first and last time our country was out of debt.

Pres. Martin Van Buren came to office promoting change. He said that as the first president born after the Revolutionary War, he “belonged to a later age than his illustrious predecessors.”

Andrew Jackson believed that smaller government was better. He believed that giving federal money to local governments for local projects was unconstitutional. He believed that Congress should only support the military and the national interest. He was concerned about printed money, which had no backing with gold or silver.

Not long after Pres. Van Buren took office, came the “Panic of 1837.” He was reluctant to take any action and blamed the Jackson administration for all the problems with the economy. All New York banks refused to take paper money in payment for debt. Prices for food and everything rose sharply and real estate value dropped and was difficult to sell at any price. The effects of the panic lingered for six or seven years.

Capt. Samuel Stone was caught in this great financial crisis. He borrowed money against his property in 1843. In 1848, his house on Main St. and other properties were sold at public auction. His lot number seven, for which he paid $12,000 was divided and sold in two tracts for less that $600 each. Fortunately for Stone, his relatives bought the property. He stayed in his house and his young daughter and son-in-law moved in with them after buying the house. Two of his daughters married Grastys.

A young lawyer, Thomas Grasty, of Orange County, Virginia, married Mary Garland Stone in 1839. When the census taker came around in 1850, Samuel Stone, age 67, was the head of the household and wife Phebe H. was 55 years old. Also in the household was Thomas Grasty (40) and Mary G. (32) with children William C. Grasty (3) and John T. Grasty (5/12). Samuel kept his slaves. The 1850 slave schedule lists a total of 10 slaves, five male and five female ranging in age from one to 55.

Samuel Stone seems to have died in 1859. It is not known where he is buried.