Source:  Drakes Branch, Charlotte County, Virginia, by Samuel P. Daniel
[This article was read before the Charlotte County Branch of the APVA on June 13, 1930. Mr. Daniel based this material on some research, some family tales, and community folklore.]

Submitted By:  Brady Fitts

             The town of  Drakes Branch takes its name from an early settler whose name was Drake and who had his habitat on the little stream which runs through the town. It had its birth with the advent of the Southern (Richmond and Danville) Railroad in 1852. Its location was determined by two factors: 1) the location was desirable for a depot because it is situated at the end of a long, stiff grade on the railroad descending from Keysville; and 2) because the railroad found the sweet water of Drakes Branch free from mineral ingredients and admirably suited to use in its engines.

             At this early date the main street of town was probably a productive cornfield as there is no record of any building here before the railroad came. All of the north side of Twitties Creek was owned by Mr. Stephen Bedford, while the land on the south side was owned by R. Samuel F. Peete. To Mr. Bedford properly belongs the title of Pioneer and Founder of Drakes Branch. He erected the first building which was used as a store and post office. In 1864, he deeded three acres of land to the railroad for a depot, but only after the depot had been built--cautious man that he was.

             In 1852, a charter was granted to the Marysville Plank Road. It was a joint stock company, built by local subscriptions, authorized to collect tolls, and extended from Drakes Branch to Marysville (now Charlotte Court House). This was a great asset for Drakes Branch and marked it as the most progressive depot in the county. Shops and stores were added to accommodate the additional trade.

             In 1868, L.S. Squire purchased from R.S.F. Peete the land lying south of Twitties Creek. The tract was called Milldale and contained 816 acres. There was a commodious brick residence on a part of that tract that was later owned by Mr. E.H. Chalkley. Mr. Squire occupied this dwelling and laid off all South Drakes Branch into a town site [see Squire's Plat of Drakes Branch]. John Thompson was one of the first to purchase a lot and erected a large storehouse thereon. He did a thriving business and became one of the leading business men of early Drakes Branch.

            Commercial Drakes Branch may very properly be said to have begun when J.H. Overby, D.C. Jackson, and R.H. Gilliam erected a store and warehouse in 1873 on the site' now occupied by L.S. Jackson and Son. About the same time T.W. Scott also built a stand on the opposite side of Main Street. These energetic young men opened warehouses for the sale of leaf tobacco and went after trade in dead earnest. Competition was sharp and near fistfights between them accentuated the struggle. Tobacco poured in and developed a fine trade so that many new enterprises came and succeeded. The sale of leaf tobacco continued to grow and was the foundation on which the business of the town rested. These sales reached a maximum of 5,600,000 pounds in 1908 under the joint management of R. W. Payne and George B. Russell, each of whom operated a warehouse.

             Other enterprises have aided mightily in the town and community. Among these, Payne's Brickyard comes first.  From a small beginning, it has grown to large proportions and, today, the plant is capable of molding 75,000 bricks per day. E.S. Cook's foundry, begun in 1861, turned out a first rate plough and other useful castings. About 1902, the Bank of Chase City established a branch in Drakes Branch.  In July of 1908, their interest was bought up and the State Bank of Charlotte County was organized. The officers of the new bank were George B. Russell, President; L.S. Jackson, Vice-President; and W.H. Pettus, Jr., Cashier and Secretary.  In 1919, the town welcomed the arrival of The Charlotte Gazette, with J.A. Scoggin and Son as proprietors. Electricity came to the town in 1929 through the Virginia Public Service Corporation.

             Early in the town's history, houses of worship appeared.  The first church organized was St. Michael Baptist, which still stands as a monument to the good old blacksmith, Henry Dupuy, who was its founder and head. Stephen Bedford gave the lot for this church in 1872. In 1874, the Presbyterian Church was organized with G.A. Heidleberg, T.W. Scott, R.M. Friend, and J.B. Friend as trustees. Grace Episcopal Church was moved from Charlotte Court House and rebuilt at its present location in 1878-79, with Thomas Bouldin and D.C. Jackson as trustees. The Methodist Church was formed in 1888 due almost entirely to the efforts of Mrs. T.A. Proctor. The Drakes Branch Baptist Church was constituted in 1900 with M.A. Tucker, E.H. Chalkley and J.L. Putney as trustees.

             Many splendid men have resided in or near Drakes Branch and they have contributed to its growth and development. William G. Friend and his brother, Joseph B. Friend, were upstanding farmers, who may be described properly as the anchors which held moral Drakes Branch safe and steady. R.V. Gaines served the Confederacy in the Chemical Department with the rank of Major. In the writer's eyes, Gaines was "The glass of Fashion and the mould of form," kindly, broad in his conceptions, and the best informed man in the county, as witness his many articles and publications.

             Dr. T.A. Proctor was also a veteran of the Civil War, ranking as Major of Surgeons. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia and of the University of Pennsylvania, and later took a postgraduate course at the latter institution.  Originally from Prince George County, he married Miss Margaret Skidmore, only daughter of the famed Lewis Skidmore of Charlotte County, and moved to Locust Grove with its broad acres, which had been in the possession of her Bedford ancestors from Colonial days.

             Thomas Watt Scott was the successful politician of the town. A vein of wit and humor ran through his whole life and he never forgot a good joke. He served the counties of Charlotte and Mecklenburg in the Virginia Senate Session of 1891-92, and was appointed by President Cleveland to the office of U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia.

             Lewis S. Jackson finally succeeded to the business of Overby, Jackson and Gilliam. For years he was the leading businessman of the town. With indomitable energy, he made a success of his farming, tobacco and mercantile business. He is remembered by all as an honest and correct businessman, too big to stoop to little things.

            As a young man, George B. Russell engaged in the tobacco business in this town. Words fail to express the varied activities of this most beloved of all citizens. His motto seems to have been "help everybody you can," and no worthy cause or individual ever appealed to him in vain. As a natural result, the community was ready to help him and his business grew to the largest the town ever saw. His political influence was felt throughout the state and he had many friends among Virginia's most influential men.

             Judge Boylan Green was identified with the town during the latter part of his life. For years he served as Judge of the County Court for Charlotte County. His rulings are known to have been remarkably accurate and correct. As an advocate he stood high in his profession, and it is not going too far to say that the conscience of Drakes Branch was in his keeping for years.

             [Judge Thomas T. Bouldin was omitted because another part of the program was devoted to a history of the Bouldin family.]