Branch, Charlotte County, Virginia, by Samuel P. Daniel
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
By: Brady Fitts
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Thomas T. Bouldin was omitted because another part of the program was devoted
to a history of the Bouldin family.]