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History Tourism

Berry Hill Plantation in the springHistory and heritage run deep in Halifax County. It was established in 1752, and 260+ years is a relatively long time to cultivate a rich, American culture. Tangibly, you can start your visit with living reminders of the past.

Berry Hill Resort started as a plantation in 1803. Due to its rural location and status as a National Historical Landmark, a visit to the resort means you get a vivid glimpse into both the opulence of being a plantation owner during the Antebellum era and, if you so choose, the harsh reality of working the plantation. Beautiful architecture will inspire awe while the original slave quarters will act as poignant reminders of the real cost of such elegance.

The Tobacco Heritage Trail runs behind Berry Hill, along the banks of the Dan River. The THT is a regional trail for hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders and is being constructed primarily on abandoned railroad corridors through Southside Virginia. When complete, it will span 170 miles connecting 5 counties.

The Brooklyn Tobacco Factory may be the best preserved example of an Antebellum tobacco factory yet identified in Virginia, and is one of the few buildings of its type preserved nationally. The Brooklyn Store and Post Office is representative of large country stores built throughout Virginia in the nineteenth century. It was here that the "Brooklyn Grays" enlisted for the Confederate army, Company E, 23rd Virginia Infantry, under Captain William Haymes.

rock formation on Tobacco Heritage TrailThis rock formation along the Tobacco Heritage Trail looks eerily like a lizard.Of course, Halifax County was not untouched by the Civil War. The area held key strategic value for General Robert E. Lee, and General Ulysses S. Grant sought to deny Lee usage of the railroads in the area. Grant sent Generals Wilson and Kautz to harry and raid the area. This led to a series of skirmishes between the Wilson-Kautz raiders and local militias, earning Halifax County a marker on the Wilson-Kautz Raid Civil War Driving Trail and Lee's Retreat Civil War Driving Trail. The Staunton River Battlefield State Park is also a nice way to spend a lovely day outside while also scratching that historical itch.

Much like the rest of the South, and the nation as a whole, Halifax County's problems didn't end when the Civil War did. The free public education system our country now enjoys has its roots here in our region, where the right to equal education for all was the subject of challenge, debate and courageous acts. The sleepy back roads of our rural Virginia counties were an unexpected place for inspired activism. The Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail tells the poignant and often explosive story, and Halifax County has four sites on the 300-mile trailThe four sites in Halifax County, known as the African-American Heritage Trail, are Mary Bethune High School in Halifax, Washington-Coleman Elementary School, Mizpah Church, and Meadville Community Center.

Desegregation was an extremely controversial part of the history of Southern Virginia, and Halifax County is a mandatory stop for anyone seeking to understand the history of the Civil Rights movement in the South. While you're at it, be sure to stop by the L.E. Coleman African-American Museum. Its stunning collection of African-American art and culture is an invaluable resource, and its emphasis on local culture will grant you a uniquely Halifax perspective on African-American history.

Crossing of the Dan battle recreationBefore the Civil Rights Movement, the Civil War, and even the Antebellum South, though, was the American Revolution. The war in the South Campaign was notoriously hard-fought on both sides, and Halifax County played an important role in that. Within the Prizery is an exhibit dedicated to the Crossing of the Dan. Gen. Cornwallis, infuriated by his loss at Cowpens, pursued Nathaniel Greene's forces with zeal in an attempt to rescue his captured soldiers and wipe out the American forces. Greene responded by fleeing to pull Cornwallis away from American supply lines. The retreat took them northeast through North Carolina and eventually into Virginia. To get into Virginia, though, the Americans had to cross the Dan River, which runs between downtown South Boston and Riverdale. Because of Cornwallis's fevered pursuit, he had neglected to bring the boats necessary to cross. With the British breathing down their necks, Greene and his army successfully crossed the Dan River and left Cornwallis stranded on the other side, out-maneuvered and thwarted. The exhibit goes into great detail about the battles surrounding the crossing, and the strategic repercussions of it. Additionally, this heart-thumping scene is reenacted every year at the actual crossing-point, which lay within sight of the Prizery.

Halifax County is filled to the brim with exciting, somber, and, most of all, terribly interesting history that any enthusiast would be mad to miss. For more information on the historical sites and events in Halifax County, visit the History directory here.

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