The name Dry Fork in Pittsylvania County goes back at least 246 years when it was notated on a deed as a branch of the White Oak Creek.
One of the earliest land surveys in the area of “downtown” Dry Fork, Virginia was for Benjamin Mosby on January 10, 1748. His survey south of Banister River included 737 acres on both sides of White Oak Creek. During that time, this area was a part of Lunenburg County, before it became Halifax County in 1752 and Pittsylvania County in 1767. This large tract contained much of the land from the Banister River and White Oak Creek along the Dry Fork Creek to the area of the Dry Fork Depot.
On November 14, 1762, then Halifax County, Henry Hardin surveyed a 400-acre tract along the southern lines of Benjamin Mosby’s tract. This land was described as being on the “Dry Fork of White Oak Creek.” These surveys joined in the area of the railroad tracks and the Dry Fork Road. This intersection is a short distance west of where the road crosses Dry Fork Creek. When Henry Hardin prepared his will in 1796, he left 737 acres “where I now live” to a grandson Henry Hardin.
Another early survey for Robert Weakley for 318 acres on “both sides of the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek” is dated February 16, 1771.
A survey was prepared for 312 acres on “both sides of the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek’ on June 20, 1772 for Isaac Certain. On October 26, 1779, Joseph Rogers surveyed 696 acres “on branches of the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek.”
The area, which became the Town of Dry Fork in 1906, is due north of the Dry Fork Creek gap between “peaks” of the White Oak Mountain range. I have shaded in the highest points of the mountains on the below topographical map. The head waters of Dry Fork Creek are south of the mountains near state road 863 (R & L Smith Road) and the waters flow due north. The railroad, which was completed in 1874 from Lynchburg to Danville, was constructed near the path of this creek.
At the top of this map is the Banister River and at the bottom R & L Smith Drive (sr 863). “And when we crossed that White Oak Mountain you can watch Old Nintey-Seven roll!” That line was made famous in the 1920s by “The Ballad of the Wreck of the Old 97.” The 1903 wreck song became the first record to sell a million copies and is still popular today.
The White Oak Mountain range runs northeast and southwest through Pittsylvania County from the area of Cascade to near the center of the county line with Halifax County. Some believe that the mountains were created during the Triassic Age of some 200 million years ago. I am not too sure that there is an accurate measure of hundreds of millions of years, but that is another story. But there are large specimens of petrified tree trunks and limbs to be found on the northern slopes of these mountains. There are sandstone outcroppings, clear quartz and some gold has been found. There is a great debate going on concerning the mining of uranium on lands to the north of the range. There is probably oil down there, but many are opposed to getting it out of the ground. There have been claims of finding dinosaur footprints near where the Banister River cuts through the mountains.
At the center of this gap and west of Dry Fork Creek and what is usually known as “the” White Oak Mountain, my third great grandfather William Ricketts owned 205 acres from the 1780s until he died in 1832. His survey, dated April 25, 1780, was for 55 acres of land on the north side of White Oak Mountain and branches of White Oak Creek. On June 20, 1786, Ricketts bought an adjoining tract of 150 acres between this tract and Dry Fork Creek. On later maps, I found that a small branch flowing east through this 150-acre tract was referred to as “Ricketts Branch.” A 1910 map showed two log cabins. I believe that the large one north of Ricketts Branch was the homestead of William Ricketts.
William Ricketts had a son Nathaniel Ricketts who was born in 1795. He was still alive in 1850 and was a shoemaker. After William died in 1832, Nathaniel signed a Deed of Trust for $37.90 in favor of Robert Wilson of Dan’s Hill. In 1833, the Ricketts plantation was sold for this debt at public auction to Robert Hatchings for $110.20. The land was subject to the dower interest (usually one third) to William’s widow Nancy Ricketts for her lifetime. Nancy was a daughter of William Davis of Cherrystone Creek. In 1850, John M. Hutchings bought this property to add to his adjoining property to make a large tract of more than 600 acres. On the 5th of April 1862, John M. Hutchings sold the 627 2/3-acre tract to Beverly A. Davis for $3,140. The sales price in Confederate money may be slightly misleading. Those who purchased land with their current money were the fortunate ones. Three years later in 1865, the money was only worthless paper. This land crossed the road from Dry Fork to Pleasant Gap. The Ricketts Branch and Dry Fork Creek are mentioned on the deed.
The cabin near Ricketts Branch on the 1910 map is very likely the cabin rented by Ed and Lucy Ricketts. She mentioned living near her sister Izetta Owen, wife of Charlie Owen, and hearing the trains go by. (see Lucy’s Sketch on our website: http://family.rdricketts.com/lucysketch.html ). Charlie Owen and his brother-in-law Charlie Edward Ricketts were both on the town council of Dry Fork when it was incorporated in 1906. The Charlie Owen farm was between the Dry Fork Road and Ricketts Branch. Edward Robertson, a Revolutionary War veteran, bought 241 acres here in 1786, after the War. He died in 1826 and was buried in the large, largely unmarked, graveyard on the Charlie Owen farm. William Ricketts died in 1832 and may be be buried here in an unmarked grave. The very large size of the graveyard indicates that it might have been a communtiy cemetery.
). Charlie Owen and his brother-in-law Charlie Edward Ricketts were both on the town council of Dry Fork when it was incorporated in 1906. The Charlie Owen farm was between the Dry Fork Road and Ricketts Branch. , a Revolutionary War veteran, bought 241 acres here in 1786, after the War. He died in 1826 and was buried in the large, largely unmarked, graveyard on the Charlie Owen farm. William Ricketts died in 1832 and may be be buried here in an unmarked grave. The very large size of the graveyard indicates that it might have been a communtiy cemetery. See blog index at: http://rdricketts.com/blog/
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