Nestled among the Blue Ridge foothills of Southern Virginia, Henry County is steeped in early history. The Native Americans who lived here long before William Byrd’s 1728 survey are highlighted in exhibits at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. George Washington, Patrick Henry and Joseph Martin (Martinsville’s namesake) all had ties to the area. To explore the history of regional families, visit the Bassett Historical Center.
Virginia Museum of Natural History
21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, Virginia
The Virginia Museum of Natural History is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. Natural history research, exhibit collections, and educational programs at the museum provide an opportunity for better understanding of the environment that shaped early settlement, both by Europeans and Native Americans. Permanent exhibit galleries include “Uncovering Virginia and How Nature Works,” the Hahn Hall of Biodiversity, and the Fossil Overlook. One exhibit details the excavation of the important Totero Indian settlement at the Graham-White site on the Roanoke River at present-day Salem, Virginia.
Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center
1 East Main Street, Martinsville, Virginia
Martinsville was laid out in 1791 on the land of tobacco planter George Hairston as the seat of Henry County. It was named in honor of Joseph Martin, a legendary frontiersman, Indian trader and hero of the American Revolution. The original log courthouse was replaced by a brick structure in 1824. This was remodeled in 1929 and, since 2011, houses the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center & Museum. The museum contains exhibits detailing the history of the town and county. The courthouse is the first stop on a walking tour of Martinsville.
Bassett Historical Center
3964 Fairystone Park Highway, Bassett, Virginia
The Bassett Historical Center contains an extensive collection of genealogical research and local history research for both Henry and Patrick counties and Martinsville. The Center currently houses family files, local history files, genealogy books, early African-American materials, and the histories of local industries. It is regularly open for visitors pursuing family history research.