Originally "Pittsylvania" was a name suggested for an unrealized British colony located primarily in what is now West Virginia. Pittsylvania County would not have been within this proposed colony, subsequently known as Vandalia.
The county was formed in 1767 from Halifax County. It was named for William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1766 to 1768 and opposed harsh colonial policies.
In 1777 the western part of Pittsylvania County became Henry County.
Maud Clement's History of Pittsylvania County notes the following: ”Despite the settlers’ intentions, towns failed to develop for two reasons: the generally low level of economic activity in the area and the competition from plantation settlements already providing the kind of marketing and purchasing services typically offered by a town. Plantation settlements along the rivers, particularly at ferrying points, became commercial centers. The most important for early Pittsylvania was that of Sam Pannill, a Scots-Irishman, who at the end of the eighteenth century, while still a young man, set up a plantation town at Green Hill on the north side of the Staunton River in Campbell. (Clement 15)”
Its economy was tobacco-dominated and reliant on a growing slave labor force. It was a county without towns or a commercial center. Plantation villages on the major River thoroughfares were the only centers of trade, until the Danville emergence. (Clement 23)”
The city of Danville’s history up through the antebellum period overall is an expression of the relationship between the town and the planters who influenced its development.
Note: Danville city, formed from Pittsylvania County. Annexation after 1980 from Pittsylvania (1980 population 11,007).