“Belle Grove” (see index) was built in the 1790's by William Tunstall, Jr. A two-story house with full attic and English basement, it is the largest brick structure in Pittsylvania County that remains from the 1700's. Its architecture is Federal.
Belle Grove's early history is associated with three “R's”: recordkeeping, racing, and railroading.
William Tunstall, Jr., was county clerk of court, after his father, and followed by his son William H. Tunstall; altogether they held the office for 91 years. Also in common with his father was an interest in horse-racing. William, Sr., owned the horse Koulikhan, imported in 1764 and a famed thoroughbred progenitor. William, Jr., established the “Tunstall's Paths” race track on the land of Belle Grove, behind present-day Tightsqueeze Shopping Center.
Ownership passed to Whitmell P. Tunstall, the younger son of William, Jr., and his wife Sarah Winifred Pugh of Bertie County, North Carolina. Whitmell Tunstall was a representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, then went on to the state Senate. Very influential in both organizing and obtaining in 1847 the charter for the Richmond and Danville Railroad (forerunner of the Southern Railway, and through it today's Norfolk and Southern), he became its first president. The existence of the city of Danville is credited to the perseverance of Whitmell Tunstall in overcoming the political opposition of canal interests to the Richmond and Danville rail line.
Later owners of Belle Grove have included Col. Peter Saunders, the Crews family (for over a century — see 1936 photograph), and Mr. and Mrs. J. David Cothran.
For further information, see:
Clement: History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past
Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House host this webpage, along with extensive other references concerning Chatham, Pittsylvania County, and Danville, VA.
Copyright © 2000–2013 Patricia B. Mitchell.