Eden is a unique town in that it originated as a 70,000-acre estate owned by a planter named William Byrd II. The area was originally called “The Land of Eden”.
In the later years of his life, William Byrd II expanded his estate to over 100,000 acres, and upon his passing the estate descended to his son. In 1755 William Byrd III sold 1/4 of the estate’s acreage to two merchant brothers, Simon and Francis Farley, from the island of Antigua. By this time, settlement was increasing at a considerable pace. The Farley brothers attempted to create plantations on some of the richest acres, but more frequently, settlers squatted on the land and built homesteads.
Many later settlers migrating to the Dan River Area knew little of William Byrd. They were familiar with an old Indian village in the area near Town Creek and the Farley holdings. This location became the center of settlement, and the 26,000 acres originally sold by William Byrd III came to be called the Sauratown tract.
The area eventually became a magnet for settlement due to its proximity to the Petersburg-Salem road that crossed the Smith River at an island ford. In 1795, the town of Leaksville was established on the southwest edge of the Sauratown along the main road, and a few years later, Farley’s daughters, Maria Farley and Rebecca Parke Farley, sold their share of the land to none other than Patrick Henry of Virginia, the man who delivered the “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech.
In turn, Henry, on his deathbed June 6, 1799, gave the land to two of his sons, Alexander Spottswood Henry and Nathaniel West Henry. In the century that Sauratown was in existence many still prominent families settled in the “Land of Eden”, including the Brodnax, Dillard, Ruffin, Morehead, Henry, and Winston families. Many Scots also settled in the area, including the Galloway, Scales, Watt, Lenox, Campbell, and Moir families. Other residents of the county have included General Lighthorse Harry Lee.
On the third weekend of September; Eden hosts The River Fest each year to celebrate Eden’s history.