Historians credit Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam as the English discoverers of the Franklin County area. The pair and their fellow explorers -- Thomas Wood (who died during the trip); Jack Weston; and Perecute, an Appomattox Indian -- were operating under a commission from Abraham Wood, an English fur trader and explorer, who like others, wanted to find a way to the "South Sea" as a means to simplify commerce.
The group left Fort Henry, near Richmond, on Sept. 1, 1671, and eventually reached the Appalachian Mountains after traveling through the southern tip of Virginia.
Batts and Fallam found evidence of another explorer who had passed through Franklin County before them, but they were the first to keep a diary of their journey, according to "Franklin County Virginia 1786-1886, A Bicentennial History" by John and Emily Salmon.
Although Batts and Fallam are thought to have been the first Englishmen to journey through what is now Franklin County, there were others here long before: the American Indians.
American Indians lived here as long as 12,000 years ago, co-existing with herds of mammoth, mastodon, moose and caribou. The climate was cooler than we know it today. Over thousands of years as the climate warmed, these large animals died off. Deer, elk, bear, squirrel and rabbit were hunted in areas close to villages. About 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, our predecessors began to cultivate crops in addition to hunting and fishing.
In southern Piedmont and the Blue Ridge area of Virginia there were two tribes, the Saponi and the Tutelo, that dominated the region. The Saponi lived in what is now Halifax County on the lower waters of the Staunton River near the Roanoke River (which was first called the Saponi by early settlers).
The Tutelo occupied much of present day Montgomery County, near the headwaters of the Staunton. The Saponi and the Tutelo competed for game in some of the same Piedmont territory, particularly in what is now Franklin County.
Many artifacts left by American Indians have been found in Franklin County. The Patterson Site near Sydnorsville revealed the remains of an important hunting device, the atlatl. This tool extended the effective length of the hunter's arm and enabled him to throw a spear with greater force and for a longer distance (up to 100 yards). These artifacts were approximately 2,000 to 4,000 years old.
American Indian fish traps dating back to the 1600s have been found in the Rocky Mount area. These traps consisted of a wall of stones set in the river with openings for fish to pass through. The mouth of the openings contained a cone-shaped pot of reeds that trapped the fish.
The stone remains of one such trap can be seen today about 50 yards above the point where the Blackwater River passes under the U.S. 220 bridge.
Much of the warfare among American Indian tribes occurred as a result of changes in territories and populations brought about by the arrival of English colonists 400 years ago. As the Colonies grew, more tribes were displaced from their traditional lands.
Up and down the East Coast, tribes competed for land and game. The Iroquois of New York raided tribes farther south than Virginia.
The route they followed -- later called the Warrior's Path, Great Warrior Trace or the Great Wagon Road by the settlers -- led past present-day Roanoke and entered the northern end of Franklin County through Windy Gap. The path passed west of Rocky Mount, then east again and south to the Carolinas.
As these American Indian battles went on, the smaller tribes in the valley and the Southside hid, fled or were destroyed. By the time the first white settlers passed through Franklin County in 1671, the American Indians were either so dispersed or well hidden that the English did not encounter or report them.