South of the Dan Driving Tour
Historic Buildings in Halifax County, Virginia

Wiley's Tavern

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    Wiley's Tavern Archaeological Site, Danripple vicinity. The 18th-century Wiley's Tavern served alternately as the headquarters of British general Lord Cornwallis and his American counterpart, Gen. Nathaniel Greene, during the decisive military stratagem known as the retreat to the Dan River.

The tavern was built ca. 1771 for William Wiley. Constructed of log, the small, crude structure was typical of the establishments that dotted the farther reaches of Virginia in the late colonial period. The building eventually collapsed in the 1950s. Archaeological excavation of the tavern site should reveal architectural  data helpful to understand rural life in Halifax County during the Revolutionary period. It may also yield data on the construction and operation of a back country tavern, as well as information on colonial trade on a major north-south thoroughfare.

(41-39) VLR: 7/31/80

Wiley's Tavern Cited by historic registry - News & Record Staff

The Wiley's Tavern archaeological site off Rt. 58 about 6 miles west of South Boston Virginia has been added to the Landmarks Register and is proposed for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction reserved for the nation's most significant archaeological and architectural sites.

The Wiley's Tavern site was nominated by the Halifax County, Historical Society and by the Virginia Research Center for Archaeology, the archaelogical branch of the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission.

An 18th century country inn located on a well-traveled thoroughfare, Wiley's Tavern served alternately as the headquarters of British General Charles Cornwallis and American, General Nathaniel Greene during the decisive, military stratagem known as the Retreat to the Dan River.

It symbolizes for the people of Halifax County their ancestors' contribution toward the winning of the American revolution.

After the American army's crushing defeat in Camden, South Carolina, General Nathaniel Greene elected to withdraw his men northward across the Dan River in Virginia to avoid another direct confrontation between his greatly weakened army and the superior British forces. He devised a plan known in the documentary record as the Retreat to the Dan.

Dispatching diversionary Ametican forces westward toward the shallows of the Dan River, where Cornwallis expected the American army to cross, Greene led the main body of his men in a straight line to Boyd's Tavern, where they were ferried across the flood-swollen Dan in boats provided by the people of Halifax County.

Cornwallis, arriving at the southern river bank, discovered that the Americans had escaped to safety across the river. Cornwallis used as his headquarters Wiley's Tavern, which was near the river but out of the range American fire. Two days later, after the last British troops had left the area, General Nathaniel Greene recrossed the Dan and used Wiley's Tavem as his headquarters.

A diminutive log structure, measuring 20 feet by 24 feet, Wiley's Tavern had a single common room on the first floor, with sleeping quarters available in an overhead loft. William Wiley, the Tavern's proprietor, came to Halifax County in the middle of the 18th century and had begun operating an ordinary by January 1771. Wiley's guests were served by family members with the assistance of household slaves.

Today a stone foundation near Rt.58 is all that marks one of Halifax County's proudest moments in history.

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   The transcription and the updated photos are the work of Dan Shaw. In some cases modifications to the original text have been made to improve the flow of the story, correct typos, and insert new or clarifying information. Additional facts or further corrections are welcome.    This author takes no credit for the original publications and its research. These local historians should be honored for the their endless hours of efforts to document this county's history for posterity.