What makes this river unique is its dual personality - it has two names. At both ends it is the Roanoke, but in the middle it is the Staunton. On some maps it is marked as the Roanoke from one end to the other. However, that part of it which flows through South Central Virginia is known locally and on most maps as the Staunton (pronounced Stanton) from the mouth of Back Creek to its confluence with the Dan.
It is with that part of the river that our story is concerned.
The name "Staunton" is said to originate from Captain Henry Staunton, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, who earlier was in command of a company of soldiers organized to patrol the river valley from the mountains to the mouth of the Dan to protect the early white settlers from the incursions of the Indians. This section of the river came to be known locally as "Captain Staunton's River".
When Capt. Staunton and his men were patrolling the river, a young girl named Mary Crawford who lived at the white settlement near Hurt in Pittsylvania County was stolen by the Indians and taken to their camp near Smith Mountain. Col. Abner Anthony, an early Campbell County citizen, relating the story, said that Capt. Staunton learned where the Indians had hidden Mary, stole into their camp at night and rescued her, wading and swimming the river with the girl to conceal his tracks from the Indians, and brought her safely home to her parents.
However, "A Hornbook of Virginia History" quotes William Byrd in 1728: "We call'd this South Branch of Roanoke the Dan as I had call'd the North Branch the Stanton before." (The quote's origin is found in William Byrd's Histories of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, page 193.)
(Taken from the Introduction of the Herman Ginther's book "Captain Staunton's River" - 1968 - with permission.)