The Town of Gretna, Virginia, previously known as Elba, is a Municipal Corporation and a Political Subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Although the Town was incorporated in 1901, its history dates back much further. The Town of Gretna began when Edward N. Dillard deeded the land on which the Town is situated today to Jeremiah Talbott as payment for Mr. Talbott substituting for Mr. Dillard during the Civil War (1861-1865). Of course this was legal and commonly practiced by wealthy landowners during this period.
Gretna also has a great deal of railroad history. In appreciation for the benefits that resulted from the railroad’s coming through the Town, Jeremiah Talbott, in 1872, deeded a right-of-way to the Lynchburg and Danville Railroad. Construction of the L & D Railroad began in 1872 and was completed two years later. Then in 1879 the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad (F & P) was completed which began the Franklin Junction passenger and freight station, Elba Post Office and Gretna’s railroad heritage. This allowed for the passage of famous trains, like the Old 97, which came through this small Town before it’s famous wreck in 1903.
In 1700’s, Stephen Yates, a Revolutionary War Veteran, built Yates Tavern, a frontier bed-n-breakfast. The Tavern is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other notable events during this period include the separation of Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties, and the building of Galveston Mills on Whitethorn Creek.
Later in the 1800’s, Jeremiah Talbott built the first house in Elba, followed by a hotel, and two room school. Shortly after, Elba obtained its first doctor. In 1879, the first church built was Elba Methodist/Episcopal Church, later becoming Anderson Memorial Church. In 1892, Elba Baptist Church was organized, later becoming First Baptist Church. The Anderson Lodge #258 A.F. and A.M. was organized in 1894.
On March 21, 1914, Elba changed its name to Gretna. The name Gretna originated from Gretna Greens in Scotland. The years have passed and Gretna has developed into a pleasant, friendly little southern town that continues to grow and prosper into the 21st century.
Currently, Gretna is home to over 1300 people and encompasses 1.2 square miles. It has retained its charming small town atmosphere with one stoplight, restaurants known for their “home cooked” meals, and residents who are accommodating and friendly. The Town’s close proximity to the juncture of Routes 29 and Routes 40 offers potential economic growth for existing and future businesses and Industry.
Gretna is located just a few miles from Smith Mountain and Leesville Lakes; neighboring Towns are Hurt, Chatham and Altavista.