Henry County lies mainly in the rolling Piedmont of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its hilly terrain is broken by an occasional mountain peak and flattened by rich bottomland and sandy soils. Formed from Pittsylvania County in 1777, Henry was the first Virginia county to be established after the Revolution began, and, accordingly, the first county named for a patriot—Patrick Henry, the first governor (1776–1779) of Virginia. Between 1779 and 1784, Henry lived in his namesake county in a house that once stood on Leatherwood Creek.
The county's nineteenth-century history of subsistence farming for many and large plantations for a few families (mostly Hairstons) has almost been obliterated by the once-dominant factory work, the rise of service industries, and residential developments. Seed and hardware stores have turned into lawn and garden centers, farmsteads and mansions are outnumbered by city and suburban dwellings, and most country stores have lost out to convenience stops. The area's population is centered in the independent City of Martinsville.
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