Early records of this community mention "one Baptist house of public worship and a sabbath school". Established in 1773 by Samuel Harris, the first Catawba Baptist Church was a log building just across the road from the present church. (See history)
The postal records in the National Archives show that a post office was established at Barksdale on December 17, 1828, in the Catawba area of Halifax County. Its first postmaster was James McCraw. This post office was discontinued on June 22, 1866, and reestablished on July 16, 1867.The name changed to Nathalie on July 17, 1890.
In 1887 the construction of the *Lynchburg & Durham Railroad began at Lynchburg creating new population hubs along its route through southern Virginia and into North Carolina. Two of these newly named communities, **Gladys and Nathalie, were named for daughters of Peter Johnston Otey (1840 - 1902). Born in Lynchburg, he organized, built, and became president of the railroad. He was a Major of the 30th Virginia Regiment during the Civil War and served as a Democrat in Congress from 1895 to his death in 1902.
*(In 1892 it merged with the Norfolk and Western) **(Gladys was originally called "Pigeon Run" after flocks of now extinct passenger pigeons that roosted in the forests.)
This 1895 map of Virginia shows the railroad route through Halifax County.
The railroad crosses the Staunton River into Halifax County from near Red Hill in Campbell County, the last home of Patrick Henry. The first stop in Halifax County was at Clarkton. The beautiful Clarkton Plantation home remains and now goes by the name of Ardross. Nathalie was the second stop in the county.
The third stop in Halifax County for the Lynchburg & Durham Railroad was at Lennig. From there, the train stopped at Crystall Hill, Houston (Halifax), South Boston, Black Walnut (Cluster Springs), and then Denniston - the last stop in the county. Except for the preserved depot at Lennig, the only other L & D depot that remains is the one at Cluster Springs.
Photos of the Halifax County depots of the Lynchburg & Durham Railroad :
Nathalie history from History of Halifax by Pocahontas Edmunds, Vol. I, Pages 116-7
While this is a small settlement today, it has been that, and was more in former years. Its mail route sprawls over such a wide area today that it is called the largest rural mail route in the United States.
It was named Nathalie by Mrs. Rebecca Wimbish, but for the daughter of Major Otey, repaying her for right-of-way through her property in 1891. It was such a pretty title that it gave an idea, it is told, to many a prospective mother riding past the depot.
Four passenger trains passed daily. People used to ride to Lynchburg two hours en route and shop four and then get home by dark. In reverse drummers came from town to the settlement, unloaded their stock and got back to town that day, sometimes. One storekeeper, however, had three available rooms for rent, and his own home furnished hospitable and tasty meals.
There was usually a crowd to meet the trains for excitement's sake, and often for business. There were warehouses for storage if needed, and there were several stores along the tracks at one time. There was Moorefield's Mill, a lumber yard and J. R. Glass' blacksmith shop. The Maryland milliner, Blanch Carter, contrived beribboned and feathered hats for ladies who lingered near pleasant nearby homes, not journeying to Lynchburg, much less Baltimore.
The postman in a buggy brought the mail, riding nearly 10 miles on the route and doctors in a buggy or a "tin lizzie". It was told that the postman once swam the river with the mail, along with his horse.
The post office has been moved six times since 1924. Nearly 8,000 people receive mail from here. One postman interrupted his route to put out a fire alone the way, ploughing around the fire with a borrowed tractor.
E. Y. Wimbish has a flue shop here still, and he himself is a landmark in this neighborhood where his birthplace and his ancestors' still towering home is in sight of his more modern home.
J. H. Henderson* now runs the 1926 country store of his father. The 1964 grocery store of Louis (Punk) Stanley is busy in spite of the supermarket competition in Brookneal and Halifax. (*F.R. Henderson took over the store in 1916 of his father J. H. and then J. L. took over the store in the 1950s.)
Catawba Church is the third oldest Baptist church in the county with an inspiring and historic durability.
Another history of Nathalie was written by Hugh D. Koontz, III, in 1974 for publication in The Gazette-Virginian. Read it here.
(Editor's note) The name for the Catawba Baptist Church and Catawba Creek, and in fact the whole area that is now called Nathalie was originally called Catawba. This was an Indian tribe that lived in South Carolina along the Catawba River but, along with the Cherokee tribe, traveled all up and down the eastern coast for trade and sometimes war. See this 1733 Indian trading route map.
Catawba Indians were here in Halifax along with the rest of Gen. Nathanael Greene's army during the Revolutionary War and were also reported as helping the British fight during the French & Indian War in the 1750s all the way north into Pennsylvania.
On the approach of the British troops in 1780 the Catawba temporarily withdrew from their home in South Carolina into Virginia, but returned after the battle of Guilford Court House, and established themselves in 2 villages on the reservation, known respectively as Newton, the principal village, and Turkey Head, on opposite sides of Catawba River.
"..Cherokee and Catawba Indians were marching through Bedford and Halifax counties stealing horses belonging to the settlers. This brought forth a confrontation in which settlers and Indians were killed. John Roberts of Halifax County was killed by Indians in 1760 according to local court records." (Yesterday - Gone Forever by Faye Royster Tuck)
Also in Faye Tuck's book you can read reference to a "Catawba Meeting House" that was used during the planning of a slave insurrection in early 1802.