Greensville County was formed in 1781 and may have been named for Sir Richard Greensville, leader of the Roanoke Island settlement in 1585; or General Nathaniel Green, who marched through the County after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.The historical record is not clear as to who founded Greensville County. The area was first explored in 1670, but not settled until around 1710. Hicksford, the first community, was developed where the Fort Road (known today as the Dry Bread Road) connecting eastern Virginia to Fort Christianna (in Brunswick County) crossed the Meherrin River. The Town of Emporia was centrally located in Greensville County and was designated as the county seat when the county government was created in 1781. The present courthouse was erected there in 1787. In 1796, the Town of Hicksford was started on one bank of the Meherrin River and in 1798, the Town of Belfield was started on the opposite bank. In 1887, these two villages merged to become Emporia.
Military incidents occurring in the county since its formation include General Cornwaillis and his army marching through in May 1781, and General Tarleton raiding throughout the region with small skirmishes. During the War Between the States, Confederate General Wade Hampton spent much time defending the railroad and railroad bridge that crossed through the county. A skirmish at the bridge across the Meherrin is known as the Belfield Skirmish.
The famous and historically prominent persons generally associated with the county are John Y. Mason, legislator, twice Secretary of the Navy, Attorney General and Minister to France; William McKendree, first American- born bishop of the Methodist Church; Henry Tazwell, United States Senator; and John R Chambliss, a general in the Army of the Confederacy.
The Town of Emporia was chartered as the City of the Second Class by an act of the General Assembly on July 31, 1967. At this time, it became a separate political entity from Greensville County. The Town of Jarratt, located in northern Greensville County and partly located in southern Sussex County, was incorporated by order of the Circuit Court of Sussex County on June 20, 1938. There are no other incorporated communities in Greensville County.