Brentsville History Preserved at Courthouse Historic Centre

Underground railroad brentsville courthouse prince william visit

The Brentsville Historic Courthouse Centre once severed as a stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom. [Mary Davidson/Potomac Local]

Prince William’s history traced to courthouse, farmland in Brentsville District 


Brentsville was established in 1820 to serve as the county seat of Prince William County. As residents moved west to farm, the original county seat in Dumfries was just too far for them to travel to.

Today, Brentsville’s history is preserved at the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre– a 28-acre site residents and visitors can explore. The site includes a former Union Church, the old courthouse and jail, a circa 1928 one-room schoolhouse and the 1850 Haislip-Hall House.

The Prince William courthouse and jail tell the story of the increased resistance to slavery by both black and white Americans. Part of the Underground Network to Freedom, these sites are where runaway bondsmen and abolitionists were arrested and jailed from the 1820s until 1862. Thirteen executions were recorded here, 12 of which were against African Americans. One enslaved woman, Agness, was executed after killing her master. Today, she allegedly still haunts the property.

Just down the street from the courthouse, residents and visitors can walk the hallowed ground where the Battle of Bristoe Station unfolded during the Civil War. In the fall of 1863, Gen. Robert E Lee returned to Prince William to fight one of his last offensive campaigns of the Civil War on this ground.

Thanks to a grant from the state tourism office, Prince William County’s Historic Preservation Division will launch the Bristoe Station Campaign Mobile Tour this year, which will utilize technology to connect visitors to the rich history of the battlefield.

Using their cell phone, visitors will be able to stop at various stations on the battlefield and listen to 90-second narratives about the people and battles that unfolded at Bristoe more than 150 years ago.

In nearby Bristow, the once quiet area known for a Civil War battle has become a bustling suburb full of single family homes and shopping just outside Manassas. The residential communities of Saybrooke and Braemar, located on Lake Manassas and it’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, are located in Bristow.

In the Village of Nokesville, this area is surrounded by farms — which has been a way of life here for hundreds of years. The Civil War Battle of Kettle Run took place near here, and Nokesville — once accessed by passenger rail — is still served by busy Route 28, making it one of the first stops in Prince William County for those headed east.

Nokesville Elementary School dates back to 1929, it recently closed to make way for Prince William County’s very first school to house grades kindergarten through 8th. Once construction of the new school is finished, it will sit next to longstanding Brentsville District High School.

Emergency services

The Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department responds to 911 calls for emergencies from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and has some 24-hour staff at fire stations in the county. Volunteer fire and rescue crews respond to calls from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. and on holidays. Police services are provided by Prince William Police Department. For non-emergency situations, residents can visit one of two police stations — The Eastern District Station in Woodbridge and the Western District Station in Manassas. Call 703-792-6500 for more info.  


Dogs 4-months-old or older must be licensed by January 31 of each year. The $10 licenses can be purchased beginning in November at the Prince William County Taxpayer Services Office at the McCoart Government Center, at the County Animal Shelter, or by mail. Call the Animal Shelter for more info: 703-792-6465.

Snow removal

Snow removal is handled by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Snow is removed first from roads with the highest traffic volumes, from Interstate Highways to neighborhood streets. Call 1-800-367-7623 for more info.

Leaf removal, recycling, trash disposal

Trash and leaf collection is performed by privately licensed waste removal companies in Prince William County. Residents should contact a licensed private waste removal provider. Residents may choose to dispose of waste at the County Landfill with a solid waste decal. Call 703-792-6710 for more info.


Brentsville, Bristow, and Nokesville lie in Prince William County’s Brentsville District which had 79,541 residents in the 2010 Census. By 2012, it’s estimated 430,289 people lived in Prince William County.


Personal property taxes on vehicles, trailers, and motorcycles are due on Oct. 5 of the year. Personal property tax statements are mailed each spring.  For real estate taxes, the first half of the year’s taxes are due July 15 and the second Dec. 5. Real estate assessments begin Jan. 1, and assessment notices mailed by late winter.

Vehicle decals

Prince William County does not require decals to be displayed on vehicles. Vehicles must be registered with Taxpayer Services upon moving in and moving out of the area by calling 703-792-6710. A $24 charge for cars/trucks, and a $12 charge for motorcycles will be billed along with personal property taxes.


The Voter Registration Office is open 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During General Elections held every November in Virginia, you must be registered to vote 22 days before Election Day to vote. Call 703-792-6470 for more info.

Water and sewer

Prince William County Service Authority and Dale City Virginia American Water handle water and sewer utilities in the county. Call 703-335-7900 or 703-491-2136, respectively, for more info.

Editor’s note: This column is written by Discover Prince William / Manassas and is posted to Potomac Local under a special content-sharing agreement. 

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