Remembering the Past


Mark Summerfield

Prince William County Courthouse, Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center, Bristow, Virginia

Patrick Broemmel, Opinions Editor

Brentsville recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, however many people do not know the history of this little town, when it was founded, its importance, and later destruction in the Civil War which is why it is so shrouded in mystery. 

Brentsville, as it is known today, was formerly called Brent Town.  In the 1700’s it was an underdeveloped area that was used to oversee old Indian hunting trails.   Upon the owner’s death, though, the property was divided and given to the state later in 1779.  This occurred because owner’s record keeping of the land was poor, and that he was an Englishman that had resided in Britain and never visited the property after the war. 

 Due to its central geographic location, Brents Town would be given the privilege of constructing the county courthouse later in 1822.  And, some years later, the town took the name Brentsville, the moniker known today. 

After the construction of the courthouse, population boomed as more people traveled through the new county seat. By the time the Civil War happened, the newly named Brentsville had a courthouse, jail, clerk’s office for the judicial system. In addition, many other structures were built for the residents such as taverns, stores, churches, a school and about 20 homes. 

Most people do not know that Brentsville was the site of a minor skirmish during the Civil War.  During this battle, the town nearly burned to the ground losing many of is dwellings and structures.  It was not rebuilt until modern times.  

 Later onBrenstville would be abandoned and the county courthouse relocated to Manassas. The government moved the county seat to Manassas due to it being the epicenter for commerce because of the Alexandria and Orange Rail Conjunction, leaving Brentsville behind.   

In 1997, Prince William County deemed the land a historic landmark naming it an official county park, where Brents Town once stood. Parks employees opened doors of the old courthouse, old schoolhouse, and old jail for visitors so that others can learn about the town’s unique history and walk the grounds of the property. In fact, people can learn about the battles around the area and watch civil war reenactments.  

Many visitors of Brentsville look for a town that really does not exist outside of that small historic landmark. Curiously enough, people who live in the area do not have an address that notes the town Brentsville, but rather, their address contains the town, Nokesville, instead.  Ironically, despite the fact that the town’s destruction was not a total destruction, it sort of became a legend rather than a real town.  Perhaps this is the reason why the high school is named Brentsville, yet the school and address is clearly in Nokesville?