Brentsville Courthouse, Bristow, Virginia

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By John Cowgill

Throughout the region, many people know about Manassas being associated with Prince William County.  Manassas is the county seat of Prince William County, and Manassas is a town full of history.

However, Manassas was not the original county seat. To find the previous county seat, travel about eight miles south to a town that was once known as Brentsville. Today, it is the site of the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre.

Union Church

Brentsville was once a town like any other incorporated town. Established as the county seat in 1820 (after the county seat was relocated from Dumfries), it had a tavern and a church along with the courthouse and a jail. When the county seat was moved to Manassas in 1893, the town went into decline. Through the years, the town was forgotten… but the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division took over the site in 2004.

While the town of Brentsville is now part of Bristow, you can still visit the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre. You can visit the one room schoolhouse, which now serves as the visitor center and gift shop. The Historic Centre also includes the site of the tavern, the Union Church, the old jail and the Brentsville Courthouse. The Haislip-Hall Farmhouse was relocated to this site to be preserved, and there is a nature trail you can hike.  

Haislip-Hall Farmhouse

The Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre is located at 12229 Bristow Rd. in Bristow. The buildings are open Friday to Monday with tours at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 for adults and free from children under six.  The grounds are open from dawn to dusk and are free to roam.  Learn more about the town of Brentsville and its structures at

Spend a weekend in Brentsville, and enjoy the once-quiet town that was once the center of activity of the county.


John Cowgill ( loves to visit historic places to include lesser known sites.  He loves taking road trips, and he loves railroads.  You can also follow him on Facebook at ‘John Cowgill: Photographic Journeys’ and John Cowgill: DC Railroad Examiner.  You can also check out ‘John Cowgill: Stories of the Railroad’ at


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