• dogwood across creek

    Prince William Forest

    Park Virginia

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    Reminder to park visitors. Fireworks are prohibited at Prince William Forest Park.

  • Oak Ridge Campground Site A29 closure

    Oak Ridge Campground site A29 will be closed until safety concerns have been mitigated. Please do not use that site until it has been reopened.

  • Warm Wet Spring = More Ticks

    Please check yourself and your pets for ticks continually during and after your visit. Ticks are less prevelent if you stay on trail or in mowed areas. Wearing light colored clothing helps you spot them before the attach.

  • Firewood

    Outside firewood is prohibited in Prince William Forest Park, unless it is certified USDA 'bug free' firewood. Dead and downed wood may be collected from designated areas for use while in the park. Help us protect the forest from invasive species!

  • Visitor Center Remodel 2014

    Over the next several months there will be new changes coming to the Visitor Center. Presently we are remodeling the bookstore area to give it more of a country theme. Next the exibit area will get all new exhibits. Thank you for your patience and support

Hickory Ridge, Joplin & Batestown

House foundation
Foundation at an old home site.
National Park Service

National Park Service

The Origins of Batestown
A man named Henry Cole, listed in the census as black, owned seventy-eight acres of land in 1842. He bought another seventy-seven in the 1850s, and more in 1872. By the start of the Civil War, he was the largest African American landholder in Prince William County. He owned three houses, a team of oxen, two milk cows, four cattle, eight pigs, and produced wheat, corn, oats, tobacco, and potatoes. In a time when most African Americans lived in bondage, Cole laid the groundwork for the small town of Batestown. By 1860, there were 550 free blacks in Prince William County, and some settled around Cole’s land.

Henry Cole bought land once owned by Thorton Kendall, another African American, who owned the property in the 1820s. When Kendall died, he left his homestead to his wife, Sally Bates. Bates kept the name of her first husband. Batestown emerged by the middle of the nineteenth century as the property was divided among Bates’ and Cole’s descendants. By the turn of the twentieth century, there were 150 residents. As of the early twenty-first century, seventy-five continued to claim Batestown as their home.

Hickory Ridge
Hickory Ridge emerged after the Civil War around property purchased by an African American named Zeal Williams (ca. 1817-1880). Williams appeared in the 1860 census as a farm laborer. He bought 100 acres in 1869, and his son, George, purchased 25 acres nearby soon after. These homesteads would be split among heirs. The land stayed among the original families, the Williamses, Kendalls, Reids, and Byrds. While Batestown was all black, Hickory Ridge was a mixed community, where whites and African Americans lived side-by-side. The center of town sat near Scenic Drive and Pyrite Mine Road. Oddfellows Hall, which housed a fraternal organization, also served as a church and a school. There were 171 houses at the town’s peak.

The End of the Communities
Both Batestown and Hickory Ridge provided laborers for the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine, which operated from 1889 to 1920. When the mine closed, some residents left, while others continued to labor with the land. In 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt took office, he introduced the Recreation Demonstration Area (RDA) program. The first phase of this involved the purchase of submarginal farm land and the resettlement of the farmers who owned it. All of the residents of Hickory Ridge were moved, but part of Batestown remains outside park borders. The government purchased or condemned a total of 127 properties.

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Did You Know?

Office of Strategic Service (OSS) recruits learning Morse code during the Second World War

Prince William Forest Park was used by the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to the CIA) as a training camp for spies during World War II. Today, you can rent a cabin where spies once learned their trade.