Today, Prince William Forest Park is a 20-square mile stretch of trees. However, beneath this forest canopy there exists a history of family, community, and land use.

Artist rendition of the Bennett Plantation
Bennett Plantation

Early Farm Settlements (1650-1720)

Prince William Forest Park was on the frontier of English settlement in America. Records suggest that in this early period, a number of plantations were set up along the lower reaches of the creeks. It is evident that at least a few hardy people settled in what is now Prince William Forest Park.

The Crossing Trail
The Crossing Trail

NPS Photo

Colonial Times (1720-1780)

The population in the area now composing Prince William Forest Park seems to have stayed very low during this period. Only a few farm or house sites have been found that date to before 1770.

Artist's rendition of the Poor House
Artist's reconstruction of the Poor House around 1800

The Louis Berger Group, Inc.

The Poor House (1794-1928)

An interesting building in this area at the time was the Prince William County Poorhouse, which sat in the northwest corner of the park. The Poorhouse opened in 1794 and operated until 1927. By the late eighteenth century, the states had different ways to help the less fortunate.

Old Home foundation in the park
Foundation of an old home site

NPS Photo

Hickory Ridge, Joplin and Batestown (1830-1936)

Before the creation of Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area in 1933, the lands of Prince William Forest Park were not heavily forested. Instead, hundreds of small-scale farmers, laborers, and others lived in the area. Two communities - Hickory Ridge, which developed west of the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine, and Batestown, to the mine’s east.

Last updated: October 23, 2017

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18100 Park Headquarters Road
Triangle, VA 22172



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