What I did know was that Bristow has a lovely view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by neighborhoods and the Prince William Parkway to the east, horse country to the west, and farms to the south. Located in Northern Virginia, it is 30 miles west-south-west of Washington DC, in Prince William County. (But don't be fooled, it's an hour drive to DC with low traffic.)
And I totally loved that I could drive to all points north: Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc via lovely Rte 15 instead of the parking lot of I-95.
Bristow is such a tiny town, 14 square miles with a population of 30,000. We don't even have a mayor or city council. We fall under the county jurisdiction, with our county supervisor representing Brentsville District which is 2 miles southeast of my house. The courthouse is in Manassas, five miles east of my house. My volunteer fire department, based at its lovely firehouse a block north of my neighborhood, is part of the Nokesville Fire Department, 3 miles southwest of my house.
For years I asked locals, who shrugged but said there was nothing out here until the early 2000s when the huge subdivision, Braemar (where my house is located) was built. I've often been told that Braemar IS Bristow.
I asked the interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg if they knew of any history of Bristow. Was there a burgess? Oops! I stumped them on that one. (I didn't mean to.) No one knew.
Bristow seemed to be a forgotten place.
When my kids and I recently toured the Civil War battlefield down the road, the tour guide had a suggestion. We should check the recently built Sheetz on the corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Road.
Well what do you know? Historical markers at the local Sheetz, which only a couple of years before were woods? Using this as a base I've had impetus for further research, which bore more fruit. So for my own interest and fascination, I'll be adding to this blog post as I learn more details of the history of Bristow. Join me on the ride if you so wish! Personally I think it's fascinating peak not only into the 18th century, but also the 17th!
|Looking towards Bristoe Station Battlefield in Bristow|
In the 17th century the area was a tiny part of a 5,000,000,000 acre land tract between the Potomac and Rappahanock Rivers, called the Fairfax Proprietory. As a political move it had been granted by King Charles II of England to seven Virginia Englishmen, one of whom was John I Lord Culpeper. However it didn't carry much weight because it had never been mapped. Further the proprietors pretty much ignored this gift, because the king didn't even have a kingdom.
When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the grant legally took effect. But lets back up. When John Culpeper sided with the troubled King Charles I, the king granted Culpeper peerage in 1644, making him the "first Baron Colepeper of Thoresway, or John I Lord Culpeper." (The Fairfax Grant)
The Culpeper family obtained, consolidated, and retained the grant during the eras of Charles II, James II, and the rule of William and Mary. The Fairfax name is associated with the grant today because a Culpeper daughter married a Fairfax in 1690, and their son ended up owning all the shares granted initially in 1649. (The Fairfax Grant)(By the way, the eldest son of that marriage, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, inherited the lands in 1719. At this time the boundary lines were in huge dispute which you can read all about here. However I'm getting ahead of myself. This was a just an interesting side note.)
From John I Lord Culpeper, 30,000 acres of the tract was purchased in 1687 by George Brent, a member of the House of Burgesses and a Catholic. Joining him in the purchase were three English merchants: Robert Bristow (a survivor of Bacon's Rebellion), Richard Foote, and Nicholas Hayward.
The 30,000 acre plot in Northern Virginia extended between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers from Stafford County, between the two branches of Occoquan Creek and the mountains. Or in 17th century terms:
...backwards at least six miles Distant from the said Main River and from any Land already seated and inhabited, and upon and between the Southwest and Northeast branches of Ocaquan Creek and from thence towards the Mountains.The 30,000 acre land tract became known as the Brent Town Tract.
|Bristow History showing division of Brent Town Plat among the four investors|
Because Catholicism was illegal, Hayward obtained special permission from King James II for this tract of land to be a sanctuary for those seeking religious freedom. The land owners first attempted to bring solely Huguenots and then later Catholics to the area. Neither attempt was successful.
Population registered 39 households in 1737.
So, who is Robert Bristow, Esquire? (To prove that many resources agree, I grouped information according to source.)
Robert Bristow arrived in Virginia from England in 1660, settled in Gloucester County, and became a burgess. As a result of his support of the government during Bacon's Rebellion, he was captured by rebels and lost land holdings. (Notes on often-cited persons, places, things in Robert Carter's diary and letters)
Born in Hertfordshire, England in 1643 he arrived in Virginia in 1660 and started acquiring property three years later. Serving as major of the militia, Bristow sided with Royal Governor Berkley during Bacon's Rebellion. Because that venture failed, he returned to London in 1677 where he attained wealth as a merchant. (Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography)
After the fallout from Bacon's Rebellion, "Commissioner Berry's highest praise for a Loyalist was perhaps saved for Major Robert Bristow, who was a rebel prisoner while his plantation and store was plundered. (Loyalists and Baconists: the participants in Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, 1676-1677)
Major Robert Bristow, a Gentleman of good estate and an Eminent sufferer in his stock...by being kept prisoner until Bacon's death and after, he hath had a general knowledge of most passages relating to the unhappy Troubles, and is able not only to justify most Particulars of our Narrative, But also is a person very fit & necessary to be examined to divers particulars in the generall Greivances. Being a man of good understanding in the Virginia affaires and one of Integrity and moderacion, see that wee could wish hee might bee sent when there shall bee occasion & use of him in any of the aforesaid affaires being now an Inhabitant in Tower Street, London, Agt. Barking Church. Signed, John Berry Ed. in, October 15th, 1677. [The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 5, No. 1 (Jul., 1897), pp64-70]Here I discovered that Robert Bristow was described as a purchaser of "valuable estates." Upon his passing in 1707, his grandson, also a Robert Bristow, was "bequested the lands in Virginia which consisted of estates in Gloucester, Lancaster, Stafford, and Prince William Counties."
Portions of a drafted letter Robert Bristow's grandson wrote to Robert "King" Carter, Jan 10, 1708:
Mr. Robert CarterBecause Robert Bristow was a loyalist, the Commonwealth of Virginia confiscated his portion of 7500 acres during the American Revolution.
By the death of my honoured grandfather Robert Bristow Senior Esquire my father being dead above a year since: Those plantations, & that estate he had in Virginia become mine--Bequeathed indeed to me per Will, the Copy of which attested per Notary Public is sent to Mr. Nathanial Burwell son of Major Lewis Burwell I was advised per some friends of mine to desire him with Major Lewis to take an Inventory...(The Correspondence and Papers of Robert "King" Carter of Virginia. 1701-1732)
Overtime the spelling mysteriously changed to Bristoe. I've heard various stories, none confirmed. One explanation is that the spelling changed because of the confiscation of land from the Bristow family. Bristoe Station was the name of the RR depot for the Orange and Alexandria that was fought over in the Civil War. Few lived here at the time. In 1906 the Board of Geographic Names settled on Bristow.
Oh, and one more historical marker at the Sheetz parking lot on the corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Roads.
|Battle Bristoe Station|
Little known Bristow is the location of the little known Civil War drama: Battle of Kettle Run and Battle of Bristoe Station.
Yet don't estimate our supposed unimportance. The Battle of Kettle Run defined the Second Battle of Manassas. The Battle of Bristoe Station defined the end of Lee and the open door for Grant.
And Bristow? The importance of a little Virginia town of Bristow is perhaps of little significance except to a history lover, like me. What can I say? It's because of Colonial Williamsburg. They taught me to love history and to love digging for the historical record.
Stay tuned for more history from Bristow.
Historical Markers at Sheetz on corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Rds, Bristow, Virginia