Our History

History is more than beautiful old buildings. History is who we are.

The Founding of Warrenton

Warrenton had its origin at the junction of the Falmouth-Winchester and Alexandria-Culpeper roads, where a trading post known as the Red Store was established. At the time of the Revolution a settlement had begun, and by 1790 the first courthouse was built, a jail was erected and an academy named for General Joseph Warren, a Revolutionary War hero, was founded. Richard Henry Lee donated 71 acres of land for the county seat, which became the Town of Warrenton in 1810.

The Richest Town in the South

Warrenton before the War

By the 1850's a railroad reached the town, which boasted several churches, thriving mercantile establishments, a weekly newspaper, and one or two schools. According to an early account, "Huge wagons and vans come over the mountains from the rich counties of Orange, Culpeper, Rappahannock and Loudoun, loaded with wheat, corn and oats; the housewife sent her poultry and dried fruit; great herds of cattle wended their way to this town...For its size (604 population in 1860), Warrenton was the richest town in the whole South."

Civil War Comes to Warrenton

During the Civil War, the town was near the scene of battles and skirmishes during which the churches and schools were used as hospitals, frequently occupied by Federal troops, Warrenton was the object of raids by Colonel John S. Mosby, known as the "Gray Ghost," who later made his home there and practiced law in the California Building across Court Street. A monument to Mosby stands beside the Old Courthouse, He is buried in the Warrenton cemetery.

History Enshrined

Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail

At the end of Main Street rests the Old Jail, built in 1808 and rescued from demolition before it was turned into a museum. The jail houses historical artifacts from throughout Warrenton's history and is open year around Weds-Mon, 10-4.

Extraordinary People

Who lived in and around Warrenton

  • Duvall Goldsmith, inventor of the coffee percolator.
  • William "Extra Billy" Smith, who was twice Governor of Virginia.
  • Austine McDonnell Hearst, wife of William Randolph Hearst Jr.
  • John Marshall, First Chief Justice of the United States
  • Walter Chrysler, Founder of the Chrysler Corporation
  • John Horner, Governor of the Michigan Territory
  • James Deruyter Blackwell, Civil War Era Poet
  • Samuel Chilton, Attorney for famed Abolitionist John Brown
  • Edward Brooke, First popularly Elected African American Senator
  • Bonnie Zacharle, Creator of My Little Pony
  • Benita Fitzgerald, Olympic Gold Medalist