By Patrick Farris
Warren County and the settlements which predated the county's 1836 creation have held different names and even slightly different locations over the centuries. The following is a list of the more major settlements with their various known names.
When Warren County was formed from parts of Shenandoah and Frederick County on March 9, 1836, the town of Front Royal - being the largest town - was named the county seat.
Confluence, or what is now known as Riverton due to its 1867 name change, is located at the junction of the north and south forks of the Shenandoah River. Confluence or Riverton was first established in 1736 when Thomas Chester began operating his ferry business, and soon became a very important center for river trade. In 1868, Samuel Carson established the Carson Lime Company, an extensive company and the forerunner of Riverton Corporation.
The village of Howellsville, situated on the east side of the Shenandoah River, takes its name from a stream in the area called Howells Run.
Situated in the northeast corner of Warren County, Rockland was part of the 2,000 acres of land that had been claimed by Lord Fairfax's agent Robert "King" Carter. Named after the Rock Hill Plantation that once existed in the area, Rockland's early settlement hosted high society or the gentry class due to its close proximity to Lord Fairfax's quarter at White Post.
The village of Milldale is named for the many mills it supported. Milldale is also the site for Mount Zion, the home of Charles Mynn Thorton, rector of the Frederick Parish whose extensive boundaries reached all of early Frederick County.
The village town known as Buckton or Waterlick grew out of an early settlement to the area by the Buck family. In 1905, Warren Springs Hotel was built and chartered under the name Waterlick White Sulfur Spring, which was named after an extensive spa in the area. This hotel helped to bring many travelers into the area.
Named after the Brown family, who were once prominent in the area, Browntown was surveyed for Lord Fairfax in 1748 by William Green who reported four prior dwellings of hunters or squatters. It was later settled by Virginia Piedmont families. Although named Browntown, its first post office was named "Hambaugh." In later decades of the 19th century three brothers by the last name Cover operated Cover Brothers Tannery, beginning a period of high employment for Browntown. After the business subsided at the end of the 19th century, Browntown returned to a quiet village town.
The village of Asbury was located on the east side of the Shenandoah River. Asbury was formed around a church called the Union Meeting House, which was in existence as early as 1820. In 1848, a new church was erected and still stands today as the Asbury United Methodist Church.
The Village of Limeton became a village when it was platted by Elias Herr. Herr came from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania to operate Limeton Lime Company, which began producing agricultural lime in 1880.
The village of Bentonville was settled by Alexander Matthews using a 1749 Lord Fairfax land grant. In the 1880s, the railroad proved prosperous for Bentonville, allowing produce to be shipped by rail instead of by river. The Bentonville post office has records dating back to 1848.
The small mountain community of Chester Gap gets its name from Thomas Chester, who operated the first ferry in the county. Although Chester never lived in Chester Gap, he did sponsor a road through it, which during the Revolution was well traveled by the local militia and armies marching prisoners of war from Albemarle barracks to Winchester. In the 1900s most of Chester Gap's best farm land was purchased by the federal government to support projects such as Remont Depot, USDA Beef Cattle Research, and a breeding Station for the National Zoo.
Harmony Hollow, a small mountain community formed at the headwaters of Happy Creek, was settled by Virginia Piedmont families. Many residents of Harmony Hollow were forced to leave their homes during the construction of the Skyline Drive in the late 1930s.
Linden, or what was once called Manassas Gap, borders both Fauquier and Warren counties. Discovered first by John Lederer in the late 17th century, Linden proved to be an important avenue for future settlers moving east of the Blue Ridge. When the railroad came through Manassas Gap on its way from Alexandria to Front Royal in 1854, Linden welcomed summer travelers.
Taking its name from the Happy Creek Estate, home of James Markham Marshall, Happy Creek is situated northeast of Front Royal. Originally part of Lord Fairfax's Leeds Manor, Marshall acquired the land after the General Assembly had resolved the Hite vs. Fairfax Court case. The inhabitants to the area proved to be a migratory population transforming or dividing life-long leases.
The village of Cedarville began as a Quaker settlement in 1731 when Robert McKay first settled the area. McKay's home, which was built on the site of Cedarville, stills stands - and is one of the oldest homes in Warren County.
The village of Nineveh, like Cedarville, was also an early Quaker settlement established by Robert McKay and other Quaker families in 1731. Nineveh centered around the Crooked Run Meeting House of Friends, which was established there in 1760.
Before the American Revolution, the area known as Reliance, then referred to as "the pine hills" due to its lack of agricultural land, was not a desired area of settlement in Warren County. However, after the revolution it became a thriving community. It is believed that Reliance received its name after the dependability shown by its people. In 1893 Warren County's first college, The Shenandoah Normal College, was established in Reliance.
Interested in local history? Come visit the Warren Heritage Society in Front Royal. Refer to warrenheritagesociety.org for contact information, hours and location. Patrick Farris is executive director of the Warren Heritage Society.