Prince William County is a county located on the Potomac River in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States, and is part of the Washington Metropolitan Area. As of 2012, Prince William County had a population of 421,164. Its county seat is the independent city of Manassas. It is part of Northern Virginia and is one of the highest-income counties in the United States.
At the time of European encounter, the inhabitants of the area that became Prince William County were an Algonquian-speaking sub-group of the Powhatan tribal confederation called the Doeg. When John Smith and other English explorers ventured to the upper Potomac River beginning in 1608, they recorded the name of a village they inhabited as Pemacocack (meaning "plenty of fish"), which sat on the west bank of the Potomac River about 30 miles south of the City of Alexandria. The Doeg maintained several villages in this area into the 1650s, when colonists began to patent the land.
Prince William County was created by an act of the General Assembly of the colony of Virginia in 1731, largely from the western section of Stafford County as well as a section of King George County. The area encompassed by the Act creating Prince William County originally included all of what later became the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun; and the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park. The County was named for Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, the third son of King George II.
The county was a rural community for years and the population was centered in two areas, one at Manassas (home to a major railroad junction), the other near Occoquan and Woodbridge along the Potomac River. Beginning in the late 1930s, a larger suburban population grew up near the existing population centers, particularly in Manassas. Beginning in the late 1960s, the County and its population expanded dramatically to the point where, by the end of the 20th century, it was the third most populous local jurisdiction in Virginia. Much of this growth has taken place in the last twenty years. Recently the county has been enhanced by the opening of the Marine Corps Heritage Museum and the Hylton Performing Arts Center. It is to be the site of the coming American Wartime Museum. During the 150th commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the famous First and Second Battles of Manassas will be re-enacted.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 348 square miles (902 km²), of which 338 square miles (875 km²) is land and 11 square miles (27 km²) (3.04%) is water. It is bounded on the north by Loudoun and Fairfax counties; on the west by Fauquier County; on the south by Stafford County; and on the east by the Potomac River (Charles County, Maryland lies across the river).
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