Fairfax County was originally part of Prince William County. As settlement of the Virginia colony spread north and west during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Assembly in Williamsburg began the practice of creating parishes,* which then became counties. Prince William County was created in 1731 from Hamilton Parish (from what was previously part of Stafford County). The next year, the Assembly took the northern part of Prince William County for the Parish of Truro. Ten years later, Fairfax County was created from Truro Parish.
The original governing structure of the newly created Fairfax County consisted of the County Court (14 men), County Lieutenant, County Court Clerk and the County Sheriff (the latter two positions still exist). The majority of the men appointed to these first county positions by the Assembly previously had the same roles in Prince William County.
The Court House of Fairfax County was ordered by the Assembly to be built at a place called Springfield. But it’s not the Springfield we know today. The one in the early days of the county was actually in the area we now know as Tysons, which made sense since what is now Loudoun County was part of Fairfax County. With horseback the main means of travel, a central location was important.
By 1752, the people of Alexandria (still part of Fairfax County) petitioned the House of Burgesses to have the courthouse moved to Alexandria. Since the “old” courthouse, 10 at that time, needed repairs and the Alexandrians offered to build the new courthouse, the Governor’s Council approved the move.
Springfield got its name because a number of streams started there. These include Wolf Trap Branch of Difficult Run, Scotts Run, Pimmit Run and the Long and Bear branches of Accotink Creek.
The land area of the original Fairfax County was reduced by almost 60 percent when Loudoun County was established and land was ceded to the federal government for the District of Columbia. The northwestern part of Fairfax County was taken for Cameron Parish before the Assembly made it Loudoun County in 1757. In 1789, part of Fairfax County was ceded to the federal government to form Alexandria County of the District of Columbia. Alexandria County was returned to Virginia in 1846 and divided into the independent city of Alexandria in 1870 and Arlington County in 1920.
Now you know!
*A parish in colonial Virginia was a unit of both civil and religious authority that covered a set geographical territory. Each Church of England parish in the colony was served by a single minister and governed by a vestry usually composed of local elites.
Source: Fairfax County, Virginia – A History (1978)