Before the formation of the county, the Brunswick area was the site of one of Virginia's most interesting, if ultimately unsuccessful, colonial experiments. In 1714, about two miles south of present-day Lawrenceville, Fort Christanna (BR12) was constructed by Governor Alexander Spotswood with the goal of promoting peace with the Indians by regulating trade and educating and teaching them Christianity. After a fresh bout of hostilities, governmental support ended in 1718 and the project was doomed. Shortly after, in 1720, in an effort to push forward settlement and thereby thwart French and Indian domination of Virginia's western lands, Spotswood promoted the formation of Brunswick County. Because of its sparse population, the county was not organized until 1732. It was named in honor of George I, the reigning English monarch, who was born a German nobleman of the House of Brunswick. The county is bounded on the north by the Nottoway River and on the south by the Staunton River's Lake Gaston and the North Carolina line. All of the county's many streams and rivers flow into the shallow Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.
Settlement was facilitated when Virginia and North Carolina's disputed boundary line was set in 1728. In The History of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina (published posthumously in 1841), William Byrd II, who was head of the Virginia delegation, described one dwelling that he saw in frontier Brunswick, “[The] Hovel they lay in had no Roof to cover those wretches from the Injurys of the Weather: but when it rain'd, or was colder than Ordinary, the whole Family took refuge in a Fodder Stack. The poor man had rais'd a kind of a House but for want of Nails it remain'd uncover'd.” Settlement brought greater prosperity to Brunswick. In the early years of the nineteenth century, tobacco grew well and sold high, and incomes were supplemented with thriving cotton crops. Some were further supplemented, but more were drained, by horse racing and breeding, a serious business in Brunswick County. Today, the county's economy centers on government (including a prison), education, timbering, and farming.
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