From the late 18th to early 19th century, several free African American families in Prince William County held large tracts of land. Over several generations, these large tracts were continuously divided into smaller parcels and settled by the children of the landowners, resulting in a greater population density and the formation of a community. This community, which later came to be known as Batestown, was rooted in a tradition of subsistence agriculture. When the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine opened in 1889 it introduced the community to a non-agrarian based economy. The mine became the economic mainstay of the area, and many interviewees recalled hearing that their parents, grandparents, and older relatives worked at the Cabin Branch Mine. When the mine closed in 1920, Batestown residents continued to keep gardens and livestock, but they also began to expand their occupational horizons.