Winchester, Virginia

Winchester, Virginia
—  Independent city  —
City of Winchester, Virginia
Historic Winchester, Virginia

Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Coordinates: 39°10′42″N 78°10′0″W / 39.17833°N 78.166667°W / 39.17833; -78.166667Coordinates: 39°10′42″N 78°10′0″W / 39.17833°N 78.166667°W / 39.17833; -78.166667
Country United States
State Virginia
Founded 1802
 – Mayor Elizabeth Minor
 – Independent city 9.3 sq mi (24.2 km2)
 – Land 9.3 sq mi (24.2 km2)
 – Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 725 ft (221 m)
Population (2010)
 – Independent city 26,203
 – Density 2,818.0/sq mi (1,088.0/km2)
 – Urban 53,559
 – Metro 122,369
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 540
FIPS code 51-86720[2]
GNIS feature ID 1498552[3]

Winchester is an independent city located in the northwestern portion of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the USA. The city's population was 26,203 according to the 2010 Census.[1] Winchester is the county seat of Frederick County and the principal city of the Winchester, Virginia-West Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a part of the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV Combined Statistical Area. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Winchester with surrounding Frederick County for statistical purposes. Winchester is home to Shenandoah University and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.



Native Americans

Indigenous peoples of various cultures lived along the waterways of present-day Virginia for thousands of years before European contact. Archeological, linguistic and anthropological studies have provided insights into their civilizations. Though little is known of specific tribal movements prior to European contact, the Shenandoah Valley area, considered a sacred common hunting ground, appears by the 17th century to have been controlled mostly by the local Iroquoian-speaking groups, including the Senedo and Sherando.

The Algonquian-speaking Shawnee began to challenge the Iroquoians for the hunting grounds later in that century. The explorers Batts and Fallam in 1671 reported the Shawnee were contesting with the Iroquoians for control of the valley and were losing. During the later Beaver Wars, the powerful Iroquois Confederacy from New York (particularly Seneca from the western part of the territory) subjugated all tribes in the frontier region west of the Fall Line. Over the years between 1670 and 1712, the Seneca were more active to the southwest as far southward as present-day North Carolina while the Mohawk extended their power north to Montreal and the St. Lawrence River valley. By right of conquest, the Iroquois (especially the Seneca) claimed the Ohio Valley as their hunting ground. In the early 18th century, the Iroquoian Tuscarora migrated to New York away from warfare in North and South Carolina; in 1722 they were accepted by the Iroquois as the Sixth Nation of the Haudenosaunee.

By the time European settlers arrived in the Shenandoah Valley around 1729, the Shawnee were the principal occupants in the area around Winchester. During the first decade of white settlement, the Valley was also a conduit and battleground in a bloody intertribal war between the Seneca and allied Algonquian Lenape from the north, and their distant traditional enemies, the Siouan Catawba in the Carolinas. The Iroquois Six Nations finally ceded their nominal claim to the Shenandoah Valley at the Treaty of Lancaster (1744). The treaty also established the right of colonists to use the Indian Road, later known as the Great Wagon Road.

The father of the historical Shawnee chief Cornstalk had his court at Shawnee Springs (near today's Cross Junction, Virginia) until 1754. In 1753, on the eve of the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), messengers came to the Shawnee from tribes further west, inviting them to leave the Valley and cross the Alleghenies, which they did the following year.[4][5] The Shawnee settled for some years in the Ohio Country before being forced by the US government under Indian Removal in the 1830s to remove to Indian Territory.

Winchester had a notable role as a frontier city in those early times. The Governor of Virginia, as well as the young military commander George Washington, met in the town with their Iroquois allies (called the "Half-Kings"), to coordinate maneuvers against the French and their Native American allies during the French and Indian War.

European exploration

French Jesuit expeditions may have first entered the valley as early as 1606, as the explorer Samuel de Champlain made a crude map of the area in 1632. The first confirmed exploration of the northern valley was by the explorer John Lederer, who viewed the valley from the current Fauquier and Warren County line on August 26, 1670. In 1705 the Swiss explorer Louise Michel and in 1716 Governor Alexander Spotswood did more extensive mapping and surveying.

In the late 1720s, Governor William Gooch promoted settlement by issuing large land grants. Robert "King" Carter", manager of the Lord Fairfax proprietorship, acquired 200,000 acres (810 km2). This combination of events directly precipitated an inrush of settlers from Pennsylvania and New York, made up of a blend of Quakers and various German and Scots-Irish homesteaders, many of them new immigrants. The Scots-Irish comprised the most numerous group of immigrants from the British Isles before the American Revolutionary War.[6]

European settlement

The settlement of Winchester began as early as 1729, when Quakers such as Abraham Hollingsworth migrated up (south) the Great Valley along the long-traveled Indian Path (later called the Great Wagon Road by the colonists) from Pennsylvania. He and others began to homestead on old Shawnee campgrounds. Tradition holds that the Quakers purchased several tracts on Apple-pie Ridge from the natives, who did not disturb those settlements.[7]

The first German settler appears to have been Jost Hite in 1732, who brought ten other families, including some Scots-Irish. Though Virginia was an Anglican colony, Governor William Gooch had a tolerant policy on religion. The availability of land grants brought in many religious families, who were often given 50-acre (200,000 m2) plots through the sponsorship of fellow-religious grant purchasers and speculators. As a result, the Winchester area became home to some of the oldest Presbyterian, Quaker, Lutheran and Anglican churches in the valley. The first Lutheran worship was established by Rev. John Casper Stoever, Jr., and Alexander Ross established Hopewell Meeting for the Quakers. By 1736, Scots-Irish built the Opequon Presbyterian Church in Kernstown.

A legal fight erupted in 1735 when Thomas Fairfax, Sixth Lord Fairfax, came to Virginia to claim his land grant. It included "all the land in Virginia between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers", an old grant from King Charles II which overlapped and included Frederick County. It took some time for land titles to be cleared among early settlers.


By 1738 these settlements became known as Frederick Town. The county of Frederick was carved out of Orange County. The first government was created, consisting of a County Court as well as the Anglican Frederick Parish (for purposes of tax collection). Colonel James Wood, an immigrant from Winchester, England, was the first court clerk. He laid out 26 half-acre (2,000 m²) lots around 1741, and constructed his own residence, Glen Burnie. Finally, the County Court held its first session on 11 November 1743, where James Wood served until 1760. Lord Fairfax, understanding that possession is 9/10ths of the law, built a home here (in present-day Clarke County) in 1748.

By 1750 the Virginia House of Burgesses granted the fourth city charter in Virginia to Winchester; as Frederick Town was re-named after Colonel Wood's birthplace in England. In 1754, Abraham Hollingsworth built the local residence called Abram's Delight, which served as the first local Quaker meeting house. George Washington spent a good portion of his young life in Winchester helping survey the Fairfax land grant for Thomas Fairfax, Sixth Lord Fairfax, as well as performing surveying work for Colonel Wood. In 1758 Colonel Wood added 158 lots to the west side of town; Thomas Fairfax contributed 173 more lots to the south and east.[8]

French and Indian War

Colonel George Washington

General Edward Braddock's expeditionary march to Fort Duquesne crossed through this area in 1755 on the way to Fort Cumberland. Knowing the area well from work as a surveyor, George Washington accompanied General Braddock as his aide-de-camp. Resident Daniel Morgan joined Braddock's Army as a wagoner on its march to Pennsylvania .

In 1756, on land granted by James Wood, Colonel George Washington designed and began constructing Fort Loudoun, which ultimately covered 0.955 acres (3,860 m2) in present-day downtown Winchester on North Loudoun Street. Fort Loudoun was occupied and manned with guns until the start of the American Revolutionary War. During this era, a jail was also built in Winchester. It occasionally held Quakers from many parts of Virginia who protested the French and Indian War and refused to pay taxes to the Anglican parish. While their cousins in Pennsylvania dominated politics there, Virginia was an Anglican colony and did not tolerate pacifism well. The strong Quaker tradition of pacifism against strong Virginia support for both this war and the next, led to long-term stifling of the Quaker population. Winchester became a gateway to Quaker settlements further west; by the mid-19th century, the Quaker population was a small minority here.

During the war in 1758, at the age of 26, Colonel George Washington was elected to represent Frederick County to the House of Burgesses. Daniel Morgan later served as a ranger protecting the borderlands of Virginia against Indian raids, returning to Winchester in 1759. Following the war, from 1763 to 1774 Daniel Morgan served in Captain Ashby's company and defended Virginia against Pontiac's Rebellion and Shawnee Indians in the Ohio valley (that part now in West Virginia).

Revolutionary War

Colonel Daniel Morgan

During the Revolutionary War, the Virginia House of Burgesses chose local resident and French and Indian War veteran Daniel Morgan to raise a company of militia to support General George Washington's efforts during the Siege of Boston. He led the 96 men of "Morgan's Sharpshooters" from Winchester on 14 July 1775, and marched to Boston in 21 days. Morgan, Wood, and others also performed various duties in holding captured prisoners of war, particularly Hessian soldiers.

Hessian soldiers were known to walk to the high ridge north and west of town, where they could purchase and eat apple pies made by the Quakers. The ridge became affectionately known as Apple Pie Ridge. The Ridge Road built before 1751 leading north from town was renamed Apple Pie Ridge Road. The local farmers found booming business in feeding the Virginia Militia and fledgling volunteer American army.

Following the war, the town's first newspapers, The Gazette and The Centinel, were established. Daniel Morgan continued his public service, being elected to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives (1797–1799).

Civil War

Winchester and the surrounding area were the site of numerous battles during the American Civil War, as both the Confederate and Union armies strove to control that portion of the Shenandoah Valley. Seven major battlefields are within the original Frederick County:

Within the city of Winchester:

Near the city of Winchester:

Winchester was a key strategic position for the Confederate States Army during the war. It was an important operational objective in Gen Joseph E. Johnston's and Col Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's defense of the Shenandoah Valley in 1861, Jackson's Valley Campaign of 1862, the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863, and the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Including minor cavalry raids and patrols, and occasional reconnaissances, historians claim that Winchester changed hands as many as 72 times, and 13 times in one day. Battles raged along Main Street at different points in the war. Both Union General Sheridan and Stonewall Jackson located their headquarters just one block apart at various times.

At the north end of the upper Shenandoah Valley, Winchester was a base of operations for major Confederate invasions into the Northern United States. At times the attacks threatened the capital of Washington, D.C.. The town served as a central point for troops' conducting major raids against the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and turnpike and telegraph paths along those routes and the Potomac River Valley. For instance, in 1861, Stonewall Jackson removed 56 locomotives and over 300 railroad cars, along with miles of track, from the B&O Railroad. His attack closed down the B&O's main line for ten months. Much of the effort to transport this equipment by horse and carriage centered in Winchester.

During the war, Winchester was occupied by the Union Army for four major periods:

  • Major General Nathaniel Banks - (March 12 to 25 May 1862, and 4 June to 2 September 1862)
  • Major General Robert Milroy - (24 December 1862, to 15 June 1863)
  • Major General Philip Sheridan - (19 September 1864, to 27 February 1865)
  • Major General Winfield Scott Hancock - 27 February 1865, to 27 June 1865

Major General Sheridan raided up the Valley from Winchester, where his forces destroyed "2,000 barns filled with grain and implements, not to mention other outbuildings, 70 mills filled with wheat and flour" and "numerous head of livestock," to lessen the area's ability to supply the Confederates.[9]

Numerous local men served with the Confederate Army, mostly as troops. Dr. Hunter McGuire was Chief Surgeon of the Second "Jackson's" Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. He laid the foundations for the future Geneva conventions regarding the treatment of medical doctors during warfare. Winchester served as a major center for Confederate medical operations, particularly after the Battle of Sharpsburg in 1862 and the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Among those who took part in battles at Winchester were future U.S. presidents McKinley and Hayes, both as officers in the Union IX Corps.

Today, Winchester has extensive resources for Civil War enthusiasts. For instance, there are remains of several Civil War-era forts:

  • Fort Jackson - (aka Fort Garibaldi, Main Fort, Fort Milroy, Battery No.2)
  • Fort Alabama - (aka Star Fort, Battery No.3)
  • Fort Collier - (aka Battery No.10)
  • Louisiana Heights - (aka the combination of West Fort or Battery No.5 and Battery No. 6)
  • Bower's Hill - (aka Battery No.1)

Jubal Early Drive, which curves south of downtown Winchester, was the central location for many of the battles.

The United States assigned military presence to Winchester and other parts of the South during Reconstruction after the war. Winchester was part of the First Military District, commanded by Major General John Schofield. This period lasted until 26 January 1870.[citation needed]

20th century

Winchester was the first city south of the Potomac River to install electric light.[citation needed]

Winchester is the location of the bi-annual N-SSA national competition keeping the tradition of Civil War era firearms alive.

Historic sites

National Register of Historic Places

Historic downtown Winchester
John Handley High School
Site Year Built Address Listed
Abram's Delight 1754 Parkview Street & Rouss Spring Road 1973
Douglas School 1927 598 North Kent Street 2000
Fairmont 19th century 311 Fairmont Avenue 2004
Glen Burnie 1794 901 Amherst Street 1979
Handley Library[10] 1913 Braddock & Piccadilly Streets 1969
John Handley High School 1920s 425 Handley Boulevard 1998
Hexagon House 1870s 530 Amherst Street 1987
Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters Museum mid-19th century 415 North Braddock Street 1967
Adam Kurtz House (Washington's Headquarters) 1757 Braddock & Cork Streets 1976
Old Stone Church (Presbyterian Meeting House) 1788 304 East Piccadilly Street 1977
Winchester Historic District 1750–1930 US 522, US 11 & US 50/US 17 1980
Winchester Historic District (Boundary Increase) 120 & 126 North Kent Street 2003
Winchester National Cemetery 1860s 401 National Avenue 1996


Map of Winchester, Virginia, and the surrounding Frederick County (Winchester is independent of the county but is the county seat).

In addition to the sites on the National Register of Historic Places, the following historic sites are located in Winchester:

  • Belle Grove Plantation (1797)[11]
  • Christ Church (1828)
  • George Washington's Office Museum (1755)
  • Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA (1844)
  • Museum of the Shenandoah Valley[12]
  • Old Court House Civil War Museum (1840)
  • Old Town Winchester (1738)
  • Opequon Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (1736)
  • Red Lion Tavern (1783)
  • Shenandoah Valley Military Academy (1764)
  • Site of Historic Fort Loudoun (1756)
  • Stonewall Cemetery (1866)
  • Kurtz Building (1836)


Winchester is located at 39°10′42″N 78°10′00″W / 39.178355°N 78.166771°W / 39.178355; -78.166771.[13] It is in the Shenandoah Valley, between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains. I-81 passes through the city, along with US 50, US 522, US 17, which ends in the city, and VA 7, which also ends in the city. The city is approximately 75 miles (121 km) to the west of Washington, D.C.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.3 square miles (24 km2), all of it land.


As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 23,585 people, 10,001 households, and 5,650 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,526.7 people per square mile (976.0/km²). There were 10,587 housing units at an average density of 1,134.2 per square mile (438.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 82.06% White, 10.47% African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 3.46% from other races, and 2.14% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.47% of the population.

Historical populations

1900 5,161
1910 5,864
1920 6,883
1930 10,855
1940 12,095
1950 13,841
1960 15,110
1970 14,643
1980 20,217
1990 21,947
2000 23,585
2010 26,203

There were 10,001 households out of which 25.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.5% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.5% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.93.

Winchester City Hall

In the city the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,335, and the median income for a family was $44,675. Males had a median income of $30,013 versus $24,857 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,500. About 8.1% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.2% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.

Apple Blossom

Winchester is the location of the annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which has existed since 1924. The festival includes a carnival, several dances and parties, and a coronation where the Apple Blossom Queen is crowned. Local school systems and many businesses close the Friday of Apple Blossom weekend.[14]

Winchester has more than 20 different "artistic" apples that are made of various materials including wood, rubber pipe, plaster, and paint. These apples were created in 2005 by occupants of the city, and were placed at a specific location at the artists' request after being auctioned off. For example, a bright red apple with a large stethoscope attached to it was placed beside a much-used entrance to the Winchester Medical Center.


Winchester is home to a number of "classic" restaurants that have changed little over the years.

One such restaurant is the Triangle Diner on West Gerrard Street. Built in 1948 by the Jerry O'Mahony company, it is the oldest stainless steel style O'Mahony diner in the state of Virginia.[15][16] The name "Triangle Diner" is derived from the fact that the diner sits on a triangular piece of land across from Handley High School. The diner is currently undergoing a historic restoration by a new owner.

Another popular 50's style restaurant is the 1949 Snow White Grill on Loudoun Street. It is known for its mini-burgers with fresh ground beef, sliced grilled onions, pickles and steamed rolls.


Winchester is home to the Winchester Royals of the Valley Baseball League.[17] Shenandoah University is located in Winchester and has numerous male and female sports in the USA South Athletic Conference. Winchester is also home to the Winchester Speedway, a 3/8 mile clay oval track, which plays host to a number of touring series, such as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.


Sister cities

Winchester's first sister city, Winchester, England, is where the Virginia town gets its name. During the Eisenhower administration, Winchester also formalized a sister city relationship with Ambato, Ecuador.

Notable residents and natives

Notable residents in chronological order of birth.

18th century

19th century

  • George Hay Lee (1808–), United States judge
  • James William Denver (1817–1892), briefly a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and for whom the city of Denver, Colorado was named
  • John Snyder Carlile, (1817–1878), United States Senator, instrumental in the creation of West Virginia
  • Cornelia Peake McDonald (1822–1909), notable civil war diarist of Winchester
  • John Randolph Tucker (1823–1897), U.S. Representative from Virginia
  • Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (1824–1863), while commanding the Valley District of the Army of Northern Virginia from Oct 1861–Dec 1862
  • Brigadier General Turner Ashby (1828–1862), Confederate cavalry commander buried in Stonewall Cemetery
  • Frederick W. M. Holliday (1828–1899), member of the Confederate Congress during the American Civil War and the Governor of Virginia from 1878 to 1882
  • Hunter McGuire, M.D. (1835–1900), Chief Surgeon of the Second "Jackson's" Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, famous for sparking the Confederate policy of returning captured Union surgeons in the American Civil War
  • U.S. Solicitor General Holmes Conrad (1840–1915), under President Grover Cleveland and Confederate cavalry Major in the American Civil War
  • Robert T. Barton (1842–1917), Virginia Delegate, Mayor of Winchester and Confederate veteran of the American Civil War
  • Willa Cather (1873–1947), Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
  • Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd (1888–1957), pioneering polar explorer
  • Admiral Louis M. Nulton (1869–1954), superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy (1925–1928) and Commander Battle Fleet (1929–1930).
  • Spotswood Poles (1887–1962), accomplished baseball player in the precursor to the Negro Leagues

20th century

See also


  1. ^ a b [1]. Weldon Cooper Center 2010 Census Count Retrieved January 26, 2011
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ Carrie Hunter Willis and Etta Belle Walker, 1937, Legends of the Skyline Drive and the Great Valley of Virginia, p. 16-17.
  5. ^ Joseph Doddridge, A History of the Valley of Virginia, 1850, p. 44
  6. ^ David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989
  7. ^ Joseph Doddridge, A History of the Valley of Virginia, 1850, p. 40.
  8. ^ Greene, Katherine Glass (1926). Winchester, Virginia and It's Beginnings. Shenandoah Publishing House. pp. 32. 
  9. ^ Official Records
  10. ^ "Handley Regional Library". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  11. ^ "Belle Grove Plantation". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  12. ^ "Museum of the Shenandoah Valley". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  13. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  14. ^ "Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival". Retrieved 2009-05-4-05. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Winchester Royals

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