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Winchester is an independent city located in the northwestern portion of the Commonwealth of Virginiamarker in the USA. The city's population was 23,585 according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Winchester is the county seat of Frederick Countymarker 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 Universitymarker and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valleymarker.


Native Americans

Though little is known of specific tribal movements prior to white contact, it seems the Shenandoah Valleymarker area, considered a sacred common hunting ground, was mainly in the hands of local Iroquoian groups, including the Senedos and Sherandos, by the 1600s. The Shawnee began to challenge them for it later in that century; explorers Batts and Fallam in 1671 reported they were still contesting the Valley with the Iroquoians in that year, and were currently losing. In addition, during the later Beaver Wars, Iroquois from New York (particularly Seneca) had subjugated all tribes in the entire frontier region west of the Fall Line, from Montreal as far southward as North Carolina, over the years between 1670 and 1712 (when they absorbed the Tuscaroras as the Sixth Nation).

By the time European settlers arrived in the 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 being used as a conduit and a battleground in a bloody intertribal war between the Seneca Iroquois and Lenape from the north, and their distant enemies, the Catawba in the Carolinas. The Iroquois Six Nations finally ceded their nominal claim to the Shenandoah Valley (by former conquest) at the Treaty of Lancaster (1744).

The father of the historical Shawnee chief Cornstalk had his court at Shawnee Springsmarker until 1754. In 1753, on the eve of the French and Indian War, messengers came to the Shawnee from tribes to the west, inviting them to leave the Valley and cross the Alleghenies — which they did the following year, settling in the Ohio country. Winchester had a notable role as a frontier city even in those times, as the Governor of Virginia, as well as George Washington, would meet their Iroquois allies (the "Half-Kings") there to coordinate manoevers against the French.

European exploration

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

In the late 1720s, Governor William Gooch promoted settlement by issuing large land grants and, subsequently Robert "King" Carter", manager of the Lord Fairfax proprietorship, acquired 200,000 acres (800 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.

European settlement

The settlement of Winchester began as early as 1729, when Quakers like Abraham Hollingsworth migrated up the Great Valley along the Indian Path (later known as the Great Wagon Road) from Pennsylvania and began to homestead on old Shawnee campgrounds. Tradition holds that the Quakers purchased several tracts on Apple-pie Ridge from the natives, who never disturbed those settlements thereafter.

The first German settler appears to be Jost Hite in 1732, who brought ten other families including some Scots-Irish. Though an Anglican colony, Governor William Gooch had a tolerant policy on religion, and throughout Virginia, the availability of land grants brought in many religious families, who were often given 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, the Opequonmarker Presbyterian Church in Kernstownmarker was built. A legal fight erupted in 1735 when Thomas Fairfax, Sixth Lord Fairfax, came to Virginia to claim his land grant, which included "all the land in Virginia between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers", an old grant from King Charles II, and which overlapped and included Frederick county.


By 1738 these settlements became known as Frederick Town. The county of Frederickmarker was then carved out of Orange County, and 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, 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 in 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 now re-named after Colonel Wood's birthplace of the old Saxon capital of Wessexmarker, and later of Englandmarker, Winchestermarker. 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, and then Thomas Fairfax contributed 173 more lots to the south and east.

French and Indian War

Colonel George Washington
General Edward Braddock's expeditionary march to Fort Duquesnemarker crossed through this area in 1755 on the way to Fort Cumberlandmarker. George Washington, knowing the area well from his position as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax, accompanied General Braddock as his aide-de-camp. Resident Daniel Morgan also joined Braddock's Army on their march to Pennsylvania as a wagoner.

In 1756, on land granted by James Wood, Colonel George Washington designed and began constructing Fort Loudoun, which ultimately covered in present-day downtown Winchester on North Loudoun Street. Fort Loudoun was occupied and manned with guns until the start of the Revolutionary War. During this era, a jail was built in Winchester, which 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 political control, Virginia was an Anglican colony, and pacifism was not as well tolerated. Strong pacifism from Quakers combined with strong Virginia support during both this war and the next, led to long term stifling of Quaker population, causing Winchester to become more of a Quaker gateway to places further in the mid-west, until the Quaker population was a small minority by the mid 1800s.

During the war, in 1758, and at the age of 26, Colonel George Washington was elected as the representative of 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.

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. The 96 men of "Morgan's Sharpshooters", led by Morgan, assembled in 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 for walking to the high ridge north and west of town and purchasing and eating apple pies from the Quakers. Thus, this ridge west of town became affectionately known as Apple Pie Ridge and the Ridge Road built before 1751 leading north from town was renamed Apple Pie Ridge Road. The local farmers found new business booming in feeding the Virginia Militia and fledgling volunteer American army, a task for which the town and valley would later be punished during the American Civil War. Following the war, the town's first newspapers, The Gazette and The Centinel, were established, and Daniel Morgan later served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1797 and 1799.

Civil War

Winchester and the surrounding area were the site of numerous fights during the American Civil War as both contending armies strove to control that portion of the Shenandoah Valleymarker. Seven major battlefields are within the extent of the original Frederick County:

Within the City of Winchester:

Nearby 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 Campaignmarker of 1862, the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863, and the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Including minor cavalry raids and patrols, and occasional reconnaissances by various forces, it is claimed that Winchester changed hands as many as 72 times, and 13 times in one day. Battles raged all 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.

Located 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 threatening the capital of Washington, D.C.marker. 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 and ultimately 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 suffered greatly under five major periods of Union occupation:

During the Federal occupation of Winchester, many residents were exiled from town, personal property was stolen, citizens rendering medical assistance to wounded soldiers were shot and murdered, homes were illegally stolen, occupied and destroyed, a medical school was burned down, and the citizens of the Commonwealth were not allowed to vote on re-admittance to the Union under the reign of Major General Schofield. Major General Milroy was noted for his claim that "my will is absolute law" as he plundered Winchester, exiling women and imprisoning old men and boys. Major General Sheridan rampaged up the Valley from Winchester and 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," according to the Official Records. Not mentioned in the official records are the many private homes that were destroyed, and innocent women and children injured and killed. Unsurprisingly, several Winchester Unionists were noted for changing their sympathies after these occupations.

In spite of Winchester's wartime hardships, a few residents made great contributions to the Confederate cause, such as Dr. Hunter McGuire, Chief Surgeon of the Second "Jackson's" Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, who laid 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 Sharpsburgmarker in 1862 and the Battle of Gettysburgmarker in 1863, and set the stage for advancements in the practice of medicine, internationally and during combat operations.

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

Today, Winchester provides a wealth of exploration and tourism for Civil War enthusiasts. Many remains of Civil War era forts are scattered around town, such as the remains of:

  • 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 snakes around south of downtown Winchester, along the central location for many of the battles.

20th century

Winchester was the first city south of the Potomac River to install electric light.

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

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 1800s 311 Fairmont Avenue 2004
Glen Burnie 1794 901 Amherst Street 1979
Handley Library 1913 Braddock & Piccadilly Streets 1969
John Handley High Schoolmarker 1920s 425 Handley Boulevard 1998
Hexagon House 1870s 530 Amherst Street 1987
Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters Museummarker mid 1800s 415 North Braddock Street 1967
Adam Kurtz House 1757 Braddock & Cork Streets 1976
Old Stone Church 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:


Winchester is located at . It is in the Shenandoah Valleymarker, between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountainsmarker. 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 to the west of Washington, D.C.marker

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.3 square miles (24.2 km²), all of it land.


Winchester City Hall
As of the census 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/sq mi (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
2008 25,897

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.

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 and draws approximately 250,000 visitors to the area. The festival includes a carnival, the longest fireman's parade and the third longest grand feature parade in the U.S., 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.

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. 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 an historic restoration by a new owner and is slated to re-open in early 2010.

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, pickle and steamed rolls.


Winchester is home to the Winchester Royals of the Valley Baseball League.


Sister cities

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

Notable residents and natives

Notable residents in chronological order of birth.

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century


External links

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