Iberian Publishing Company's On-Line Catalog: Independent City of Winchester
Located in Frederick County. First known as Opequon or Shawneetown because of the earlier Indian camp on the site, then as Frederick's Town, Winchester was finally named Winchester by James Wood, first Clerk of Frederick County. According to tradition, it was named after Wood's English birthplace. The first lots for the town were laid out in 1743, the same year that Frederick county began to function as a new county, but it was not until eight years later, in 1752, that the town was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly.
Winchester was ideally situated as a center for the new commerce of the Valley region. It sat astride the Indian trail which brought Pennsylvania Germans down from the north, and an important east-west trade route brought goods and settlers through Snicker's Gap over the Blue Ridge directly to Winchester. From Winchester, a narrower path skirted westward around Little North and Great North Mountains and into the Alleghany uplands of Hampshire County. Winchester grew rapidly and became an incorporated town in 1779 and then a city in 1874. The first train, on the Winchester and Potomac line, reached Winchester in 1836. Because of its vital position to both the confederacy and Union during the war, Winchester witnessed at least 112 engagements during the war, and it changed hands an amazing 72 times (an average of once every three weeks!).
In 1970 a portion of Frederick County was annexed to bring the city to its present size.
Winchester's municipal records date from 1790, but numerous series are incomplete with major gaps.
For a better understanding of county boundary changes, see our new section Virginia in Maps