Winchester Tales

Winchester Tales Winchester Virginia History


I want to thank everyone for the support on this page...without you, this page would be nothing. I want to put my feelers out and see if anybody out there has any history books on Winchester or Frederick County they would be willing to sell? I’m always trying to add to my reference library to help the stories and support them with concrete reference materials. Please send me a private message if you have anything you can part with.
I’m trying to find a Frederick County Virginia atlas, there was one made by Lake in 1885 but I believe it was re-printed. That’s the one I’m really looking for. 😊

"The Willowbrook Mantel"Kernstown VAHenry A DuPont - Winterthur MuseumHenry A DuPont (of the famed DuPont family) held W...

"The Willowbrook Mantel"
Kernstown VA
Henry A DuPont - Winterthur Museum

Henry A DuPont (of the famed DuPont family) held Winchester dear to his heart. After graduating 1st in his class at West Point in 1861, Dupont would take a commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Engineers and find himself under Sheridan's command in the Shenandoah Valley and in Winchester. DuPont would earn the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Cedar Creek and he would also be in attendance (along with George Armstrong Custer) at the deathbed of their close friend, Confederate General Stephen Ramseur who passed away in the dining room of Belle Grove.

We now turn to the house called "Willowbrook", which is also called the Hamilton-Baker House located on Shawnee Dr. in Kernstown. The house is now surrounded by townhouses and the rolling panorama that once surrounded this property is now obscured with modern "progress". During the war, there is no doubt that Dupont had visited this home and noticed the incredible mantel which was adorned with a giant eagle that sat in the formal dining room. The massive piece of art must have made an indelible impression on the young DuPont as the mantel would play an important part in his latter life.

In 1875, DuPont returned full-time to Delaware. Within a few years, he became president and general manager of the Wilmington & Northern Railroad Company, serving from 1879 until 1899. During that time, and for the remainder of his life, he managed his massive estate "Winterthur". At some point, Dupont Sr. and his son Henry Francis DuPont purchased the Willowbrook mantel in it's entirety and had it moved and installed in the main dining room at Winterthur.

In 1951, Henry Francis DuPont established the home as a museum and the estate now operates as the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate near Greenville, Delaware. The Eagle is no longer a part of the Mantel-piece and now resides in storage somewhere on the grounds of Winterthur.

I can just picture Union soldiers looking up at this massive mantel at Willowbrook during the Civil War...a symbol of the sacrifice, a tangible monument of their quest for the preservation of the Union. This piece spoke to Dupont and it eventually became a daily reminder of a time when the Union hung in the balance.

Once again, Winchester Virginia has played a part in an incredible story intertwined with art, war, fame, and honor...

“Miss Katy Moore’s Store”510 South Loudoun St. 1790-1800Henry and Katy Moore came from the Tidewater Maryland region and...

“Miss Katy Moore’s Store”
510 South Loudoun St.

Henry and Katy Moore came from the Tidewater Maryland region and bought the property at 510 S. Loudoun St. around 1787. Many believe that the Moore’s came from money as excavations around the home in the 1970s turned up fragments of very expensive Chinese export porcelain and Leeds China. Also found were shards of expensive champagne, gin and whiskey bottles which indicated the level of living that the Moore’s enjoyed...and could afford.

Around 1790, David Holmes Conrad would write about a woman’s garment store that was near Dr. Baldwin’s house on Potato Hill (it’s actually next door) which sold ladies merchandise of the highest quality. Miss Katy would go into the city herself to buy her goods and bring them back to sell in Winchester. Miss Katy was well respected by the women in Winchester as she was “plugged in” to the fashion scene of early America. Many townsfolk would say at the time that “no lady in town did not know of Miss Katy Moore’s store”.

The 1790s was an interesting time for women’s fashion in colonial America. No longer was there a British embargo on premium goods and materials and America was free to trade as she pleased. Also, America was getting away from the “bourgeoise” fashion that was popular in France and the colonies in pre-revolution America. Those “fancy” trends ended with the execution of Marie Antoinette. American women wanted to go with more simplistic styles. The days of high-powdered wigs, serious cleavage, and large hooped skirts were a thing of the past. Modest attire with simplistic dresses, jackets and shawls were now the rage.

We don’t know much more about Katy Moore’s store other than it operated between 1790 and the early 1800’s. Historians say that her shop was on the first floor. So when you drive North on Loudoun Street, look to the right at 510 S Loudoun St. and picture a small sign hanging outside the door and colonial ladies of Winchester coming in and out ...trying to establish their own “American” fashion identity...and trying to keep up with the latest and ever changing trends of a new nation.

“Original Woodwork”Winchester VA1787When I was a younger man, I had the honor of being an apprentice to local historical...

“Original Woodwork”
Winchester VA

When I was a younger man, I had the honor of being an apprentice to local historical architect John G Lewis. He was instrumental in the revitalization of many homes in the town of Waterford, Hillsboro, and Leesburg. He moved to Winchester in the late 80’s and was fascinated with the town’s unique interior woodwork. In the years that he lived here, he was always busy in documenting not only the exterior- but the interior- of many wonderful buildings and homes.

In 1994, Virginia Miller and John wrote a book together called “Interior Woodwork of Winchester Virginia 1750-1850” and it is an incredible resource on some truly beautiful interiors that we don’t get to see. You can pick up this wonderful book through the Preservation of Historic Winchester...I believe it is in reprint.

One example of the incredible woodwork in our town is the dining room mantle at “Thorn Hill”, located at 407 S. Washington Street. The intricate carving is not typical of our area and some say it was executed by Hessian soldiers from the Revolutionary War who had been prisoners at the camp west of town (off Poor House Rd.). Hand carved and a very early example, the Thorn Hill mantle is highly regarded for its distinctive pendentive detail. A lot of credit needs to go to Dr. & Mrs. Monford Custer, who bought the home in 1951. Their love of history and respect for the craftsmanship truly saved this home in a time when historic preservation was not paramount.

John Lewis died a few years ago in Washington State...close to his daughter and family. I was never able to say one last “thank you” to him. He was kind, funny, and patient with someone who knew nothing about Historic Architecture.

The town of Hillsboro in Loudoun County recognized John’s contribution to the historical preservation of the area and named a bridge over Catoctin Creek in his honor.

One funny thing he did...he documented everything and wrote all correspondence on an old 1960’s Royal Manual typewriter. When I opened the book this morning, I saw something on the title page. He sent me this book in the mail right before he became ill. I never noticed the little note on the title page until last message from a mentor, teacher, and friend...

“The Epidemic of 1759”SmallpoxWinchester VirginiaEpidemics were still a medical mystery in 1759 and when smallpox arrive...

“The Epidemic of 1759”
Winchester Virginia

Epidemics were still a medical mystery in 1759 and when smallpox arrived in Winchester that year, it sent fear and panic throughout the small town.

James Wood worked tirelessly to erect a new frontier town and establish the court of Frederick County in Winchester. Yet, with the outbreak of smallpox, Governor Fauquier ordered the court to move seven miles south to Stephensburg (now Stephens City). Lord Fairfax didn’t mind this move as it was closer to his residence at Greenway Court in Clarke County but James Wood was not going to let this happen without a fight.

During the smallpox epidemic, James Wood was out trying to procure votes to help him bring the court back to Winchester. Ironically, the mingling with the townsfolk may have cost James Wood his life as he likely contracted smallpox and died on Nov. 6, 1759. Many historians believed he did but no records exist to substantiate the claim. James Wood’s quest would be successful as the one vote that he needed came through on his behalf. Lord Fairfax was so offended at the magistrate who sold his vote to James Wood that he never spoke to him again. Some historians say that James Wood won the vote by giving the magistrate “a bowl of toddy” or in other words... getting him drunk.

Winchester had doctors that were experimenting with the early practice of inoculations. This practice was frowned upon by the state but the doctors of Winchester did it anyway. The practice was quite simple, and experimental. There were two ways that smallpox inoculations were done at that time. One way was to take the dried scab from the smallpox postule...pound it into a powder whereas the patient would snort the dust. The second way was to make deep incisions into the patient’s arm and introduce the puss that was collected from another smallpox sufferer. Both of these practices were very dangerous as there was no control, but the doctors did know enough to quarantine inoculated patients for many days. Yet, in the early days of medicine, the transmission of smallpox was not understood. We now know that the smallpox virus can live on clothing for many days, so those who were looking after these patients unknowingly put themselves in danger by just being in the presence of a victim or the mere handling of their clothing.

It was said years later that you knew who survived the smallpox epidemic of 1759 in Winchester you walked down the street, you would often see someone with the customary pockmarks on their faces left by the ravages of smallpox.

I tell this story not only for the historical interest or significance, but also as a reminder. We Americans have been fighting epidemics since the country’s inception, and we have always persevered. And we shall persevere again...

“A General’s Intuition”Gen. Philip SheridanOctober 19, 1864General Philip Sheridan had arrived late at the Logan house i...

“A General’s Intuition”
Gen. Philip Sheridan
October 19, 1864

General Philip Sheridan had arrived late at the Logan house in Winchester Virginia on the night of October 18, 1864. He had just returned from a strategic meeting in Washington DC while his army camped around the Belle Grove plantation in Middletown. The large house located on the corner of Braddock and Piccadilly Street was a sight for sore eyes for Sheridan. He planned to go to bed immediately and sleep in late.

Sheridan favored the front upstairs bedroom as it was the first to receive the light in the morning. At around 7am, Sheridan was awakened in his bed. “Sir...Sir...I’m sorry to disturb you but there are reports of cannon fire from the south.” Sheridan thought for a second and asked if the cannon fire was steady or intermittent. The duty officer replied that it was intermittent. Sheridan said it was nothing to worry about as he believed it was from the reconnaissance that he had ordered. Gen. Sheridan tried to go back to sleep but something bothered him, the general’s intuition was telling him something was not right. About an hour later, the duty officer came back and reported that the cannon fire had become more intense. Sheridan hurriedly finished his breakfast and mounted his horse Rienzi and with a small party...headed south on Braddock Street.

About a mile south of Winchester in an area called Mill Creek (where the old O’Sullivan/Continental plant now sits on Valley Ave.), Sheridan dismounted. The other officers looked at each other curiously as Sheridan put his ear to the ground. The expression on his face said it all. Just at that time he saw the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry riding toward them. Sheridan realized something was wrong. He remounted and picked up the pace and headed for Newtown (Stephens City). When Sheridan and his party reached Newtown, he started seeing hundreds of disoriented stragglers of his army...sitting around...making coffee and looking rattled.

Gen. Sheridan and his party moved about a mile southwest of Newtown to a hill to get a better vantage point to see what was going on. In the distance they could see the chaos of an army in full retreat, with the Valley Pike choked with wagons and ambulances heading north. For a moment, Sheridan wondered if he should pull his army back to Winchester and mount a defense. He decided on that small hill that he must re-instill the heart into his army and to retreat would result in certain failure. Gen. Sheridan put the spur to Rienzi and blazed down the Valley Pike to Middletown.

Due West of the present Lord Fairfax Community College, Sheridan would yell to his soldiers “turn back and face the enemy...let us turn the day”. The rumor that Sheridan was on site swept through the army and a cheer could be heard as the columns reorganized. Sheridan rode up and down in front of the troops waving his infamous flat slouch hat and rallied his disorganized and frantic army. They would re-organize, counterattack...and take the day!

Rienzi, the horse that would carry Sheridan on this epic journey, would be known as “Winchester” from that day forward....

“The First Vineyard”Marquis de Calmes IIOld Frederick County - 1747Virginia’s wine industry dates to the early 17th cent...

“The First Vineyard”
Marquis de Calmes II
Old Frederick County - 1747

Virginia’s wine industry dates to the early 17th century when the first English settlers planted vines and made wine at the Jamestown colony around 1608. The first settlers made wine with grapes shipped from England, but they became determined to grow their own grapes on Virginia soil.

Little do people know that the first active and successful vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley was in our own Frederick County VA.

Marquis Calmes II was born in Stafford County in 1705. He was educated in France and returned to Virginia in around 1723 and lived in Williamsburg. He and his wife left Williamsburg in 1734 and came to Frederick County and eventually settled in what is now Clarke County. Calmes would become one of the “Gentlemen Justices” of Frederick County who met in Winchester.

In 1747, Marquis Calmes II secured a land grant from Lord Fairfax in the area known as Calmes’ Neck near Millwood. Here he planted the first vineyard in the valley and the farm would be called “Vineyard Plantation”. Some say that the land was originally owned by the Burwell family and it was sold to Robert Carter and Carter actually owned the land that Vineyard Plantation was built upon. Many historians give Robert Carter the distinction of growing the first Vineyard, when in fact the knowledge and experience came from Marquis Calmes’ education in France. It was Calmes who found the right strain of grape that could be grown in the climate of Virginia. No longer would Virginians rely on European grapes, they were now on their own!

If it were not for Marquis Calmes II, Charles Carter would never of had the successful vineyard at Cleve Plantation in 1754, nor would Thomas Jefferson find the success with his vineyard at Monticello.

If you notice on the map below ...Calmes first grew grapes successfully in a belt that is now peppered with fancy Vineyards.

He knew what he was doing...

“Harrow vs Washington”Winchester VASeptember 1754Many historians consider the French and Indian war technically the firs...

“Harrow vs Washington”
Winchester VA
September 1754

Many historians consider the French and Indian war technically the first world war. George Washington and Winchester Virginia (both very young at that time) seemed to play a pivotal role in that war. In 1753, a 21-year-old Major Washington started out from Williamsburg on his way to Winchester. Here,he would supply himself the horses and baggage needed for a trip to the French outpost about 15 miles south of Lake Erie. Governor Dinwiddie had assigned Washington the responsibility of presenting a letter to the French to more or less say “The lands of the Ohio belong to the British crown, so get the hell out!”

Washington and his small party left Winchester for the 550 mile trip over rugged mountains and through unchartered wilderness in the dead of winter. They arrived at the French fort and Washington presented the letter. The French commandant was cordial yet claimed that any order to leave must come from the French Governor of Canada. Washington and his party started the harrowing trip back to Winchester almost drowning in the Allegheny River when their makeshift raft hit ice and threw young Washington into the icy flow.

A few months later, Washington would start for the Ohio again from Winchester. He would write to Col. Frye and Capt. Trent to organize three companies and push for Fort Duquesne to build a fortification and to also see what the French were up to. Before Washington found a place to build a fort, Indian guides had found a considerable party of the French camping in a wooded area a few miles from Washington’s camp. Washington stealthily surrounded the Frenchman, and when Washington’s men were detected, the French reached for their rifles and Washington’s men opened fire. Jumonville, the French commander, was killed and this set in motion what would become the French and Indian war. The French would claim it was an assassination, Washington would claim it was self-defense as the French reached for their firearms first.

Washington would stay in the area and build a stockaded fort which he would call “Fort Necessity” he expected a French response to Jumonville’s death. The prisoners taken at “Jumonville’s Glen” were brought back to Winchester and Washington tasked the citizens to not only watch...but to house the French prisoners as well.

Washington would be attacked at Fort Necessity and would end up surrendering. One of the demands by the French would be the release of all prisoners held in Winchester. It was agreed.

It’s probably a good thing that the French prisoners in Winchester were released as the citizens had protested to the court against Washington about housing the French. It is here that George Washington appears on the first official written record in Winchester Virginia. A lawsuit brought about on October 1, 1754 by John Harrow against the future father of our country. The details of the lawsuit are lost but it pertained to the housing of the French prisoners. The suit was dropped by the court and nothing further was done.

Young George Washington would use this little town as a springboard...not just a base of operations, but as a school as well. This is where he learned about himself, how to lead men into battle, and how to keep soldiers motivated and focused. He would use this town to “lick his wounds” after mistakes, disappointment, and failure. It was here, in our small town, where George Washington would become the man who would rise to the challenge of creating a new nation....


Winchester, VA


Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Winchester Tales posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Nearby museums

Other Winchester museums

Show All


Anyone have any history about the Henkel/Stackhouse home? Was it ever used for anything other than a home and Henkel Harris?
If anyone here is descended from Robert Mackay Sr., Quaker Pioneer Settler in Warren County, Virginia or related families I invite you to join our Newsletter group. It is tied to our four pages connected to the family website. Here's the link:
I wanted to say...we were downtown yesterday early evening and on the way, I found myself 'opening my eyes' looking at 'things'. I've always loved downtown, imagining the horse buggies pulling up to some of those houses, trying to think what life was like 'back in the day'. However, this site has encouraged me to look a little closer. Thank you.