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Posted 07/30/2022 in Historical

The History of Winchester TN: A City of Notable Figures, Natural Beauty, and Revitalization


The History of Winchester TN:  A City of Notable Figures, Natural Beauty, and Revitalization


The History of Winchester TN


Winchester, TN a city steeped in history and culture, is the county seat of Franklin County.


Winchester TN was established in the year 1810 and later incorporated in 1821, making it one of the longstanding cities in the state of Tennessee. Named after James Winchester, a soldier in the American Revolution and the first Speaker of the Tennessee Legislature, Winchester has played a significant role in the history of Tennessee.



Founding and Incorporation of Winchester TN


The city of Winchester was created as the seat of justice for Franklin County by an act of the Tennessee Legislature on November 22, 1809. The town was laid out in the following year, marking its establishment. It was later incorporated in 1821, further solidifying its status as a city. The city was named in honor of James Winchester, a notable figure in the American Revolution and a brigadier general in the War of 1812.


Namesake of Winchester TN - Painting of General James Winchester Namesake of Winchester TN - General James Winchester 


Hundred Oaks Castle in Winchester TN


One of the unique landmarks in Winchester is the Hundred Oaks Castle <--- see our article on 100 Oaks Castle). Construction on the castle began in 1830 as a plantation farmhouse by Benjamin Decherd, a railroad tycoon for whom the town of Decherd, Tennessee, is named. The property was purchased in the 1860s by Albert Marks, the 21st governor of Tennessee and a relative of Thomas Jefferson. It was during this time that the property was named "Hundred Oaks."


In 1889, Arthur Marks, Albert's son, and his wife Mary Hunt returned from Scotland and began renovating the plantation home into a sprawling work of art, christened Hundred Oaks Castle. The castle was later operated as a monastery by the Paulist Fathers for over fifty years. In 1990, a fire devastated the castle, but it was restored by the hard work Robert Bramlett and his family focused on the Kent Bramlett Foundation.


One Hundred Oaks Castle Postcard colorized circa 1909One Hundred Oaks Castle Postcard Colorized circa 1909



Winchester TN Civil War Era 


During the Civil War, Winchester TN played a crucial role, being occupied first by Confederate and then by Union troops. Interestingly, Winchester, along with the rest of Franklin County, seceded from the Union several months before the rest of Tennessee. It unofficially became a part of Alabama until the rest of the state seceded. The city was on the line of retreat to Chattanooga followed by the Confederate Army of Tennessee during the campaign of 1863. This period marked a significant chapter in Winchester's history, reflecting the city's strategic importance during the war.



Winchester TN: Post-Civil War to Late 20th Century


Following the Civil War, Winchester TN began to rebuild and grow. The city became an educational hub with the establishment of several private schools. Mary Sharp College, originally the "Tennessee and Alabama Female Institute", was founded in 1851 by Z. C. Graves and the Baptist Church. 


1906 - Public School Children in Front of the Former Mary Sharp School in Winchester TNc1906 - Public School Children in Front of the Former Mary Sharp School in Winchester TN


Though a women's college, it offered a classical curriculum based upon what was being offered at the time by Amherst College, Brown University, and the University of Virginia. It closed in 1896. Other private schools in the city were Carrick Academy for male students (founded in 1809), Winchester Female Academy (founded in 1835), and Winchester Normal College.


Many businesses were located on the Bolling Fork of the Elk River (just south of the Winchester TN Square).



Bolling Fork Mill in Winchester TNBolling Fork Mill in Winchester TN



Bolling Fork Bridge going into downtown Winchester TN - note Winchester Jail just left of centerBolling Fork Bridge going into downtown Winchester TN - note Winchester Jail just left of center



Old Jail in Winchester TN -- now museumRecent photo:  Old Jail in Winchester TN -- now its a museum



The city continued to grow and develop throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The population increased, businesses were established, and the city's infrastructure improved.


Original Franklin County TN Courthouse built in 1839 and burned down in 1936Franklin County TN Courthouse built in 1839


In the early 1936, the new county seat building was being built in the center of the Winchester TN Square replacing the older courthouse described by one Judge in January 1936 as " Franklin County was too fine a county to have that "rattle trap" standing over there".



1936 Franklin County TN courthouse being built1936 Franklin County TN courthouse being built in the Winchester TN Square




New Winchester TN Courthouse in the center of the Winchester Square - c1936New Franklin County TN Courthouse in the center of the Winchester TN Square - c1937



Development of Tims Ford Lake by Winchester TN


In the late 20th century, Winchester saw a significant development that boosted its recreational appeal. The Tennessee Valley Authority started construction of the Tims Ford Dam <-- article about the damalong the Elk River in 1966. The project was completed in 1972, resulting in the creation of Tims Ford Lake. 


The lake is now known for excellent boating and bass fishing opportunities, attracting both locals and tourists. Tims Ford State Park, <-- article about Tims Ford State Park)  located along the lake's shoreline, further enhances the city's recreational offerings.



Notable Figures from Winchester TN


Winchester TN has been the birthplace of several notable figures who have made significant contributions in various fields. Among the most famous is John Templeton <--- see article we wrote about him), a financier and philanthropist who was born and raised in Winchester. His legacy continues through the John Templeton Foundation, which supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will.


Another famous personality from Winchester is Dinah Shore, a popular singer and television personality in the mid-20th century. She was born in Winchester and went on to have a successful career in the entertainment industry, winning numerous awards for her work in music and television.


Winchester was also home to four governors of Tennessee: Isham G. Harris, Henry Horton, Albert Smith Marks, and Peter Turney. Their contributions to the state's governance have left a lasting impact on Tennessee's history.



Revitalization of the Winchester TN Downtown Square


In recent years, Winchester has undertaken significant efforts to revitalize its downtown square. This project has led to the restoration of historic buildings, the introduction of new businesses, and the improvement of public spaces, making the downtown square a vibrant hub for community activities. The current leader of this initiative is Ricky Tipps <-- see article we wrote), a local entrepreneur and philanthropist. 


Many of the buildings in the square are 100 years old or older.  Each building, has a unique plaque on it displaying its unique history.



1947 Winchester Square 1947 Winchester Square 



c1898 -- Winchester Post Office -- currently the City HallBuilt in 1889, the Original Winchester TN Post Office -- currently the City Hall



Winchester TN City Hall PlaqueWinchester TN City Hall Plaque
These plaques are on all Winchester Square buildings


Today, Winchester TN continues to uphold its historical legacy while embracing modernity and progress. The city's rich history, from its founding and incorporation to its role in the Civil War, the development of Tims Ford Lake, the notable figures it has produced, and the revitalization of its downtown square, is a testament to its resilience, growth, and commitment to community development. 


As we look towards the future, Winchester TN continues to uphold its historical legacy while embracing modernity and progress.



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