The seat of Franklin County, Winchester dates back to 1809. At the time, an Elk River spring called Boiling Fork served as an important resource, flowing into the community and turning the wheels of the mills in Winchester and surrounding towns, at times powerful enough to wash away bridges and flood the area. Today, it is now a part of the water of Tims Ford Lake. In the mid-1800s, several schools were established here: the Carrick Academy for Boys, Winchester Female Academy, Winchester Normal College and Mary Sharp College.
The Civil War brought no direct fighting to Winchester, but the town was occupied by Union troops on two occasions, and its schools, homes and churches were used for military purposes. Following the Civil War, Winchester's railroad access helped it recover economically, along with several summer resorts like Mont Miller, built near natural mineral springs. The creation of Tims Ford Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) at the Elk River's headwaters brought 246 miles of shoreline to town in 1971, and with it came fishermen, outdoor enthusiasts, and tourists of all kinds.