Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The Village of Winchester

For many years, the village of Winchester was larger and more prominent than rival Birmingham.  And of course, at that time in history Stockport didn't exist. 

Winchester was on what was known as the Pioneer Ridge Road that ran between Keokuk and Libertyville.  It was on one of the county's early stagecoach lines.  Winchester was apparently the mail drop and circulating point for that part of Van Buren County, as Jacob Lawton, first postmaster at Birmingham, picked up his mail at that location. 

Winchester had its own post office from July 22, 1840 until March 31, 1903.  The village was located in the approximate center of Section 21 of Union Township and was laid out with 9 blocks, including the public square.  Winchester was founded on February 29, 1840 by John Reynolds and Jefferson Cox.  For several decades it maintained a population of about 200 people, reaching its zenith with  an estimated 300 people in 1880. 

Winchester is probably best known for the Anti-Horse Thief Association, which met there for nearly 100 years and at one time claimed a membership of more than 1000 subscribers.  For a small fee, members were protected and insured against such theft by the organization. 

According to Rich Lowe's website, (, the association was formed in 1839 with J. M. Whitaker as President, Charles Price as Vice-president, and Asa Smith Treasurer.  The first meeting was held in the blacksmith shop in Winchester.  Later meetings were at Winchester's Masonic Hall. 

Of course, it was originally organized to prevent horse theft as well as to track down thieves and bring them to justice.  During the 1840s and 1850s, there were many horse thefts in Van Buren County and often blame was cast onto the Mormons.  Some of the evidence uncovered by the association shows that most of the horse abductions were made by an organized band of thieves who purposely directed suspicion to the Mormons to cover their tracks.   

The association continued to hold meetings at least annually until it disbanded on April 3, 1937.  During most of that time, it was known for the elaborate picnics that were hosted each year.  The last president of the association was C. W. Workman of Birmingham. 

Not much exists to suggest a village at Winchester other than the cemetery.  Winchester gradually faded into history after Birmingham and Stockport secured a railroad line.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick