Richard Richards laid out the town of Manchester in 1765. He was the son of Edward Richards, who had been granted 50 acres of land in 1738 by King George II that later became the nearby town of Hampstead.
At the time, Manchester was located at the intersection of two ancient Native American trails. Today, Main Street follows the route of an Algonquian-Iroquois trail called the "Patapsco-Conewago (Hanover) Road" by the colonists. York and Westminster streets are built on a trail that went from the Potomac River to the Susquehanna. Manchester was originally settled by Germans from southern Pennsylvania.
The first church building in Carroll County was a Union Church erected in 1760 in Manchester by the Lutherans and the Reformed Church — now known as the United Church of Christ. Church records from Sept. 17, 1762 also indicated an initiative to construct a school.
By the 1830s, a regular passenger and freight stage coach business served Manchester. Hotels, bars and restaurants began a thriving business with people traveling west through town. The rapidly expanding town incorporated in 1833. The fire department was chartered March 28, 1893. The fire hall dedication on Sept. 2, 1899, was the scene of a community celebration.
In October 1833, a regional vote to form Carroll County failed. To celebrate, the Germans in Manchester, which had opposed the idea, hauled out a cannon, and fired it in the direction of Westminster.
One of the first colleges in Carroll County was located in Manchester: Irving College, founded in 1858. Manchester incorporated in 1833.
During the Civil War, Union Brig. Gen. George A. Custer traveled through Manchester just before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The 6th Corps of the Union Army also traveled through Manchester to Gettysburg, in a troop movement so large it stretched 10 miles.
Historically, the chief agriculture crop of the Manchester area was tobacco, which led to Manchester's being a major manufacturer of cigars from the 1870s well into the 1920s.
Today, Manchester retains its small-town atmosphere.