The area that today is Barrow County was settled prior to the start of the 19th century. An Indian trail that ran through the county attracted settlers. To protect the settlers from the Cherokee and Creek Indians, the state built a frontier fort in 1792 called Fort Yargo, now a state park. Winder, the county seat, was known as Jug Tavern during this time.
Barrow County was the scene of one of the few Union defeats during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign known as Stoneman's Raid.
During the 1880s, rail was expanded and Barrow County played host to two railroads, the Seaboard Air Line and the Gainesville and Midland. One of the railroad builders for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad was John H. Winder of North Carolina. Jug Tavern's name was changed to Winder by the Georgia General Assembly on December 20, 1893 to honor the railroad builder.
Barrow County was created from portions of Gwinnett, Jackson, and Walton counties when Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment on November 3, 1914 making Barrow County the 149th Georgia county out of 159. Barrow County was named after David Crenshaw Barrow, Jr. a University of Georgia mathematics and engineering professor who was later Chancellor serving in that position from 1906 to 1925. Barrow died on January 11, 1929 in Athens and is buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens.