Vinton's history began long before the town was chartered in 1884. The town can trace its heritage back to the mid-1700s when the area was first settled, and even farther back in time when the area was part of an Indian trail which led to the Carolinas. Settlers began moving into the Roanoke Valley area in the mid-1700s to take advantage of the fertile land and abundant water supply.
Some of the early settlers in the Vinton area were Jacob Vinyard, John McAdoo, Christian Gish, and his brother David Gish. The Gish brothers established a grist mill on Glade Creek in 1797 and this led to the first official name for the Vinton area - Gish's Mill. During the early years of the mill, Roanoke County was formed (in 1838) and Gish's Mill became a part of the county.
As the railroad expanded into the Roanoke Valley, Gish's Mill became a flag stop for the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Ohio Railroad. Initially, Gish's Depot was nothing more than a small box car, but after the Civil War the railroad company constructed a more substantial depot building. During the early post-Civil War period, only a few families lived in the general area. The Vinyard family owned much of the land on which the Town of Vinton now stands. However, over the years other families settled around Gish's Depot. Some of the early families to settle in this area were the Jones, Funks, Pollards, Pedigos, Walkers, McLeans, and the Basses.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the Gish Family led a movement to establish a town at the depot site. During this period, the boundaries for the town were delineated, individual building lots were platted and sold, and a school house was constructed. New construction occurring in Roanoke City (chartered in 1882) was causing an influx of people into the Gish's Mill area. A mass meeting was held in the early months of 1883 to consider the question of incorporation.
Incorporation was supported at the meeting and several suggestions for the name of the town were proposed. The group adopted the name Vinton. There are two possible explanations as to the origin of this name. The first explanation is that the "Vin" in the name came from the first part of the Vinyard family name, while the "ton" came from the last part of the name of another local family - the Prestons. The second explanation indicates that Vinton was an old Indian name suggested by one of the community leaders, B. A. Jones, because it sounded pretty.