Have a question?
Message sent Close

Founder of Jamestown

Anderson, A.W. “Prendergast Found His Horses, Returned To Found A City,” Jamestown (NY) Post-Journal,
The Post-Journal website: http://post-journal.com/

Prendergast Found His Horses, Returned To Found A City

By A. W. Anderson

James Prendergast, the man who founded Jamestown and for whom the town was named, was a son of William Prendergast, who was born in Ireland in 1727, and emigrated to this country before he had reached the age of manhood. He settled in Pawling, Dutchess County, New York. Here he married Mehitable Wing, who was born in America of Scotch parents. They afterward moved to Pittstown, Rensselaer County. Seven sons and six daughters were born to them, all of whom, excepting one, lived to middle or old age. A large portion of this family, in 1805, left Pittstown in a large caravan to find a new home if possible in the Eldorado of the west. They settled finally in the Chautauqua region, generally in the northwest portion, in 1806.

James Prendergast discovered the scene of the city which would bear his name, not by design but by accident, while looking for a pair of strayed horses. He returned to Pittstown, married Agnes Thompson, and moved with his wife and baby to Chautauqua in the fall of 1810.

Accompanying them were John and Mary Blowers, the young man and wife who were in their employ. They lived during the succeeding winter in the home of Matthew, a brother of James, who owned a large farm on the west side of the lake, not far from Mayville. During the fall of 1810 John Blowers, at the direction of James Prendergast, built a temporary log house on the bank of the Outlet, not far from the present steamboat landing. the best information available indicates that the Blowers lived here during the winter of 1810-11.

In the spring of 1811, James Prendergast constructed a log house at a point on the bank of the Outlet, not far from the present Steele Street bridge. He also built a dam at the same point and erected a sawmill there the same year. His house and mill burned in 1812, and hw rebuilt his mill on the east side of the present Main Street, south of the Erie Railroad, and moved into a slab house which he built at a point on what is now the east side of Cherry Street, half way between First and Second streets.

In 1814, he built a frame house on the lot above the present National Chautauqua County Bank, and here he resided until 1836, when he moved to Ripley and thence to his farm on the Kiantone Meadows.

Before the final coming of James Prendergast from Pittstown, his brother Matthew, at his direction, had bought a thousand acres of the land on which the city now stands, afterward deeding it to him.

The first store was established in 1813 on the northwest corner of Main and First streets, by Jediah and Martin Prendergast, brother of James. That year, also, the first blacksmith shop was established.

The first survey of village lots here was made for James Prendergast in 1815, by his nephew, Thomas Bemus. Thoams Disher, manager of the Prendergast store, drew a plain, simple map of the lots surveyed by Bemus. This was kept at the store and was for many years the only map of the village. The lots were of uniform size, 50 by 120 feet, and were offered at $50 each.

The site of Jamestown previous to 1815 was called “The Rapids,” due to the swift water of the shallows at this point in the outlet of Lake Chautauqua. In the summer of that year the village received the name by which the city is now designated.

The first tavern was built on the east side of Main Street, half-way between First and Second streets, by Jacob Fenton, a soldier of the Revolution, in 1814. He also established and operated a small pottery at the rear of his tavern.

In 1814, the first gristmill was built by James Prendergast, on the west side of Main Street, south of the line of the present Erie Railroad. The first tannery was established in 1815 at the foot of Cherry Street about where the Erie station now stands.

In 1815 three additional taverns were framed and partly finished. They were: the Allen Tavern, southeast corner of Main and Third Streets; Ballard Tavern, southwest corner of Main and Third Streets; and what afterwards became the Jones Tavern and subsequently the Shaw Hotel, on the northwest corner of Main and Third streets. The Cass Tavern was begun in 1817 and finished in 1819 by Plinny Cass, on the southwest corner of Main and Second streets.

The first school was taught in a room of the Blowers house (a building erected by John Blowers for James Prendergast in 1813 on the west side of Main Street, halfway between First and Second streets) in 1814. In 1816, the first school building, Prendergast Academy, was erected on the west side of Main Street, near Fifth Street. The second school building was erected in 1822 on the northeast corner of Fourth and Pine.

In 1815 two physicians settled here: Dr. Elial T. Foote in the spring, and Dr. Laban Hazeltine in the summer.

In 1814, the first wool-carding industry was established here by Walter Simmons and Horace Blanchar on the second floor of the Prendergast gristmill. This year also the first bridge over the Outlet was constructed by Reuben Landon.

In 1816, a post office was established here and a mail route passed through the village; the first church (Congregational) was organized; the first lawyer, Samuel A. Brown, settled here; a hat shop was established.

A small amount of furniture was made here by various persons beginning as early as 1814. In 1816, Royal Keyes built a carpenter shop on the west side of Main Street near Fourth Street. From this time forward he made – in his spare time form his regular employment as house-builder – an increasing amount of cabinet work. In 1820 William Breed came to the village and entered the business with Keyes. In 1825 the first furniture factory was built by Breed Brothers on the west side of Pine Street, between Third and Fourth Streets, and in remodeled form, is still standing there. Chair-making was begun by Phineas Palmiter in 1827. He was Jamestown’s first furniture-maker, beginning in a small way as early as 1814.

In 1826, the first newspaper, the Jamestown Journal, was established in a building erected for the purpose on the northeast corner of Main and Fourth Streets, by the publisher, Adolphus Fletcher.

In 1827, the village was incorporated.

The first drug store was established in 1829 by Dr. E. T. Foote, in a long, one-story building which he erected that year on the east side of Main Street about 50 feet above Second Street.

The first steamboat plying between Mayville and Jamestown was launched here in 1828.

In 1829, the first fire department was organized.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized here in 1823, the Baptist Church in 1826, and the Presbyterian Church in 1833.

The National Chautauqua County Bank was organized in 1831, and a one-story bank building, 18 by 34, was erected on the northwest side of the lot now occupied by that bank.

In 1849 the first Swedish settler arrived.

In 1852, a fire destroyed the buildings on the east side of Main Street.
( Originally printed in the 1927 Village of Jamestown Centennial Program, and reprinted in the Post-Journal)

How Jamestown Changed From A Village To A City: From Writing The Charter To Approval From Albany

By Mark Genovese

The 56-year-old village of Jamestown had been growing rapidly by 1883, and many of the residents felt that the government under a village charter was no longer able to carry out all of the activities necessary to handle its growth.

With a population that would be reported to be at least 14,000 by 1886, Jamestown was the corporate entity with the largest population in Chautauqua County. A feeling that change was necessary had been agitating the community for some time.

On Nov. 20, 1883, an editorial titled “Village or City?” in the Jamestown Evening Journal voiced the question that some people had been asking about whether the village would be better served by a revision in its current charter.

It said: “The most careful canvass of opinion seems to indicate that the sentiment in favor of a city charter is not strong enough to make an attempt for its adoption at this time advisable, while among the members of the community the preponderance of opinion is against it,” it said.

There are improvements such as sewers that should no longer be delayed. But these improvements could be made by way of making amendments to the village charter,” the editorial continued.

Not a large portion of the community favor the project of a city charter and those who do want it are anxious that it should be of the most limited kind,” it said, adding, “The majority is not always right, but in this case we are inclined to believe that the course of wisdom is not to push the city charter scheme any farther at present.

Several prominent citizens of the community were asked for their opinion.

Reuben E. Fenton, former governor, said, “The subjects or matters of village interest are becoming so numerous and weighty that I am inclined to think we cannot properly postpone a city charter with increased power and authority for very much longer; at our present rate of growth I should say not more than a year or so at the farthest.

Oscar F. Price, a former president of the village board and state legislator, said it was only a matter of time before a city charter must be adopted but he did not believe the year for change had arrived.

Renewed Interest

The paper reported on Monday, Feb. 4, 1884, “The matter is exciting considerable interest and it is possible that if a move was rightly made those then opposed to any innovation might be led to look at the matter in a different light.

To the people of Jamestown at the time “city” was a word that meant heavy taxes and unlimited corruption. “It is urged and can perhaps be shown that such fears may be groundless,” the paper said.

In citing the arguments for a new charter, it said, “The old charter is defective in almost every particular, and the time must soon be if it is not now at hand, when amendment will be an absolute necessity.

It cited the need for additional representation in the area on the Chautauqua County Board of Supervisors, pointing out that the town of Kiantone with 500 inhabitants had the same power as the town of Ellicott with its 16,000 inhabitants.

The growing commercial and business interests of the latter town excite the hostile attention of other portions of the county and it is only ordinary business policy that we should place a ourselves in a position of defense,” it said.

Some area leaders felt that the present village charter could be easily amended by replacing the word “city” in place of “village,” and by inserting a clause providing for six wards or election districts, each to elect its own supervisor, with a supervisor at large for the whole town.

A mayor and two trustees or aldermen per ward would be elected. The only paid officer would be the city clerk. It was suggested the change could be made that winter and then brought before the state legislature.

Other groups felt the village charter should be overhauled thoroughly, which would take more time, but they felt it would be the wiser choice.

A citizen’s committee met on Monday, Feb. 11, and appointed a group of 10 village citizens to look into the matter, with Alex M. Lowry, village board president, elected chairman.

After about a week of study Clark R. Lockwood, chairman of the attorney’s sub-committee, said at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14, there was no legal objection to changing the present charter, but that the village would also have to sever ties with the town of Ellicott.

The group decided the mayor and council should serve without pay, not because their services would be unworthy of compensation, but because in making the change from a village to a city it was advisable to avoid everything that would place additional tax burdens upon the citizens and arouse prejudice against the movement.

Lockwood joined James I. Fowler, Jerome B. Fisher and Willis O. Benedict on another committee to draw up the document.

The revised charter was presented at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The paper said the next day: “Between an hour and a half to two hours was occupied in the reading, so voluminous was the report. At various points in the paper Mr. Lockwood made explanations and his words were so carefully uttered that the listeners easily comprehended what he read. No serious fault was found in the document.

In publishing the charter in the Saturday, March 1, 1884, Evening Journal, the paper noted some people in the community were beginning to feel the time to draft it was short and the time for the community to consider it was even shorter.

Those against the charter said the document was imperfect in regard to “poor matters,” the police and fire departments, “sewerage” and powers of the mayoral and council.

However the next day village residents approved by a vote of 608-588 a proposition for the village to have a city charter.

After the referendum, committee members said the questionable points must be rectified before the charter is submitted to Albany, “or the flaws will be made an excuse for refusing to grant the petition.”

An area lawyer, who was not identified, had said that city charters made up in a hurry were worse than no charters at all, and less desirable than a village charter. The paper noted that Lockport, which charted as a city in 1865, had to make revisions in its charter almost yearly.

Residents Demand Action

The Jamestown city charter movement was idle until January 1885, when the interest reportedly began stirring again. Enthusiasm was whipped up in part by items appearing in the Evening Journal editorial column, such as a statement on Jan. 5: “Jamestown Wants: More Pure Water, Free Postal Delivery, A New Charter;” or one on Jan. 16, “Isn’t it time for Jamestown to be moving again in the matter of a new charter?” The editorial noted that Lockport and Dunkirk were revising theirs.

On Monday, Jan. 26, the village board decided to consult the citizens of Jamestown in regard to securing a city charter. The paper decided to rouse more spirit two days later by printing the names of the men who attended the first charter committee meeting the year before.

Many of these same names were on a petition presented to the village board on Monday, Feb. 23, 1885. Sixty residents and representatives from businesses signed the petition asking the trustees to call a general meeting of the citizens to consider drafting and adopting a charter.

At that meeting, Porter Sheldon and John J. Whitney were appointed to talk with authorities from Dunkirk about their city charter on Wednesday, Feb. 25. Dunkirk had incorporated six years earlier.

Reporting on their meeting to the village trustees on Thursday, Feb. 26, and to the citizens’ committee on Friday, Feb. 27, the group said the Dunkirk charter could be applicable to Jamestown with a few changes.

Three people – Robert N. Marvin, Almet N. Broadhead, and Frank E. Gifford – were appointed to select seven more members for a committee to draw up a new charter. On Monday, March 2, they picked: Sheldon Whitney, John T. Wilson, Orsino E. Jones, James L. Fowler, Jerome Preston, and Oscar Price. Marvin, the chairman, said it was again decided no hasty action should be taken in drawing up this charter.

By Saturday, May 2, the committee announced it was impossible for the commission to perfect the charter in time to have it introduced in the state Legislature that session. The committee promised to work through the summer and early autumn to produce a charter that would be relatively free from defects.

1886: A City Charter

On Jan. 29, 1886, the charter was ready for public scrutiny. “There is a desire of the people to learn more about the draft and there will be a great deal of complaint if it is not made public,” an editorial said that day.

The paper noted that it might be that in some slight particulars the charter would not meet the ideas of everyone. “But we do not think that any trivial fault should stand in the way of its adoption.” If after passage by the legislature and a trial of its provisions, “it is found in any way deficient, any reasonable amendment can easily be obtained,” the paper said.

Attendance was reported to be about 300 at a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3. “So many citizens gathered in the Board of Trade Rooms it was deemed advisable to adjourn to the Prendergast Hall,” the paper said.

Marvin noted that the committee gathered copies of other city charters and considered the effect of the proposed laws on the community. For the past few weeks the committee had met nearly every weekend evening, he pointed out.

The speaker said the committee did not assume “that perfection had been reached in the instrument, but stated that the best judgment and labors of the committee had been exercised in the preparation thereof.

We have done the best we could under all circumstances,” said Marvin, “and now present to you, the citizens, to do with it as you deem proper.

The paper said: “There was a debate of considerable length, a portion of the speakers favoring nearly immediate action and others wishing to delay the adoption of the charter for two or three weeks.

The citizens’ committee agreed to publish the charter an to call a public meeting at its discretion.

The Evening Journal published the text of the charter on Saturday, Feb. 6. “The general sentiment to the charter had been very favorable. Nearly the only provision that is subjected to almost unanimous criticism is the one in relation to supervisors,” it reported on Monday, Feb. 8.

By providing five supervisors in the city, one will be returned from the town, making six in all. Many felt that not only are six supervisors not needed, but the instrument is likely to be rejected in Albany if submitted with that number,” the paper said.

It added that two or three would be sufficient, and “would not create additional expense for taxpayers or alienate the good feeling toward Jamestown by the rest of the county.”

Another criticism that arose during the next two weeks was that the Common Council was not given enough power to pave streets and build sewers. These people feared the work would not be done if the decision could be made only on a vote by the people affected, as specified in the charter.

Farmlands, if not divided for development, were to be taxed lightly. But if a house should be built, it would be placed on a higher tax schedule. This discriminates against the poor, the paper said.

Some people in the community also disagreed with the provision that the city collect taxes for the school district. According to state law at the time, issuing a tax warrant is the duty of the city when the boundary lines of the city and school district are the same. But in Jamestown the boundaries were different, which made collection the duty of school officials.

Leaving the provision as it stood in the draft – in conflict with state law – could impede the charter’s passage, critics warned.

Another disputed item was an amendment requiring a petition for paving a section of a street be signed by owners of two-thirds of the lineal feet along the street before the council could act on the matter.

The interests of the people were well-guarded before and the amendment proposed amounts to so much of an obstruction that in the opinion of many it will be impossible to secure the very improvements for which the charter was principally framed,” the paper said in an editorial.

In addition, the paper said, “Instead of restricting the powers of council on sewerage, these powers should be extended by the committee.

An amendment suggested that the Jamestown charter allow women who are also taxpayers the opportunity to vote.

This involves a very radical change in municipal matters and upon the basis of moral right and equity there is no such thing as an argument against it,” the paper said in endorsing the proposal.

This amendment, introduced by F. W. Stevens, was passed unanimously at a second charter meeting on Friday, Feb. 12. Women paid about a quarter of the taxes, yet none had a voice in selecting officers, he said, although women taxpayers were as well able to transact business as the men.

The committee also amended the charter to allow the school district to execute its own tax warrants.

It really seems as if there had been about enough discussion over this matter,” the Wednesday, Feb. 17, Jamestown Evening Journal said, “Let it be closed up tonight. If Jamestown is to be changed from a village to a city during the present legislature, the proposed charter must go at once to Albany.

At the final charter session that evening the mood of the citizens’ committee was reported to be more cooperative, but its members rescinded the amendment giving voting rights to female taxpayers.

The committee reasoned that the amendment might conflict with the state constitution and would hamper the passage of the charter through the legislature.

The only other change called for a petition by a majority of the property owners representing more than half the linear feet on a street in order to have a street paved.

This would help protect the rights of those of moderate means, “who might otherwise be coerced by the will of their more extensive land-owning neighbors,” the paper said.

The charter was sent to Albany on Monday, March 8, accompanied by a committee of local citizens.

Area residents had another interest in Albany that week: They were opposed to a bill in the Senate which would prevent the building of a railroad on lands owned by the Point Chautauqua Association. This railroad would help the area become a summer resort, they said.

Jamestown’s city charter was introduced to the state Legislature on Tuesday, March 8, by Assemblyman Newell Cheney of the town of Poland. It was referred to the Committee on Cities, which gave Price a hearing that afternoon.

Assembly approval was given on Friday, March 19. Eleven days later it was approved in the senate and was sent to Gov. David B. Hill for his signature.

On Thursday, April 1, 1886, the paper said simply: “About six o’clock Wednesday evening the following dispatch was received at this office: ´ALBANY, March 31 – Railroad bill killed. City charter signed by Governor this afternoon. – Jones, Gifford and Wilson.` Consequently Jamestown is a city.”

A City Government

The news the governor had signed the bill spread around town last evening but created hardly a ripple of interest as no other result was expected. Today the word ‘city’ is spoken probably infrequently as any,” an editorial read the next day.

As according to the charter, the Jamestown Village Board was to publish a notice of city election.

To be filled were the offices of mayor, treasurer, clerk, overseer of the poor, police justice, four justices of the peace, three assessors, three commissioners of excise, a sealer of weights and measures, four constables, and a game constable.

Also to be elected were two more supervisors from the city, and two aldermen and two inspectors of election from each ward.

Jamestown city officials were to appoint an attorney, civil engineer, street commissioner, fire warden, poundmaster, chief of police and not more than six policemen.

The Evening Journal supported Robert Marvin to be the city’s first mayor, citing his executive ability and his familiarity with the charter. Marvin did not run for the office, making the two eventual candidates Price and Noah W. Gokey. Gokey was considered the labor man’s candidate.

The first Jamestown city election was to be held on Tuesday, April 13, and candidates were reported to be “hourly multiplying.” Caucuses were held Friday, April 9, for each of the wards and a general caucus was held Saturday, April 10, to nominate candidates for the citywide offices.

The majority of candidates turned out to be Republican, which upset the community’s Democrats. The party threatened to nominate their own slate of candidates.

It was proposed to keep politics out of the first city elections in Jamestown and politics now is the most conspicuous thing about it,” the paper said in an editorial.

It added: “It is safe to say that in the attendance of electors, in the interest manifested and in the excitement attending it no parallel case is known in the history of Jamestown. The remark was frequently heard Saturday, “If this is a caucus, what will the election be?

After much consideration, the Democrats decided not to put up a slate, stating in a bitter letter to the paper they were satisfied the city was to be Republican and only Republicans were to have the offices. In the best interests of the city they were not asking for any of the offices, they said. They acknowleged they were the minority and could not expect any.

Marvin and Price declared he could not disregard the wish of his friends that he remain a candidate, “and the matter of my candidacy was thereupon dropped.”

Nevertheless, Marvin tallied two votes in that day’s election, according to the totals published in the Evening Journal the next day. Price was elected the first mayor of the city of Jamestown, defeating Gokey 1,780 to 2. Cyrenus Clark also received votes and 11 were listed as “scattered.”

Fred R. Peterson was elected city clerk; Henry Rappole, treasurer; and Henry J. Yates, police justice.

John G. Wicks and Adam Ports were elected aldermen in the 1st ward; William T. Bradshaw and Theodore E. Grandin, 2nd ward; Charles F. Hedman and James S. Ellis, 3rd ward; Conrad A. Hult and Elial F. Carpenter, 4th ward; Edward R. Bootey and Hiram S. Hall, 5th ward.

A group of about 300 people was reported to have gone to Price’s house at Main and West Sixth streets at about 10 o’clock that night to congratulate and serenade the new mayor. Barrels and boxes, gathered by local boys, were set on fire as the crowd cheered and called for speeches by Price and the newly elected aldermen.

Although its government’s officers were elected, the task of forming a city was not complete. Later that month Gov. Hill would sign a bill creating a new town of Ellicott out of the parts of the town not included in the Jamestown incorporation.

On Monday, April 12, the Village Board drew up a statement of indebtedness for the new City Council and changed its five wards to conform with the city charter. It then adjourned until Monday, April 19, when it would reconvene to adjourn without a day to meet again and hand its business over to the Jamestown Common Council.

What Happened At The First City Council Meeting

By Mark Genovese

On Monday, April 19, 1886, Jamestown looked back upon its 59-year history as a village stepped into the future – as a city.

With pride its new officials – sworn in for only a matter of minutes – spoke that night of what would be required of them in the years to come, at the very first meeting of the Jamestown Common Council.

The tiny headline on page 4 of the Tuesday, April 20, 1886, Jamestown Evening Journal read: “Council Proceedings. The Village Trustees Meet, Canvass the vote and Adjourn Without Day- The City Council Organized and the Proceedings.”

At 7 p.m. Village Board President John Cadwell called the village trustees to order in the board of trade rooms. Trustees of the last village board were: Charles F. Hedman, Peter H. Hoyt, Hiram Smith, Conrad A. Hult, John G. Lonngren, and Clinton B. Winsor. John Cadwell was president.

The board canvassed the vote cast at the city election April 13. Elected to office were: Oscar F. Price, mayor; and aldermen John G. Wicks, Adam Ports, Theodore E. Grandin, William T. Bradshaw, Charles F. Hedman, James S. Ellis, Elial F. Carpenter, Conrad A. Hult, Edward R. Bootey, and Hiram S. Hall.

Smith took the floor and gave a 10-minute talk on the early history of Jamestown.

Mr. President and Gentlemen:- The events transpiring are entitled to more than a passing observance. Few of us realize that the old village corporation has had an existence of nearly 60 years.

Smith said that “The first tax sought to be raised by the village was for $300 but it was voted down. However, the inhabitants contributed enough hands to build the reservoir for fire purposes at the corner of Main and Third Streets. The following year a tax of $150 was voted and with it fire engines and other apparatus were purchased.

In 1829 a tax of $45 was used to build an engine house and purchase fire ladders and for several years later the regular tax was $200.

I urge upon the new government the necessity of avoiding excessive taxation. I know it will drive capital form the city and retard our prosperity,” he said.

Smith added, “It is easy to be liberal with other people’s money as we all know, but my judgment is that the true legislator will expend the people’s money with the same care and prudence as if it were his own.

He said that a 1828 census showed there were 311 males and 233 females for a total of 544 citizens. He urged a new census be taken “as the figures will be valuable as a basis for reference in future years.”

He added that even as far back as 1835 Ellicott was the sixth-largest town in the county in population, being exceeded by Hanover, Pomfret, Westfield, Harmony and even Ellery. “Yet no town in the country has grown so rapidly in population, wealth, enterprise and importance as the town of Jamestown, which is largely due to the men who have urged thrift, economy, and enterprise and kept the place free from a heavy debt,” he said.

I am one who cheerfully surrenders to the new administration the affairs of the village. I believe they are capable men. I hope you, the aldermen, will so guard the public interests as to satisfy yourselves and your constituents, and that the verdict shall be at the close of your service, ´well done good and faithful servants.`

Cadwell thanked Smith and read an extract from the City Charter on the transfer of control of the municipal affairs from the old to the new government.

According to Section 9 of the city charter, “All offices of the village of Jamestown, the terms of all such village officers, and the powers, authority and jurisdiction in or over said village and city of all officers of the town of Ellicott shall thereupon cease.”

Clerk Fred R. Peterson read the returns of the city election, naming those elected to office.

Cadwell said, “In accordance with the provisions of the new charter I now declare the gentlemen whose names were just read duly elected. With the action the authority of the board of village trustees of Jamestown ceases.

Smith moved to adjourn the board sine die (without a day to meet again). The motion was carried, and the village board came to an end.

President Cadwell then stepped back from the desk and addressed the mayor. “His voice was some what broken with the depth of his sentiment, and at the close of his brief address, which was intently listened to, there was applause from all parts of the room.

He said to Price, “You are here today the proud representative of the new – we are the no less proud representatives of the old. You look forward with hope to the future – we look back with pride upon the past. You look upon the child born today – we upon one born nearly 60 years ago, now grown gray and very near the end of life.

He added, “But what of the future city? Will her record equal that of the village of the past? Will she be a Pearl City in fact as well as in name, with all the name suggests to us – not a brilliant lustre that may be quickly dimmed and tarnished by bad laws, badly administered, but instead like the mother of pearl, gathering to herself all that is best of wise legislation, honestly administered, shining with a pure undimmed light?

He said “We believe it will be so, that your honorable body will sink all personal and partisan feeling and do that which is wisest and best for us all, that 60 years hence there will be citizens who will look back upon those years with as much pride as we do upon these now so nearly ended. And now sir, we of the old lay our burdens upon your shoulders, of the new, and, doing so with heartfelt sincerity, wish you God speed and all honor and prosperity to the city of Jamestown.

Special County Judge Marvin Smith administered the path of office to Mayor Price then to Clerk Peterson and finally to the 10 aldermen.

In his address to the Common Council, Price said, “It is particularly fit that at the outset of our new government we, who are but the agents of the people should understand each other.

He said, “The management of local affairs belongs to the people concerned because they best understand and are most competent to control them.

Price continued, “A city of 15,000 cannot be operated with the legislative restrictions imposed upon a village upon of a thousand or two. It therefore became advisable that our form of government should be changed.

He said the Common Council commenced upon the control of the affairs of this city with no money on hand and with no means of raising any but by the usual spring tax levy. Their city’s debt was about $11,843, made up of $7,080 in time orders not yet due, interest to date of $247, mortgages on city property of $2,509, a gas bill to date of $887 and current bills unpaid of $1,180. Charges for water were not due yet.

Price said the amount they could raise was restricted by the charter. The city could only raise $15,000 in taxes. Of this, $10,000 must be used only for street purposes, and $5,000 for the erection and repair of bridges. In addition, the city could only raise an amount to meet its obligations to the water company.

He said the city would probably need for general purposes no less than $12,500 and possibly $15,000.

Price cited the bridge at Harrison Street and another at the boatlanding as needing repair “of no great outlay.” He said, “It must be conceded that the streets of the city of Jamestown, situated as we are among so many hills, are more than ordinarily hard to keep in repair and exceedingly difficult to put in grade.

Because of the city’s tight finances, heavy grading should not be done, nor any extensive improvements, he recommended.

However, he said the city should keep its streets in good repair and “relieve the traveler of the annoyance of stones in the road.”

Price said, “Time will soon come when we will be called upon to pave a portion of our business streets.” He said it would be a great improvement to pave from the railroad to Fourth Street on Main Street, Second and Third Streets from Cherry to Pine streets, “but we should not at present undertake it.”

He added that new and repaved sidewalks were needed. The village had defended itself in several suits for “damage occasioned by defective footways.”

We have ample power to prevent the accumulation of weeds in the streets and to keep them clear of rubbish of all kinds,” he said. “We should insist that other dumping grounds than the public highways should be found,” he said. Price also added that aldermen should not seek an unfair amount of work for their wards.

His feelings about sewers were the same as those about paving. “As to such sewers as have been and will be introduced by private enterprise, we should cooperate with the owners in giving free passage through the streets and alleys and in providing outlets therefore.

Price noted the charter requires a council room to be provided as well as a courtroom, and treasurer and justice offices. “Neither expensive nor elaborate quarters are intended nor required,” he said, noting the city owns a building at the corner of Spring and Third streets that “perhaps with moderate expense can be utilized for some of these requirements.”

The first mayor of the city also encouraged spending on the Fire Department to be liberal as it can, in justice to other interests.

He added the city should also compel the railroads to keep a flagman or gates or both at street crossings, and compel them to bridge or tunnel every street.

After Price’s speech, Bradshaw offered a resolution to form a committee on organization. Aldermen Wicks, Hall and Carpenter were to serve on it.

Members also approved the purchase of a seal to read “City of Jamestown 1886.”

The alderman also determined that it was necessary to name a street commissioner at once. Alderman Bootey named R. J. Forbes as an applicant.

Wicks named Horace Walker, Harry Winsor, and Joseph Cowdrey. Hedman named Charles Parker and William Wilson. Bradshaw named J. D. Berry and Will Davis. The clerk reported the application of W. T. Denslow.

After the first informal ballot, Forbes and Parker led with three votes apiece.

A second ballot saw Forbes win with five votes, a third had Forbes and Parker tied with four votes, a fourth ballot was won by Forbes with 4 votes, Parker won the fifth ballot with 5, Forbes had 6 on the sixth ballot. Parker only got 3 on the last vote.

Election of Murray for a chief of police was faster with a 7-2-1 count. The Morning News won the right to be the official newspaper by a 7-3 vote, and Henry J. Yates was approved as the police justice.

The next day an editorial about the historic first Common Council session said: “The village boards of Jamestown have generally been composed of prominent citizens of good character who have taken excellent care of the people’s interests and had the board just retired long enough in office it would probably have demonstrated that it was no exception to the general rule.

Jamestown has been remarkably free from jobbery, and as we look back over the records of the past, we hold the hope that the future will be equally free from corruption.

Why Did The Swedes Stay On In Jamestown?

Dec. 8, 1938 – The question, “Why did they stay here?” has been asked many times concerning the early Swedish pioneers who came here in the early 1850s. While there were larger and more comfortable places in which they could have settled, it was better said than done.

Need knows no law. Many would have moved on if it had been at all possible. Their only assets were their families and many children.

Jamestown was, at that time, isolated. There were no good roads, no railroad until 1864, nor was there any navigation. The inland lake with its abundance of fish provided sustenence. Surrounding woods provided all sorts of game, much of which could be trapped and killed to use as further nourishment, pelts for furs and bird feathers for pillows and mattresses.

In my case, I believe the reason for our coming was because my mother had several cousins residing here. The youngsters spoke English and the older folk sort of pecked their way along. As newcomers, we observed that they had become full-blooded Americans who were also well-dressed.

Today I particularly wish to relate about the post office in 1869. Looking back now, its like a raindrop in the ocean in the space of time; it was 70 years ago. The post office was located on the west side of Main Street, between Second and Third streets. The unhurried personnel consisted of the postmaster and a young clerk. Much of the frustration at the post office was caused by unstamped letters from Sweden, the postage of which had to be paid by the addressee. All the Andersons, Johnsons and Petersons had difficulty in procuring their own mail.

The post office at that time was heated by a woodburning stove. Whenever a load of wood was delivered and left outside the post office, it had to be chopped and carried inside. When the need is greatest, help seems to be nearby. Anders Andersson, who was usually seen with an axe under his arm, walking around the city trying to be of help to others, was hired for this task.

One day, when Anders had finished his task, the postmaster called him inside to inquire if he could identify the addressee on a postage-due envelope. He could, and he volunteered to deliver and collect the postage due.

When Anders learned there were many other postage-due letters in the post office, he asked to look at them. Seeming to recognize these addressees, he volunteered to deliver all of them. Known as Swede Andrew to all of the Americans, he became known as Brev (Letter) Anders to the Swedes – a man respected for both his appearance and character.

´Gamla Minnen`: Memories Of Old Jamestown

EDITOR’S NOTE: These selections form Claus Nelson’s column “Gamla Minnen” (Old Memories) have been translated and condensed by Gerald Heglund.

Brooklyn Square

Aug. 8, 1940 – I remember well what Brooklyn Square was like in 1869. All that one found was an old wooden building called the George piano factory. Since there was so little activity there, it became sort of a market place where farmers could come in with their wagon loads and stay as long as they liked, unhindered. It was suitable for political meetings as well.

Improvements began in the 1870s by the Weeks brothers who first built a two-story dwelling on the west side of the square (Hemlock Row), a very simple and inexpensive building. This was followed by the impressive Weeks House, which had to give way to the times, being torn down to be replaced by a gas station.

It seemed as everything had to give way for the gasoline stations. What the future holds for them, I know not, nor does anyone else.

While no Swedes were located in Brooklyn Square in 1869, not too many years later one noted all kinds of businesses and factories in which Swedes were involved.

Noting an event of C. A. Jones in Kantakee, Ill., I recall this intimate friend as one of the most popular and recognized Swedes here in town. There are many with the name of Jones here in town, and so he was called Klockare (Sexton) Jones. Everyone recognized him then. He was the first sexton at Immanuel Lutheran Church and remained there for several years in that capacity.

He also had a brother, John Jones, and they together with F. I. Wallin, another very popular man in Swedish circles, undertook a grocery business venture known as Jones Bro. and Wallin They became the first, largest grocery store which was housed in the former George Factory. The new owners were well-known and liked in the community and everyone wished them well.

All would have gone well, except for one thing – they had no capital and had to buy on credit, paying for their purchases from items sold in the store. Unfortunately, many wanted to buy on credit, and never fulfilled their obligation, so, in time, the business was dissolved. That was the plight of many others also. It was a large and worthwhile endeavor as long as it lasted. But now it remains only a memory – this large grocery business in Brooklyn Square.

F. I. Wallin later traveled to Nebraska and John Jones had a business at 116 Second St. Both are now gone.

C. A. Jones, who will always be remembered as Klockare (Sexton) Jones, traveled to Kankakee, 50 miles south of Chicago. To prophecy about these highly respected and popular men is something I am unable to do fairly. Mr. M. R. Nelson, who is distantly related to Klockare Jones, is better able to do this than am I.

Third Street

Feb. 24, 1938 – I have often mentioned how things were on Third Street, west of Main. Thinking particularly about 1869, this area was like a driveway and not a very good one at that. The stretched-out land did not seem promising for any businesses and there was possibly a ramshackle hut there with someone seeming to reside therein.

Around 1870 and into the ’80s, there was an influx of Swedes and Englishmen who came to settle – consequently a sudden increase in population.

It might be of interest to talk about the hotel business of that period. Jamestown House was the largest, finest, and best hotel in the city, located at Main and Second. Next in order of size and popularity was Gifford House, standing at Main and Third where now stands the First National Bank.

On Second Street was Monitor House which stood just about where M. R. Nelson’s store is now located. Further over on Second Street at Prendergast was located the first and largest hotel in the city – Locks Tavern, which changed names so often I can’t recall them. A good many of these old hotels are still standing and are a part of the Nordic Temple building.

This hotel or tavern was the most distinguished in the city at the time the railroad (The Atlantic and Great Western), was built and finished in 1864. The R. R. station was built on First Street, and immediately opposite it, was built a fine, large hotel, The Atlantic Hotel, which remains today. Later in this same period, Weeks house was built in Brooklyn Square by the Weeks Brothers. It later became known as Humphrey House. Certainly there were enough hotels here at the time, but they were small and very dated.

A. M. Sherman, manager of Jamestown House, was one of the persons sensing the need for better hotels. He built the lovely, large, purposeful hotel known as Sherman House. It seemed that the location, at first, was undesirable for such an elegant hotel, but it soon enjoyed a very large patronage.

During the 1880s came a family from Smaland which could boast of tall, strong, young men who became particularly well-known for their business acumen. Since space limits all that could be said about them, I shall name only Frank O. Anderson. Jamestown had many Andersons, but none like he.

I remember him well. He was a large, stately man who sometimes visited C. F. Wahlgren’s shoe shop, since in there was always someone with whom he could visit. Anderson soon came in contact with Charles E. Norquist who owned a carpenter’s shop. If I remember correctly, he married a daughter of Norquist’s.

Endowed with the faculty of capacity for organizational ability, he took the initiative for many enterprises which are truly too numerous to mention. With one exception. The Hotel Jamestown. He became the leading figure in undertaking this herculean task.

Responsible for many successful enterprises, there were those who now thought he was throwing water on his head. In reply to those with negative attitudes, he declared that it would go, it had to go, and it did. The next question concerned a suitable place, centrally located, to be obtained at a reasonable price to erect such a large hotel.

There was the northwest corner of Third and Cherry streets whereone stood the Presbyterian Church, located next to the large department store of Abrahamson and Bigelow. Diagonally across the street was the Sherman House later to be called Hotel Samuels. This property was purchased and the church torn down since this seemed no longer advantageous to the church.

Called the father of this remarkable enterprise, much could be written about Frank O. Anderson’s abilities as a business genius and activities leader in this area, but I just wanted to mention what a young man form Smaland with an unwavering determination and numerous abilities can do in attaining goals. That’s Frank O. Anderson. Long may he live is my wish.

Axel F. Johnson

Feb. 16, 1939 – My dear, old childhood friend from Vimmerby, Axel F. Johnson, is one whom I wish to write about today. Two years older than I, he was not among the early pioneers of Jamestown. While he may be almost forgotten, he was, during his years of pharmacy, well-known. Soon after his arrival he was hired by a local druggist and soon thereafter opened his own drug store in the new Opera House building known now as Shea’s Theater.

Axel Johnson became the city’s first Swedish pharmacist and a very capable one. After some time in the Opera House he moved to Main and First streets, where he remained for several years until the owners decided to establish a bank at that location. Axel, at that point, stated he needed to find a place where he could be left alone and not have to move whenever a new moon appeared. He said that it was too costly and troublesome. He then moved to Pine Street at Second, where he remained until his lack of strength necessitated his closing his pharmacy.

It would appear that a pharmacist with all of his experience and studies in medicine would live out his life to become an old man. Not so. I know of many who would fall into this category and I can list them all if so desired.

To answer the question why I would choose to tell about Axel F. Johnson, who is mostly forgotten: I do so to recall some of his good fortune. One of them pertains to his daughter, Victoria, who married a man she had met while visiting an aunt in Cleveland. He was a Mr. Winch. To them were born twin sons, Allan and Lester, who became known for thier oratorical and debating abilities as seniors at East High School. They resembled their grandfather greatly, who was also an excellent speaker and quick at repartee.

How do I known so much about the daughter? Well, when Axel built his home at Cherry Street at Eighth Street, I painted and decorated the house, with intermittent work needed in following months and years. Often the children, including Victoria, ran across my path.

Translation and condensation of Claus Nelson’s column “Gamla Minnen” (Old Memories) By Gerald Heglund

Local Information at your Click!
An Index to Area Resources on the Web

Local Information at Your Click! is supported by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds,
awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2003.