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Jamestown Borough

Mercer County, Pennsylvania

Jamestown Borough Hall is located at 406 Jackson Street, Jamestown PA 16134.
Phone: 724‑932‑3644.


Beginnings [1]

White settlement at Jamestown dates from, 1798. James Campbell, an Irishman from county Antrim, came to Mercer county in that year. He chose a tract of four hundred acres, for which it is said he paid the state $1.25 an acre, and during the first year of his residence lived in a cave in what is now Seminary Hill, a historic landmark. His first cabin stood on the land—a part of the original estate—which is still owned by William H. Campbell, a great-grandson of the pioneer. This is one of the few instances in Mercer County where the title to real estate has descended through the family for four generations. Shortly after the close of the war of 1812 the first settler bought forty acres that included the present mill-site at Jamestown.

Four sons divided up the original homestead of James Campbell, but John and James were the ones who had most to do with the early history of Jamestown. Their father having acquired the water privileges and a mill site, about 1817 they built a grist mill. Near by, on the same tract of land, was a small house erected for the accommodation of the mill hands. This was the first house in Jamestown, and James Campbell subsequently used it as his residence. The process of town-building has been illustrated elsewhere and need not be explained here. Around the mill a few other settlers established their homes for convenience and society's sake, and the process of evolution ended with the borough of Jamestown. James Campbell also erected the second house. On Liberty street, east of the Erie and Pittsburg Railroad tracks, this building is still preserved, though in a remodeled form, and is used by Dr. Bailey for an office.

So far as known, no other addition to Jamestown was made until 1831, when John Williamson (an uncle of James Campbell, III) built a frame house on Liberty and Water streets, that served as store, dwelling house and bar.

In 1832 John Keck platted a village about the old mill site. The name "Jamestown" was selected to honor the first settler, James Campbell. It is interesting to note how the village grew from this time on.

A tailor came and put up a house—William Rodgers, whose daughter is Mrs. William Laughlin. The first blacksmith shop was put up in 1834 by Matthew Hunter. Perhaps more important than all, as an addition to the industrial interests, was the tannery, established in 1832 by Henry Irons. The lumber for the first frame buildings was hauled a distance from some mill, but in 1835 the.current of the Shenango at this point began driving a sawmill that was erected for Richard Carr by John Williamson.

John Williamson was a man of note during the early years of the village. He was elected justice of the peace in 1832, and the following year resigned to become the first postmaster of Jamestown. Up to that time the mail had been obtained from the Greenville postoffice. Mr. Williamson constructed the second grist mill in 1836, on the west side of the dam (Thomas Sherbondy was his partner). The origin of the mercantile firm of Carr and Company is also connected with the career of John Williamson. In 1833 John Carr began working in Postmaster Williamson's store. Somewhat later he married Rebecca Andrews, then left his employment in the old pioneer store and went into business for himself, and thus became the founder of the present firm.

A much-needed citizen came to town in 1832 in the person of Dr. James Dowling, the first physician. His professional services were employed by the people of the village and in the surrounding country for about four years, when he moved out of the county.

One public improvement that, from the modern point of view at least, would seem to have been very much needed, was a wagon bridge over the river. It was in 1837 that the county appropriated the money and built the first wagon bridge over the river at this point.

In 1840 seventeen persons from the village and vicinity were organized as a congregation of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church. Some years later they co-operated with the seceders, and jointly erected the first house of worship in the village, which was completed in 1853. The Methodists organized in 1855, and in 1860 completed their church building, which, remodeled and improved, stands today. The Baptists did not organize until 1870, and their church was erected in 1874. St. Bridget's Catholic church was organized and the building erected in 1874.

Another important feature of the town was the establishment of education. The first schoolhouse in the village is said to have been the Gamble Academy, a one-story two-room frame building standing on the hill in the north part of the village. Rev. John Gamble, the principal, was an exceptional educator and attracted students from other towns. The building was finally destroyed by fire. In an old copy of The Visitor, published at Greenville, June 10, 1836, is an advertisement of the Classical School at Jamestown, Rev. John Gamble teacher. Tuition four dollars a quarter. The advertisement was signed by Andrew Thompson, Andrew McMaster, J. B. Herrick, William Douthitt, James Dowling, John Williamson, B. Ewing, managers. The first common-school building was put up before the war. In 1863 it was moved to the site now occupied by the townhouse, and later sold and removed. In 1864 the first union school building was erected. Its two rooms were inadequate almost from the beginning, a third room was added, and then a room was rented. In 1881 was completed the brick schoolhouse at Washington and Depot streets, at a cost of $8,000. Seminary Hill, where James Campbell had his cave home, got its name from the location upon it of the Jamestown Seminary, an institution that will not soon be forgotten among the citizens of this town. It was a prosperous institution until the establishment of the union school, and during the half dozen years of its existence it earned a right to be considered among the sources of culture and intellectual character in this town.

One thing more deserves special record in this sketch of Jamestown, though it is mentioned on another page. The site of Jamestown originally extended over into Crawford County half a mile. That the inconvenience of a borough divided between two counties might not exist, the legislature in 1854, in providing for the incorporation of the borough of Jamestown, detached 128 acres from Crawford County, and included it in Mercer County and the borough just created. This causes a jog in the county boundary at this point, and the county line no longer runs along Washington street. This change brought both the U. P. church and the Gamble Academy buildings within the area of Mercer county.

Jamestown's first newspaper was edited in 1873 by D. L. Calkins. Under various changes since then and under different names this paper has continued and is now the Jamestown World. The first railroad to reach the town and stimulate its growth more than any other one influence, was the Erie and Pittsburgh, in 1864. The Jamestown and Franklin branch, now controlled by the Lake Shore, was completed about 1872. In 1874 was organized the Jamestown Banking Company, which has continued prosperously to the present time. The Jamestown Savings Bank, organized about the same time, closed its doors in 1885. The little brick building called "the wedge," standing on the triangle between the railroad and street, was the original home of this bank. Some of the fires which have visited Jamestown at various times in its history have been: In 1880, the burning of two hotels near Erie and Pittsburgh depot; in 1886, the destruction of the old grist mill on the west side of the river, and the mill has been rebuilt and destroyed twice since that time, in 1890 and 1902. The fire of 1887 was the most destructive, wasting a large portion of the business street, including the Moats House and five store rooms on the north side of Liberty street and two buildings on the south side.

In an historical sketch of Jamestown published in the World in March, 1908, the following summary of interests was given: 'A population of 1,000; three Protestant churches and one Catholic parish, three dry-goods stores, one clothing store, one grocery store, one drug store, two hardware stores, one furniture store, one hotel, two manufacturing plants, one jewelry store, one flouring mill, a feed store, a sawmill, a lumber yard, two blacksmith shops, one bank and one publishing house, besides the many pleasant homes and the prosperous agricultural vicinity. The construction of water works has been agitated, but at an election in 1905 a majority was cast against increasing the borough debt for this purpose.

  1. White, J. G., editor, A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1909