More rich township history


By Joan Baxter

March 4, 1811 was significant for the eastern portion of Greene County, both Silvercreek and Ross Townships were established on that date.

The largest portion of the new township was taken from Caesarscreek Township along with a portion of Xenia Township. When Silvercreek was established, it included what is now Jefferson Township. Silvercreek Township was in the Virginia Military District, but most of the land was sold by agents, and not occupied by soldiers. The land sold for $2 per acre, but after the War of 1812 the price dropped to $1.25. Although the land was largely forested at one time, it is very fertile, and much of the area is devoted to farming. The Township contains just over 16,000 acres.

Noah Strong purchased land in 1798 but did not locate here until 1807. In 1811, he built a one and one-half story house which is reported to have been the first structure in the Township.

Jamestown is the only town in the township, named for James Browder an early pioneer. It is not known if the town was named for his first name or for the fact that he was a native of Jamestown, Va.

Martin Mendenhall and Thomas Browder were the first proprietors of the town, Mendenhall had 150 acres on the north and Browder owned approximately the same on the south. At first, the mail was delivered by a young man who made the trip every other week from Xenia. He carried a horn with him and when he came near the edge of town, would blow his horn to summon the residents to collect their mail.

Dr. Matthew Winans was the first physician in the town. He became an influential member of the community conducting business in his store which was located in his home.

The Jamestown Opera House was built by contractor Matthew Moorman. The building was opened and dedicated on December 31, 1899 with the first performance given by the Blanche Slater Company. As was the case with most local opera houses, traveling performers, local talent, graduations, class plays and lectures were held in the building.

Motion pictures were shown, with music provided by as pipe organ installed in the 1920s. The last class to hold commencement exercises in the building was the class of 1936. When the new school opened in 137, the auditorium was adequate for commencements. The Opera House became the site of the Jamestown branch of the Greene County District Library in 1937. Many dollars and hours of labor have gone into the restoration of the building, which now features a variety of presentations. It is once again a show place for the city.

The first grist mill consisted of two stones turned by hand. Later a corn-cracker was operated by horses treading on a revolving wheel. Around 1835 a saw-mill and distillery was the first manufacturing business to use steam.

The Wickersham Hotel was constructed in 1880, a two story building 125 feet long, 40 feet wide. There was a dining room and 25 sleeping rooms. J.H. Adams & Co. dealt in dry goods, clothing, boots, shoes, notions, dress goods, trimming carpets and oil cloths.

When the township fathers learned that a railroad could be possible, they allocated $10,000 for the expense of construction. In 1881, the tracks were laid and the township donated another $1,000 for the project. Eventually four trains passed through each day.

When the present site was selected for the Greene County Fair, the residents of the eastern portion of the county felt it was too distant, so the folks at Jamestown built their own fairgrounds. The first fair was held August 31, 1859. There were halls, adequate stalls and a 1/3 mile long track. There was even a saloon on the property. It was a very successful fair with people coming from miles around to show their stock and enjoy the races. It began with 12 acres, but later contained a total of 36 acres. For several years, both the Greene County and Jamestown fairs were well attended. However, on April 27, 1884 a cyclone (tornado) of immense proportions drove through town, destroying houses, churches, businesses and the fairgrounds.

People of the county rallied around proving food, clothing, funds and labor to help with the removal of damaged buildings. Then funds poured in, along with labor to help with re-construction. Certificates of appreciation were printed and distributed to those who had provided assistance in the wake of the disaster.

At first, students attended school three months of the year in a log cabin with seats of planks. A large fireplace provided heat and greased paper over the windows allowed some light. By 1825, there were four schools in the township, in 1860 there were six including a two story building with four classrooms. Silvercreek and Jamestown schools consolidated with Ross Township schools in 1954 to form the Greeneview School system. Jefferson Township schools merged with Greeneview in 1959. A new, very modern high school opened in August 2002.

Over the years, the town has suffered from several major fires one of which took the pharmacy, so the pharmacist opened for business in a trailer until a new building was constructed.

Today the town celebrates with the Jamestown Bean Festival each fall.

By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

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