Jamestown almost became the county seat when Greene County was quite new.
Originally the county business was conducted at Alpha, the first settlement in the county. But in time, the residents wanted to have a permanent place to conduct the county business. Caesarsville, Jamestown, and Xenia were the three most preferred sites for the honor. Caesarsville was dropped from consideration for some reason and it was up to the voters to decide which of the two towns would become the county seat. Xenia might have had a slight advantage because it was located more closely to the center of the county, but both were on the ballot when the time came. When the votes were counted, it was tied. Now the residents had to consider the best way to break the tie. Should they hold another election? Most likely, the same result would be found and it would only delay the decision.
A stranger rode his horse into Xenia. Here was the chance to break the tie. The man was asked which of the two towns he thought would make the better county seat and obviously, Xenia was the one selected. Later it was discovered that two residents of Jamestown had forgotten to cast their ballots, or the result might have been different.
However, in spite of this, the village continued to grow and thrive. Nearby farmers utilized the many businesses in town and the residents were grateful to be able to purchase fresh food from the local farmers.
As the county grew with more settlers taking advantage of the farm land and the various towns, they decided to sponsor a fair. The first such fair was held on the court house grounds with mostly horses and some farm animals being shown. In time, property was acquired on the eastern edge of Xenia and Fair Street was named because the fair was located at that site.
The folks in Jamestown were very happy with the site, since they did not have to travel a great distance to exhibit their produce and stock but the fair board decided the tract of land was not adequate for the growing community and purchased property on the northern edge of Xenia. Jamestown folks protested to no avail and decided to build a fairground on the western edge of Jamestown. This worked well since those who wished to participate could enjoy both fairs, since they were held at different times.
In 1884 a cyclone destroyed much of the village, including the fair grounds. It destroyed or badly damaged 186 homes and businesses and when the count was taken, six people had lost their lives with many more injured. The fair board was determined to restore the fairground and by late summer had erected a few buildings and provided one of the finesse racing tracks in the area. The fair lasted only another 10 years, however.
Most towns in the county had an opera house of one sort or another. Many were elegant places which provided a place for entertainment and various local projects. Jamestown had, for the most part, been restored with new homes and businesses by 1889. The train ran through Jamestown which would provide adequate transportation for any troupe of actors who might be willing to “ride the circuit.”
A vote was taken and the sum of $15,000 was allowed for the purpose of securing land and acquiring enough funding to build such a structure. A log was purchased on the corner of North Limestone and East Xenia streets for the purpose of erected a building.
Unfortunately, the last use of the building was in 1937. Soon bats and other creatures began to live in the beautiful structure and the roof was in danger of collapse. In 1997, the city fathers considered having the old building demolished because of the serious damage which had occurred in the past 60 years of non-use. A group of concerned citizens came together to consider if the old building could be salvaged and restored.
Architects were consulted and it was determined that with a great deal of work and plenty of money, the opera house might be restored. Fund-raising events were held and the group persevered until adequate funds had been raised and at last the opera house could be opened again for the public. Once again the beautiful building would be available for a variety of community events.
One of the busiest factories in the area opened in 1925. It was the Jamestown Canning Factory. The building which was located on South Limestone Street had been a saw mill and later a grain elevator. When the building became available, two men purchased it for the purpose of canning vegetables. Corn was the major crop which they purchased from the local farmers for processing at the factory. It was not unusual for 100 individuals, men and women, to work at the factory during the busy summer months.
During WWII, the local boys were serving in the military and it was difficult to find enough workers. An arrangement was made with the federal government to hire German POWs who were then housed in Wilmington to work at the factory. The government was paid 50 cents per hour per worker. In time, other, much larger factories came into being and the Jamestown Canning Factory closed for good.
This is a community which has a wonderful history and continues to make history every day.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.