Mayville was appointed the county seat, with the Holland Land Company required to build county buildings at its own expense, giving the buildings to the county with a half-acre of land.
Chautauqua was historically called the Mother Town, as it originally included all of what is now Chautauqua County except what was within the limits of the eastern range of townships. The town was set off from Batavia. Even with its losses, Chautauqua is one of the largest towns in the county, with a hilly surface. Although the town is hilly and broken, it is exposed to deep snows and severe storms in the winter. Within the town’s limits are the village of Mayville, Chautauqua Institution, Point Chautauqua, the village of Hartfield and Dewittville.
In 1808 Chautauqua County was organized, and that year Jonas Williams, Isaac Sutherland and Asa Ransom, commissioners appointed to decide upon the county seat, ‘‘erected a large hemlock post’’ at Mayville to designate the spot fixed by them. Darius Dexter had come from Herkimer county that spring. To him the contract was given by Joseph Ellicott to cut and clear a road commencing at the head of Chautauqua Lake, extending 1¢ miles toward Westfield. He cut this road, now Main Street, six rods wide, and cleared it to the width of three rods. He also cleared the land of the public square.
The anticipation of a complete organization of the county with Mayville as its county seat, now influenced people to take up residence there. As courts were soon to be held, attorneys were the first to be attracted. Anseim Potter, the first, and Dennis Brackett, the second lawyer of the county, both came in 1810, and Casper Rouse a little later. Brackett built an office, which was crushed soon after by a falling tree. The same year the Holland Land Company erected an office for the sale of its lands, and William Peacock, its agent, took up his residence here.
The local feeder lines that were built brought visitors from afar to the lakeshore point of their choice. The railroad line first called the Chautauqua Lake Railroad, from Jamestown to Mayville, was in place along the east side of the lake by 1888. Connections along the west side of the lake were slower to develop. Chautauqua Traction, a trolley line built by the Jamestown Street Railway Company, did not reach Mayville until 1904. Consequently, that part of the lake saw less hotel development.
In 1805, Peter Barnhart, a Revolutionary War soldier, located a short distance north of Point Chautauqua. His sons, Jonathan, Peter and Henry, also settled in the town. Jonathan Smith the same year made the first settlement on the west side, near the grounds of the Chautauqua Assembly. The Prendergasts in March 1806, contracted for a large tract of land near the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds, and the same month James and William Prendergast Jr., erected a log house there. Filer Sackett in June 1805, bought land at Dewittyule, where John Mason early settled. He married Maria, daughter of Captain Anson Leet. Darius Scofield settled early at Dewittyule. Nathan and Daniel Cheney early settled a mile north of Dewittville. Dr. Lawton Richmond, the third physician, settled near Dewittville in 1811.
Point Chautauqua started as a Baptist meeting ground, and in 1878 the deluxe Grand Hotel, one of the largest on the lake, opened there. The resort was designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also planned New York’s Central Park. Smaller hotels and cottages sprang up around the Grand Hotel to serve vacationers who appreciated the proximity to Chautauqua but did not appreciate the Institution’s prohibition of liquor.
A 100-acre county farm was later purchased near Dewittville, a substantial brick building was erected in 1832, which was used until a newer building was erected in 1870. Buildings for the unfortunate were built there in 1839, 1851, 1858, 1868, 1903 and 1904. When it was built it was the most beautiful building in the county, and was declared by official visitors to be the finest and best managed county house in the state.