The first man to seriously consider the place now Jamestown as a possible site for settlement was James Prendergast, and it is from him the city takes its name. The members of the Prendergast family were prominent in the early history of Chautauqua County, and had in 1806 bought 3,500 acres of land near Mayville, and were clearing away the forest. James Prendergast found the land that became Jamestown while looking for a runaway team of horses. Two years after his discovery, Prendergast’s brother, under the instructions of James Prendergast, purchasing 1,000 acres, the present McCrae Point boat landing being near the centre of that tract. In the early fall of 1809, James Prendergast visited his purchase with one of his employees, John Blowers, to whom he confided his plans for founding a settlement and engaging in the manufacture of lumber by utilizing the water power of the outlet. In 1810, Blowers built a small log cabin on the banks of the outlet that was the first building erected on the site of Jamestown. Later, a story and a half log house was built on the banks of the outlet for the use of James Prendergast and family. Then followed a dam for water power, a saw mill, a grist mill, and so Jamestown’s foundations were laid.
The settlement was locally known as Prendergast Mills and The Rapids, but in 1815 the name Jamestown was adopted, and a year or so later a post office was established and Jamestown was a fixture on the maps of the county. Jamestown became a city on April 19, 1886, after nearly a year spent in the discussion of the details incident to the preparation of a city charter. The committee of 10 members appointed to draft a charter was: Robert N. Marvin, A. N. Broadhead, F. E. Gifford, Porter Sheldon, John T. Wilson, Orsino E. Jones, John J. Whitney, James I. Fowler, Jerome Preston and Oscar F. Price, who later became the first mayor. The proposed charter was passed by the state Legislature on March 31, 1886, was signed by Gov. David B. Hill, and Jamestown became a city.
Jamestown was one of the pioneer cities of New York in advocating municipal ownership of public utilities. The municipal lighting plant was won after a long fight, and at a special election held September 26, 1890, three propositions were submitted to the voters of Jamestown — one to issue bonds for the construction of a sewer system, carried; another, to issue bonds for paving, lost; another, to issue bonds for the equipment of an electric light plant.