As St. Patrick's Day approaches, we need to remember Jamestown's connection to Ireland. James Prendergast, founder of Jamestown, was the son of William Prendergast, who was born in Ireland in 1727. William came to the colonies as a young man. He settled in Pawling, Dutchess County, N.Y., where he married Mehitable Wing. A participant in the later ''rent wars'' of Dutchess County, William was arrested and charged with treason. After a trial where he was sentenced to death, Mehitable pled the case to pardon her husband. The king eventually did pardon William. This took place when James was 2 years old.
During the American Revolution, William continued to support King George of England who had granted his pardon. At some point, either during or after the Revolutionary War, the Prendergast family moved north to Pittstown, in what became rensselaer County, N.Y. William and Mehitable had 13 children and all but one of them came to Chautauqua County.
In 1805, the family, 29 in all, left Pittstown to settle, they hoped, in Nashville, Tenn. Soon after they arrived there they determined that it was not the place they had hoped. Some of the sons encouraged the family to head north suggesting Canada as a final destination. Others encouraged the family to settle in what would become Chautauqua County. One son never did reside in Chautauqua County and another son did go to Canada after awhile in Chautauqua County. Thomas settled in Ripley; James eventually settled at ''The Rapids,'' which became Jamestown; while the others continued to live in the Mayville/Chautauqua area, where they originally purchased thousands of acres of land from the Holland Land Company.
Shown is part of one of the family record pages from the James Prendergast family Bible.
James returned to Pittstown in 1807, married Agnes ''Nancy'' Thompson; had a son, Alexander Thompson Prendergast, in 1809; and brought his family back to settle in what would become Jamestown.
More details of these stories of the Prendergasts can be found in the various history books of Chautauqua County. Much is known about the family, but the details of William's Irish connections are slim. His birthday is Feb. 2 or 5, 1727, but the birthplace is in question in that the history books say Waterford and his tombstone says Kilkenny. These are two adjacent counties in Ireland, each in a different province. His parents are Thomas and Mary but we have no other details.
In the collection of the Fenton History Center are three Bibles from the Prendergast family. Each Bible has family information recorded on the family record pages. One is the Bible with the family of James and Agnes (Thompson) Prendergast. The Bible was published in 1825. The information was possibly written in by Agnes in that her father and grandfather's names are recorded along with her father's birth place and her birthplace. William Prendergast is listed, but no birthplace or birth date is given. James' birth date and birthplace are recorded. The only child born to James and Agnes was Alexander Thompson Prendergast. His birth, marriage and the birth of his two children are recorded in the Bible. One of the other Bibles includes information for the family of William Prendergast, son of Matthew and Abigail, and his wife and cousin, Elizabeth Prendergast, daughter of Martin and Martha Prendergast. William and Elizabeth were grandchildren of William, the immigrant. The other Bible has information of the family of Stephen Prendergast and his wife, Almina Abell. Stephen was the son of Thomas Prendergast, who had settled in Ripley, and a grandson of William, the Irish immigrant.
The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
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