Three signs down in Jamestown and quite a few more to go
By Mary Browning

Have you noticed the latest Jamestown Historical Marker, at 603 W. Main Street? It makes three down (well, up) and, uh, quite a few to go. This one is “Home of Richard Mendenhall c. 1811.” If councilman Keith Volz and others have their way, it will be just one of many that will help guide a walking tour around the town, and will be Jamestown’s unique contribution to the Bicentennial Parkway.

The now familiar dark brown cast metal signs with the colorful Jamestown seal medallion in a curve at the top, and gold colored lettering, are in the style established by a resolution of the Town of Jamestown in November 2002. 

Getting a firm line on exactly when and where the inspiration for this project began is probably impossible. However, Jamestown’s town clerk, Martha Wolf, provided the date when the first one was ordered, September 2002, when it was ordered for Steve Crihfield on behalf of the Old Jamestown School Association. That one, the “Jamestown Public School” historical marker, was probably set in place in November of that year. 

By that time, councilman Keith Volz, Steve Crihfield, Martha Wolfe, and Vic Gilliland, had been named to a special historical signs committee, and a resolution had been passed setting standards for the markers, and suggesting sites for additional ones. 

“Oakdale United Methodist Church,” the second marker, went up in front of the church on Oakdale Rd. in 2004 at about the time that the church and parsonage were nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

Jamestown now has four different kinds of historical signs. The oldest variety, represented in town by only one specimen, is the official N. C. highway historical marker at the western town line. It directs the attention of the passerby to “Beard’s Hat Shop,” once located one and a third miles north on Penny Rd. It is sign #J13 of this statewide series, which makes it an early one in the J group that now goes up to 88. For instance, the Greensboro ”Sit-Ins” sign is J79. The J series covers Rockingham, Guilford, Stokes & Forsyth counties.

Next oldest in town is the pair of white wooden “Jamestown Historic District” signs marking each end of the National Register Historic District that was created some years ago. One marker is near the second Coffin House (now “The Old Yellow House on Main”), and the other is on the north side of Main St. west of 720 W. Main. The Historic Jamestown Society maintains them, which is uphill work sometimes. 

Then there are several signs erected by the Colonel John Sloan Camp #1290, Sons of Confederate Veterans. These are black-bordered, black-printed, silver colored cast metal signs resembling the N. C. highway historical ones. “Mendenhall, Jones & Gardner Confederate Gun Factory” is on Oakdale Rd. near Harvey Rd., and identifies that outfit as Oakdale Cotton Mill’s predecessor at its present location. The “H. C. Lamb Confederate Gun Factory” sign on Guilford College Rd. near the power lines has been taken down for road construction, temporarily we hope. Both of those signs were put up in 1988. The following year the “North Carolina Armory at Florence” sign was placed on East Fork Rd. near it’s Penny Rd. end. The Jamestown Rifles plaque the organization installed at Gibson Park could be included here, but it deserves more attention, and will get another column at another time.

At the time the resolution was passed by the town and the committee was formed, the following were suggested as possible sites for additional signs: both Coffin houses, Madison Lindsay, Potter House, Magnolia Farm, Mendenhall Store, Quaker Meeting House, Oakdale school, community well, mill, and mill village; Jamestown Depot, Old Jamestown (City Lake). There are several other interesting sites as well—Holton mill, Harper Johnson, site of the Freedman’s School, among them. My personal first choice would be at the south end of the Penny Road bridge over High Point City Lake, the original site of the first Mendenhall Mill and House (c 1763). 

The signs aren’t cheap, about $1500 to $2000, apparently, probably depending on how lengthy the text is. The property owners are expected to pay for them, and first apply to the town for approval. But, the town orders them and then puts them solidly in place. 

Make a nice Christmas gift, don’t you think?

News & Record, Sunday, June 12, 2005

Reprinted with permission of the News & Record  and of the author