MOMENT IN TIME: Jamestown: a pleasant place to live

(Originally published June 30, 1964) The Jamestown Sun Jamestown, North Dakota, has an estimated population of 16,200. It is an average midwestern community with the average share of average people. It has people who complain that the streets are...

(Originally published June 30, 1964)

The Jamestown Sun

Jamestown, North Dakota, has an estimated population of 16,200. It is an average midwestern community with the average share of average people.

It has people who complain that the streets are in bad shape, but refuse to go along with any more financing to fix up the streets.

It boasts the world's largest buffalo, a concrete statue which weighs 60 tons and stands guard over the community on a southern hill. But the same people who fought the buffalo project at first are now willing to match it against Paul Bunyan, the Black Hills and Yellowstone National Park as a tourist attraction.


Jamestown has often been labeled a non-progressive community, afraid to let new industry or business enter its hallowed city limits. Yet, the city's population has doubled in the last 30 years, and housing construction is going at record pace. And there are people waiting to move into the houses as soon as the last nail is driven.

The city is known for its pleasant parks, its fine schools and for its low mill levy, 137.04 last year.

It is average, but at the same time it's a uniquely pleasant place to live.

It is, among other things, a great place to bring up children. There is very little crime, outside a few petty heists in the still of the night now and then. There have been only two murders in the city in the recollection of most citizens. Bank robberies have been nil in the past 75 years. There is little problem of juvenile delinquency, although its average parents lift their eyes to the skies and wonder where this average younger generation is headed.

Jamestown has 23 churches, four public grade schools and another on the way, a junior and senior public high school, the Crippled Children's School and two parochial schools.

It has a huge reservoir for outdoor fun and two hospitals. It has a liberal arts college and State Hospital, both peering over the community from opposite hills.

Jamestown is known as conservative in political circles, yet it houses the state headquarters of the North Dakota Farmers Union. It has no slum areas nor plans for urban renewal.

The city looks to the future with new and better buildings, such as a new fire hall and possible plans for a new civic auditorium. Yet it jealously guards its older heritages by opening a Stutsman County Museum and making plans for a tourist area based on an old frontier town, composed of restored buildings which have mutely watched the city's progress for three-quarters of a century.


Jamestown's roots go deep, and those born and raised here are prone to stay here. It has laid claim to some international and national figures - Wesley Haraldson in the diplomatic service, Maurice Murphy who was once president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and sometimes Peggy Lee of the entertainment world.

Although the city is making a push for more industry and business places, it rises and falls with the tide of farming.

It plans for the future and hopes that its citizenry will become more prosperous, yet becomes frightened that a railroad merger may someday remove nearly 300 families from its tax lists.

Jamestown looks for the day when a new bridge will be constructed on the road to the State Hospital, replacing the one which has stood for over a half-century, and wonders who put up the expensive bridge which now leads to several vacant lots.

The city boasts about its fine, clear drinking water and new water plant, then wonders what to do about the James and Pipestem rivers which course through the city with a color pattern of brown most of the time, green in the late summer months.

Jamestown residents curse the winds in the winter and the winds in the summer, then chuckle with glee when they read that it dropped to near-zero in Georgia. They accuse the city government of not tending to its duties - yet rarely unseat an incumbent in a city election.

Jamestown, which became a city in 1881, sits 1,414 feet above sea level - in a valley. It is centrally located in the state, populationwise, a factor which makes it press forward in an effort to locate the State Fair here.

It has businessmen promotions almost monthly, and the businessmen wait to see how the crops are going to do before they mark their merchandise.


It has two radio stations and a daily newspaper, and a core of people who consider it a status symbol to get their names mentioned on television or in The Fargo Forum.

The city has two banks, 12 other financing units and two collecting agencies. It has industries which make concrete blocks and frozen bread products. Newcomers may sometimes think that at least half the present population makes a living selling insurance.

Jamestown is serviced by two railroads, bus lines, an airline and several trucking lines which travel, as do car drivers, on three federal highways leading into the city.

It has two golf courses, an outdoor swimming pool and a swimming site at the reservoir, a major baseball diamond, many smaller diamonds, four new softball diamonds and a race track - and the kids play in the streets.

It has three homes for the aged and incapacitated, and a Teen Canteen. Its citizens gather on street corners or in coffee houses, in homes or in pubs to talk about religion, politics or the weather.

It is a hotbed for anglers and nimrods, so much so that the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service is establishing a research center here.

Jamestown is the county seat of Stutsman County, and badly needs a new county courthouse and city hall.

But within the large framework of its shortcomings and attributes, this average town is typically American. The folks who live here wouldn't have it any different.

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