An Early Inventor In Jamestown

“See a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck.”

Many readers will be surprised that an early settler of Jamestown is credited with devising the machinery to make a solid-head pin and was active in the business to produce these pins. Later he invented the machinery to automatically stick the pins into paper wrappers for sale. He did these activities after he left Jamestown and moved to the eastern part of New York state.

Thomas W. Harvey was a born in Wardsboro, Vermont in 1795 and married Melinda Hayward, daughter of John Hayward of Dover, Vermont, in 1815. They arrived in “The Rapids” that year. He had been recruited to work with the machinery for the Cotton Mill which was to be erected here. That never happened but the young couple was convinced to stay in Jamestown as “The Rapids” became known in 1816. Harvey was a blacksmith by training and was an excellent mechanic. His brother Charles, also an excellent mechanic, came to Jamestown.

Thomas Harvey invented a machine he called the “rotary toggle-joint press” and received a patent in 1832. It was about then that he left Jamestown and went to Ramapo, New York where he made arrangements to manufacture the machinery which could be used to make all kinds of nails, tacks, railroad and ship spikes and many other items. By 1837 he received patents for new screw machinery and the product he produced was the first gimlet-pointed screw. Other patents were issued to him through the years. He became involved in iron ore mining and was interested in the production of iron and steel. Other interests involved electricity, silver and copper mining.

His five children were born in Jamestown. His first wife died in New York City in 1850 and in 1854 Harvey married Sarah Cowles. Harvey was severely injured in a railroad accident in 1853 and died in 1854.

But back to Jamestown. Harvey was offered a lot of his choosing if he would stay in Jamestown. He chose the northwest corner lot at Third and Pine Streets. It was here that he built his house. On the west end of the lot, on Potters Alley, he built his forge and blacksmith shop. An item in the collection of the Fenton History Center, shows work done by Harvey while he lived in Jamestown. What has survived and can tell a part of the history of Jamestown is the day book of Harvey. A day book is the book in which all transactions for each day is recorded. This included the sales on credit and any payments made either by cash or by goods. Reading the day book gives the prices of the work or item, the price assigned to goods that were brought in for payment and shows the work done in the shop. The names included in the book are many of the residents of Jamestown between 1826 when the book begins and March 15, 1832 when the entries end, except for a few notes in December 1832.

Day books, journals and account books of early businesses are useful to family historians to track when someone arrived or left an area. The first entry is April 10, 1826 when Major S. Willcox was charged 25 cents for shoeing a horse, got $4.50 cash, was charged $10.00 for painting an iron sign and received a $10.00 credit on his account for 100 pounds of pork. Some of the other names on the first page include James Miller, Daniel Hazeltine, Samuel Garfield, Augustus Moon, Hiram Westover, Gideon Moon, Noah W. Harrington, William Hall, Alvin Plumb, Elijah Haswell, Capt. J. Southland, Amory Stearns, William Knight, John Pickard, and John Babcock. In September 1826, many businesses apparently ordered signs as there are 16 names or businesses charged for “Paint sign.” One was Elmer Freeman, who was the hatter in town, so it would be interesting to see some of these signs. Reading some of these pages one realizes how important a blacksmith was to a town as he could repair or make many items that were necessary for everyday life.