Tuesday, October 8, 2019


This column first appeared in the October 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

When the U. S. Direct Tax list was released on October 1, 1798, Waynesburg had 19 occupied houses and eight more in construction  This column focuses on the eight “unfinished” dwellings that show a shift in development from Greene to High Streets and from log to brick.  

The first Greene County courthouse of 1797 still stands in its original location on Greene Street.

Greene Street, an former Indian trail that pre-existed the town, was surveyed in 1796. Quickly, a temporary log courthouse was constructed there, and log structures sprang up around it, the very first buildings. However, Waynesburg’s surveyors had planned Main (High) Street as the major thoroughfare with a “Public Square” in the middle where a permanent courthouse would be placed.  

Only known image of the first brick courthouse, an etching by Sherman Day, 1843.

By 1800, an Irish immigrant named Robert Milligan was building this first brick courthouse of hand-fired bricks made from local clay. Variously described as a brick molder, mason, contractor and master-builder, he introduced a preference for brick architecture that continues today. Milligan’s courthouse survived until 1850 when the current courthouse was built.

Two years earlier, in 1798, Milligan had started building a house at the SE corner of High and Spring Alley on a lot purchased in July of that year that was assessed at $40, 22x10 feet in size. It's unknown when it was replaced.

When this photo was taken in the mid-1890s, the Robert Adams House (ca. 1800) at Morris and Franklin Streets was one of the few remaining original brick buildings. Source: greeneconnections.com

Surprisingly, a woman appeared on the tax list, Phoebe Morris whose husband James had just died at age 28. Her brother Ephraim Sayers lived next door and would soon become the town’s largest property owner. Located at High and Richhill Streets, the 24x20 feet unfinished house was assessed at $60. Completed by the next owner, it was described in 1847 as “hewn log, weather-boarded”. What is today the Hook Law office replaced it in the 1890s.  
Phoebe found a second husband a block away, George Remley who was building a house at the SW corner of High and Spring Streets across the alley from Milligan. His unfinished house was assessed at $80. George was a “joiner” making furniture and house fittings such as doors, windows and stairs, surely a profession in demand in the growing town. Sadly, Phoebe died soon after giving birth to a son, James Remley, in November 1800. George moved to Ohio in 1812.

Capt. James Seals Jr. lived in a stone house he built in 1792 on his farm just west of Waynesburg. Image from "Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," Fred High, 1907.

Two of the five trustees who established Greene County and its county seat of Waynesburg invested in multiple town lots but lived elsewhere. One of them, Capt. James Seals Jr., had an unfinished building that was probably across High Street from Robert Milligan's house where the Belko grocery store is today. It was assessed at $92.

 At the other end of High Street, Isaac Jenkinson’s unfinished building may still exist as the western (left) half of “Whitehill Place” at the corner with Cumberland Street, shown above. In 1798 it was 24x20 feet, valued at $80. Two years later Jenkinson lost his investment to Philadelphia merchants to whom he owed $2400, a princely sum. In 1808, local attorney Robert Whitehill purchased the property. 

Also in 1798 James Eagon was building a log house at the NW corner of High and Findley Alley, assessed at $100. In 1816, he sold to daughter Sarah Adamson and thereafter it became “the old Adamson property”.  By 1886 it was the residence of Father Herman, the priest of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

Early 19th century brick buildings on High Street, looking west from Washington Street ca. 1860. Source: greeneconnections.com