Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.
The man primarily responsible for the first settlement in southern Chautauqua County was never a resident of the area, but his influence on the region lasted for more than a hundred years and as a result, it was felt necessary to include him. Dr. Thomas Ruston Kennedy was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1763. In 1794, Kennedy was appointed surgeon for the battalion at Fort Le Boeuf (near present-day Waterford, PA). The troops were under the Charge of Andrew Ellicott, brother to Joseph Ellicott of the Holland Land Company. Kennedy eventually married Andrew Eillicott’s daughter.
Kennedy made a name for himself in the area of Meadville, Pennsylvania. There, he formed a partnership with Edward Work, and the two laid plans for buying land in New York and beginning a lumber enterprise. In 1804, Kennedy found a location for a mill on the Conewango River, named it “Kennedyville,” and used it to manufacture lumber after purchasing the acreage from the Holland Land Company. This was the first work to establish a settlement anywhere in southern Chautauqua County. It is said that much of the lumber used to build the first mills in present-day Jamestown came from Kennedy’s Mills. During the next 100 years, the settlement of Kennedy and the surrounding town of Poland thrived as a result of Dr. Kennedy’s efforts, although he was never able to see the full fruits of his labor. He died in Meadville in 1813.
– J. Sample