Johnstown, originally the Indian town of Con-ne-maugh, was founded by Joseph Johns, or Schantz, in 1800. It
comprised about 249 acres, embracing a large part of what is now the central portion of the city. He erected the
first house to be built in the city, a one story log cabin of black walnut.
In 1800 Joseph Johns laid out the village and named it Conemaugh. Later it was known as Shontz's Town, then Johnstown,
in honor of its founder.
Joseph Johns, with his sister, Frainie (Veronica), came to this country from Switzerland in 1768 and located in
Berks County, where he was married to Frainie Holly. It is a singular fact that Joseph Johns was never a resident
of Cambria County, having founded what is now Johnstown when it was a part of Somerset County and having removed
from it before Cambria County was regularly constituted. Joseph Johns died on his farm in Somerset County on Jan.
18, 1810, at the age of sixty years. He was of the Amish Mennonite religion.
By the special act of the General Assembly on Jan. 12, 1831, approved by Gov. George Wooffe, Johnstown, then known
as "the town of Conemaugh in Cambria County," was incorporated into a borough. By a special act, April
14, 1834, the name borough of Conemaugh was changed to Johnstown. April 8, 1858, Johnstown was divided into four
wards. George IV. Kern was the first burgess of the borough of Conemaugh in 1831 and Irvin IHorrell was the last
burgess of the same borough in 1889.
The city of Johnstown came into being after that disastrous calamity, the Johnstown Flood, May 31, 1889. Johnstown
and its neighboring boroughs were practically wiped out. They realized the necessity of consolidating to rebuild
their respective communities. To that end the subject of consolidation was submitted to a vote of the people of
the several boroughs at a general election, Nov. 5, 1889. East Conemaugh and Franklin voted against it. They are
still independent boroughs. Plans for organizing the new city government were in charge of the committee on arrangements
which consisted of Thomas P. Kennedy of Millville, H. W. Storey of Johnstown and David Barry of Prospect. The finance
committee was composed of Herman Baumel, John N. Horne, Samuel Vaughn.
W. Horace Rose, the first mayor, was inaugurated Monday, April 7, 1890. In order of service other mayors were James
K. Boyd, George W. Wagoner, Lucian D. Woodruff, John Pendry, Charles Young, Alexander Wilson, Joseph Cauffiel,
Louis Franke, Joseph Caufflel, and the present mayor, Louis Franke.
The boroughs consolidating to form the city of Johnstown were Johnstown, Grubbtown, Conemaugh, Woodvale, Prospect,
Millville and Cambria. Johnstown contained seven wards and they became the first seven wards of the new city. Grubbtown
became the Eighth Ward; the First and Second wards of Conemaugh became the Ninth and Tenth wards; Woodvale, the
Eleventh; Prospect, the Twelfth; Miliville, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth; Cambria, the Fifteenth and Sixteenth.
A court decree created the Seveteenth Ward from a part of the old Seventh Ward in 1891, and in 1899 the city, by
ordinance, annexed a part of the Rodgers farm to the Seventeenth.
The first borough to seek annexation to the new city of Johnstown was Morreliville. The borough council passed
a resolution favoring annexation Aug. 20, 1897, which was presented to the city council. Both branches of the city
council unanimously passed the resolution Oct. 12, but the mayor vetoed it. The matter was taken to court which
confirmed the annexation July 29, 1898. Morrellville then became the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth wards.
The borough of Coopersdale, formerly known as Perkinsville, was incorporated Oct. 7, 1889. At the time of the formation
of the new city of Johnstown, Coopersdale voted to consolidate with the other boroughs, but not being adjacent
territory at that time could not be incorporated with the city. However, after the dispute over the annexation
of Morrellville was settled the citizens of this borough petitioned for annexation and became the Twenty first
Ward of the city March 24, 1898.
Early white settlers in this vicinity were Solomon Adams on Solomon's Run, Samuel Adams on Sam's Run, John Cheney
on Cheney's Run, Benjamin Adams on Ben's Run. Solomon and Samuel Adams are thought to have been the first to settle.
Following the Adamses were the Stutzmans, Wissingers, Homers, Goaghnours, Goods, Reams, Beams and Yoders. Later
came the Hamiltons, Lintons, Gateses, Sinelairs and Hershbergers. Many of their descendants still live in the city.
In these early days farming was the principal occupation of the settlers. Little progress was made in the building
up of the town until the advent of the Pennsylvania Canal, a gigantic project to the settlers at that time. The
canal system was completed about 1832 with locks and dams from Pittsburgh to Johnstown, a railroad on which cars
were drawn by horses and later by locomotives between Johnstown and Hollidaysburg; a canal from Hollidaysburg through
the Juniata Valley and along the Susquehanna River to Columbia; and a railroad from Columbia to the Schuylkill
River in Philadelphia. This made a system of transportation in an almost direct route across the state. It gave
the people of Pennsylvania an opportunity to handle their commerce on a much larger scale than they were able to
do by wagon trains over the mountains.
The natural result was that Johnstown began to grow and prosper. The basin of the canal in which the boats were
moored for loading and unloading occupied portions of the Third, Ninth and Tenth wards, between Clinton and Railroad
streets on the west and south, and "Five Points" and Portage Street on the east and north. For thirty
one years this portion of the city was one of the most important shipping points on this transportation system.
On May 1, 1863, the Pennsylvania Railroad abandoned the canal between Johnstown and Blairsville, which it had bought
from the state in 1852, and replaced it with the steam railway.
Johnstown was first named Conemaugh, and Joseph Shantz or Johns so dedicated it, the appellation coming from the
Indians, who had a town at the forks of the Conemaugh and the Stonycreek. A Shawonese tribe was here in 1731 and
later, but the Delawares probably were here before them. The two tribes differed widely in characteristics, the
latter being generally friendly and honorable in peace and war. When Johnstown abandoned the Indian name the Conemaugh
borough suburb took it up and though the borough long ago became part of the city, many of its older residents
still speak of the locality as "the borough." When the town of East Conemaugh was built up about the
round house and shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad, on the north side of the Little Conemaugh, it took the name
of East Conemaugh, which it still retains, though locally it is generally known simply as Conemaugh. In 1900 it
had 2,175 inhabitants, in 1910 there were 5,016 and in 1920 the census showed 5,256. The town was fairly well built
up and had almost ceased to grow within its boundaries, but beyond its limits mines were opened up and population
continued to increase rapidly.
Opposite East Conemaugh, across the Pennsylvania Railroad yards and the Little Conemaugh, is Franklin Borough,
which grew from 961 inhabitants in 1900 to 2,102 in 1910 and 2,632 in 1920. Franklin grew out of the desire of
workers to live close to the mill gates and the old "company house" policy of Cambria Steel Company,
but many of the homes and business places became private property. With the development of the Franklin plant of
Cambria Steel, a battery of blast furnaces, coke ovens, open hearths, mills, steel car plant, steel wheel plant
and other extensions, Franklin Borough became an anomaly among mill towns in this state. Its growth in population
was limited by its small area. Smoke, dust and gas from the railroad and the steel plants made it an undesirable
place in which to live, private property stood in the way of plant improvements and extensions but Franklin as
a municipality was immensely rich. Franklin Borough council and Franklin school board tax collectors received more
than 90 per cent of taxes from Cambria Steel Company. The steel works were assessed at about $15,000,000 and a
10 mill tax meant a check for $150,000 for each. This condition still exists, and will continue to exist until
the mills crowd out the homes or the entire borough is annexed to the city of Johnstown.
Almost as strange in its relation to the larger municipality is Dale Borough. Dale is a residence section, with
some business. It had a population of 1,503 in 1900, 2,285 in 1910 and 3,115 in 1920. It is well built up, only
a few minutes walk from the business center of the city. It has the unique distinction of being entirely surrounded
by the city yet maintaining its municipal independence. A large number of taxable residents several years ago signed
petitions for annexation to the city, but the proceedings were halted by an adverse decision of the higher courts
on legal technicalities.
Ferndale Borough, which grew from 224 inhabitants in 1900 to 514 in 1910 and 1,450 in 1920, nestles between the
Stonycreek and the south hill just beyond the Seventeenth Ward limits of the city and the boundary of the Eighth
Ward, a part of the city in everything but local government On another edge of the Seventeenth Ward is Lorain Borough,
carved out of Stonycreek Township. It had a population of 810 in 1920.
Looking down on the center of the city, and connected with it by Incline Plane, is Westmont Borough. It had 499
inhabitants in 1900, 1,468 in 1910 and 1,976 in 1920. It was built for Cambria Steel Company employes, building
restrictions as to use and as to set back lines were enforced from the beginning and the development became one
of the prettiest residential suburbs in the state. Beyond Westmont, on the hill top, and extending down to the
city line in the Eighth Ward, Southmont Borough was prettily laid out. It had 281 inhabitants in 1920. Both Southmont
and Westmont are growing rapidly and both have taken within their boundaries additional portions of Upper Yoder
Township, extending beautiful suburban development to ground overlooking the Benscreek Valley and out into the
Laurel Ridge as far as Mill Creek and beyond.
Between Westmont and the Cambria City section, high on the slope of the river hill, is Brownstown Borough, which
had 1,300 inhabitants in 1910 and 1,489 in 1920. It is the home of workmen.
All of these boroughs are a part of the metropolitan district of Johnstown. Oakhurst Borough, which had grown up
on the hillside above Morrellville, has been taken into the city. Daisytown Borough, on Green Hill along the Frankstown
road now being made into state highway, and the unincorporated but rapidly growing Geistown section, above the
Walnut Grove annex to the Seventeenth Ward, are suburbs of Johnstown.