The First Village

It was an Amish farmer, Joseph Schantz, who plotted and planned the first permanent settlement. Schantz arrived in Philadelphia from Switzerland in 1769 and set his sights westward. During his life-time he .used the name “Schantz” (Johns) on most of his land deeds and “Jantzin” (Johnson) in his family Bible records.

The original Campbell tract became the site of the village, but the land had several owners before it came into the hands of Joseph Johns. Campbell sold the land to James Wilkins in 1780. The tract then went to John Johnston in 1781, to James McLanahan in 1782 and then to Joseph Johns in 1793. Johns paid McLanahan 435 pounds, equivalent to $12,150 or $8.50 per acre.

In 1794--about one year after he bought the Campbell tract from McLanahan--Joseph Johns reached the site of his new purchase. He built a log cabin at the present intersection of Vine and Levergood Streets and then began to clear land for farming. Within the next six years he cultivated or cleared about 30 acres.

Anticipating the creation of a new county (Cambria County in 1804), Joseph Johns hoped that his land would be chosen as the county seat. With this in mind, he laid out the first village lots and streets in 1800. He called his settlement “Conemaugh Old Town.”

We received the following from Dr. Loren Johns great great great great grandson of Joseph Schantz the founder of the City of Johnstown, PA. ------------webmaster

"I am writing to object to some misinformation about my great great great great grandfather, Joseph Johns, the founder of Johnstown.

The "Jantzin" (Johnson) in the family Bible records is really Schantzin. Joseph used the old German stylized script form of the "Sch" that admittedly looked like a "J" to the untrained eye. "Schantzin" was the feminine form of the name in German, so it was used only for the women and girls in the family. Joseph himself consistently spelled his name "Schantz" on all extant deeds that we have. For two generations, courthouse recorders Anglicized the name to "Johns" in the legal documents, such as deeds and federal censuses. In one deed it was Anglicized to Johnston and in another to Jones. However, most deeds listing the family in the first two generations Anglicized the name to "Johns." The confusion about the gender differences in German and the varieties of Anglicization used in the first two generations no doubt are what led W. Horace Rose, the first mayor of Johnstown, to say at Johnstown's centennial celebration, "While [Johns] did not seem to be sure of his correct name, he knew a good dollar when he saw it" (History of the Centennial Celebration of Johnstown, Pa. [Johnstown, Pa.: Centennial Executive Committee, 1900], p. 34). It was not Joseph who was uncertain about his name!

About this time, the Johnstown city council took action in 1834 to formally rename the town "Johnstown." The constant Anglicization of the name in official records and the renaming of Old Conemaugh Town to "Johnstown" led the family in the third generation simply to accept the Anglicization "Johns."

Dr. Loren Johns

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