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This township was named in honor of Major Thomas Harris, who was elected and served as Major of the Fourth Illinois Regiment in the Mexican war, and who was afterward a member of Congress. It lies in the west part of the county, is bounded on the north by Illini, on the east by Decatur, south by Blue Mound, and west by Niantic. It is included within T. 16 N. R. 1 E., and contains twenty-seven sections of choice prairie land. It is drained by the Sangamon river and its tributaries. Along the margins of this stream there are scattering patches of timber. The soil is rich, and produces large quantities of wheat, corn, rye, oats, hay, potatoes and vegetables. For many years the only settlements that were made were along the dege of the timber, while thousands of acres of fertile prairie land remained in its native state.
Harristown is one of those townships of Macon county which were settled by that adventurous and enterprising class of settlers who left their comfortable homes, generally in Kentucky, Indiana, or Ohio, to push into the wild unsettled portions of central Illinois, and cast their destinies with the young state.
The first to settle in this township was William Hanks, a native of Kentucky, who came in 1828, and located in section 23, where he erected a log-cabin and made some improvements. Only a short time afterward in the same year (1828) witnessed the arrival of Christopher Miller, who emigrated from Kentucky with his family, and settled on section 14. His sons, Samuel, William, and John, came from Kentucky to the county in the same year. John settled on section 13 immediately after his coming. James Harrell, a native of Kentucky, removed to this township in 1834, and settled near section 13, where he remained two years; returned to Kentucky, and remained in the south until 1839, when he returned to Macon county, and now lives at Wyckle's switch, on the Wabash railway. Judge Freeman was also an early settler. Up to 1850 the settlements were mostly along the timber of the Sangamon, in the southern part, but about this time they began pushing out into the prairie.
James Miller, an old and highly respected citizen, is still engaged in farming on section 13, near where he located at an early day. Within two years after the first settlements were made, its citizens had a school, which was taught in the eastern part of the township by William Miller, the first teacher, in 1830. About 1841 the settlement had become prosperous and large enough to need a school-house, which was erected on section 13. This building was a log structure, and served the double purpose of school-house and church for a number of years, until about 1853, when a building was erected on section 17, exclusively for church purposes.
In the summer of 1837, Samuel and James Miller built a mill on section 24. It was located on the north side of the Sangamon river, and operated by water-power from a dam in the river at that point. It was used as a grist-mill, and was the first mill of any kind in the township. In the same year these gentlemen built a blacksmith shop in connection with the mill, intending to do their own blacksmithing, but as it was the only one in the township, and for many miles around, the shop was patronized by the whole community. Dr. Greely was the first regular physician who engaged in the practice of medicine as a profession. The first justice of the peace elected was Esquire Nathan Averitt.
In writing the history of Harristown township, it would be incomplete were we to omit the fact that it was for some years the home of the lamented martyr President, Abraham Lincoln. We are indebted to Mr. John Hanks, a prominent and very intelligent citizen of Hickory Point township, for the following very interesting fact concerning Mr. Lincoln's life in Macon county.
in 1831 Mr. Lincoln, John Hanks, Mrs. Lincoln's father, and John Johnson, Mr. Lincoln's step-brother, erected a log-cabin on section 28, in the edge of the timber along the Sangamon river. The hewing of the logs for this cabin was done by Mr. Lincoln. It remaind on the ground where it was first built until 1876, when it was taken apart, removed to Philadelphia, and rebuilt at the Centennial grounds, where it remained until the close of the exposition. A few logs were then cut up for canes, etc., but the cabin itself is still standing.
Later the same year Mr. Lincoln, John Johnson, and John Hanks built a flat-boat for a man named David Offutt. They worked from March 1st to May 1st, each receiving seventy-five cents a day. When they had finished the boat they, in company with Mr. Offutt, loaded it with hogs and took it to New Orleans, for which Mr. Lincoln, John Johnson, and John Hanks each received sixty dollars. They returned by steamboat. The principal occupation of Mr. Lincoln during the time he lived in this township was that of splitting rails, at which he was considered an expert.
The first land entered in what is known as Harristown township was by John Miller, December 2d, 1828, eighty acres is section 13; Charles Hanks entered October 24th, 1830, eighty acres in section 14; William Miller entered January 1st, 1830, eighty acres in section 15; Samuel Miller entered eighty acres February 10th, 1830, in section 13.
We give the following list of supervisors:
Abraham Eyman, elected 1860
J.H. Pickrell, elected 1861
J.B. Hanks, elected 1862
M.G. Camron, elected 1863, and re-elected each succeeding year up to 1876
J.N. Hoyt, elected 1877, and re-elected each year, and is the present incumbent
James Miller, a Kentuckian, now residing on section 13, came to this county in 1829; Joseph D. McGuire, a native of Pennsylvania, residing on section 4, came in 1855; Jeremiah Freeman, living on section 6, was born in this county in 1830; J.M. Williard on section 9, and C.E. Hunsley, an Englishman, who came in 1852, are among the older settlers and prominent citizens now living in the township.
Harristown, like all the towns along the main line of the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific railway, was laid out soon after the completion of the road. It is located on sections 9 and 10. In 1856 Jacob I. Hobbs built the first house in the town; this was a frame-building. The first post-office was established in 1858, at which time Davis Masters, who is at present living in the town and is engaged in manufacturing wagons, was appointed post-master, which position he held for a number of years.
The next year (1859) Samuel Cox opened a store of general merchandize, which was the first in the place. The earliest school was taught by a gentleman maned John S. Randle in 1861. It was two years more before the town could boast of a school-house, which was built in 1863.
In 1860 a church, which originally stood a few miles south-east of the town, was moved cross the prairie and located in Harristown. This was the first church Harristown had within her limits. She, however, was without a preacher until 1864, when the Rev. N.S. Bastian located as pastor. Dr. Greeley was the earliest physician who came to Harristown to practice. H.C. Masters was the first blacksmith in the place.
Present Business-houses of Harristown are represented in the following list: General Stores, Peck & Holmes, J.A. McGuire; Boots, Shoes and Confectionery, F.M. Martin; Barber-shop, F.M. Martin; Blacksmiths, S.T. Crim, --- Schall; Wagon shops, Davis Masters, J.H. Tubbs; Elevators, Steam, Breed & Houck, capacity 2,500 bushels; Ordinary, capacity 2,500 bushels.
The town has a Masonic Lodge in a thriving condition. The Methodists and Christians have each commodious churches, with regular preaching.
On section 20 are the Tile Works of Glascow & Cann, built in 1876 by John Traver.
Partial List of Patrons
Conover, Peter Sec 16 Farmer & Stock Raiser KY 1857 Bashada Taylor Dec'd Former wife of B. Taylor, Died Jan 1 '53 KY 1857 Cury, James M. Dec'd Late Husband of M.A. Cury, Died May 2 '79 Virgo Co, IN 1855 Mary A. Cury Sec 13 Farmer & Fruit Grower Columbus OH 1855 Eyman, Jerome Sec 5 Farmer & Stock Raiser St. Clair Co IL 1855 Stella Tandy Sec 5 Wife of Jerome Eyman Morgan Co IL 1855 Filson, Gustis Sec 3 Farmer & Stock Raiser Morgan Co IL 1872 Mary Patterson Sec 3 Wife of Gustis Filson Clearf'd Co PA 1872 Filson, Robert Sec 3 Farmer & Stock Raiser Morgan Co IL 1872 Ida McCartney Sec 3 Wife of Robert Filson Morgan Co IL 1872 Freeman, Jeremiah Sec 6 Farmer & Stock Raiser Macon Co IL 1830 Hannah Turner Sec 6 Wife of Jeremiah Freeman Logan Co IL 1854 Gossort, Charles Sec 29 Farmer & Stock Raiser PA 1866 Harriet S. Peck Sec 29 Wife of Charles Gossort OH 1867 Grunden, W.S. Sec 1 Farmer & Stock Raiser IN 1861 Rachel Coe Sec 1 Wife of W.S. Grunden OH 1871 Hall, John Sec 16 Farmer MO 1871 Mary Hendricks Sec 16 Wife of John Hall TN 1874 Hoyt, J.N. Sec 16 Farmer & Stock Raiser, Twp Sup NH 1868 Eunice N. Brown Sec 16 Wife of J.N. Hoyt NH 1868 Hillbern, James L. Sec 20 Farmer Macon Co IL 1857 Hunsley, C.E. Sec 4 Farmer & Stock Raiser Eng. 1852 Malinda Hostettler Sec 4 Wife of C.E. Hunsley Macon Co IL 1838 Hostettler, Jacob Dec'd Lat Husb. of Mrs. T.A. Hostettler, Died Jan 11 '73 KY 1835 Mrs. T.A. Hostettler Sec 14 Farmer & Stock Raiser KY 1835 Lenard, Samuel Sec 13 Farmer & Stock Raiser E. VA 1865 Elizabeth Foster Sec 13 Wife of Samuel Lenard KY 1865 McGuire, Joseph D. Sec 4 Farmer & Stock Raiser PA 1855 Catharine Halbert Sec 4 Wife of Joseph D. McGuire VA 1855 Miller, A.C. Sec 12 Farmer & Trader Macon Co IL 1841 Lucy A. Miller Dec'd First Wife of A.C. Miller, Died May 1 '68 KY Nancy J. Austin Sec 12 Pres. Wife of A.C. Miller Macon Co IL 1849 Miller, James Sec 12 Farmer & Stock Raiser KY 1829 Margaret Hostettler Dec'd First wife of James Miller, Died Nov 1844 KY 1829 Elizabeth Miller Sec 12 Present Wife of James Miller KY 1825 Park, James H. Sec 15 Farmer & Butcher St Clair Co IL 1868 Elizabeth L. Wood Sec 15 Wife of James H. Park Madison Co IL 1868 Scroggin, T.L. Sec 28 Farmer, Stock Raiser, Feeder & Shipper Logan Co IL 1864 Rebecca Birks Sec 28 Wife of T.L. Scroggin Logan Co IL 1864 Turner, John Sec 7 Farmer & Stock Raiser Macon Co IL 1850 Mary Eliza McIntyre Sec 7 Wife of John Turner KY 1866 Willard, M.B. Sec 8 Farmer & Stock Raiser Morgan Co IL 1856 Emma Lane Sec 8 Wife of M.B. Willard Edgar Co IL 1860 Willard, J.M. Sec 9 Farmer, Stock Raiser, Dealer & Shipper Morgan Co IL 1850 Whitley, W.L. Sec 28 Farmer & Stock Raiser KY 1846 Alice Irwin Sec 28 Wife of W.L. Whitley PA 1861
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