The Wapello Republican
June 18, 1981, Section B, Page 78

Transcribed by Shirley Plumb, June 22, 2018

Harrison, Town across River, Now History

     It was in the year 1842, when two ministers of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church rode into the thriving town of Harrison, Iowa which was located just across the Iowa river from the north end of Wapello.

     Starting at the Iowa river, the streets which were wide, measuring 66 feet in width, were Front street, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth, running east and west.

     Those running north and south, starting at the west side, were Vine street, Pearl, Main, Walnut and Columbia.

     The town was now five years old and was growing so rapidly that the residents requested a congregation be organized in the community as the talk was generally accepted as a fact that Harrison was to be the county seat of Louisa county, and not Wapello.

     Therefore the two ministers, Samuel Findley and Reverend Waddell met with the board of supervisors of the town and founded the first congregation with sixteen members.

     At the foot of Harrison Hill, on the right hand side, stood an old mill and on the left hand side where the big timber now stands, was a large swamp covering many acres. It was in this old mill that the newly formed church held their first meetings, but a few months later, the members built a large house on the top of the hill, right in the heart of the town, which served the double purpose of a church and schoolhouse.

     When this new church was finished, the ministers called on the Reverend Jas. Braden to fill the pulpit as a temporary clergyman and all his expenses were defrayed by ladies Missionary Society of Allegheny City, Penn. Reverend Braden filled that post until the fall of 1844 when the first regular pastor, the Reverend Jackson Duff arrived and held services regularly for the next two years.

     He resigned in 1846 and this left the pulpit vacant for the next three years before another minister could be obtained. This was the Reverend William H. Graham, who was appointed to serve over the combined congregation of Harrison and Morning Sun, Iowa, dividing his time equally between the two congregations. However, in the year 1851 the pulpit in Harrison was again vacant as the Reverend Graham had decided to accept full time preaching at Morning Sun.

     After that time, except for an occasional circuit rider who would stay a month or two, the meetings were held in family groups until the Reverend R. N. Fee was obtained and appointed as a permanent pastor. This was in 1855 and regular church services were held until he resigned in 1862.

     During Reverend Fee’s ministerial duties, the town of Harrison continued to grow so rapidly that a fine new church building was erected for the community and it was located in the corner of land known as the old Dickenson farm, this plot of ground was donated by the owner, Mr. Frank Dickenson. The people were very grateful to Mr. Dickenson for donating this acre of ground as, by this time, they all fully realized the need of a regular place to worship in a church of their own.

     Upon the completion of the new church, a subscription was taken throughout the entire community for funds to purchase a bell to be hung in the steeple of the church. This was one of the first church bells in Louisa county and was purchased from the Hanks Bell Foundry of Philadelphia.

     And the congregation proudly ring their new bell sweetly calling them to worship in their own new temple from the surrounding countryside.

     When the Reverend Fee resigned in 1862, the Reverend J. N. Pressly was obtained and he combined his work with both the Grandview church and the Harrison church. He was well liked and filled his post very ably until his death in August of 1866. Two months elapsed after which the Reverend W. S. McLanahan was placed in charge of both congregations and he remained in the community for the next 3 ˝ years before he left.

     About this time the town of Harrison started dwindling as so many of the early settlements did, and the Harrison congregation received only occasional pastoral care and gradually during the following thirty years it completely died out along with the community.

     The old Harrison church had the distinction of being the last original building left standing of the now extinct town of Harrison and this was torn down in 1915.

     Harrison was laid out by Wm. Kennedy in 1835 with the intention of making it the county seat and the Harrison district was bounded as follows: commencing at the Mississippi river on the township line dividing 74 and 75; thence west on said line to the section line dividing 2 and 3, in township 74, range 3; thence down said river to the township line dividing 73 and 74, thence east to the range dividing 2 and 3; thence north with said line; thence to the corner of section 24 and 19; thence east to the Mississippi river, thence up said river to the place of beginning.

     The lots were 60 feet front by 142 feet back with the exception of those facing the river which were 50 feet front by 132 feet back. Main street was 84 feet wide with all other streets 60 feet wide. The alleys were 15 ft. wide.

     This survey was certified by John Gilliland, county surveyor on May 11, 1841 and was acknowledge by William Kennedy before J. J. Richardson, justice of the peace, July 2, 1841.

     An item of great interest, depicting the loyalty of the followers of the Presbyterianism in Wapello is the story of how the ladies of the church assisted by a few of the men, salvaged as much as they possibly could out of the old remains of the original Harrison church when it was torn down.

     How they carefully sawed out the lumber, pulled out the nails, refinished the wood and with love and care and a lot of hard work built the Harrison Memorial on the rear of the Wapello Presbyterian Church. The memorial was dedicated in 1930 with proper ceremonies.

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