History of Harristown

In 1828, William Hanks, relative of Abraham Lincoln, was the first man to locate in Harristown township. He built his cabin in Section 23.

In the same year, Christopher Miller came with his family from Kentucky and settled in Section 14. His sons, Samuel, William, and John, came with him and located homes nearby. James Miller came from Kentucky in 1829. James Harrell, another Kentuckian arrived in 1834. In the year of 1835 Jacob Hosetetler located in Section 14. J.W. Gouge came in 1836 from New York.

John Miller was the first to enter land in the township. On December 2, 1828 he entered 80 Acres in Section 13.

In the 1830’s school was being taught by William Miller and in 1841 a school building was erected in Section 13. It was both a school and church for many years. 

In 1830, Abraham Lincoln came to Macon County with his parents. The Lincoln home was located on a bluff along the Sangamon River, in Section 28. This home was built by Lincoln’s father, Thomas, with the help of Abraham. The cabin was located on the land that the Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park is now located.

After the Lincoln’s left the cabin, the Whitley family owned the land. Shelton Whitley came to Macon County with Dr. Speer and Snyder families in 1831. Shelton was a carpenter and built a mill in the Sangamon in Harristown township, this being one of the earliest mills in the county.  Shelton bought this land in Section 28 in 1843 from Perry Strickland, who had entered it from the government on May 31, 1836. After Shelton, the land passed to his brother, James Whitely. 

In 1837, Samuel and James Miller built a mill on Sangamon in Section 24 and also had a blacksmith shop.

After the Wabash railroad was built through the township, the village of Harristown was platted in 1856 by Jerden Burkey in Sections 9 and 10. In 1856, the first house in the village was built by Jacob I. Hobbs.  The first postmaster was David Masters. The first store was opened by Samuel Cox in 1859. The first blacksmith was H.C. Masters. Summit lodge, No. 431, A.F. and A.M., was chartered October 4, 1865.

A schoolhouse was erected in Harristown in 1863, and the school was taught by John S. Randle, who had been teaching since 1861.

On March 15, 1861, The Christian Church was organized. Services were held in the old church building, which had been moved previous year from a few miles southeast of town. Rev. W.A. Mallory was the first preacher.

In 1917 the congregation built the handsome brick edifice in use today. It was dedicated December 23, 1917.

The Methodist Church was organized in 1863, and built a building the following year. W.C. Lapham was the first pastor.

In 1865 an elevator was built by O.Z. Greene.

In 1876 a tile works was erected in Section 21 by J. Traver.

The first Justice of the Peace in Harristown was Nathan Averitt. The first Physician was Dr. Greeley. The first supervisor from the township was Abraham Eyman. Other early supervisors were J.H. Pickrell, J.B. Hanks, M.G. Camron, W.E. Gouge and J.N. Hoyt. J.H. Pickrell became known as a breeder of fine livestock.

Among the Prominent early settlers who came in the in the '50's were J.G. Willard, C.E. Hunsley A.B. Camp, and J.D. McGuire. Jeremiah Freeman, a native born in Macon county, also settled in Harristown . Daniel Stookey came about 1860.

One of Harristown township's most widley known long time residents was T.J. Scroggin, who settled in the township about 1864, and lived there until his death in 1911. Mr. Scroggin was an extensive land holder, owning more than 1,600 hundred acres. He was known particularly as a most successful breeder of fine cattle. Mr. Scroggin's fondness for animals resulted in his maintenance for a long time of deer park, where he kept a big heard of deer.

The village of Harristown is known for its beautiful cemetery and attractive homes. The Illinois Traction System line passed through the village. The Illinois Terminal Railroad Company (reporting marks "ITC"), known as the Illinois Traction System until 1937, was a heavy duty interurban electric railroad with extensive passenger and freight business in central and southern Illinois from 1896 to 1956. When Depression era Illinois Traction was in financial distress and had to reorganize, the Illinois Terminal name was adopted to reflect the line's primary money making role as a freight interchange link to major steam railroads at its terminal ends, Peoria, Danville, and St. Louis. Interurban passenger service slowly was reduced, ending in 1956. Freight operation continued but was hobbled by tight street running in some towns requiring very sharp radius turns. In 1956, ITC was absorbed by a consortium of connecting railroads.