History

history

Harrisville was surveyed in 1825 for Ephraim Harris. Mr. Harris was the first postmaster in the village and was succeeded in 1826 by his son, Samuel E. Harris. In 1833, the southern addition was surveyed on Colonel Reed’s farm and named Reedsville so that the two towns formed the foundation for the Borough. Colonel Reed established his home and tavern on his farm in 1797. The tavern keeper and a blacksmith were the first invaders of the “Prairie Tract” or the great Indian cornfield. From the date of the first settlement, Chief Cornplanter and his sub-chiefs and warriors were frequent guest in the cabin of the pioneers until 1843, when Mohawk murdered the Wigton family. The old Indians would come to look at the sites of their former village and cornfields and to point out to their children the scenes among which their own childhoods were passed. Two years after the survey of the town site, Major John R. Harris, son of Ephraim, established himself as a merchant, built a carding mill, opened a tavern and continued in business until his death in 1874. Many other businesses followed: James Lee erected a frame building and opened with a stock of goods.

William McGill opened a blacksmith shop and Thomas McElree and William P. Brown each established a cabinet shop. James and William Forker were hatters. Samuel E. Harris and Washington Parker had small stores. Within a three mile radius, there were 10 distilleries and in the village there were four taverns. Whiskey sold for 25 cents per gallon. In 1845, Thompson Kyle arrived and gave his attention to the development of coal deposits. In 1865, there were four stores, a foundry, three blacksmith shops, G. W. Magee’s carriage shop, a tannery, a pottery shop, a cabinet shop, three shoe shops, two temperance hotels, one grocery and one saloon. Also, there were three physicians, two common school teachers and one select teacher and pastors of three local churches. In 1872, a threatening fire broke out on the east side of town, destroying Samuel Kerr’s hotel and William Kikpatrick’s home.

A wide variety of businesses continued through the late 1800s and 1900s. Currently there are several businesses within the Borough limits. The first election of Borough officials took place on September 11, 1846. Lyman Howard was chosen Burgess. The councilmen were Robert Long, Samuel Brown, Washington Allen, John Hunter and W. A. Gilmore. P. D. Brumbaugh and R. K. Wick were overseers of the poor. The constable and assessor was Robert Donaghy. John R. Harris and Hugh McCoy were street commissioners. R. R. Walker was the clerk. The first Justice of the Peace was William A. Gilmore. The first school established in Harrisville was a frame building erected in 1830. Samuel E. Harris was the first teacher. In 1865 a high school, or academy, was established by W. Thomas of West Sunbury. Legislation in 1893 brought free books and the 1895 act called for compulsory attendance for all children under the age of 13. With the continuing increase of tax levies and the enabling legislation, Harrisville High School was established in 1907. It closed in 1958 when the Harrisville area joined the Slippery Rock area jointure.

The first post office was established in Harrisville on April 17, 1819, and Ephraim Harris was the first postmaster. The post office has had several locations throughout the years and the present building was dedicated on March 24, 1962. Stephanie Campbell is our postmaster. The First National Bank of Harrisville was opened in 1903 and has served the community since that time. Currently, it is known as First National Bank. Mr. Robert Barnes, The Candy Man, volunteers his time on Fridays in front of the bank selling candy bars and various other items to raise money for local charities and the annual firework presentation in the Community Park. Penn Gold Ice Cream Factory was started in 1929 by J. H. Hughes for the Vengold Company. When Mr. Hughes became the owner in 1930, he changed the name to Penn Gold. Currently, the owner is Gary Hughes and people from near and far travel to enjoy the best ice cream in the area. The Family Tradition Restaurant serves delicious meals throughout the day. The present owners are David and Caroline Carr. In addition to the restaurant, The Family Tradition Restaurant also provides catering services.

Henry’s Meat Market has been in business since 1958. As well as providing grocery items, Henry’s has a wide variety of fresh meats available. Willie’s Smokehouse specializes in smoked meats and cheeses. Willie’s has been a staple of Harrisville since 1972. Gun World is also a popular place for Harrisville and the surrounding communities. Many people patron National Armory throughout the year to purchase firearms and supplies for hunting.

Many other businesses can be found throughout Harrisville. There are several churches within the Borough. Harmony United Presbyterian Church, Harrisville United Methodist Church, Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Harrisville Branch Church. Many other social clubs are prominent in Harrisville. They include: American Legion , American Legion Auxiliary and the Harrisville Community Band. The Harrisville Deer Hunters Association is located just east of town on Route 58. It is the oldest sportsmen club in Western Pennsylvania. Additional information and/or corrections are encouraged. Anyone who would like to participate and add to the “History of Harrisville” is encouraged to do so.

Please contact the Borough Office at 724-735-2222.

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