A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of Harrison County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser

Harrison County

Under an act of the General Assembly of the Territory of Missouri, approved January 13, 1816, the county of Howard was erected, being the ninth organized county of the territory, and was taken out of the counties of St. Louis and St. Charles. It included among other counties what is now Harrison County...

For a few years after the first settling of the county, the principal market place was at Liberty, Clay County...

There were at this time no post-offices or post-roads in the county and what few letters were written by the settlers had to be sent to Cravensville, a small post-office in Daviess County, five or six miles north of Gallatin. This was a post-office that had been established by the Mormona and occupied by them, but after they left the village went to decay and the post-office was discontinued...

The first post-office in the county was established at Bethany in 1845. For several years it went by the name of Bethpage, and David Buck was appointed postmaster. The mail was carried on horseback to and from Cravensville...once a week...

Harrison County is one of the northern tier of counties, joining Iowa on the north, Mercer and Grundy on the east, Daviess County on the south and Gentry and Worth on the west ... The territory embraced within the limits of Harrison County originally formed a part of Daviess County and remained such until created a separate jurisdiction by an act of the General Assembly, approved March 28, 1845...

The State line between the State of Missouri and Iowa was then in dispute and the district north of township 65 for a distance of about twelve miles was then called the "disputed territory." The State line was settled and permanently located in 1850 and iron stakes six inches square and six feet long were planted along the line at intervals of ten miles.

Shortly after the organization of the county, commissioners were appointed to select a site for the county seat...After careful inspection and deliberation a site on the banks of Big Creek was chosen. The plat of the survey was made and the county seat was named Dallas...

The settlers did not like the name of the county seat to be Dallas and at the November term, 1845, the county officers took a vote on the naming of the town which resulted in the choice of Bethany, and the name was changed accordingly...

The County Court held its first session under a big tree on the west bank of Big Creek...

(--History of Harrison County, 1921, Geo. W. Wanamaker, pp. 117, 138, 139, 151, 152, 153, 154.)


According to the most reliable authority, no permanent settlements were made in the county, which was then a part of Daviess, until 1839, when John Conduit, Reuben Massey and William Mitchell located in the southern part...The circulating medium of the early times consisted of honey, beeswax, game and fish, and it was many years before any businesses were engaged in. St. Joseph was the nearest trading point of any importance...Harrison County Territory was included within the limits of Ray when that county was organized and later was part of Daviess, from which Harrison County was organized by legislative act approved February 14, 1845. It was named in honor of Honorable Albert G. Harrison, of Callaway County, who was a representative in Congress from 1834 to 1839... (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 3, p. 197.)

The time or place of the first settlement in the county is not definitely known. Joseph Arnold...is credited with being one of the first settlers and he stated that in the spring of 1838 his father and Levi Hunt settled on the west bank of Big Creek about five miles south of Bethany. That they found there when they came John Fields living a little lower down the creek on its east bank. That he had a little log hut and a small field enclosed and in cultivation...

In 1841 there settled near where Bethany is John W. Brown, Thomas Tucker, Charles L. Jennings, E. M. Jennings and others. At that time there were no white settlers north of them except a few at Fort Des Moines where there was an Indian town and a fort...(--Wanamaker, pp. 123, 127.)

Fort Des Moines was established in 1843... (--Any standard Encyclopedia.)


Among the first acts of the County Court was the division of the county into municipal townships. The first division was into Madison, Butler and Dallas Townships. Madison and Butler Township boundaries are given on page 162. Butler was named in honor of Aseph M. Butler...

Dallas Township subsequently was changed to Bethany Township; these boundaries are given on pp. 160 and 162.

Adams is Congressional township 62, range 27, lying within Harrison County.

Bethany is all of Congressional township 63, range 28.

Butler is all that part of Congressional township 62, range 29, lying within Harrison County.

Clay is all of Congressional township 65, range 26 and that part of township 67, range 26 that lies in Harrison County.

Colfax Township is all of Congressional township 66, range 27 and that part of township 67, range 27, lying in Harrison County.

Dallas Township is Congressional township 64, range 29.

Fox Creek Township consists of all of Congressional township 63, range 26.

Grant is Congressional township 64, range 27.

Hamilton embraces all of township 66, range 28 and that part of township 67, range 28, lying within Harrison County.

Jefferson is Congressional township 64, range 28.

Lincoln embraces all of Congressional township 66, range 29 and that part of township 67, range 29, lying within Harrison County.

Madison comprises all of Congressional township 65, range 26.

Marion is township 65, range 27, lying in Harrison County.

Sherman embraces all of Congressional township 63, range 27.

Trail Creek is all of Congressional township 64, range 26.

Union is Congressional township 65, range 28.

Washington is Congressional township 65, range 29.

White Oak is Congressional township 63, range 29.

By the township organization as adopted in 1872, it was provided that the County Court should consist of the supervisors of the townships, one from each township, but an act of the regular session of the Twenty-seventh General Assembly, approved March 24, 1872 so amended the township organization law so as to require the county court to consist of five judges, one a presiding judge elected at large, and four, one from each of four districts.

See pages 163 and 164 for an account of the township organization under an act of 1872 and March, 1873, by the General Assembly.

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