Genealogytrails Harrison County, Missouri
Relocation of County Seat

As already stated the early settlements of Harrison were made with reference to timber and water, in consequence of which the southern and central parts were first sought by the pioneers.  This, and the fact of the Missouri and Iowa boundary line being a matter of dispute between the States in 1845, induced the commissioners to locate the seat of justice several miles south ofthe central part of the county.

As the population of the northern part of the county increased, the location of the seat of justice at Bethany did not meet general approval, and as early as 1860 the question of removal ofthe same to a point nearer the geographical center began to be discussed.  No definite action was taken in regard to the matter, however, until the year 1870, at which time a petition signed by a  large number of citizens in the central and northern parts of the county was presented to the conty court, praying that he proposition for removal be submitted to a direct vote of the people.  In accordance with the law relating to such petitions the court at the October term, 1870, enterd the following order:

WHEREAS, It appearing to the county court within and for Harrison County in the State of Missouri that at least one fourth of the legal voters of said county have this day submitted a petition to the county court of said county in words and figures following, to wit:

To the Honorable County Court for Harrison County, State of Missouri:

WE, the undersigned,legal voters of  Harrison County, State of Missouri, respectfully petition your honorable body for a removal of the seat of justice of said county from Bethany, in said county, to the geographical center of said county, and for an order submitting a proposition for such removal to be voted upon by the voters of said county at the next general election, to be held the 8th day of November, 1870, and for such other orders and proceedings in such case as the law directs.

It is therefore ordered by the county court of said county of Harrison, in the State of Missouri, that at the next general election in said county, to be held on Tuesday, the 8th day of November, 1870, at the usual places of voting in said county, the proposition to remove the seat of justice of said county of Harrison, from the city of Bethany, in said county, to the geographical center of said county, the place named in the petition, be submitted to the qualified voers of said county.

Pending the election the friends of removal put forth all their efforts in behalf of the measure, while those opposed made a determined fight to keep the county seat at the original location.   The election was held in November, 1870 with the following result by townships:

Township For removal Against removal
Union 181 1
Bethany 39 346
Cypress 4 162
Sugar Creek 0 160
Trail Creek 93 56
Madison 125 12
Clay 116 2
Marion 168 130
Lincoln 54 5
Washington 43 3
Dallas 32 33
White Oak 5 89
Butler 0 98
Failing to obtain the necessary two thirds majority the friends of removal were reluctantly compelled to acknowledge their defeat.   The destruction of the courthouse in 1873 served to revive the controversy, and in January, 1874 a large meeting was held at Eagleville to take measures against the building of a new house and decide upon a location for a new county seat.  A committee was appointed to circulate petitions asking the court to grant another vote upon the proposition, and in the meantime subscriptions to the amount of $3,000 were raised to help defray the expense of erecting the necessary public building, provided the removal was effected.  A site for a county seat was decided upon-the town of Lorraine, which was surveyed into lots, and the same offered gratuitously to any persons who would erect thereon buildings to cost at least $250.  To counteract these movements the citizens of Bethany raised by subscription the sum of about $10,000 and redoubled their diligence to secure the rebuilding of the courthouse.

The petition asking that the proposition be submitted to the people of the county was signed by 1,850 voters.  Accordingly the court ordered an election to be held on Tuesday, November 3, 1870.  The election was held accordingly, with a majority in favor of removal, but not the requisite two thirds.  The vote was as follows: For removal 1,508; against removal, 1,159.

Thus the matter of changing the seat of justice was effectually settled, although a third attempt was made at the general election of 1880, at which time Lorraine was again a competitor.  The vote that year stood as follows:  For removal 1,210; against removal, 2,347.
Source: History of Mercer and Harrison County, Goodspeed 1881



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