Welcome to Missouri Genealogy Trails

Harrison County, Missouri




The first house erected in the county seat was built by William R. Allen in the fall of 1845.  It was a hewed-log house sixteen feet square, built on the block northeast of the public square.

John and Clem Oatman were the first merchants in the county.

The first preachers in the county were A.B. Hardin, Baptist, and John S. Allen, of the Christian Church

The first regular attorney was William G. Lewis, who came to the county in 1874.  He was the chief promoter of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Bethany and one of the ruling elders.  He died February 18, 1869

The first hotel in the county was kept by Robert Bullington on the north side of the public square in Bethany.  It was a one-story hewed log house.

The first dramshop kept in the county was by Dennis Clacy, who, in 1845, obtained license from the County Court to keep a "grocery" at Harris' Mill for six months, paying $10 state tax and $10 county tax.

Joseph Hunt had the first blacksmith shop in the county on Big Creek about the year 1840.  He did horseshoeing and mended plows, wagons and implements for many years.

John S. Allen built the first brick business house in Bethany.  He engaged in business in 1848 and in 1851 erected a frame building and subsequently put up the brick house.

The first postoffice in the county was established at Bethany in 1845.  For several years it went by the name of Bethpage and David Buck was the first postmaster.


submitted by:  Melody Beery





The first presidential contest in which the citizens of Harrison County participated was the election of 1848.  The vote of the county was as follows:  Zachary Taylor (whig), 63; Lewis Cass (democrat), 144.  In 1864 the vote of the county was as follows;  Lincoln 992 McClellan, 208.
Harrison County has always been a republican county.  At the election of 1912 two democratic county officers were elected.  The vote for President was: Taft, 2081; Wilson, 1,985; Roosevelt, 965.


submitted by:  Melody Beery







A partial transcription from The Harrison County Bicentennial History photograph of the newspaper article about the old Courthouse burning in 1874


NOTE: In papers which were those of Mrs. William Lewis, who died here in 1919 was a copy of an extra edition of the Bethany Republican of Jan. 8, 1874, which told of fire the night bfore that destroyed the Harrison County Courthouse.  This was the Courthouse which preceded the one torn down when the present one was built.

The extra has been found by Mrs. Edith (Ellis) Swigart, granddaughter of Mrs. Lewis.

The extra edition was a single sheet a little more than 10 inches long, 6 3/4 inches wide, in three colums.  It is of historical value, and possibly has not been preserved elsewhere.  Mrs. Swigart has had some copies made, and will submit one of them to the Missouri Historical Society.

Thomas Neal was publisher and editor of the Bethany Republican at that time.  The Union officer of the Civil war established the newspaper in 1873.  Presumably he wrote the article.

The headlines were in six decks.  They read:

"Fire Fiend!"
"The Bethany Mo., Court House Burned."
"The Tax Books Destroyed."
"The Land and Probate Records Saved."
"Also a Part of those of the County Court and Treasurer"
"The Work of an Incendiary"

The News article follows:

The Bethany court house is in ruins, and with it perish many happy associations, many sorrowful memories.  For nearly twenty years it has stood in stately pride in the center of the public square, to fall at last at the hand of an incendiary.
Discovery of the Fire
About 11 o'clock last night, January 7th, the alarm of "Fire!" was heard along the streets, followed by a ringing of bells and general panic.  The night was bright with moonlight, the ground partly covered with snow, and a moderate breeze was blowing from the south.  The fire was discovered by the Bryant boys, Scott and Luther, wo came out of a room on the northeast corner of the square.   The observed a brilliant light in the
Collector's Office
on the north side of the courth house.  As the light increased they gave the alarm and rushed down to the courth house, where they found the floor and papers under a desk in Mr. Baker's office, all on fire, and the desk burning, and also saw that the
Window of the Office
was raised about two feet.  Other citizens from every part of the town, soon appeared, but as few comparatively brought buckets of water, and water being scarce in town at this time, the fire soon gained such headway that little could be done to save the building.  The desk being of considerable height and having a pigeon-hole case standing on top of it full of papers, the fire reached the ceiling easily, which was soon in flames.  The square and streets were by this time thronged with a multitude of men, women and children, who stood shivering in the bleak night wind, powerless to render much aid in saving the court house, but organized into an amateur fire companies to protect the row of buildings on the north side of the square.  Water and snow were thrown on the roof and sides of the buildings, and the shower of sparks eagerly watched.  When the roof of the court house caught fire, the heat was so great on the walk in front of the Ohio House, and the falling cinders so thick, that many fled in terror.

It was soon seen by the most thoughtful that the court house could not be saved, and the cry was given:
"Save the Land Records!"
A rush was made for Mr. Skinner's office, the door was broken down, and in a few minutes the land books and court books and papers were taken to a safe distance.  Next the Probate Court and county clerk's office were emptied of their records.

What was Saved and What Lost.

All of the Probate records were saved, and most of the county records, probably all except some papers in the large desk on the west side of the County Clerks office.  Some of the latter were destroyed including the settlements with township clerks and the estimates for school expenses.  The school fund notes were saved.  The tax books, all of the road recipts that that had been received on taxes and other papers connected with the Collector's office, were destroyed.

Phillebaum and Rmer succeeded in saving all the valuable books, papers, abstracts &c., in their land agency office.  
There was litte doubt that the fire was the
Work of an Incendiary,
for these reasons:
The fire started near the desk of the Collector.  When the parties first on the ground, appeared, there was no fire about the stove.  As we have said, the window of the office was found raised.   A bunch of shavings, partly burned, was found in the hall of the Court house, in front of the Sheriff's office door.
Just after the alarm was given by the Bryant boys, John Devers, of the REPUBLICAN office, rushed out to the southwest corner of the square to see the locality of the fire.  He went as far as the brick occupied by McGeorge & Dunn, thinking the trouble was in the west part of the town.  Then he saw the light at the Courth house and at once turned for that place.

[transcriber note: this is all that is visable enough to transcribe, but felt it important enough to include what I could]
transcribed: Melody Beery
source: Harrison County Bicentennial History,1976



Copyright © Genealogy Trails  All Rights Reserved with Full Rights Reserved for Original Contributor