History of Harrison Township, Miami County, Indiana
From: History of Miami County, Indiana
Edited by: Mr. Arthur L. Bodurtha
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


This township is one of the southern tier and is uniform in size with Clay, Deer Creek and Jackson, being four miles in width from east to west and six miles in length from north to south. It is bounded on the north by Butler township; on the east by Jackson; on the south by Howard county, and on the west by Clay township. The general surface is level and the soil is exceedingly fertile, though artificial drainage is necessary in some parts of the township before the best results can be obtained in agriculture. Consequently nearly twenty miles of ditch and tile drain have been constructed in the township. Across the northern part flows Big Pipe creek in a westerly direction, and Deer creek crosses the southwest corner. These two streams, with their smaller tributaries, furnish a good supply of water for live stock and serve as an outlet for the drains and ditches. A heavy forest of black walnut, oak, hickory, maple and other species of native trees once covered the land now included in Harrison township Before the sound of the woodman's ax was heard, this forest abounded in game and was a favorite hunting ground of the Miami Indians. But the ax, the torch and the saw mill have done their deadly work. Large quantities of lumber have been shipped out of the township and many valuable trees were felled and burned in early days to make way for the cultivated fields. Instances are recorded where the walnut timber on a single acre in Harrison has brought as much as $400.

In 1844 William Smith and Imri Murden came into the township and "squatted" upon the unsurveyed lands that were still in the hands of the Indians, although they had been ceded to the United States. Mr. Murden had formerly settled near Mexico, on the Eel river, and after a residence of several years in Harrison township removed again to the northern part of the county. Upon coming to the township in 1844 he located his claim in the southwest corner, Mr. Smith having previously selected land farther north. Late in summer or early in the fall of 1844 Joshua Dixon settled near the Clay township line, where he opened the first blacksmith shop in Harrison township. His customers were few at first, but as the country settled up his business increased and for about twenty years he continued to ply his trade at that point. Joshua Tharp also came in 1844 and settled in the northern part. He was one of the most successful of the pioneer hunters and many a deer fell at the crack of his rifle. Jacob Stitt came about the same time as Tharp and selected a claim on Pipe creek, near the northeast corner of the township, and made some substantial improvements. William Burnett, Richard Crane, Samuel Spurgeon, James and Simeon Dryer, Eli Stitt, Jesse Lee and John Wilson settled in the township late in 1844 or during the year 1845 and most of them secured title to their lands soon after they were opened for entry.

In 1846 the population was increased by the arrival of Levi Willis. Z. C. Smith, Tillman Hall, Stephen Reeves, Solomon Hauck, Jacob Miller, George C. Smith, William Love, Emsley Overman, George Cooper and William Wineburn.

On September 8, 1846, Harrison township was set apart as an independent political division and was named for General William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, who was elected president of the United States in 1840 and died a short time after his inauguration. The first election was held at the house of William Smith a. little later, when Solomon Hauck was elected justice of the peace; David Roe and John Moorman, trustees, and Abel Hauck, constable.

Sarah A., daughter of Imri and Rebecca Murden, born in 1846, is believed to have been the first white child born in the township. In the spring of 1847 William Love married a daughter of William Smith and later in the same year Henry Daggy married Elizabeth Burnett. These were the first marriages in Harrison. The first death was probably that of a colored woman, wife of a negro known as "Black Bill," in 1847. Mrs. William Wineburn died in the same year and as there were no roads yet opened through the woods, her coffin was carried from Santa Fe, four miles distant. The first religious services were held at the house of Charles Cox in 1848 by a Methodist minister named Richardson. In the same year John Leach, another pioneer preacher, conducted services at the cabins of John Wilson and James Graham.

About 1846 or 1847 Matthew Fenimore built a saw mill on Section 5, in the northern part of the township, on Pipe creek. Subsequently Mr. Fenimore erected a grist mill near by, which continued in operation for many years. The second saw mill was built at the old village of Snow Hill, on Section 3, by Jacob Miller. Shortly afterward he sold out to Niccum brothers and built another mill at North Grove. A man named Thomas started a tannery in the eastern part of the township at an early date and carried on a successful business for some years. He then sold out and his successors could not make it pay, so the tanyard fell into disuse.

Accounts differ as to where and by whom the first school was taught in Harrison township Prof. John H. Runkle, who was county superintendent of schools in the '90s, says: "The first school in Harrison township was a subscription school, taught by a man by the name of Jesse Lee, in 1847, in a small cabin that stood on his own farm. This cabin had for several years been used for a dwelling, but it was at this time fitted up for school purposes, so that it was the same characteristic log school house as was provided for the schools of Miami county in the good old primitive days."

Stephens' History of Miami County (page 344) says: "The first school was taught in an old cabin which William Smith hastily put up on his arrival. Imri Murden was the first teacher of the township."

Whichever account is correct, it is certain that the people who settled Harrison township believed in education and the precedent they established has been followed by those who came after them. In 1913 there were four brick school buildings in the township, valued at $20,000. Formerly there were seven school districts, but by consolidation three of them have been discontinued. During the school year of 1912-13 six teachers were employed, receiving in salaries the sum of $2,491.

Two lines of railroad run through Harrison township. The Pan Handle enters from the east, about two miles north of the southeast corner, and runs across the township in a northwesterly direction through the villages of North Grove and McGrawsville. North of this road, and following the same general direction, is the Chesapeake & Ohio. These two roads furnish ample shipping facilities to all parts of the township. North Grove and McGrawsville are the only postoffices. Snow Hill, in the northeast corner, and Cary, not far from the southeast corner, were once thriving villages, but with the building of the railroads their trade was diverted to other points and they have ceased to exist. (See the chapter on Towns and Villages.)

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