Utah History Encyclopedia


By Shanna C. Edwards
Harrisville is located north of Ogden in Weber County. In the early years, the area witnessed a double tragedy which cost the lives of two human beings. It was in 1850, just three years after the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, that Urban Stewart built the first house in what was to become Harrisville. It was constructed of logs and was located about 300 yards to the southwest of the Harrisville Chapel. Stewart had planted a garden and watched over it with care. The night of 16 September 1850 he heard rustling out in his corn patch and saw a moving object, which he fired at, killing Terikee, a chief among the Shoshones. The Indians retaliated by killing a white man named Campbell, a transient employee of Farr's Mill, and Stewart had to leave the country. There was a general Indian uprising and Mormon Church authorities in Salt Lake City advised the area's residents to move into Bingham Fort, about two miles away.

In 1851 Martin Henderson Harris, for whom Harrisville was named, and a nephew of Martin Harris of Book of Mormon fame, built a log home west of Four Mile Creek. That same year more settlers came. Pleasant Green Taylor settled on the Urban Stewart claim, Haskill Shurtliff, Levi Murdock, Warren Child, and others settled in Harrisville. However, Indian trouble started again. Some houses were dismantled and moved into Bingham's Fort. Crops were planted, so the settlers would work on their farms, but they had to carry their guns to protect themselves from the Indians. The trouble eventually subsided and they moved back to their homes. Before they moved into the fort, the area farmers had just used the water from Four Mile Creek. After much effort, they received a charter and grant to take water from the Ogden River.

Luman Shurtliff built an adobe house. Later Luman's son, Noah L. Shurtliff, made red brick by hand. A brickyard was later established, and there has been a brickyard in Harrisville ever since; local brick making has turned into a major business.

In 1858, the town was briefly abandoned in the face of Johnston's Army, but the settlers returned to their homes that fall when the trouble was resolved peacefully.

Martin Harris at first taught school in his home, but as more people moved in, it was necessary to organize a school district and build a schoolhouse. Logs were brought from North Ogden Canyon and from Garner's Canyon and the 16-foot by 18-foot schoolhouse was finished in 1863; it had a dirt floor and a dirt roof. In 1867 a new two-room adobe schoolhouse was built which served for school, civic, and religious affairs. Many children had to come a great distance to go to school, so eventually area residents decided to build a schoolhouse in the west end (which later became Farr West). In 1892 the adobe school on the east end burned down. A new two-room schoolhouse was erected that same year. In 1913, a two-story, four-room, yellow brick schoolhouse was built. This served very well until the 1940s when it was abandoned and students were bused to schools outside of Harrisville.

In 1863 Harrisville was organized as a branch of the LDS Church, and in 1868 it was organized into a county precinct, at which time it was officially called Harrisville. It was organized as an LDS ward fourteen years later. Church services were held at the east end of town in the Harrisville school building one Sunday and the following Sunday at the west end in the Farr West school building, alternating each week. A division was made in 1890, and two separate wards were organized.

After the ward was divided, a new church house was needed. Bishop Pleasant Green Taylor donated the land. The church was dedicated in 1891. In 1913 it was added to, and in 1937 the building was renovated. In 1955 ground was broken for a new chapel and addition to the meetinghouse, which was furnished and dedicated in 1957. As Harrisville continued to grow, an additional LDS Church building was completed and dedicated in 1988.

The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads ran through Harrisville. In 1904 a local company laid tracks through Harrisville, Pleasant View, and on to Plain City. The line operated and ran through Harrisville for four years.

Harrisville not only manufactured bricks but also washboards, cheese, and brooms, and even briefly made some silk cloth. Early pioneer families often carded their own wool to spin and then knit into basic clothing. In 1871 a small post office was built. In 1875 there was a sawmill and a molasses mill on the banks of Four Mile Creek. They used the water to turn the wheels to run the mills. Local farmers raised sugar cane to make the molasses. In 1900 Parley Taylor had a good cheese factory. By 1909 there was a harness shop, a shoemaker's shop, and a slaughterhouse.

At 3:27 P.M., 9 April 1962, Harrisville became an incorporated township. The first mayor was Leland Saunders who, along with several other dedicated men and women, was appointed by Weber county commissioners to direct the new town. After permission was granted for a special census count, Harrisville was made a third-class city 30 January 1964. The population of the new city was 867.

Twelve acres of land were purchased on the east side of Highway 91. A portion of this property became the site of the first small city hall. This first city hall building was actually a home from Verdland Park (World War II housing), moved onto a foundation and rejuvenated. City council members and citizens donated the labor and Mayor Saunders donated the needed equipment. The city hall came into use April 1965. Later a maintenance shop was completed which housed the city police. These buildings were used as such until January 1989, at which time a new city office building was completed.

Forty-four acres adjoining the twelve original acres were purchased for park development. A pavilion was erected with tables and benches. A baseball park and tennis courts were built in 1972. In 1976, the nation's bicentennial year, the city bought the property originally owned by the Martin Harris family for the Martin Henderson Harris Memorial Park. The Utah Bicentennial Committee provided most of the money and local citizens provided much of the labor. Included in the park is a centennial grove planted by community founder Martin H. Harris in 1876 to commemorate the nation's one hundredth birthday.

As Utah enters the twenty-first century, Harrisville, with a population of 3,004 in 1990, continues to function as a vital northern Utah community.