Harrison was incorporated in 1899 and was once the largest city on Lake Coeur d'Alene.
In 1917 about half of the residential area of Harrison and a number of businesses were burned in a major fire. Most of the town was never rebuilt after the fire.
Harrison developed from a squatters homestead to a thriving village in about twelve years. A branch of the O.R. & N. Railroad from Tekoa, Washington, to Harrison was completed in 1890 and was a prime factor in the development of Harrison.
In 1891 Silas W. Crane settled on a timbered tract which joins the present city on the south and east. He built the first house in Harrison which remained in the Crane family until 1936. The building is now used as the Crane House Museum. The same year Fred Grant purchased the Fisher Brothers Sawmill in St. Maries and moved it to Harrison. Known as Grants Mill it had a capacity of 60 thousand feet per day.
In 1892 S.W. Crane opened a General Store. In 1893 the first Post Office was established, the name was chosen and W.E. Crane became the first postmaster. W.S. Bridgeman opened a Gen. Merc. in 1893, another General Store was opened in 1894 by W.A. Reiniger.
The first newspaper called the Signal was established in 1895, later it was known as the Mountain Messenger and in 1900 became known as The Searchlight. A paper with that name is still published annually by the Oldtime Picnic Committee.
In 1895 a Methodist church was erected and School District #29 was formed. The first year of school was taught by Mr. Edelbute in the Methodist Church. The first school was erected in 1896 and by 1903 there were 59 students.
The original townsite was in the form of a triangle and covered approx. 23 acres.The Village of Harrison was Incorporated on July 21, 1899. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees for the Village of Harrison was held July 24, 1899. George W. Thompson was elected as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
In August 1901 a Spokane Company was granted a franchise to put in a water system with a pumping plant at a cost of $20,000. An electric light plant was also installed in 1901 by Kimmel Brothers at a cost of $8,000.
The following year came the telephone, connecting Harrison with points up the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers. Rocky Mountain Bell purchased the property later that year and Harrison was connected to outside world.
The next few years saw the opening of the First National Bank of Harrison, the Opera House, various drug, grocery, hardware, furniture, clothing & jewelry stores along with tailoring, blacksmithing and shoemaker shops, and restaurants, hotels and a hospital. For a time around the turn of the century Harrison was the largest town in Kootenai County. In 1911 the City Directory reported a population of 1,250. Harrison’s growth was a result of the development of 8 or more sawmills & box factories. With the mills and woods jobs, approx. 280 men were employed with a combined monthly payroll around $25,000. Millions of board feet of timber were stored in the lake at Harrison. Lake Coeur d’Alene and the St.Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers were the major transpor-tation routes for timber coming out of the areas forests.
In 1917 the Grant Lumber Company caught fire and the ensuing blaze consumed about half of the business district. Much of the town was never rebuilt. The easiest way to get to Harrison was by water. The OWR&N Company which absorbed the OR&N railroad, constructed a 600 passenger steamer called “The Harrison” for transportation. There were several other steamers such as the Georgie Oakes that carried pas-sengers and freight making the depot a popular place for area children. Passenger service was discontinued in the early 1920s but they continued to haul freight until 1932 when the line was abandoned.
Many early day photo’s are on display at the Crane Historical Society Museum along with a lot of information about Harrison. Community spirit continues today with the Old Time Picnic, which is always held the last weekend in July.
“The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes” is a welcome addition to the Harrison area. The Trail is 72 miles of easy riding and runs from Plummer to Mullan. If you have time, bring your bike (or rent one at Pedal Pushers in Harrison) and see for yourself.
There have been changes in ownership of some businesses,some new businesses up & running, and more expected. Check it out.