During the 1700s, French explorers headed by Berrard de LaHarpe were forced to spend the winter just north of the present city of La Harpe, Illinois. About 1896, four stone tablets dated June 15,1715 and inscribed in French were reportedly found a few miles east of the old fortication built by the explorers.
Soon after 1830, landowners in the area began to develop a town which they called Franklin. In 1836, they applied for a post office and were informed another town in Illinois was already named Franklin. The first postmaster, Louis F. Chaffin, suggested the name be registered as La Harpe, for the Frenchman who spent the winter over 100 years earlier.
The City of LaHarpe was granted a charter by the Illinois legislature in 1859. The charter was amended in 1861 to change the size of the town, and the boundaries have changed through the years. Today the city has 22 streets and avenues.
In 1867, the TP&W railroad line was completed through the town. In 1888, the City council bought the first fire engine, but a fire in October 1893 still destroyed nearly all the businesses in one block of Main Street.
City Hall was built in 1893-4 [shown in the photo]. The election of 1895 was the first election in which the women of La Harpe were allowed to vote on the issue of liquor licenses (The women had a separate ballot box).
The La Harpe Carnegie Public Library was built in 1905, with local support and a donation from Andrew Carnegie. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
The City Park was donated by Marvin Tyron, one of the town's founders, as a public square.
In 1986, LaHarpe celebrated 150 years of history. During that year, a Sesquicentennial History entitled LaHarpe, Illinois, 1836-1986 was published. The history is the source of the events recorded on this page.
More History in LaHarpe, IL, USA
Information and photos provided by the Mayor of LaHarpe, Kenneth L. Brown.
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