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 that 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. In 1936 Fred Grant purchased the Fisher Brothers Sawmill in St. Marie’s and moved it to Harrison. It was 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 and W.E. Crane became the first postmaster. W.S. Bridgeman opened a Gen. Mercantile in 1893 and 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 Old-time 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 21st, 1899. The first meeting of the Board of Trustees for the Village of Harrison was held on July 24, 1899. George W. Thompson was elected as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
In August of 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, blacksmith 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, approximately 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 transportation routes for timber coming out of the areas forest.
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 passengers and freight making the depot a popular place for area children. Passenger service was discontinued in the early 1920’s but they continued to haul freight until 1932 when the line was abandoned.
Many early day photos are on display a 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) and see for yourself.
Harrison is now mostly a tourist and vacation destination. The current population was 217 at the 2017 census.