A WARRIOR FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
By H. S. Harrison
In 1872 my father, the Rev. C. S. Harrison, retired temporarily from the ministry and came west. Making a tour of Nebraska, he became infatuated with the district comprising York county.
He immediately applied for and secured of the B. & M. Railroad Company the appointment of Immigration Agent for this county. Father was naturally a great salesman, but he had to be sold himself first and he was thoroughly sold on York county.
He had already organized and built twelve Congregational churches, located in many different localities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, and he sent circulars to his former parishoners and friends in these various communities. By nature a poet and with a gifted power of description, he pictured York county in a glowing manner, emphasizing rolling plains, fertility of the soil and the attractions of the sunsets. These communications had a drawing influence and soon many of the friends desirous of pioneering under his leadership became settlers of York county. His enthusiasm was particularly centered in the northwest township, where he subdivided and built a town. Having always been interested in horticulture he christened this village Arborville and named all the streets after different varieties of trees.
Father's influence in this particular town has always been felt. There are a number of descendants of the pioneers still living in Arborville township and their character is a testimony to the sturdy stock from which they came.
Father was a man of prodigious energy. People marveled at his mental and physical accomplishments. Some accused him of having an electric dynamo hidden away somewhere in his insides. Others, who were acquainted with the family intimately, understood that he acquired this energy naturally, because he took it from his sons.
He began at once to be engaged in a number of activities – selling railroad land, building a town, building a church in Arborville, building an academy in York, buying grain, raising cattle, planting many trees here and there and farming.
We put up a large acreage of wild hay every season. I say "we" because it was father's practice to take his sons into full fellowship in all physical activities, at a very early age. The hay was raked up in large cocks, the hay rack, driven down the center by the boys, father on one side and two men on the other side. These two men were expected to keep up with father. He had a peculiar way of twisting his fork around a large bunch of hay and lifting an entire cock at one fork full on top of the load. Professional farmers watched the operation with wonder. Father seemed to do his best mental work when most physically active and Will and I, who were loading, knew that he was thinking the hardest when the hay was flying the fastest. Sometimes, in after years, when I found myself loafing on the job, I was startled with the thought that I must hurry or I would be buried up in hay.
Father was always interested in promoting educational institutions. He secured a free gift of forty acres from the B. & M. R. R. and with the support of the Congregationalists, built what was known as the Academy at the west end of Seventh street in York. This building was used for Congregational church services, public school, public auditorium and the noted Clough [Cluff] murder trial was held there.
Just as father and his associates were starting on more extensive building, the Methodists offered to start a state college, if the Congregationalists would yield the field to them. The Congregationalists acquiesced, turned the use of the Academy over to the Methodists and the building was used as a college for two or three years until they had erected a building of their own on East Hill.
A short time afterwards father moved to Franklin where he built a Congregational Academy. While living there he was nominated for Congress, by the Prohibition party. Not many prohibitionists in those days. The district was controlled by the saloons, the B. & M. railroad and Jim Laird; but father went ahead and made a vigorous campaign – so vigorous that Mr. Holdrege canceled his B. & M. pass. He carried only one precinct [precinct] in the entire district and that was Arborville, which went for him with a large majority. These friends threw away their vote because they simply wanted to express to him their personal affection and appreciation.
In the early days of York there were many violent contests between law and lawlessness. Temperance was also an issue. After the saloon had been driven out of York, the proponents organized and incorporated a village just above the B. & M. R. R., named it New York and licensed a saloon. This strategy continued the contest for a short time. Father, with his usual energy, had accepted the leadership of his faction. He was supported loyally especially by two colleagues, Henry Seymour and Charles Penn. The latter was city marshall, who, when aroused, was somewhat profane, but always a fearless soldier in the cause of civic righteousness. Evil doers feared and avoided him. Mr. Seymour was a gentleman of quiet and dignified demeanor and, while small in stature, was large and powerful in moral courage. He ran an elevator in New York. One day some one told him that Charlie Penn was out of town and that a notorious bully called "Curly", together with a companion of large physique, were on their way down to York to beat up Constable Fry. Mr. Seymour hurried down town in the hopes of warning Fry. When he arrived the attack had just begun. He seized a two by four scantling and knocked the two desperadoes out, then quietly returned to his elevator. Some of Curly's friends told him he had better get out; but that was his place and he stayed. Curly and his pal sneaked out of town – the disgrace of being knocked out by an undersized church deacon was too humiliating.
Father often received anonymous threats that he might not only receive personal injury, but that his home might be destroyed by fire but, undaunted, the warrior carried on.
In a remarkably short space of time York became noted as a community of high minded citizens, who were building their platform upon the principles of civic betterment, temperance, culture and morality.
Beverley Hills, Calif., March 16, 1937