Harper was settled by a party from Iowa, consisting of J. B. Glenn and family, M. H. Glenn and family, R. and A. T. Barton with their families, Joseph Haney, C. H. Snider, M. K. Kittleman, G. M. Goss, C. C. Goss, Thomas Elder, B. L. Fletcher and H. C. Moore. This party came to Hutchinson on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, and thence, April 2, 1877, struck south to Kingman. Arriving at that point, they engaged County Surveyor Sugars to accompany them to Harper County and locate the town, which should be the future metropolis.
Starting at a Government corner-stone two miles southwest of Kingman they ran a line due south into Harper County, where they camped on April 5 on Section 19, Town 32, Range 7 west. The next day, a line was run to the east line of the county with a view of location the town where the railway from the East, that all expected soon, would be apt to strike. Three surveys were made and the town finally located on April 14. R. and A. T. Barton at once put up box houses on their claims, but both were just outside of the town site. The first building in Harper was begun April 16, by J. B. Glenn, with lumber hauled from Wichita.
This house now serves as the kitchen of the Glenn House. C. C. Phelps next put up a blacksmith shop, which was soon followed by the residence of B. L. Fletcher. A town company had been formed while the party were at Hutchinson, and J. B. Glenn was elected President, and C. H. Snider Secretary. April 30, J. J. Merrick came to Harper and soon after procured building material at Wichita and built a house, the front part of which was used as a grocery.
S. S. Sisson, who arrived in Harper in May, 1877, was the first attorney in the new county, and C. S. Lloyd, who came in the fall of 1877, was the first physician to practice here. During 1878, the settlement of the town was so rapid as to preclude all specific mention of the settlers who stood not on the order of their coming, but went to work on the boom, which has known no cessation for four years.
Harper was organized as a city of the third class on September 7, 1880, and the first city election was held on the 25th of the same month. This resulted in the choice of Sam. S. Sisson, Mayor; G. W. Appley, Police Judge; R. B. Elliott, H. Martin, R. J. Jones, S. D. Noble and L. G. Hake, Councilmen. G. W. Appley was appointed City Clerk and still holds that position. S. S. Sisson, the first Mayor, was re-elected in 1881 and 1882. J. J. Merrick was elected Police Judge in 1881 and J. G. Washbon in 1882. The present Council consists of A. H. Evans, L. P. Horton, W. H. Kepple, George D. Thompson and M. H. Glenn. I. P. Campbell is City Attorney and H. S. Reed City Treasurer. The population of the city is 779.
On July 1, 1877, Mrs. Josie B. Glenn was appointed Postmistress of Harper, the first post office in the county. The Government although granting a post office, made no provision for mail carriage, and this duty was performed by William Glenn, who made weekly trips to Hutchinson. On July 1, 1878, a weekly mail was put on by the Government and this soon passed through the transitions of semi and tri-weekly to a daily hack from Wellington. This was kept up until September 16, 1880, when the railway arrived and mail service was tranferred to the postal clerks.
Mrs. Glenn was followed on February 28, 1881, by J. O. Graham, who still holds the office. The post office was moved from the Glenn House to the hardware store of Wilson & Baumstack, thence to a little building next east of its present location, and last to its present location in the store of J. H. Maxfield. The first money order issued by this office was purchased July 7, 1879, by J. B. Glenn. Daily mail routes from this office run to Wellington, Medicine Lodge, Anthony and Kingman, and a semi-weekly to Wichita.
The first school in Harper was a subscription one taught by Harry Barndollar, in a room over Frank Blackstone's store. H. C. Fulton followed with a subscription school taught in the fall and winter of 1878-79. The first public school was taught by Miss Alice Carpenter, who was the first person in the county to receive a teacher's certificate. Miss Carpenter was followed by F. E. Beach in 1879, and J. T. Botkin in 1880, and in 1881, Mrs. C. Graham and Mrs. J. C. Washbon took the positions they have ever since held.
The school building, 24x60 feet, was built in 1880, at a cost of $1,000, but soon proved too small, and in 1881-82-83, outside room was hired. In this, taught Misses C. Woodward and Julia Potter, the former in 1881-82 and the latter in 1882-83. The school had an enrollment of 165 at the last report, which was dated August 1, 1882. A new stone or brick building will be erected in 1883, at a cost of from $5,000 to $10,000.
The first religious exercises in Harper were held by Rev. A. Axline in 1877, and a Presbyterian Church organization was effected. This, however, made little progress until the arrival in 1878, of Rev. J. P. Fulton, the present pastor. A church building was completed in June, 1882, at a cost of $2,000. The society now numbers thirty. A Union Sabbath school started in connection with this society in 1878, now has an average attendance of forty, and is in charge of H. Reed.
The Methodist Church was organized in 1878 with a membership of seven, under the care of Rev. J. W. Anderson. Rev. Messrs. Walsh and Rose held the pulpit in 1880-81, and Mr. Anderson was re-appoited in 1882. The society now numbers forty members. Early services were held in private houses and the schoolhouse, and later ones in the church erected in 1882, at a cost of $3,000 all told. A separate Sabbath school started in May, 1882, has an attendance of seventy, and is in charge of I. P. Campbell.
The Baptist Church was organized in December, 1881, with a membership of fifteen. No pastor has ever been settled here, and no regular services held, and the society has fallen into complete inaction as a body. Rev. Joseph Wrightsman has preached here occasionally, but carries the weight of too many years to supply weekly services. There is quite a flourishing society at a schoolhouse six miles northeast of town. A society of about forty has been collected, and regular services are held.
The Harper County Times was the pioneer in the jounalistic field of Harper, its first issue bearing the date of October 24, 1878. The paper, which took the form of a six column folio, was published by W. O. Graham, who is still a large owner in it. January 1, 1879, the style was changed to Graham Bros., and August 26, 1880, to Graham Bros. & Finch. Finch retired January 1, 1882, and the ownership of the paper has since been unchanged. The form of the paper was changed January 15, 1880, to a six-column quarto. The Times now has a circulation of 550; twice in each year special editions descriptive of the county, and rehearsing its early history, are published. The paper has always advocated the views of the Republican party.
The Harper Sentinel issued its first number August 17, 1882. The name of W. A. Richards was given as editor and proprietor of the new venture, which was of the six-column quarto form, and sported the Republican banner. December 21, 1882, a careful review of the history of the county and town was prepared, and a large special edition of the paper issued. February 10, 1883, the paper was sold to O. O. Leabhart, who issued a second special historical number March 1; the paper now has a circulation of 500 and appears Thursdays.
Harper Lodge, No. 206, A., F. & A. M., was organized September 7, 1881, and instituted under a warrant on the first Monday in March, 1882. Its charter officers were; James Holland, W. M.; T. Blake, S. W.; P. Cloud, J. W.; F. M. Stukey, Secretary; F. B. Letcy, Treasurer; J. Allen, S. D.; M. Henry, J. D. Its charter membership of seventeen has increased to sixty, and the lodge now has the following official roll: James Holland, W. M.; T. Blake, S. W.; F. Amsden, J. W.; F. A. Parsons, Secretary; James Wilson, Treasurer; H. C. Finch, S. D.; T. E. Gorton, J. D.; meetings are held in Masonic hall on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. The property of the lodge is valued at about $400.
Harper Lodge, No. 191, I. O. O. F., was organized in August 1881, with a membership of thirteen, and the following officers: W. A. Creighton, N. G.; J. N. Babcock, V. G.; M. H. Glenn, Secretary; F. M. Tull, Treasurer. The society now numbers sixty-five and has the following officers: C. S. Finch, N.G.; H. E. Patterson, V.G.; B. D. Bennett, Secretary; A. M. Vanlaningham, Treasurer. Meetings are held on Friday of each week in the hall owned jointly by this and the Mason fraternity. In addition to this hall, the lodge owns a cemetery on which are improvements which bring the total value of property owned by the society to $1,000. The Grand Instructor of the State is a member of this lodge.
Harper Lodge, No. 81, A. O. U. W., was organized October 26, 1881, with nineteen members and the following officers: S. H. McManigle, P. M. W.; F. A. Parsons, M. W.; James Wilson, Forman; H. C. Maxwell, Overseer; H. J. Merz, G.; W. O Graham, Recorder; A. M Vanlaningham, Fin.; H. B. Hoyt, R. The society now has a membership of twenty-one and the following official roll: A. M. Vanlaningham, P. M. W.; H. C. Fulton, M. W.; W. S. Stranahan, Foreman; W. B. Stevenson, O.; W. O. Graham, G.; S. H. McManigle, Recorder; F. A. Parsons, Fin.; J. C. Obert, R. Meetings are held in Odd Fellows Hall on the first and third Mondays of each month.
Banking.-The first banking house in Harper was that of Woods, Parsons & Co., which started in 1880, and has since done a very prosperous business. As a private bank, it makes no public statement of resources, but the fact that Hon. John G. Woods, of Wellington, is a large owner is sufficient to guarantee the stability of the concern. Thompson & Walton started the second bank in Harper on July 1, 1882, and have ever since that date done a good and increasing business. This also is a private bank and makes no public statement of resources.
The Arcade Mills.-These mills were completed July 8, 1882, at a cost of $18,000, by H. C. Smeltzer & Co. They have four run of buhr-stones, and a capacity of seventy-five barrels of flour per day. The machinery is driven by an engine of sixty-five horse power; the building is of stone, 36x60 feet, and has three stories and one-half.
Harper is located at 37°17'7N, 98°1'36W (37.285252, -98.026615). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.3 km² (1.3 mi²), all land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,567 people, 675 households, and 417 families residing in the city. The population density was 469.0/km² (1,219.0/mi²). There were 787 housing units at an average density of 235.6/km² (612.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.57% White, 0.13% African American, 0.64% Native American, 0.57% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.21% of the population.
There were 675 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.3% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.2% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 22.0% from 25 to 44, 23.9% from 45 to 64, and 21.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,272, and the median income for a family was $40,761. Males had a median income of $29,583 versus $19,779 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,543. About 6.9% of families and 9.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.0% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.
It has been reported on good authority that the woman who would one day become Patricia Sue Lawyer (wife of Raymond) nee Wilhite once danced upon a table at the Grange Hall in Harper.