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  • Harrisburg was plotted as a village on 20 acres in 1853. It became the county seat six years later. In 1861, as it approached a population of 500, it became a town. In 1889, with a population of 1,500, Harrisburg became a city, with an aldermanic form of government. It adopted the commission form in 1915. The town was named for James Alexander Harris. He came to America with William Penn, the Quaker for whom Pennsylvania is named. Coal mining was one of the city's biggest industries. In 1854, the first slope coal mine began operations southeast of the community. At first, the coal was carried by wagon to area homes and businesses and used for heating. After the Civil War, coal production became an important industry in the county. The first shaft mine was sunk in 1873 or 1874. This was followed by the creation of several more shaft mines and by an influx of settlers drawn to the area to work the mines. By 1906, the county was producing more than 500,000 tons of coal annually, with more than 1,000 miners at work. Early the 1870s, Harrisburg residents raised $100,000 to pay for construction of a railroad through the city. In 1872, the Cairo & Vincennes Railroad, later the New York Central, was completed and provided the means needed to haul coal to distant markets. Flooding along the Ohio River has plagued Harrisburg over the years. The city was flooded in 1883-1884 and again in 1913. Its most severe flood came in 1937 when much of the city, except "Crusoes's Island", was underwater. Many people were surprised that water could reach that far inland, nearly 30 miles from the river. Harrisburg was nearly wiped off the map. After that, a levee was erected north and east of the city to protect it from future floods. The levee became the unofficial northern and eastern border of the town. No businesses exist in the Saline River Middle Fork floodplanes. Harrisburg was home to prohibition-era bootlegger Charles Birger, and for a time the gangster's prized Thompson submachine gunTommy gun was displayed in a glass case in the City Hall. In 1915 the Ringling brothers made an Appearance in Harrisburg. Pioneer history is showcased at the Saline County Area Historical Museum on the city's southern edge. The three-acre site includes the three-story high Old Pauper Home, which was once part of the county's 170-acre Poorhouse#Poor farmpoor farm. The site also features a variety of cabins, a one-room school house, a small church and other historic buildings that have been acquired, moved to the site and restored. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrisburg%2C_Illinois

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