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Harrisburg ( or ) is a city and township in Saline Countymarker, Illinoismarker, United Statesmarker. The estimated 2007 population was 9,638, with a townshipmarker population of 11,658. It is the county seat of Saline Countymarker.

At the concurrency of U.S. Route 45, Illinois Route 13, Illinois Route 145, and Illinois Route 34, Harrisburg is known as the "Gateway to the Shawnee National Forestmarker", and was made infamous for the Ohio River flood of 1937, the old Crenshaw House (also known as the Old Slave House), and prohibition era gangster Charlie Birger. A Cairo and Vincennes Railroad boomtown, the city was one of the leading bituminous coal mining distribution hubs of the American Midwest between 1900 and 1937.

At its peak, Harrisburg had a population that reached 16,000 by the early-1930s, and had one of the largest downtown districts in Southern Illinois, but it has been in severe economic decline due to the decreased demand for high sulfur coal, the removal of the New York Central railroad, and several floods leaving much area around the city unfit for residential, commercial, or industrial use.

Harrisburg is included in the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky Tri-State Area and is the principal city in the Harrisburg Micropolitan Statistical Area with a combined population of 26,733.

Historical perspective

Industrial origins

Harrisburg, founded during the closing Antebellum Age at the start of the Second Industrial Revolution, was plotted shortly after Saline County was established in 1847 from a portion of Gallatin Countymarker. The city was named after James Alexander Harris. Harris owned a small farmhouse in the current area of the city square, a sandstone bluff overlooking the Saline River. He also donated land for the first additions to the town. Harrisburg was plotted as a village on in 1853. The county seat was in Raleighmarker from 1847 to 1859 when it was moved to Harrisburg. Between 1860 and 1865 southern cotton became unavailable during the Civil War, Harrisburg was one of the few cities in the Upland South during this time to have woolen mills, making the town an industrial asset early on to Southern Illinois. Several planning mills and flour mills also dotted the city.

Robert King, an early proprietor, opened a brick and tile factory at the southern terminus of Main Street in 1896 with the capacity of carrying out 15,000 bricks every 10 hours. Harrisburg also saw the opening of several saw mills. The Snellbaker and Company Saw Mill and Lumber Yard opened in 1895, as well did J.B Ford Harrisburg Planning Mill the same year. The Mill had the capacity of producing 10,000 feet of lumber every 10 hours. The Barnes Lumber Company in Harrisburg started as a sawmill operation in 1899. Since 1904 it has retailed a complete line of lumber and building materials and is the oldest, currently active mill in the city.
Locust St. crossing at Main St. West side of square in 1910.
The Woolcott Milling Company, operated by J.H Woolcott and J.C Wilson built a flour mill in 1874, on the now defunct south Woolcott Street, with rail spur, behind the current Parker Plaza, that had 23 grain elevators and the capacity of carrying out 200 barrels of flour in a 24 hour period and up to 400 by 1907 with a new 75,000 bushel tower. The exchange market was located in Carrier Millsmarker. Located on Commercial Street across the tracks from the train depot, The Southern Illinois Milling & Elevator Company was incorporated on July 29, 1891 by Philip H. Eisenmayer, with a capital stock of $50,000. The company had two elevators, erected at a cost of $125,000, one of which had a capacity of 25,000 bushels and the other a capacity of 100,000 bushels. Their milling capacity was six hundred barrels per day. Twenty-five men were employed in the operations of the mill and elevators, in addition to a force of from six to eight men regularly employed in the cooperage department.
Woolcott Milling Company, 1898.
During the Reconstruction Era, as economic conditions made impractical the growing of cotton, tobacco and lumbering which pioneers found profitable commercial, grain farming by crop rotation, dairying, reforestation, merchandising and manufacturing and the most prevalent, Coal mining began to occupy the city. 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. Despite these early industrial advantages to other cities in the region, the Sanborn Map company still referred to the water facilities and road conditions within the city limits, "Not good, and not paved" up to 1900.

Coal and Rail era

First slope mine operations began in 1854 southeast of Harrisburg. During the early years, the coal was transported by wagon to local homes and businesses for heating. Coal Mining became an important industry for the post-Antebellum, now Gilded Age city. The Cairo and Vincennes Railroad was completed in 1872 to provide transportation for coal and the miners who tired away underground. After a series of corporate transactions brought the Cairo and Vincennes Railroad into the hands of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway around 1890, with Illinois state representative Charles P Skaggs as mayor, Harrisburg evolved into one of the leading coal-mining centers of the Midwest. Harrisburg was a strategic spot on the railroad route with a large hump yard, making it the focal point for the most productive coal field operations. Some of the most profitable coal companies that operated around Harrisburg were Big Creek Coal, Harrisburg Coal and O'Gara Coal. Each one with their own sizable rail yards. O'gara was a Progressive Era coal company owned by Thomas J. O'gara of Chicago. He purchased and annexed 23 privately owned mines in the Harrisburg coal field which equaled 50,000 acres of land. The Company based its headquarters in Harrisburg in 1905. O'gara only owned 12 operating mines, all in Saline County, but they had an annual output of 7,000,000 tons. 6,000 men were employed in a field capacity and the pay roll disbursement was $150,000 per month. The company payed $10,000 monthly royalty. H. Thomas was the company's general manager of mines, Ed Ghent its chief engineer and D. B. McGehee the assistant general manager.
By 1905, several small slope mines and 15 shaft mines operated in the county. Most were along the railroad line. Large numbers of immigrants from Englandmarker, Walesmarker, and eastern Europe, looking for work, detrained at the Harrisburg Train Depot; crowding around quickly expanding mining villages directly outside of the city, such as Muddymarker and Ledfordmarker. The city's population quickly expanded from 5,000 to 10,000 in a few short years. By 1906, the Big four/CCC&STL Railroad became the New York Central, and Saline County was producing more than 500,000 tons of coal annually with more than 5000 miners at work. In 1915 the Ringling Brothers Circus made an appearance in Harrisburg. In 1913 the Southern Illinois Railway and Power Company operated a interurban trolley line, that ran from downtown Eldoradomarker, into Muddymarker, Wasson, Beulah Heights, through downtown Harrisburg, Dorrisville, Ledfordmarker and into downtown Carrier Millsmarker, all of which had larger residential areas than present. The trolley wire through the county was 16 feet high. It was an off branch of the Cairo and Vincennes Railroad. The corporation erected the first electrical generating plant in Muddy, ILmarker.

The Central Illinois Public Service Company purchased the Muddy Power Station in 1916, it had a generating capacity of 7,500 kilowatts. After removing an original 2,500-kilowatt unit, the company added two 5,000-kilowatt turbine-generators and one 10,000 kilowatt unit, bringing the stations total capacity to 25,000 kilowatts in 1922. Electricity generated at the station was distributed over 66-kv, double circuit steel tower transmission lines extending to West Frankfortmarker to the west, the Ohio River to the east, and Olneymarker to the north. The plant had two impounding reservoirs which covered 80 acres and held 320 million gallons of water.

The community benefited from the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties, showing the most extravagant displays of wealth in the city's history. The 230-foot neon red tower belonging to the WEBQ-AM radio station, was the tallest structure in the city and could be seen for miles. Harrisburg had just finished the new three-story Horning Hotel around 1920, two new theaters with a combined total of 1,600 seats; the Orpheum and the Grand the same year, the eight-story Harrisburg National Bank building, the O'gara Coal Headquarters and Cummings Office buildings, and the four-story Harrisburg Hospital all built in 1923. A new four-story city hall building was constructed in 1927, and a complex highway system was constructed through the city, with Illinois Route 13 and Illinois Route 34 constructed in 1918; U.S. Route 45 and Illinois Route 145 constructed in 1925-1926. On Vine Street south of the town square was "Wiskey Chute", a saloon vice district for local miners. It was also during this time that the town was home to prohibition-era bootlegger Charles Birger, whose gang was said to have protected local business owners better than the law enforcement. For a time, the gangster's prized Tommy gun was displayed in a glass case in the City Hall. Piled near the mines were gob piles that spontaneously combusted. The horizon around the city for many years flickered with burning coal refuse.

Slow economic decline

Saline County Court House 1917.
downturn hit the city during the Great depression forcing business owners and industrial firms to close shop, followed shortly by the Ohio River flood of 1937 which left thousands within the city homeless. Many mines were deemed condemned which left many more out of work. Soon the Southern Illinois Railway and Power company was bought by the Central Illinois Public Service Company. The inter-urban line was abandoned in 1933 after 20 years of service. After the decommission of the Interurban line in 1933, Harrisburg opened the Harrisburg-Dorrisville Bus Co., which was a private predecessor bus company to the current Rides Mass Transit District which was opened in 1980. Between 1930 and 1940 the city lost 27% of its overall population.
Immediately after World War II new coal companies, Peabody, Bluebird, and Sahara starting mining within the city. The war created a great demand for energy, which was satisfied by expanded strip mining operations throughout the Harrisburg Coal Fields. Shortly after World War II, it became clear that coal was losing favor to other energy sources such as oil and natural gas. In contrast to other cities in the United States that prospered in the post-war boom, the fortunes of Saline County began to quickly diminish. Harry Truman stopped briefly in Harrisburg during his whistlestop tour in Sept. 30, 1948, giving some hope for economic recovery for the region. Without hesitating, the long parade of police, buses, and accompanying cars sped through town. Poplar street, at that time the main drag through town, was crowded with multitudes of persons for its entire length. It was reported by the Daily Register Newspaper that cars were lined along Route 13 all the way from Marionmarker and on to Eldoradomarker on Route 45.

By 1957, the Egyptian was the last passenger train to travel through the city. Between 1940 and 1960 Harrisburg lost another 20% of its population due to economic standstill. With only 9000 people left in the city that once had 16,000, then Senator John F. Kennedy made a campaign stop on October 3, 1960. Speaking at the Saline County Court House he said
"This district, which is built on the land and which has been nourished by the land, personifies the kind of problems which I think the United States is going to face in the 1960's.
This district has depended in the main for its resources, its growth, its wealth, upon the minerals underground and upon the food that is grown on the ground.
And those are those industries that have faced serious problems in the 1960's."
Later during the same speech after addressing agriculture Senator Kennedy stated
"Farmers could farm and work in the cities and towns, but this year we have the highest unemployment that we have had in any months of August and September, the three Augusts and Septembers preceding the recession of 1949, 1954, and 1958, and this district knows this problem well, because this district has lost 60,000 people in the last 10 years."

By 1968 with hopes of bringing a new influx of coal mining into the city, Sahara Coal Company ordered the Bucyrus-Eerie "GEM of Egyptmarker" strip mine shovel, one of the largest in the world at 8-stories high and weighing 1,000 tons. It took three men to operate it, and its bucket capacity was 30 cubic yards. Even with such great efforts coal mining continued to dwindle within the community. The train depot was razed in 1972 and all coal freight was ordered out of the Harrisburg Hump Yard by 1973. During the 1970s and 1980s, many of the city-square storefronts and mini-plazas became vacant and were slowly abandoned as large Chain stores and Strip malls on Commercial Street became the dominant venues for shopping and entertainment, hoping to bring an influx of travelers from the main highway.

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 legislation forced many utility companies in the United states to switch to low-sulfur coal. In response Harrisburg's already waning economy took a severe downturn. The freight yard closed in 1982, Sahara Coal company shut down operations in 1993, 865 jobs were lost in the county that year. This ended the reign of big coal in Harrisburg, a way of life for residents for over 100 years. The Cairo and Vincennes Railroad/Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway system tracks were taken up in the late 1980s and replaced by the Tunnel Hill State Trail in 1996.

Post-coal economy

In 1984, a respected local physician, Dr. John Dale Cavaness, was charged with the murder of his two sons for insurance money. The case was chronicled in the book by Darcy O'Brien, Murder in Little Egypt. Soon Pioneer history was showcased at the Saline County Area Historical Museum on the city's southern edge. The site includes the three-story high Old Pauper Home, which was once part of the county's poor 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.

The Harrisburg-Raleigh Airport is located approximately four miles north of Harrisburg on Highway 34. The Harrisburg-Raleigh Airport Authority operates the airport. The Airport has two runways—32/14 and 6/24. Runway 24 includes a new, extension, bringing the runway to , and a GPS-RNAV approach.

Two industrial zones were set up within the township in 1974 by the Saline County Industrial Development Co., one located in Dorrisville, and the other located near the Harrisburg-Raleigh Airport. The one in Dorrisville had the advantage of rail spur prior to the removal of the New York Central tracks. A Tax Increment Finance district was built on the property of the old rail yard north of the city where the Harrisburg Professional Park was built.

The current industrial base within the city, while most are not coal related, give opportunity to a large number of city residents. American Coal and Arclar, the only two coal mines in the county are producing low sulfer coal as an energy resource. Kerr-McGee Coal Corporation's Galatia Complex was purchased by the American Coal Company in 1998. American Coal employs about 580 workers, while Arclar employs 175 persons. Nationwide Glove Factory is currently employing 225 persons, and American Needle is second largest non coal company with 125 workers. Southern Truss and Harrisburg Truss companies employ together 100 employees manufacturing building components.

In 2008 construction on the Harrisburg Wal-Martmarker Supercenter was completed. Wal-Mart will gave $21,950 in grants to the Anna Bixby Women's Center, Bridge Medical Clinic, CASA of Saline County, Harrisburg District Library, Harrisburg Police Department, Harvest Deliverance Center Food Pantry, Regional Superintendent of Schools, Saline County Senior Citizens Council and Saline County Sheriff's Department. The building is and added 150 new jobs to the county. The Supercenter is now the second-largest employer in the city with 340 employees on its payroll. A new strip mall was completed on the south side of town, and Parker Plaza, the oldest shopping center in town was renovated with a new facade to promote commercial growth in the city.

To this day Harrisburg is, not only the seat, but the retail hub of Saline Countymarker. It holds the nearest shopping centers, restaurants, banks, and other commerce within miles. But industrial jobs are scarce.

To make things worse economically for Harrisburg, Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's decision to move a division of I-DOT to Southern Illinois was overturned by his successor Pat Quinn. The decision outraged lawmakers in Springfield. A lawsuit was filed to stop the move to Harrisburg. Matters were Exacerbated by videos of the new home for the IDOT traffic safety division, the old Allen Miller car dealership building, surrounded by water surfaced on Youtube late 2007.


According to the U.S. census of 2000, there were 9,860 people, 4,093 households, and 2,496 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,580.3 people per square mile (610.1/km2). There were 4,570 housing units at an average density of 732.4/sq mi (282.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.65% White, 6.93% African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.55% from other races, and 1.25% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.46% of the population.

There were 4,093 households out of which 27.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.0% were non-families. 35.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.0% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 24.6% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,507, and the median income for a family was $35,667. Males had a median income of $29,086 versus $19,013 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,005. About 10.1% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.

Geography and cityscape

Harrisburg is located at (37.733765, -88.545873). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (16.5 km²), of which, 6.2 square miles (16.2 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.4 km²) of it (2.19%) is water. The square in the center of town, as well as Dorrisville and Gaskins City stand on top of a series of sandstone bluffs that used to be islands rising above natural lowlands, 300 feet above sea level, dredged by the middle fork of the Saline River. The Saline River was a navigable river used by early settlers for transportation to and from Salt Works just east of Harrisburg. The Saline flowed towards the Ohio and flooded every spring in events called Freshets. The locals called the island "Crusoe's Island". When the area was drained, homes and businesses were built in the floodplain, and it became prone to serious flooding for years to come. The town square in the center of town is a sandstone bluff 400 feet above sea level, one of the first that start the Shawnee Hills to the south. Topographic maps show the bluffs that rise from the Saline River that wraps the northeast part of the city. Harrisburg is located at the ending point of the Laurentide ice sheet, which covered about 85 percent of Illinois. The edge of Illinoian ice sheet(s) lay further south than the southernmost extent, i.e. Douglas County, Kansas, of any of the Pre-Illinoian ice sheets.

Cottage Grove Fault System

Map showing the Cottage Grove Fault in green
After the 5.5 Richter Scale magnitude 1968 Illinois earthquakemarker, scientists realized that there was a previously unknown fault under Saline County, just north of Eldorado, Illinoismarker near Harrisburg. This fault is called the Cottage Grove Fault, a small tear in the Earth's rock running west–east, in the Southern Illinois Basin. The fault is connected to the north–south trending Wabash Valley Fault System at its eastern end. Seismographic mapping completed by geologists reveal that monoclines, anticlines, and synclines are present within the region; these signs suggest deformation during the Paleozoic era coincident to strike-slip faulting nearby.

A fault plane solution of the earthquake confirmed two nodal planes both striking north-south and dipping approximately 45 degrees to the east and to the west. This faulting suggests dip slip reverse motion, and to a horizontal east-west axis of confining stress. The rupture also occurred partially on the New Madrid Faultmarker, responsible for the great New Madrid earthquakes in 1812, consisting of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the contiguous United States.


Old Harrisburg Post Office on the corner of Main and Church Street.
Harrisburg square 1950.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Harrisburg prospered with one of the largest downtown districts in downstate Illinois.
The Saline Countymarker courthouse and square have gone through many transformations within the past 100 years. In the 1800s the town had dirt streets with a large Greek Revival court house with Doric columns, which was then replaced in 1906 with are larger courthouse surrounded by brick streets. Harrisburg had 25 miles of brick streets, but now only a few blocks are left. A smaller version of the central clock tower of the courthouse, including the original clock, manufactured by the Howard Clock Company in 1904 was recreated in 1996, and placed in a small lot behind the Clearwave Building's parking lot.

Harrisburg has not yet begun a National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street historical preservation program, like Eldoradomarker has. Saline County is within a recognized historical district, the "Ohio River Route Where Illinois Began". Only two buildings in Harrisburg are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, those being the City Hall and the Saline County Poor Farm.
19th century residential neighborhood in Harrisburg.

The square itself held an array of Coal mining offices, privately owned business, grocery and department stores, pharmacies and bars. During the closing of the coal mining era most of the businesses left the square and moved to the main drag of Rt. 45, constructed in 1926. The court house was replaced with a modern, more efficient building in the 1967 after the older court house was condemned. Over the years, the architecture that graced Harrisburg square has slowly turned to rotting older structures mixed in with a hodge-podge of newer updated buildings. Currently there are a few privately owned downtown renovation projects under way on and around the square.

The Harrisburg Mitchell-Carnegie Library, located on Church Street south of the square and built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie, was built in 1902 and opened to the public in 1903. The building served the community until 2003 when the library was moved to a new building on north Main Street. During the 1937 flood, the library was used as a make-shift hospital until the water boiler burst. The building now serves as a church.

Harrisburg has three city parks. Memorial Park, Gaskins City Park, and Dorris Heights Park. Memorial Park, on the west end of town, is the largest with the city park pool and a large lagoon snaking through the center, founded in 1935.

The sunset lawn cemetery is the largest in the county, founded in 1880, connected to the west edge of the city. The cemetery contains ornate tombstones and crypts, within are the remains of most of the city's original founders and prominent residents. Sunset lawn contains the 90-year-old Sunset Mausoleum. The crypt has marble floors with 75 person's buried inside. The structure was condemned in 2008 and there are plans of removal of the bodies and reburial within the cemetery, but there is a problem of finding many of the family members.,

Harrisburg neighborhoods

Harrisburg industrial zone in Dorrisville.
Harrisburg is split up into several small neighborhoods that were annexed into the city limits over time, from north to south.

  • Dorris Heights - A subdivision established in 1923 on land owned by W.S. and Bertha Dorris. Annexed in 1979. Sits to the direct north of Harrisburg with the Dorris Heights Street being the main road through the area. The Saline County Fair Grounds sits to between Dorris Heights St. and the Levee to the north. Small street heads east from Dorris Heights towards the Arrow Head Point shopping center.
  • Buena Vista - Sits to the south and north of Rt. 13 (poplar st.) to the direct west of the main village. It holds the new town water tower and several homes. It is bordered by Liberty to the south.
  • Wilmoth Addition - Is an area of prominently African American residents north of Old Harrisburg, and just south of Dorris Heights. A good portion of the Wilmoth Addition has been slowly abandoned and torn down when the Rt. 13 bypass was built.
  • Old Harrisburg Village - The streets that surround the town square. It includes everything on Main street north and south, and Poplar street from the levee to the east and the town park to the west. It also includes the High School, the old Junior High, West and East Side schools, the Courthouse, The town park and Cemetery to the west, and the main shopping strip on Rt. 45. This part of the city is the oldest, and is recognized mainly by the densely packed pre-20th century homes and structures lined on narrow brick streets that look like they belong in Northwestern Pennsylvania coal towns, not Southern Illinois. Most of this area is located on "Crusoe's Island". It was built during a pre-automobile-centric Harrisburg.
  • Gaskins City - Includes a small village with a series of several crisscrossing streets that once existed to the east of the Harrisburg Levee and Rt. 45. Sloan St. crosses Rt. 45, runs directly into the heart of Gaskins City and dead ends at the Harrisburg Medical Center. It contains Gaskins City Baptist church, Shawnee Hills country club, and upper class neighborhood. It used to have its own school at one time.

  • Garden Heights - Just south of Gaskins city. Connects Gaskins city with Rt. 34 and Pankyville.
  • Dorrisville - To the direct south of Harrisburg, and established in 1905 with a post office, and annexed by the city in 1923, Dorrisville holds the Dorrisville Babtist church, and Saline County Area Historical Museum and "Pauper Farm Crossing" which is the crossroads of Feazel Street and Rt. 45. Most people recognize Dorrisville as the first 5-6 blocks north, west, and east of the Feazel Street and Barnett Street 4-way stop.
  • Liberty - Was a smaller rural community to the far southwest of Harrisburg along Liberty Road. It includes the Liberty Church and cemetery. In 1873, designer of the Cairo and Vincennes Railroad, Green Berry Raum of Harrisburg, Opened a slope mine on the south side of the rails near liberty. It became the first in the county to ship coal by rail-car. The Mine was called the Ledford Slope, and the spot was called Liberty Crossing. Liberty is bordered by the old mining community of Ledford 3 miles south of Harrisburg and Dorrisville to the west and Buena Vista to the north. Liberty has many housing development projects underway, and is growing quickly. Liberty holds the new Junior High building.
  • Ledford-
Ledford used to be a complete town unto itself, it was the home of Charles Birger, and had several stores, its own school system, and a post office. Ledford was a Coal mining community set up by mostly Hungarians during the 19th century. It holds a large cemetery, a historic Hungarian Cemetery, and the Ledford Baptist Church. Ledford spreads across a 4 mile stretch of land along Rt. 45 between Carrier Mills and Harrisburg with several roads shooting off to the left and right of the highway. It is all considered "Ledford".

A view towards the city as seen from far east Sloan Street near Gaskin's City.
At 503 ft (153.4m), the WSIL tower, built in 1953 in downtown was one of the tallest television towers in the state at the time and is still the tallest structure in the city.


Harrisburg lies on the border between humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dfa) and humid subtropical climate (Koppen climate classification Cfa), and has neither large mountains nor large bodies of water to moderate its temperature. Both cold Arctic air and hot, humid tropical air from the Gulf of Mexicomarker affect the region. The city has four distinct seasons. The highest average temperature is in July at 89°F (20°C), while the lowest average temperature is 22°F (-6°C in January. However, summer temperatures can top 100°F (42°C), and winter temperatures can drop below 0°F (−17°C). Average monthly precipitation ranges from 3 to 5 inches, with the heaviest occurring during late fall. Snowfall, which normally occurs from November to April, ranges from 1 to 7 inches per month. The highest recorded temperature was 113 °F (45 °C) on July 13, 1936, and the lowest recorded temperature was recorded was in February 2, 1951 at -23.0°F (-31.0°C)

Flooding risks

Flooding along the Ohio River causing back flow of the middle fork of the Saline River has plagued Harrisburg over the years. The city was flooded in 1883-1884 and again in 1913. The most severe came during the Ohio River flood of 1937 when much of the city, except "Crusoes' Island", a downtown orbit that encircled the town square, was underwater. Water reached from the river because the town was isolated by high water in tributary lowlands. Harrisburg was nearly wiped off the map. Between Gallatin Countymarker and Harrisburg, some in distance, Illinois Route 13 was under of water; motorboats navigated the entire distance to rescue marooned families. National guard boats were the means of transportation in the city and several thousand people were transported daily from temporary island to island. According to the Sanborn Map Company Harrisburg in October 1925 had a population of 15,000 and in a revised version by January 1937 the population had dropped to 13,000. 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 or residences exist in the Saline River Middle Fork floodplains. Flooding proceeded in January 1982 due to drainage problems from the frozen ground, and in 1983, due to 8 inches of rain. The Pankey Branch pumping system, on the east side of town, was built to handle flooding from the Saline River only and has serious complex watershed dynamic problems, causing continual water backup within the levee during large rain events. The city is currently looking to build a new pumping system and request the Army Corps of Engineers to certify the levee.

Flood of 2008

In Saline County, a preliminary estimate indicated $16.8 million in damage caused by of rain on March 18–19, 2008. At least 30 homes and 44 businesses had water over the first floor. Many business owners faced a task as they assessed damage and began cleaning up. Others were able to reopen fairly quickly after suffering only minimal damage or waiting for flood waters to recede so customers could reach their businesses. Harrisburg officials reported 74 businesses affected by flooding, Businesses along Commercial Street (U.S. Route 45), were hardest hit. Kroger, which had just undergone a major renovation, reportedly had or more of water inside. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied flood recovery grants and loans to Illinoismarker. Flooding in the town was being called the worst flooding in 71 years.

Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee National Forest
More than 270,000 acres (1100 km²) of Shawnee National Forestmarker lie to the south of Harrisburg, drawing thousands of visitors annually to the Saline County area and the gateway community. The Shawnee National Forest offers much to see and do. The national forest has of roadways, some of streams and frequent waterfalls, numerous ponds and lakes as large as 2,700 acres (11 km²) (some with swimming beaches), 13 campgrounds, many picnicking sites, and seven wilderness areas where trails are designed for hiking and horseback riding.

Plant life is extremely diverse and ranges from sun-loving species to those that grow in dense shade. Tree cover dominates the publicly owned acreage, and is a significant component on privately owned lands. Oak-hickory is the predominant timber type, however, many other commercially important timber species also occupy significant acreages. More than 500 wildlife species can be found in the Forest, including 48 mammals, 237 birds, 52 reptiles, 57 amphibians, and 109 species of fish. There are seven federally listed threatened and endangered species that inhabit the Forest, as well as 33 species which are considered regionally sensitive, and 114 Forest-listed species.

When the Shawnee Purchase Units were first established, temporary headquarters were set up in Room 303, First Trust and Savings Bank Building, Harrisburg, Illinois. This was the only modern office building in the town of Harrisburg suitable for headquarters, and the forest has continued to occupy this building as Supervisor's offices. Expansion of the offices has continued since 1933, until today (June, 1938), ten rooms on the third floor, and four rooms on the fourth floor, are leased by the Forest Service. Employees who were here during the early days of the forest tell of the chaos and confusion caused by the small space under lease, the incoming shipments of equipment and supplies, and the constant inflow of new personnel.


The Harrisburg Daily Register, has been providing coverage of news for southeastern Illinois since 1869, and is owned by GateHouse Media. It is the major daily newspaper serving Harrisburg, Saline County, and distributes to Paducah, Kentuckymarker, Cape Girardeau, Missourimarker, and Mount Vernon, Illinoismarker. The second major newspaper is the Eldorado Daily Journal, based out of Eldoradomarker. Newspapers are also delivered into the city from as far away as Evansvillemarker, Chicagomarker, and St. Louismarker.

Harrisburg has one television station licensed directly to the city; WSIL-TVmarker. Broadcasting on channel 3, it is the ABC affiliate for a wide area of southern Illinois, western Kentucky and southeastern Missouri. The station's studios reside in nearby Cartervillemarker. There is one major AM broadcasting station in Harrisburg, WEBQ 1240, a now country music station that has broadcast news and music to the region since the 1930s. WOOZ 99.9 FM Z100 has the trademark Today's Best Country is also based in the city. Marionmarker and Carbondalemarker radio and television stations also serve Harrisburg, and stations from Cape Girardeau and Paducah can be heard in parts of the area.

Government, healthcare, and education

Top: City Hall Bottom: School Board Headquarters.
Harrisburg is the county seat of Saline Countymarker on with a mayor and council form of government. The city has four main council members. The city has a Police Department that shares a building with the Sheriff's department with 13 sworn officers and a civilian secretary. There are 7 full-time firefighters and 15 on call members and a trained Emergency Medical Technician working for the Harrisburg Fire Department, working out of a central station. It has three fire trucks, a 65-foot snorkel, a rescue truck, a 4x4 brush truck, and a 2,000-gallon tanker truck.

The City of Harrisburg operates its own water distribution system. It has a storage capacity of 6,000,000 gallons in elevated tanks. The water processing plant has a capacity of 4,000,000 per day, while average daily consumption is about 2,500,000 gallons. The city's water treatment plant has a design capacity of 3,125,000 gallons per day. Its average load is 1,200,000 gallons per day.

Harrisburg Hospital was at one time located in a four story complex one block from the town square, but in the 1990s moved to Harrisburg Medical Center where 78 beds and 34 physicians are on staff. It also has an 18-bed psychiatric area. In 1995, the hospital completed a multimillion dollar expansion and renovation program. There are 25 nursing homes in the Harrisburg and southeastern Illinois area. Three are located within the city. Harrisburg also has several clinics and specialized physicians have offices within the city.

Harrisburg Community Unit School District 3 serves the city's student population with two K-6 elementary schools, a junior high school, and a senior high school. More than 2,300 students are enrolled in the district's schools. More than 1,300 students attend East Side and West Side Elementary schools. Malan Junior High was the main middle school for the city until 2005 when the new middle school was built in Liberty that school has 300 students enrolled. Harrisburg High School has more than 600 students enrolled. The city also has seven preschools and daycare centers. Harrisburg once had several schools within the township before the different neighborhoods were annexed, all are now closed down, a few are, Horace Mann, McKinley School, Bayliss School, Phillips School, and Ledford school.

Higher education

Southeastern Illinois College is a 2-year junior college that sits on a campus east of the city limits. 60,000 residents of Saline, Gallatin, Hardin, and Pope Counties and portions of four other counties. SIC enrolls more than 2,000 students each semester in college transfer and career education programs. SIC was founded in 1960. Other nearby local colleges and universities are Southern Illinois University campus at Carbondale Rend Lake Collegemarker, at Ina; Eastern Illinois Universitymarker, at Charleston, Shawnee Community Collegemarker at Vienna, and the University of Evansvillemarker, at Evansville, Indiana.

Harrisburg notables


  1. DeNeal, Gary, interview (2003). "The Legend of Charlie Birger". WSIU-TV.
  2. Decennial US Census
  3. Geological Survey of Illinois By Illinois. State Geologist
  4. Stiff, B. J., and A.K. Hansel, 2004, Quaternary glaciations in Illinois. in Ehlers, J., and P.L. Gibbard, eds., pp. 71-82, Quaternary Glaciations: Extent and Chronology 2: Part II North America, Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-444-51462-7

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