La Harpe, Illinois

La Harpe
The former Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad tracks through La Harpe.
Country United States
State Illinois
County Hancock
Coordinates 40°34′59″N 90°58′8″W / 40.58306°N 90.96889°W / 40.58306; -90.96889Coordinates: 40°34′59″N 90°58′8″W / 40.58306°N 90.96889°W / 40.58306; -90.96889
Area 1.36 sq mi (4 km2)
 - land 1.36 sq mi (4 km2)
 - water 0.00 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 1,385 (2000)
Density 1,021.8/sq mi (395/km2)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 61450
Area code 217
Location of La Harpe within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons: La Harpe, Illinois

La Harpe is a city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States. The population was 1,385 at the 2000 census.


La Harpe is located at 40°34′59″N 90°58′08″W / 40.582925°N 90.968770°W / 40.582925; -90.968770,[1] along the South Branch La Moine River.

According to the 2010 census, La Harpe has a total area of 1.36 square miles (3.52 km2), all land.[2]


During the 18th century, French explorers headed by Bernard de la Harpe were forced to spend the winter just north of the present city of La Harpe, Illinois. About 1896, four stone tablets dated June 15, 1715 and inscribed in French were reportedly found a few miles east of the old fortication built by the explorers. Stones were conveniently translated locally by the only French family in town as follows: "We are surrounded by indians and have no hope for survival unless help soon arrives." Said stone tablets were reported to be sent to the Smithsonian for authentication, and were ruled a hoax. Their whereabouts are currently unknown.

Soon after 1830, landowners in the area began to develop a town which they called Franklin. In 1836, they applied for a post office and were informed another town in Illinois was already named Franklin. The first postmaster, Louis Rice Chaffin, suggested the name be registered as La Harpe, for the Frenchman who spent the winter over 100 years earlier. The City of La Harpe was granted a charter by the Illinois legislature in 1859. The charter was amended in 1861 to change the size of the town, and the boundaries have changed through the years. Today the city has 22 streets and avenues.

The Toledo, Peoria and Western depot in La Harpe, June 1963

In 1867, the TP&W railroad line was completed through the town. In 1888, the City council bought the first fire engine, but a fire in October 1893 still destroyed nearly all the businesses in one block of Main Street. City Hall was built in 1894. The election of 1895 was the first election in which the women of LaHarpe were allowed to vote on the issue of liquor licenses (The women had a separate ballot box). The La Harpe Carnegie Public Library was built in 1905, with local support and a donation from Andrew Carnegie. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The City Park was donated by Marvin Tyron, one of the town's founders, as a public square.

In 1986, La Harpe celebrated 150 years of history. During that year, a Sesquicentennial History entitled La Harpe, Illinois, 1836-1986 was published.

Each summer the town celebrates during the annual Summerfest on the town square. In addition, the annual Fred Gibb Car Show is held in August. Mr. Gibb's claim to fame was the sponsor of the original ZL-1 COPO Camaros and Novas during the pony car era of the early 1970s.

Today, many of the surviving buildings in La Harpe's business districts, including the City Hall, are on the National Register of Historic Places. La Harpe has the only 4-story building in Hancock County. The park district includes a community club house, swimming pool, LaMoine Valley golf course and a complex of lighted ball fields. The city park has a lighted shelter house and stage.


Illini West High School

In August 2007, La Harpe High School, as well as Dallas City and Carthage High Schools, were deactivated through the first school convergence to be approved by voters in the state of Illinois. Former La Harpe students are now attending the newly formed Illini West High School in Carthage, Illinois.

La Harpe Grade School/Jr. High

La Harpe continues to host the La Harpe Community School District. The La Harpe Community School District provides a quality education to grades K-8, and serves as a feeder district to the Illini West High School. Currently completing phase 1 of our renovation and expansion program, the 1958 building has been remodeled to current building codes to meet the needs of our District. Phase 2 will include the demolition of the 1929 building, and the installation of a new hardwood gym floor, and insulated ceiling in the gym. Phase 3 will be the demolition of the current superintendents office, "old band shack", cafeteria, and the Corry house. This will follow up with the construction of new office space for the administration, 3-4 additional classrooms, new cafeteria, multi-purpose room, handicapped accessible restrooms, as well as tie in the existing 1960 building, library addition, & Johnson Building into one structure. Shuttling children between classes out doors will be a thing of the past. This modern school should meet the needs of our community and the surrounding areas for years to come. Phase 4, pending funds availability could include a new self-contained bus facility on site.

LaHarpe Elementary was recently named an Illinois Spotlight School. A Spotlight School is a high poverty school where academic performance is closing the “achievement gap”.

The La Harpe Community School district currently coop's junior high sports with our neighbors to the west, Dallas City. This successful program has provided our students with athletic opportunities that would have been unaffordable on our own. Since each school serves as the administrative district in a different sport, the local mascots and colors (La Harpe Eagles, purple & gold, Dallas City Bulldogs, red and black) live on in the program. In addition, student at both schools form friendships that will follow them through high school, as Dallas City also is a feeder district with Illini West.

La Harpe High School

In 1996, the Northwestern-La Harpe Thunder football team was the first athletic team with La Harpe High School students to ever participate in the IHSA State Finals. They were defeated 35-28 by the Chenoa Redbirds. In 2000, the team once again made it to the IHSA State Finals and were defeated by the Carthage Blueboys 14-0.

In 1839, a log cabin was built to be used as a blacksmith shop. After a few years it became the first school house in La Harpe. The log cabin served as a school house until 1844, when it was sold and became a blacksmith shop again. The next school building was a brick building that had an enrollment of 98 students. This building served as a public school until the academy was built in 1857. The Academy was located on the present site of the elementary school building. A new building was built in 1898 for a larger student body. This building served as the high school and elementary school until it was destroyed by fire in 1927. A new structure was built in 1929. The new building is now our present elementary school building. The school became La Harpe Community School District on April 20, 1942. In 1958, the current high school building was built. On May 2, 1961, the former La Harpe Community School District #335 was formed from the communities of Fountain Green, Terre Haute, La Harpe, and Durham. On May 27, 2007, the high school hosted its final graduation.

Park District

Notable people


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20151,197[5]−3.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]

As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 1,385 people, 561 households, and 383 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,021.8 people per square mile (393.2/km²). There were 604 housing units at an average density of 445.6 per square mile (171.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 99.78% White, 0.07% from other races, and 0.14% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.14% of the population.

There were 561 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.0% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.6% were non-families. 29.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 21.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,589, and the median income for a family was $37,708. Males had a median income of $31,250 versus $20,400 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,586. About 4.6% of families and 7.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.9% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.


  1. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  2. "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  3. Ham, Eldon L. (2011). Broadcasting Baseball: A History of the National Pastime on Radio and Television. McFarland. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-786-48635-9. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  4. Dunning, John. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press, 1998; ISBN 0-19-507678-8
  5. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  6. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  7. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.

Town library

La Harpe school websites

Local newspaper websites

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