Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

McHarg family’s service to community

About 1860, the McHarg family came from Maghera, Northern Ireland, because their relatives had painted such a glowing picture of life in this new country. William was a 2-year-old toddler when his parents bought land and built a large home on a hill six miles east of Columbia. Nearby, an unnamed dirt road crossed the gravel road between Columbia and Fulton. It was soon natural for people to refer to the crossroads as "Harg."

The McHarg sons included a business owner, mortician, building contractor, grocery merchant and some other career titles. The women taught at neighborhood schools, and one became principal of Benton School in Columbia for many years. By 1910, the Missouri map included Harg as a town.

William was a teenager when people built Olivet Christian Church on the northwest corner of this crossroads. In adulthood, he bought the blacksmith shop and built a store across from it.

William McHarg and Cynthia Wilkes married and built their home directly across from the church. Their family was most important in the early life of Olivet and the community. McHarg employed a blacksmith who sharpened plowshares, repaired farm machinery, buggies and did other kinds of blacksmithing.

The graveling of the Fulton Road was financed by men who were then permitted to operate a tollhouse west of the intersection, and people had to pay to have the chain let down before they could proceed on horseback, with buggy, wagon or motor vehicle. The cost ranged from 3 cents for a person on horseback to 10 cents for a wagonload of livestock or hay or a motor vehicle. There was no charge for those on foot.

McHarg’s store was the hub of community activities. People received their mail and voted there, and men of the community met there on Saturday nights to play pitch and drink soda pop. In cold weather, the church board met there to save the cost of coal and lamp oil.

People who had no telephones used both of the McHarg lines one from Columbia and the other a rural mutual line from Millersburg. The McHargs left their front door unlocked for the emergency use of their indoor plumbing. It was in the 1930s that a group of women earned the $35 necessary to buy lumber for building a nice, two-hole toilet near the north fence of the cemetery. Men built the structure one summer after the corn was laid by.

It was not irreverent for Deacon McHarg to unlock his store for business after Sunday school or on "preaching Sunday," which was the first Sunday of each month. People traded live poultry, wild nuts and berries, eggs, butter and cream for coffee, sugar, coal, oil and other things they couldn’t produce on their farms.

People were welcome to visit on the store’s front porch while eating Concord grapes from the huge vine that shaded them. As August progressed, they had cheated the birds out of a crop of delicious Concord grapes. In time, the U.S. Postal Service established McHarg’s store as a center from which Rural Free Delivery mail went to area farm mailboxes on Star Routes.

In the early 1900s, Fulton Gravel was on the most direct route between New York and California, and travelers stopped often. As travel increased, McHarg installed a gas pump at the store and hired a mechanic for the blacksmith shop. Highway 40 attracted the cross-country travelers to its smooth, straighter route, and Harg suffered the loss of business but served the community for many more years.

The old church, now 126 years old and in good condition, and the new one have enriched the lives of people in this and other communities, at least since Mom and Dad made Olivet their home church about 1916.

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