Harrisonville residents Carol Bohl, 65, and David Atkinson, 58, share a few interests and hobbies, but for the most part, they believe their community has a story worth sharing.
“It started out that we both liked to collect postcards,” Bohl said. “I used to work for the historical society and David was on the board, so we talked back and forth and just had a real passion to get pictures out because we think they are so interesting. And we hope others will find them interesting.”
The 128-page book recently produced by Bohl and Atkinson, and published by Arcadia Publishing, Harrisonville is one of the most recent additions to the publisher’s “Images of America” series.
The book, released Nov. 26, was written in honor of the 2012 celebration of Harrisonville’s 175th anniversary, boasts about 240 photographs from the 1880s to the early 1990s.
“Most of these pictures haven’t been published before,” Atkinson said. “The majority were out of peoples scrapbooks and private collections.”
Harrisonville is one of the oldest communities in western Missouri.
A book signing event was held Nov. 27 at the Harrisonville library.
Through photographs gathered from individuals, the historical society and old newspapers archives, Bohl and Atkinson searched out the stories that shaped Harrisonville’s past and present.
“We both just had a passion for the square,” said Atkinson, who owns Atkinson Funeral Home in Harrisonville. “When we decided to do the book, I was able to make contact with a lot of people I knew who had businesses on the square back when, that were still around, and a lot of them had pictures that we were able to secure.”
The book is divided into multiple sections, including Harrisonville’s beginnings and square dealings, businesses, community life and recreation.
The authors also included moments from the community’s darkest memories -- like the culture war that took place on the square in the early 1970s when two police officers and an innocent bystander were murdered -- or when the 100-year-old Hotel Harrisonville was destroyed by fire in 1983, leaving an empty lot on the square for the first time since the Civil War.
“There’s been a whole generation that grew up in Harrisonville that don’t have memories of the square, because by the 1980s, it had pretty much closed down and kids didn’t go up there like they used to,” Bohl said. “We wanted to get the stories of the people who worked up there and knew it as a vibrant area. A lot of those people are aging out.”
Bohl and Atkinson both said they learned a lot about their community as they divided the duties in putting together the book. Atkinson, a lifelong Harrisonville resident, was mostly responsible for digging up photos from the city’s past while Bohl interviewed individuals and family members appearing in the photographs, searching for their stories to tell.
“The most fun was gathering information, and getting to interview people,” Bohl said. “I interviewed several family businesses...and we both spent quite a bit of time going through newspaper archives to make sure what we said was accurate.”
Atkinson said he used old newspapers to aid in the retelling of Harrisonville’s history.
“People would give you a picture, and maybe tell you a story with a general timeframe,” Atkinson said. “Back then, the newspaper was very inclusive about anything that happened anywhere in town.”
Bohl, who has been a resident since the mid-1970s, and recently retired from the historical society, said she was surprised to learn that the city’s transportation industry was rather large back in the day.
“I had no idea there were as many filling stations as there were,” Bohl said. “Literally, every corner had one. It brings home that we were such a crossroad of transportation here because of all the roads that come into Harrisonville, and how many people made their living from the transportation industry.”
Bohl also said that Harrisonville has experienced quite a number of fires in its early history.
“Fires were a huge hazard. They burned the whole south side, it burned on the north side,” she said. “The importance of fire protection -- we take it for granted anymore -- but it was a huge threat for a long time.”
The book includes a photograph of the American Legion members who organized the first volunteer fire department formed in 1923.
The cost of the book is $21.99 and may be purchased at the Cass County Historical Society, located within the Harrisonville branch of the Cass County Library. It can also be purchased on historical society’s website, www.casscountyhistoricalsociety.com.
All proceeds from the book are being donated to the historical society.