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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of John Harnit

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations," 1878


JOHN HARNIT was formerly a prominent resident of East Bend township. He died in Mary, 1869. He had been a resident of champaign county since 1858.

He was a native ofennsylvania, in Beaver county, in which state he was born on the 25th of May, 1831. The family from which he was descended was born of Welsh origin, and settled in western Pennsylvania about the time of the close of the Revolutionary war, when that region of the country was still inhabited by the Indians. Mr. Harnit received the elementary part of his education in the common schools of his native county. He attended an academy at Darlington, Beaver county, Pennsylvania. At the age of sixteen he taught school, and subsequently for a period of three years, was a student at Hiram College in Portage county, Ohio. From that institution he went to Bethany College, West Virginia, where he completed a thorough English and classical education, and was graduate on the 4th of July, 1854, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

For a year after his graduation he had charge of a select school at Edinburg, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania, and while there was married to Miss Harriett E. WOOD.

Mrs. Harnit was born at Perry, Lake county, Ohio. Her father, Lewis WOOD, was a native of Vermont, and was a pioneer settler of the county now embraced in Lake county, Ohio.

In the year 1855, the subject of this sketch went to Eminence, Shelby county, Kentucky, and for three years was principal of a private academy at that place. He removed to Champaign county, Illinois, in 1858, and settled in East Bend township. He purchased three hundred acres of raw prairie land in section 2, township 22, range 8, and began the work of its improvement. He lived here till his death, and the farm is still the residence of his family. A view of it appears elsewhere among our illustrations. In 1861 when the war of the Rebellion was inaugurated, Mr. Harnit was in Arkansas, where he was temporarily engaged in shipping corn. His property there was seized by the rebel authorities, and he himself was compelled to return North, the presence of northern union men not being tolerated in that country. He came up the Mississippi on the last boat which ascended the river previous to the blockade at Cairo, which stopped all communication between the two sections.

He was an active Union man through the war, and a Republican in politics, warmly supporting every measure looking to the suppression of the rebellion. He enterested himself in public affairs, and served the county in several important positions. For a number of terms he was a member of the Board of Supervisors from East Bend township, and discharged the duties of that station with creditr both to his integrity and ability. He was also a member of the building committee which had in charge the construction of the county poor-house. Of this building he drew the plan, and superintended its erection from the fall of 1866 to the spring of 1868. He was a prominent candidate for the Republican nomination for superintendant of schools, and was warmly supported by a large number of friends for the position, which his previous experience as a teacher and thorough education fitted him to fill with peculiar ability.

His death was on the 19th of March, 1869. He was a member of the Masonic order, and of the Christian Church. His interest in religious matters was sincere and deep, and he materially aided the growth of the denomination with which he was connected. He assisted in organizing the Christian church at Ludlow, and a congregation which formerly worshiped on the Sangamon, in East Bend township. Of his three children, the oldest son, Samuel L. Harnit, is managing the farm in East Bend township, and Hattie M., and John F. are residing at the same locality. In the spring of 1874 Mrs. Harnit was appointed to the charge of the post-office at Ludlow, and is still filling the duties of that position with great credit and popularity.

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