Harrisonville was founded in 1837 upon land donated to Cass
County by Congress for county purposes, and was named for Congressman Albert
G. Harrison, who was instrumental in obtaining the land grant. The area
suffered greatly during the American Civil War, though Harrisonville was
one of the few places exempted in Union General Thomas Ewing's
notorious General Order No. 11 (1863), which ordered the depopulation of
three entire Missouri counties and part of a fourth.
1972, Harrisonville was the site of escalating tensions between a handful of
would-be hippies—mostly Vietnam veterans—and town elders, which culminated
in a brief rampage by 25-year-old Charlie "Ootney" Simpson. In the
town square, in plain view of onlookers, he killed two police officers and a
bystander before shooting himself. The victims were Officers Donald Marler and
Francis Wirt and local businessman Orville Allen. His motivation turned out to
be personal, not political; he had saved money to buy a farm, but the seller
had recently backed out of the deal, and Simpson had used the money to bail his
friends out of jail.
A. Brown House, Harrisonville Courthouse Square Historic District,
and St. Peter's Episcopal Church are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.