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William S. Harsha, who since 1907 has continuously engaged in the real estate business in Muskogee and who at different periods in his life has been connected with various business enterprises which have constituted factors in the commercial development and up building of the state, was born in Albia, Monroe county, Iowa, February 8, 1857, and is a son of Samuel and Martha (Harrison) Harsha, who were natives of Pennsylvania and Virginia respectively. The father was a shoemaker by trade and in 1855 went to Iowa, settilng at Keokuk, where he remained for one winter.
He next removed to Albia, Iowa, where he worked at his trade until 1857. He then engaged in general merchandising in Kansas, becoming a resident of that state in 1857. In 1864 he established a general store at Greeley, Anderson county, Kansas, and devoted his remaining days to the conduct of the business, his death occurring in 1867, while his wife passed away in 1865.
William S. Harsha was reared and educated in Kansas and was only ten years of age when left an orphan. He worked upon farms to the age of eighteen years and during the winter months attended school, thus acquiring his education. In the school of experience he has learned many valuable lessons and, possessing an observing eye and retentive memory, he has constantly promoted his knowledge. He started out in the commercial world as a clerk in a store at Richmond, Kansas, where he was employed for two years, and on the 18th of November, 1876, he came to Muskogee.
Later, however, he obtained a position in a store at Okmulgee and there continued until 1880, when he again came to Muskogee and here entered the employ of J. F. Turner purchasing into establish in the business a year later. During his first year’s connection with Mr. Turner he did not know what his salary was to be, but at the end of the year he was paid one thousand dollars for his services.
With no written agreement or declaration of partnership. other than verbal, he and Mr. Turner continued in business together for seventeen years under the style of J. E. Turner & Company. At the end of that time Mr. Turner’s health failed and he retired, his interest being acquired by H. B. Spaulding, after which the business was carried on under the firm style of Harsha & Spaulding for three years. In 1901 Mr. Harsha disposed of his interest in the business to his partner and acquired an interest with C. W. Turner in a business at Choska, Oklahoma, in 1902, and his son Hoy became secretary and treasurer of the company, the business being carried on under the style of the Choska Trading Company, with William S. Harsha as President and C. W. Turner as Vice President. In 1903 they removed the business to Porter, Oklahoma, and there remained until 1907. During the same period Mr. Harsha was also engaged in the cattle business, devoting his time to both interests. In 1907 he turned his attention to real estate activity in Muskogee and he was also at one time president of the Canadian Valley Trust Company of Muskogee, which failed, however, in the panic of 1907. For a period of more than fourteen years Mr. Harsha has devoted his attention and energies to real estate dealing and has gained a large clientage, negotiating many important property transfers.
In September, 1878, Mr. Harsha was married to Miss Laura Newcomb and they have become the parents of nine children, as follows: Hoy L., who is cashier of the Haskell National Bank at Haskell, Oklahoma, and is mentioned elsewhere in this work; Rex S., a carpenter of Muskogee; Frances W., the wife of Dr. W. V. Ryan, a dentist of New York city; W. N., who is engaged in the oil business at Haskell; Anna, the wife of J. F. Brandon of Benton, Kentucky; Truman V., who is residing in Muskogee and is employed as bookkeeper by Armour & Company; Isora E. and Roscoe, both deceased; and Edith N., who became the wife of R. W. Bigby of North Carolina and died leaving three children.
Mr. Harsha has always voted with the republican party since age conferred upon him the right of franchise and he has served as a member of the city council of Muskogee for two years but is always content to do his public service as a private citizen. He is counted upon to further any plan or measure for the general good and he is interested in every effort for the city’s betterment. Fraternally he is connected with the Knights of Pythias and with the Masons and exemplifies in his life the beneficent spirit and purposes of these orders.