A Town with Five Names
By Dana Lohrey
When I was growing up in Clearwater in the 1950s and 1960s, the small community of Harpster, about seven miles northeast of us, always seemed to me like an extension of our town. Whenever we wanted to travel to Grangeville, it was necessary to go through or by Harpster, which lies thirteen miles northeast of Grangeville and nine miles south of Stites. From Clearwater, we could either take the Wall Creek Road or proceed straight from Clearwater four miles west down the Sally Ann Road to State Highway 13 and continue south through Harpster along the scenic Clearwater River Valley. Harpster was always protected from the cold winds of the surrounding Camas Prairie and mountains by high encircling hills.
Our family knew many of the early Harpster residents and interacted with them at area events. We frequently visited with the Kidder, Gribble, Morrow, and Spears families. I remember going into the old Harpster Store, which I think was typical of other community general mercantile stores and appeared to be well-stocked. The Harpster Post Office was located in the store, and Ida Ferguson was the postmaster. The building later burned. Up the hill a short distance from the store and residences was the old Harpster School, a fairly large building with a good-sized kitchen. It was sturdy and today serves as the community center.
Nowadays, the layout of the townsite is much the same as it was in its earlier days and it looks clean and respectable. A short distance above town, the Harpster Cemetery offers a beautiful panoramic view of the South Fork of the Clearwater River. The town’s current population is about two hundred, which makes it larger than Clearwater.