In 1803, Reverend Thomas Harrison, grandfather of Theopolis, arrived in Illinois, and unknown wilderness. Ten years later he built a cotton gin, the beginning of a very successful milling business. Harrison, who migrated from N. Carolina, was of Scot-Irish descent. He had 10 children. By 1831 the Harrisons built the first steam operated mill in the state. The mill, at the west end of Main Street on Richland Creek, burned down and was rebuilt. By 1844, Harrison Mills reported annual sales of a million dollars.
Another Harrison enterprise in Belleville was Harrison machine Works. Theopolis Harrison, a grandson of Reverend Thomas, invested in Middlecoff’s Agricultural Equipment Foundry in 1855. For 95 years, HMW manufactured threshing machines, steam engines, straw carriers and pea pickers. It should be noted that in 1838, Thomas Harrison served as “President” of the Town of Belleville. In addition to his milling enterprise, Harrison built the “Mansion House” in 1840. It was the site of many historical happenings in Belleville including the infamous Charles Dickens. The Lincoln Theater replaced the Mansion House in 1920.