This past town was formerly known as Bridgeport and Brownsville. In the 1860s, William Jackson built a small station and toll bridge across the Clearwater River and named his settlement Bridgeport. A fire destroyed it during the Nez Perce War in 1877. Loyal Brown owned the land in 1893 and sold eighty acres to the Clearwater Mining Company, which mapped out a townsite and named it Brownsville after its former landowner. In 1895 the post office was established and the name changed to Harpster, after Abraham Harpster, an early settler and a pioneer of the gold-rush days.

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