Tracks of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad reached Harvard on December 20, 1871. The town was surveyed in March 1872 and platted on a section of land pre-empted by Newman W. Brass, George Van Gilder, Elijah J. Stone, and Levi W. Mosher. They sold this land for $500 per quarter section to Charles F. Morse of the Eastern Land Association, a company which developed town sites along the railroad. Harvard was named by a railroad employee to follow Grafton as one of as series of towns on the line christened in alphabetical order. Harvard was incorporated as a Village on July 1, 1873. It became a Second Class City in 1879, and W. J. Turner served as the first Mayor. Because the population was less than 1500, it returned to Village status in 1880, only to become a Second Class City again in 1886. During the 1870's Harvard vied with other towns to become the county seat of Clay County. After several disputed elections, Clay Center was selected as the location of the Courthouse in 1879.