The land for this township had been surveyed by the government in 1848-49 with the township lines and subdivisions plainly marked.
The first settlers to this area in 1854 was John Thompson and A. Beals, who improved the west half of section 35. Fall of the same year, Abraham Myers located on the east half of section 17 and began building a log cabin for his family however, before the roof was on, he took sick and died leaving a wife and two sons. After the first shock was over his widow and sons decided to remain and improve the farm and for many years they provided welcome entertainment and shelter for travelers.
In the fall of 1855, Dr. J. A, Day came to Union County and in the following spring, built a house in the thriving town of Highland, where for eight years he was Postmaster and for a longer period kept the Highland House, providing refreshment for travelers. At the same time while improving a farm, he was engaged in the practice of his profession, riding for a distance of twenty miles south and west. In 1856 Mathew A. and Joseph R. Day improved the northwest quarter of section 27. In 1857 Benjamin Wray with his wife and family settled in the township, improving a farm on section 29. The same year James Lamb improved the northwest quarter of section 23. John D. Wright arrived in 1858 to improve on the northeast quarter of section 23.
The town of Highland was platted in 1855 in section 25 near the center of the county. It grew rapidly and contested for the County Seat, but when Afton won it in 1857, Highland was soon deserted.
The civil township as organized in 1857 included all of what was later to become Grant and Sand Creek Townships. On 02 March 1857, a petition was presented by A. G. Barnes and others to the court asking for a new township to be called Highland township. The court ordered an election be held in the town of Highland in the township on the first Monday of April 1857 at the house of H. Prentice for the purpose of electing three trustees, one clerk, two constables and two justices of the peace to serve in the township. As the highest point between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is found this township, Highland was an appropriate name.
As in other prairie townships of the county, the growth of settlement was slow until arrival of the railroad in 1869. The county poor farm was located in section 12 of Highland Township. Information from 1908 Union County History by George A Ide
The County Home Cemetery and Graceland Cemetery are located in Highland Township