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Proprietors from Hartford, those whose names appeared on the tax lists of 1720, were originally given the western land grants called Hart(ford)land, now known as the Town of Hartland. The first permanent settler in this area was Thomas Giddings, who came here from Lyme, June 12, 1754. The town was incorporated in 1761 and grew rapidly in population. Only a few short years thereafter, 359 troops were raised for Revolutionary War service in the Continental Army.
The streams on the East and West Mountains were sources of water power and the "Hollow" was fertile bottom land. By 1800 the population reached 1,318. Much of the land had been cleared. Saw mills, grist mills, tanneries, and shops were operating. In 1836 John Ward and Sons began a calico mill and print works, the largest industry ever to be operated within the borders of Hartland.
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The sunsets drew the settlers' eyes to the Western Lands. Many families left for Ohio, where their capacity for work, evidenced by the numerous stone walls in Hartland, would be better rewarded in the deep black soils. Titus Hayes with a group of friends made the "First Exodus" in 1811. The near starvation of the local population in 1816, the "Year With No Summer" and killing frost in every month, inspired another exodus. Only in recent years has the population returned to its late 18th century level.
The abandoned farms soon grew to brush and sprout. Blueberries grew everywhere and they formed an important part of the cash crop of local farmers into the 1940's. Many farms were bought up by the State of Connecticut or agents of the Metropolitan District Commission in the 1930's. These collectively own about three-fourths of the town today. Again forested, with its fertile low land beneath the waters of the Barkhamsted Reservoir, Hartland typifies early rural New England.
Erected by the Town of Hartland
and the Connecticut Historical Commission