The Villages of Hartford, NY
From: The Story of Hartford, A History
Compiled by: Mrs. Isabella Brayton, Town Historian
in collaboratin with John B. Norton.
Hartford, NY 1929

The Villages

By 1800 the township had assumed a settled appearance. Besides the clearings where farming was carried on, on a more satisfactory basis, trading centers had grown up about the town and small local industries serving the new community were springing up. There was the trading center, mentioned before, in the western part of the town where John Kincaid did an extensive business until his death in 1804. Before his arrival in Hartford he had conducted business in Lansingburg, where his was the second store. On the corner a tavern was built sometime at an early date, and tanneries.

North Hartford also grew up as a trading center, but was for some time smaller than the western hamlet. Colonel John Buck opened a store where Dairymple now lives. M his death he was succeeded by an Aaron Norton who had come up a few years previously from Martha’s Vineyard to Whitehall. John Hamel put up his store on the same corner, which was then known as Reynolds’s Corner, why we are unable to say. If a man by the name of Reynolds lived or owned land near by, it was before 1800. The record of road taxes begins in 1801 and no such name appears.

Ethil Cummings conducted an inn in a two-story building that was later taken over and enlarged by Aaron Norton. This structure stood until burned in 1860, and was replaced by the former hotel structure, now the Grange Hall. It was a two-story building shaped somewhat like the newer one, but lower and occupied a larger area. There was subsequently constructed a basement which was finished off for a shop or two, and approached from the street down a flight of stone stairs. Behind this rambling structure were the stables. The inn was at first painted red.

By 1789 the first Baptist meeting house of logs had been built near the present drug store site. A few years after on the same corner was built a frame church, which was one of the landmarks of the whole vicinity. A mile to the east the water power site had been developed by Isaac Norton, who operated grist and saw mills. Further down the stream near the village, distilleries were operated by Hoffman and John Hamel. One stood on the bend in the road opposite the Norton homestead. South Hartford grew up near the water power furnished by East Creek.

A man by the name of Foster built a mill of logs there as early as 1790. We have seen that Daniel Brown soon took over his interests. The grist mill erected there was the first in town. In 1810, General William Covell purchased this property. Another saw mill was built further down the stream by Caleb Brown, and another known as Moon’s Mill was swept away by a flood in 1811. A tannery was established there by Daniel Brown soon after settlement, also a potashery by Daniel Mason. The tannery for a long time did a flourishing business, which was operated after 1800 for some years by Calvin Townsend before passing to the Hatch family. South Hartford was also the center of considerable mercantile activity for the surrounding country. Two stores were opened about the same time in 1795, one by Caleb Brown and another by Daniel Mason, the latter in the house now owned by Edward Gibson. Caleb Brown built a tavern before 1797, as his first license bears the date of February 1st of that year. It is signed by Asahel Hodge and John Kincaid, commissioners of excise. In 1802 a large tavern building was erected by the same Caleb Brown at the south end of the village and was kept by him until his death in 1837. The structure still remains almost as it was built and it is now occupied by James Alexander. About 1800, J. P. Webb kept a public house on the site of the house now owned by A. S. Phillips.

At East Hartford the water power is meager, but was put to use by settlers to operate grist and saw mills. Laban Bump built the first saw mill there, which was later acquired by Zadok Harris. Hezekiah Mann built the first grist mill, which was operated at a later date by the Ingails family. In 1800 John Park carried on a tanning business which continued until 1850. In 1810 Elijah Dixon erected the brick house which he used as a tavern for a short period.

The chief mill-site was, however, near the geographical center of the township on the large bend in East Creek, just under the hill near the road that branches off the Smiths Basin road by the old Gibbs place. It was here that Jonathan Cable for many years in the early history of Hartford operated a mill which we shall find was the center from which the roads of that section once radiated. This mill appears to have been purchased later by Moone, a fact which gives the name Moone Hole to this once important spot. A mile or more further down East Creek was Deake’s Mill. The number of the mills on the creek caused it sometimes to be referred to as Mill Creek. About the township were scattered several other smaller mills, such as one operated jointly by Samuel Bowen and John Martin on Hugh Osborne’s farm above the village.

In 1788 there is mention of the existence of schools, one of which is known to have been conducted in 1790 at the North Village by Thomas Payne of Connecticut, and shortly afterward the town was laid out in districts and schools established about the township. The bounds of the districts have been so frequently changed that few would recognize the original descriptions. The original school houses must have been log structures on sites sometimes far removed from present school buildings. The first school building at South Hartford was situated a half mile below the village, near where the two roads from Argyle converge below James Durkee’s farm.


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