The Villages of Hartford, NY (1812-1830)
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, 1812-1830

The chief item of our story in the time between 1812 and 1830, is the growth of numerous small industries in and about the villages. It was an era throughout the country of small mills, where was manufactured everything that could be needed by the inhabitants. It is also probable that at this time the water power of the local streams was greater and more reliable, as there were large areas of virgin forest covering the hillsides. Of the increasing summer shrinkage of the streams, due to the denuding of the hills for agriculture, there can be little doubt. Later the existence of the small plants became increasingly difficult, as larger and better capitalized plants operated by steam made production on a large scale practicable.

Among the local establishments in the village of Hartford, we can mention W. W. Gillet's harness shop, in which ten to twelve men were constantly employed. This shop was the building now occupied by Melvin Duel. Amasa Ruggles carried on the manufacture of hats in an extensive manner. Mention has already been made of the cabinet shops. Sylvanus Hatch's shop was in the Mary Liddle house. Hatch did very fine cabinet work. Desks made by him have sold recently for three or four hundred dollars. Outside of the town on the branch of the East Creek were clothing works and carding mills, conducted by Joel and Samuel Downs, and afterward by Reuben Dexter. These stood below the old dam, just east of the village, by William Simpkins's. This dam was constructed in 1814 by Isaac Norton. There was also an old tannery conducted by Amby Higby which had been converted into a cooperage. The grist and saw mill further up the creek was apparently in the hands of David Austin, probably the junior. From the Austins it passed into the hands of the Norman Allen family. The boot and shoe shops in both the villages supplied footwear for the entire community; Parks & Carlisle at North Hartford employed forty men by 1850. Of the several stores we can definitely mention that of Samuel Harris in a brick structure on the site of the present Masonic Hall. The hotel during this period was in charge of Benjamin Hyde, who was succeeded by John P. Wood.

At South Hartford the grist and flouring mills continued in operation, as well as the saw mill, which turned out lumber for the more commodious houses then being built. Levi Hatch operated the tannery. There was at some date a plaster mill that was later converted into a planing mill. There was also a hat factory north of the village opposite the Helen Townsend place. Of the stores, of which there must have been more than one, we can definitely mention only the one kept by the Harris family. The carding mill of Russell Smith, below the main water power site, was operated during part of this period. We must not forget the clothing works of John Scott.

At East Hartford there was the tannery owned and conducted by John Park. The meager water power supplied the mills of Zadok Harris. He also operated, besides a grist and saw mill, a clothing and carding mill. Of the early stores in this village we cannot fix the date. Possibly Fred Baker, succeeded by John Carlisle, may have done business here by 1830.

Another early small village center was the four corners on the Smith's Basin road beyond the farm now occupied by D. L. Hall, Jr. There was a tavern here known as the Saville House, and nearby was a blacksmith shop operated by Manning Bull. The importance of this center was due to the fact it was on one of the main roads from the Granvilles to Fort Edward.

It was during this year that the greatest amount of traffic passed over the north and south highway through the villages. From the beginning of the century this had been a post road, so that the town was in close touch with the outside world. A post office had been established in the north village as early as 1807, with Aaron Norton as first postmaster. It was not until 1820 that one was established in the south village, with Joseph Harris as postmaster.

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