The territory now known as the Town of Hartland was settled by a hardy group of pioneers from Vermont during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. The first town meeting, called April 7, 1812, resulted in the election of a supervisor, 3 assessors, 3 commissioners of highways, a tax collector, 3 overseers of the poor, a constable, one poundkeeper, and 6 pathmasters. In 1813 the number of taxable inhabitants of the town was 126. The first budget proposal included line items for highway improvement and for destroying obnoxious domestic animals left at large. By 1814 the town had elected three school commissioners and hired 3 inspectors of schools to see after the needs of the six schools then in operation. The town voted at this time to raise an amount equal to one and one-half times that provided by the state to support the schools. In 1824 the towns expanse had been appreciably reduced as a result of the establishment of the towns of Royalton, Somerset and Newfane. Through the 1800's the area remained a rugged, heavily forested wilderness despite the state's efforts to develop the "ridge road", which wasn't paved until 1914. Known for its churches, taverns, cobblestone houses and roadside farm markets the area still retains the charm and rustic qualities that made it a popular stopping-over point in the days of the stagecoach ride from Rochester to Niagara Falls.

History of the Town of Hartland:

Town of Hartland – Our Beginning

Shortly after the Revolutionary War it was discovered that a new, fertile and unsettled area existed in Western New York. Word of this new land spread and in 1803 Zebulon Barnum, Issac Southwell and John Morrison settled on or near the Ridge Road and on June first 1812 the Town of Hartland was organized. At that time, our town consisted of what would later become the Towns of Royalton, Somerset and part of the Town of Newfane. By 1824 these towns were separated and the town as we now know it remained.

Life was hard for our early settlers but opportunities were many. In 1815 there were seven school districts in town and the Ridge Road was laid out with a ninety-nine foot width. In 1822 a mill was established on Johnson’s Creek and by 1835, both the Baptists and Quakers had built their churches. Four more churches were added before 1872.

Previous to the building of the Erie Canal in 1825, this was the center of commerce and activity for the region. In 1816 Samual Morehouse built a large hotel at Hartland Corners in the hope that our town would be selected as the next County seat. However, with the completion of the Erie Canal, Lockport became the focal point of the future and The Town of Hartland remained a rural agricultural town.

The Second Hundred Years

Hartland is a rural agricultural area that contains approximately thirty one thousand acres of fertile farmland. Having changed little since its founding, the town, with much of its land still cultivated, has maintained a farming base, and, it has continued to be the goal of the governing board to keep the town rural and agricultural.

Ridge Road or Route 104, a state highway that starts at Niagara Falls and runs for over one hundred and fifty miles eastward, is the main road through town. In the middle of the twentieth century this was known as the “Honeymoon Trail” and many couples traveled this route, staying at the many small motels on their way to Niagara Falls.

The census for the year 2000 shows a population of four thousand, one hundred and sixty five persons. Basically an agricultural area, modern transportation has made it possible for an increased number of residents to live here and commute to nearby cities to work and shop.

There was a time not long ago when all residents of the Town of Hartland used well water for their fresh water needs. This was sufficient for some, but in many cases, bad tasting, or an insufficient water supply was a problem. Beginning in 1969, waterlines were installed to make county water available to many of the town’s people. Now virtually all of the town’s inhabitants are provided fresh water by this method.

We now take many conveniences for granted. Not long ago in our history we had to depend on kerosene for lights, wood or coal for heat and horse and buggy for travel. We had no fresh produce in the winter, had to go outside to use the outhouse, and God forbid, we even had to make daily trips to the post office for our mail. Comparatively, life has become quite easy. There is enough county water to satisfy our every need, and we have electric power for lighting and entertainment. When we are cold, we simply “turn up” the thermostat, and our propane, natural gas, electric or oil furnace takes care of the problem. When we want fresh produce we drive to the supermarket in our cars. Of course if there is snow on the road, the town snowplows remove it for us. Oh yes, and our mail is delivered to our home.

Hamlets in Hartland

Johnson Creek, located on Ridge Road, and about eleven miles east of Lockport, is the largest of the three hamlets in the town and derives its name from the creek that flows through it. Largely unchanged from what it was in its beginning, it has a population of about four hundred. There once were cooper shops, asherys, blacksmith shops and a cradle shop. There was a large cheese factory, carriage manufacturer, shoemaker and several stores, also a hotel, sawmill and a gristmill. With large stores now in easy reach, most residents travel to the city to shop. The hamlet is now home to The Hartland Bible Church, Chapman’s Store, Pizza Hot Café, Poor Boy’s Restaurant and the Silverado used car dealership and repair shop.

Hartland Corners is located in the western part of town, at the intersection of Ridge Road and  Hartland Road. The hamlet is home to about one hundred and fifty inhabitants. The Hartland Methodist Church, New England Sea Food, Snell’s Service Station and Wolfe Lumber Mill now serve the area. C.J. Perry’s John Deere dealership was the center of activity here for many years until closing in 2001. In the early days there was a hotel, black smith shop, shoe shop and there were always one or two stores.

North Hartland, located in the northwest part of the town is the third and smallest of our hamlets. Once there was a church, blacksmith shop, store and schoolhouse. Now, all of  these are gone and the hamlet remains a cluster of houses in a rural setting.
Roads and Transportation

Transportation in the early days of the town depended on the condition of the roads at the time of year. In the spring, roads were rutted and muddy and travel was difficult. Summer and fall was the best time to travel because the roads were dry. Winter, with its snow and ice could be fairly easy, or deep snow could prevent travel.

With the coming of concrete roads, the world would start to get smaller. Paving the Ridge Road or “The Million Dollar Highway” through the town was completed in 1914. During the years that followed, all of the roads would be paved, making it easier to get produce to market and for residents to travel. In 1928 a bus line began running from Lyndonville to Lockport. This, along with the increased availability of cars, would now allow rural inhabitants to travel to the city to work and shop.

Present day churches include the Hartland Bible Church, formerly the Hartland Baptist, located on the Johnson Creek Road in the hamlet of Johnson Creek. This 1833 building is the oldest of the still standing churches.

Next, in order of age is the 1859 Hartland Methodist Church at Hartland Corners. In 1944 the old Methodist Church at North Hartland combined with this church, and in 1949 the North Hartland building was torn down, and the materials were used to build a new wing on the present building at Hartland Corners.

The United Methodist Church is located on the Quaker Road. The original 1843 wood frame building burned and the present brick edifice was built in 1873.

The newest of the town’s churches is Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The 1970 building stands on the Stone Road near the Village of Middleport.

By the turn of the century there were eighteen school districts in the town, each one turning out their share of future leaders for our country. These one-room schools taught children from kindergarten through eighth grade. District schools taught the basic “reading writing and arithmetic”, but teachers also tried to help children grow in other ways. About 1925 in Hartland District 10 School, “a play, for the enjoyment of parents and guests” was put on in the evening. With lanterns for light, the children acted out scenes from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. As may be imagined, many interesting things took place in these classrooms. An event described by one of the students attending District 10 School around 1930 is of interest. “Children playing, knocked the top off of the old pot belly stove, and the thing rolled down on the floor; then the stovepipes that ran the entire length of the building began to fall. There was dirt all over, clouds of soot rising in the air and hot coals all over the floor. Water from the drinking bucket, was poured on the coals and then all was shoveled outside.”

Upon completing grade school many students chose to continue their education by attending either Barker, Gasport or Middleport High Schools. Students had to find their own transportation and would walk or make arrangements to ride. The first recorded “bus” transportation to the Middleport High School was provided in 1924 by Edith Morphet who transported children to school in the back of her pick up truck. Three boards fastened across its back would each seat four children, and a canvas cover protected them from the weather. A ladder was used for the children to get in and out.

These one-room buildings were used until the schools were centralized. For the most part, this was around 1948. Students currently attend Royalton Hartland Central School in Middleport, Barker Central School, or Gasport Central School. A few students attend Medina Central School.
Postal Service

Early in the town’s history people were required to travel to the local Post Office to pick up their mail. Post offices were located in stores at Johnson Creek, Hartland Corners, North Hartland, and North Ridgeway. With the beginning of rural free delivery in 1896, these would close because they were no longer needed.
Family and Home Security

Some area individuals saw the need for emergency transportation of injured or ill persons to the hospital. In 1968 Tri-Town Ambulance Inc. was formed to serve the towns of Hartland, Royalton and Lockport. Members of the volunteer service have ambulances available at their Middleport facility, Gasport Fire Hall and another at the new Tri-Town building on Ridge Road near Johnson Creek

About this time another group of concerned town’s people saw the need for fire protection, and organized the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company Inc. The fire hall was built in 1971 and after two years of intensive training they went into service.

Early in the development of the town, constables were elected to protect the public. Currently, we have police protection by the Niagara County Sheriff, State Police and the Middleport Police Department.
Fraternal and other Organizations

No history is complete without describing the many organizations that our town’s people belonged to through the years. By seeing this, we can understand just what these people thought most important. The older organizations include: “The North Ridgeway Debating Society” which existed during the 1840s and 1850s. In 1852 the “Anti-swearing Society” was organized. A constitution was drafted stating that if any member used profane or immoral language they “shall have a fair trial, after which the member will be fined, acquitted or expelled”. “Lodge No. 800 of the International Order of Good Templars” was an organization that promoted the abstinence of intoxicating beverages. The “Women’s Christian Temperance Union” (W.C.T.U.) believed that the consumption of alcohol effected health, happiness and family unity. This organization led the fight that ended in 1919 with the passage of the eighteenth amendment (the prohibition against producing or selling alcoholic beverages). “Hartland Masonic Lodge No. 218” was established at Johnson’s Creek in 1851. The organization meets at the Masonic Hall in this hamlet. The “Hartland Grange No. 1190” was organized in 1910 “by a group of men and women united by strong and faithful ties of agriculture, resolved to labor for the good of their country and of mankind and to develop a better and higher manhood and womanhood among themselves”. Their hall was built on the Johnson Creek Road in 1923. “The Hartland Conservationists Club” was formed in 1933 and built their clubhouse on the Orangeport Road in 1948. The “Hartland Historical Society” was organized in 1985 and hold monthly meetings. They now own and are restoring Hartland District 10 (cobblestone) School. The “Johnson Creek Senior Citizens Club” was organized in 1970 and meet biweekly at the Hartland Fire Company building.

There are seven cemeteries in the town, of which only two are still active, the Hartland Central Cemetery on Ridge Road and St Patrick’s on Carmen Road. The Hartland Cemetery is of the greatest historical importance. This Cemetery contains the grave of Hiram Southwell, who died in 1807. This is the oldest marked grave in Niagara County. There is also the grave of Henry Bickford, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his part in stopping the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman, Virginia during the Civil War. There are markers on graves from the 1820s to the present, including veterans of all our countries conflicts.

Our Future

There are no schools in the Town of Hartland, and even the railroad and the Erie Barge Canal have passed us by. It has left us just what we are, and want to be, a peaceful rural agricultural community, and it allows us to experience the quietness that goes along with this remote lifestyle. Of course we have the option of traveling to Lockport or other cities to work, for entertainment or to shop, but at the end of the day we know that we can come home to this serene community.


Norm LaJoie

Town of Hartland Historian