Town Hartford

Source: Washington County, Wisconsin : past and present; by Quickert, Carl, ed
Publication date : 1912
Publisher Chicago : S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.

It is thought that a Canadian by the name of Jehial Case was the first white man who lived in the town of Hartford. He was a squatter or a man who made himself at home on a piece of land without having a title of Uncle Sam. It is not known when he came.

Timothy Hall who arrived in July, 1843, found him in a log shanty. In the fall or winter following he sold his claim, consisting of a small clearing and the hut, to a settler named Scheitz. The first settler who took up land was the aforesaid Timothy Hall. One day he arrived with his wife and worldly belongings on an ox-cart from Milwaukee, to the great surprise of the Canadian squatter. He settled on Section 12 and built his shanty, the second one in the town. It later for many years served as an inn, for it lay half way between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac, and many a weary traveler hailed it in those railroadless days.

The first post-office was set up here. The first German settler whose name appears in the realty records was Nicolaus Simon. He and another German, John Theil, arrived in 1843 from Prairieville (now Waukesha), on a landseeking trip. They walked around Pike lake, on the shore of which they struck a village of Pottawatomies. The Indians had a different, and it seems more appropriate, name for Pike lake. They called it "Nokum," or Heart lake, and the lake actually is heart-shaped. While Theil stayed on the land, Simon returned to Prairieville to tell the two Rossman brothers of the rapids of the Rubicon river at the place which furnished the site for the city of Hartford, and to coax them to come along and to improve of the splendid opportunity to harness a water power.

In the summer of 1844 he returned with them, and they bought 40 acres of land adjoining the river. In the fall of the same year they built a dam, and in the following spring a sawmill.

In 1846 a flouring mill droned complacently on the river bank. Thus the nucleus of the city of Hartford had been created. More settlers had come in 1844, and at the end of the year thirty entries had been made, but only about fifteen families had actually settled. In the four years following the noise of the ax in some pioneer's brawny fists echoed through nearly every section of primeval forest.

The town's first name was Wayne which was subsequently changed into Benton, then into Wright and finally the popular predilection settled on the name Hartford. The greater number of the settlers were Yankees who took the leadership in civic affairs.

The first poll list, that of the election in November, 1846, contains almost exclusively English names. In April, 1846, the first town meeting was held in the home of E. O. Johnson. The chairman was John G. Chapman, and the secretary John Barney. Town officers were elected and votes were cast in favor of the admission of Wisconsin to the statehood, the removal of the county seat to the county farm, and the raising of a school tax of one-fourth of one per cent of the assessment. There were forty-two voters present.