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§ Charles A. Spaulding
A History of Hartford
153 pg transcript

§ Katherine Minshall Early History of Hartford and Lawrence 12 pgs.
§ Eli Fayette Ruggles Recollections of A Busy Life circa 1904

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Main Street
Hartford, Michigan
Late 1800s, early 1900s

     Before blacktop roads, cars, or traffic jams, Hartford was a busy, social community.  This photo is believe to be prior to 1900.  Look closely in the middle of the photo, there is a horse and buggy coming down Main Street.  Other horses and buggies are tied to hitching post on each side of the street.  There is actually detail of many community folk sitting on benches or walking by in front of the stores.  Even names of the stores are faintly visible on hanging signs or as advertisements on the roll-up awnings….Vienna bakery, clothing store, a restaurant.  Notice the top architectural design of the stores in the foreground.  Many of these Main Street stores are still standing in the year 2002.  Some of the lower portions of the stores have been remodeled over the years, but the outside upper levels remain virtually the same.  The photographer of this picture was standing in the middle of the road near Ely Park and facing easterly toward the Village of Lawrence.
     In 1877, a fire nearly destroyed the business part of Hartford.   Another fire also took out a large portion of the Main Street business district in 1969, which is the mid-right area of this photo.  

This is a photo of a bustling downtown Hartford looking west toward Watervliet.  Date is unknown, however, is believed to be about 1911.  Anderson Electric Plant converted to electric in 1900, furnishing Hartford with it’s first electric lights (note in the top photo that there were no electric lines).  The only car in this photo is directly behind the foremost horse and carriage.  On August 8, 2010, Larry Blyly reports that after extensive research and discussions, it has been determined that the car in the old Hartford picture is a 1909 Ford Model T called a "Tourabout." ….. no doors and the same seats front and rear.   Doesn’t establish the date other than it can’t be before 1909. 
Ely Park is located in the upper-right.  Notation at the upper right states: Photo – Schneider

Photo contributed in 2006 by Donna Knapp Broadhurst (HHS 1956)
 Electric Plant and car information furnished by Larry Blyly (HHS 1946)


Excerpt from Chapter 11 of Dr. Willis Dunbar’s book,  How It Was in Hartford, regarding automobiles in the village:  

     The identity of the first resident of Hartford to acquire an automobile is difficult to establish.  The local newspaper records that by mid-1909 there were twenty-four cars in the village.  At that time, tinkerers all over the country were building automobiles, and it is interesting to note that two of those twenty-four in Hartford had been built locally.  One had been constructed by Floyd Leach, a local mechanic who previously had invented a spray rig run by a gasoline engine for the use of fruit-growers.

The Gasoline Buggy Arrives
     Evidence that the operation of those twenty-four cars on the streets had become a matter of concern is provided by the fact that the village council passed an ordinance establishing a speed limit of six miles per hour in the business district and eight miles per hour elsewhere in the town.  That same spring, it was announced that Clare Leach was going to build the town’s first garage.  Ironically enough, it was to be constructed on a vacant lot right next to Griswold’s blacksmith shop.  No one dreamed that eventually these new gasoline buggies would put the blacksmiths out of business.  Nor could anyone have had the faintest conception of the extent to which the automobile would ultimately transform the life of the people in the village. 

A Sunny Afternoon in Hartford
circa early 1900s?


 – Photo courtesy of Tom and Chris Norden.
Note:  Directional references N – S – E – W 
are to aid viewer navigation and not meant as an exact reference.

     Picture postcard is of downtown with a view of early life in Hartford. The photographer was on the south side of Main, near Center Street, with Ely Park toward the west in the picture, where the tree is shown just above the little boy’s head. 
     A sign above the man in coveralls, in the middle of the picture, reads "Dunbar".  There was a Dunbar Meat Market that Dr. Willis Dunbar writes about in Chapter 2 of his book,
How It Was in Hartford.  He writes that "Around the turn of the century he (Dr. Dunbar’s father) sold out in Lawrence and bought an existing market in Hartford, six miles west of Lawrence."  
     Notice the barber pole in the forefront of the picture.  The photo was taken by Schneiders Studio.

If you know the names of any of these people, please email the webmaster.



Information for this web site was gathered from personal interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, personal photo albums, and other documented materials - many available to the public at the Hartford Public Library or Van Buren County Historical Museum.  Please report any typographical errors, updated information, or incorrectly stated information to the webmaster for correction.  Reprinting for personal and instructional purposes is permitted, however, unauthorized commercial reprinting of this information or unauthorized linking to photos-pictures on this site is strictly prohibited without written permission from the webmaster. 

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HartfordHistory Icon - Hartford MI

Pearls In Our Past - Hartford Michigan
A Pictorial History of Hartford Michigan
Emma Thornburg Sefcik
Competent Secretarial Service
History of Hartford Michigan
Copyright © 2000 - All rights reserved.

Revised: March 23, 2009