History of Hartwell
Written by George Rooks, JR
One-hundred acres of land was purchased in May of 1854 by the Judges of the Inferior Court and was laid off into streets, squares, and lots. This land became the City of Hartwell, the county seat of Hart County, named for the Revolutionary War heroine, Nancy Hart. The city was officially incorporated by the legislature on February 26th, 1856.
The census of 1860 listed a total population of 235 inhabitants with real estate valued at $54,000.00. During the 1860's, the city suffered with the rest of the south through the terrible years of the War Between the States. With the completion of the railroad in the 1870's, slow, but definite, growth began. By 1900, there was a population of 1,672 with 20 telephones and 50 automobiles. Hartwell's National Guard Unit, Company "F", 3rd Separate Battalion Infantry saw service in France in WWI and by 1920 the population had increased to 2,323.
Although, early in the new century, the economic base was agriculture, Hartwell's leaders, then as now, realized the need for infrastructure to support the industrial base and installed water and sewer lines in the city. With the completion of the Bankhead Highway (US Hwy 29) in the mid-twenties, Hartwell became an important overnight stop on the way to and from Florida. However, a most unwelcome visitor arrived in the mid twenties...the boll weevil. The resultant decline in the agricultural economic base caused a slow exodus of population and not until the late thirties did the economy begin to recover.
The end of WWII and the emergence of the fifties saw the beginning of what came to be the period of greatest growth for the city. In 1953, the city observed its 100th birthday with a month-long celebration. By the census of 1960, the population had almost doubled from the previous census. Industry continued to expand and the contract to build the Hartwell Dam was signed. With the completion of the dam in the last year of the decade, a new era of growth began for the city and county.
Hartwell has been named a Governor's All Star City, a Bicentennial City (one of six in the state), a City of Ethics, Tree City USA, one of the few Main Street cities in Georgia, and is a Certified Local Government. With increasing emphasis on the Arts, Historic Preservation, and a balanced economic mix of agriculture, industry, and recreation and tourism, the City of Hartwell can well claim to be the "Best Town by Dam Site".