Updated April 4, 2022
Like most places, Hardwick has a history rich in human and community experiences. For the first century, Hardwick’s history parallel’s that of most rural communities in norther New England. At the end of the 19th century, it diverged for several decades.
Two locally published historical journals include Hardwick history – the Hardwick Historical Society Journal (HHSJ) and the Hazen Road Dispatch (HRD), published by the Greensboro Historical Society — but no comprehensive history of the town exists. While no one would call the following narrative comprehensive, it attempts to pull together a history of Hardwick. It will require some time to complete, so we ask the reader’s patience as we build it.
We include links or references to websites or specialized pieces published in the HRD and/or the HHSJ as they relate to the topic at hand.
Between the exploration voyages of the St. Lawrence River by Jacque Cartier in 1535-36 and those of Samuel de Champlain in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain valleys, 1604-07, upwards of 90% of the native people in northern New England and the St. Lawrence River Valley died of European diseases. The Abenaki people, who lived in the area of Northern Vermont, largely settled in the Champlain Valley and the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River Valley. However, although there were no known Abenaki settlements in the immediate Hardwick area, these grounds were Ndakinna – Abenaki Homelands.
During the Revolutionary War, Congress supported the construction of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road from the Connecticut River Valley to Montreal, in Lower Canada. Road construction went only as far as Montgomery, Vt., but after the war the Bayley Hazen Road provided settlers with access to northeastern Vermont. < See “Address of the Honorable W.P. Smith” HHSJ 1:3-4; 3-22 >
Creating a new world, the daunting task each group of pioneers faced anew, draws on settlers’ remembered traditions from their former homes as well as parameters established by the state and federal governments. The Republic of Vermont chartered the Town of Hardwick in 1781. Vermont became a state in 1791, and the 1790 Federal census, done in 1791, showed 3 people in two families, those of Mark and Jabin Norris, living in Hardwick. They settled along the Bayley-Hazen military road and called it “The Street” or “Hardwick Street,” giving themselves a sense of community like those they had come from. State law required that 20 families live in a town before it could organize as a Town. Settlers knew they would have to organize a local government eventually, but first they had to assure their own survival by creating homes for themselves and their animals.
On March 31, 1795, five years after the first settler arrived, the men of Hardwick held a Town Meeting. At it, Norris and his neighbors created the essential elements of a government – a tax collector, two Listers (tax assessors), a Treasurer, three Selectmen (Town Council) a Constable, 3 Surveyors of Highways (supervisors of road work), 1 Tithingman, and 4 Hay Wardens (responsible for stray cattle). Men who owned property could vote, and they regarded holding an office as both a privilege and a duty. The Town held one annual meeting to keep abreast of Town business and to set policy for the coming year. Beyond that, townsmen could petition Special Meetings to address pressing issues. < See “Growing Hardwick: An Administrative History of the Young Town” HRD Vol. 38 (2013); 27 >
At its second Town Meeting, 1796, townsmen voted to call a minister to establish a church the Town would support. Since Hardwick had a Tithingman already in place, the people must have held informal services. Calling a minister implied a desire for a more formal arrangement. Town officials assured orderliness in commercial transactions, and the church served as the guardian of orderliness outside the marketplace. Church councils investigated, tried, and adjudicated transgressions in personal behavior prescribed by church laws and community standards. Church councils had the power to excommunicate a transgressor from the church community, a powerful deterrent when the church offered the only social life outside the family.
Beginning in 1798, Samuel Stevens installed mills at the falls of the Lamoille River. Grist and lumber mills, like those Samuel Stevens developed, provided lumber and flour for the community and assured it could survive. Originally the area around the mills was called just Steven’s Mills. By 1850, however, it had become known as East Hardwick. Within a year or two, Willard Bugbee established mills further down the Lamoille creating another village that became South Hardwick. <For more on the names of places in Hardwick, see “Where Am I?” HHSJ 11:2; 10-15 >
Hardwick, as an organized community with mills, a church, and a government, attracted more settlers, and more settlers attracted more merchants and tradesmen. The second wave of tradesmen included a tanner, a blacksmith, a cabinet maker, a wheelwright, a shoemaker, an innkeeper, a general merchant, and a potash factory which provided one of the few sources of cash in a wilderness economy.
As the population increased, concerns about orderliness and honesty intensified, so at its fourth town meeting, 1798, Hardwick elected an additional Town officials to regulate commerce, protect consumers, and to arbitrate conflicting claims – a Fence Viewer to arbitrate boundary disputes, and a Leather Sealer to certify the quality of leather. In 1799, it elected three members to “the committee to inspect the town treasurer and reports to the town” – to audit the books.
James B. Hardwick Norris, the first Yankee child born in Hardwick, appeared on September 16, 1792. Children worked alongside the adults clearing the land and building homesteads. When survival was the primary issue, formal education seemed like a luxury. However, in a free-market economy and direct democracy, citizens must know how to read, write, and do the arithmetic necessary for honest transactions, and the State required that each town have at least one school district but allowed it to create as many as it needed. Each district operated as an independent unit. Thus, after the hard work of establishing themselves, frontier communities built schools to educate their children. In 1799, with approximately 50 children under the age of 10, and another 20 between 10 and 18, Hardwick established four school districts. Each district taxed its residents to build school buildings and pay teachers. By 1835, it had ten school districts. < See “Creating Hardwick’s School System” HHSJ 10:3; 13-18, “Birth of a School District” HHSJ 10:3; 19-22, “Birth of the Stone House District – School District # 8” HHSJ 10:4; 18-24 >
In 1800 Hardwick held 263 people. The increase in people meant an increase in the number of domestic animals, and in 1800 the town decreed that swine could no longer run free. It elected three Pound Keepers to round up and hold stray animals. All farmers notched the ears of their animals with distinctive patterns, so the Pound Keepers could notify owners to come fetch their animals. < See “Starting a Farm” HHSJ 11:1; 9-11 >
As the population grew, social strata developed. By 1800, it was clear that not all pioneers could pay their taxes, and the Town elected a “Vendue [auction] Master for constable and collection officer.” It was his unhappy job to sell off property for unpaid taxes. Also in 1800 the Town elected another consumer protection officer called the Sealer of Weights and Measures. It elected its final consumer protection officers in 1802 – two Surveyors of Lumber.
By 1804, fourteen years after the initial settlers arrived, the community had enough impoverished incompetents, elderly, widows, orphans, and infirm that it grudgingly accepted some responsibility for their care, provided they were Hardwick residents. If they didn’d have Hardwick residency, the Selectmen made them leave. The Town appointed the Selectmen as “Overseers of the Poor.” Typically the Selectmen arranged for orphans to serve as indentured servants. They auctioned off adults and families to whomever would provide for them at the lowest cost to the town. In 1807 the Overseer function had grown large enough that the town appointed a committee to audit the “Overseers’” accounts. <See “Worthy Poor” HHSJ 11:1; 7-8 and “Unworthy Poor” HHSJ 11:1; 12-14 >
Initially people buried their dead privately, but in 1800, the Town paid Israel Sanborn $6 for an acre of land on which to create a “burying yard.” Others cemeteries appeared, and in 1811 the Town saw a need to regulate burials and care for graves; it elected two sextons for town cemeteries. <For more on death in early Hardwick, see “Death in Early Hardwick” HHSJ 11:4; 23-24 and “Recorded Deaths in Hardwick, 1794-1812” HHSJ 11:4; 25-27 >
Early government in Hardwick built roads, educated children, and assured a standard of products and practices in the commercial sector lest disputes between buyers and sellers bring disorder to the community. It offered only minimum support for those who could not function in society. It took no role in domestic disputes, and it had little interest in non-commercial disputes between people. Instead, it supported churches which addressed those issues. < See “A Place to Worship in Early Hardwick” HHSJ 6:1; 20-23, “Baptist Church” HHSJ 2:1; 6, “Congregational-United Church” HHSJ 2:1; 7-11, “St. Norbert’s Parish, 1890-1950” HHSJ 2:2; 3-5, “Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Mission and Church, 1902-1999” HHSJ 2:2; 6-11, “Bethany Methodist/Episcopal Church, 1803-2010” HHSJ 2:2; 12-13, and “Hardwick – New Lights” HHSJ 2:2; 14 >
State law required that towns educate their children to the age of 14; Hardwick’s District schools met that need. The state encouraged higher education, and “Academies” – some private, some public, some a combination of both – arose to provide a high school education. In 1860, a group of local men created Hardwick Academy (HA) as a private boarding school in South Hardwick. Within five years, School District #1, the district that served South Hardwick students up to 8th grade, had formed a partnership with HA which became the Hardwick Academy and Graded School District. District #1 funded the Graded School, and parents paid tuition for their children to attend the Academy for high school. < See “School by The Numbers” HHSJ 11:1; 20-22>
Thus Hardwick became an agricultural community like the rest of its neighbors. It sent 236 soldiers to defend the union during the Civil War. During that war, Hardwick’s Grand List (tax basis) fell from $5275 in 1860 to $4759 in 1865 – 9% – reflecting Hardwick’s loss of men and general economic robustness. In 1868, the Grand List grew to $4965 – a sign of recovery, but hardly enough recovery to explain the leap of faith in the future the voters took when they voted that year to support the building of a railroad through Hardwick.
A group of entrepreneurs planned a railroad to run from Portland, Maine, through Vermont to Ogdensburg, New York, hoping to draw port traffic away from Boston to Portland, Maine. They planned the new railroad to run from Portland to St. Johnsbury and then southwest to Montpelier, where it could connect with the Central Vermont Railroad to run down the Winooski River Valley to join the railroads in the Burlington area. To fund the railroad, the planners asked towns along the proposed route to buy bonds, arguing that a location along the railroad line would provide economic advantages. When Montpelier voters refused to support the proposal, a group of Lamoille Valley businessmen seized the opportunity to inject new life into the Valley by having the railroad connect to the Northern Vermont and Lake Champlain Railroad at Cambridge. < See “Hardwick on the Map”; 26-46 >
At a special Town Meeting on March 17, 1868, Hardwick voters voted 138 to 96 to fund the new railroad. They settled no details at that meeting, but between March and August, the Town agreed to purchase 600 shares of stock valued at $60,000. The terms were dated August 4, 1868, and recorded in the Town records in a calligraphy that does not appear anywhere else in the book, a detail suggestive of the people’s hopes that the railroad would provide an opportunity which they could not reject, but, with a grand list lower than eight years earlier, they could barely afford. Vermont law limited a Town’s bonding authority to 12 times its grand list. Hardwick approved the highest amount it legally could. In 2021, Hardwick had a Grand List of $191,000,000. A bond 12 times that comes to $2,292,000,000 – that’s 2.3 billion dollars! Is there anything today that would entice today’s Hardwick voters to bond themselves for 2.3 billion dollars?
Thaddeus Fairbanks broke ground for the railroad in St. Johnsbury, on December 22, 1869. A large joyful crowd attended the ground-breaking ceremony and celebration, guns saluted, trumpet blasted, and bands played. Two years later, on January 1, 1872, a similar crowd greeted the first passenger train from St. Johnsbury to Hardwick. The railroad was completed on June 29, 1877, and, although it suffered financial difficulties and operated under several different names, the trains always ran.
In 1870, Hardwick had a population of 1,519 people and an economy based on the work of farmers, merchants, and professionals similar to the towns around them. During the decade of the 1870s, however, Hardwick’s history began to diverge from that of its neighbors, because Hardwick had both a railroad and granite. Walden and Wolcott, to the east and west, had a railroad, but no granite. Woodbury, to the south, had granite but no railroad.
The railroad, known in turn as the Lamoille Valley RR (LVRR), the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain RR, the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County RR (St. J. & L.C.), and finally the Lamoille Valley RR, immediately became an important fixture in the region, carrying away timber, hay, hides, cheese, butter, butter tubs, and brooms made in Hardwick. It also carried away people, and initially, Hardwick’s population dropped from 1519 in 1870 to 1484 in 1880. Granite, however, brought new people to town.
Although by 1841, South Hardwick had a larger population, the village of East Hardwick flourished. Most of the town’s good farm land lay in the town’s north and east, and East Hardwick, with a railroad station, mills, a creamery, general stores, churches, a library, and schools, served as the economic focus of that large prosperous agricultural community. In 1872 it had a newspaper of unknown life-span. The commercial rivalry between East Hardwick and South Hardwick became fairly intense during the middle of the nineteenth century. < See “East Hardwick Hotel” HHSJ 1:3-4; 23 “East Hardwick Library” HHSJ 10:2; 30-33 >
The industrial and urban growth of the post-Civil War era tremendously increased private and public wealth across the nation, and great neoclassical buildings of marble and granite came into fashion to house municipal bodies, corporations, banks, and the well-to-do. Similarly, urban development called for tremendous amounts of stone, frequently granite, for bridges, dams, and civic buildings. Hardwick had granite perfectly suited to building buildings. < For more on Hardwick’s granite industry, see “Hardwick on the Map”; 1-137 >
Henry Mack pioneered the granite industry in 1868 in a small community south of South Hardwick that became known as Mackville. When Samuel Wheeler opened the first granite shed in South Hardwick in 1870, he knew a railroad would come through Hardwick and make shipping his product, which weighed 170-230 pounds per cubic foot, physically and economically feasible. He wasn’t alone. Through the 1880s and 1890s, up to eleven granite sheds grew up along the railroad tracks.
Industrialization developed rapidly. As part of the growth, in 1888, a small partnership incorporated the Woodbury Granite Company (WGC) as a small quarry in Woodbury. At that time, Hardwick competed with Barre in the monument market, but Hardwick stone wasn’t as fine as Barre stone so it sold for less. In 1890, the granite business had grown large enough in Hardwick to make it worth while for the granite cutters’ union to organize the workers. Owners quickly accepted unionization, and the union spoke for the workers for the rest of the life of the industry in town.
The Village of Hardwick
The growth of the commercial district in South Hardwick created infrastructure needs that the voters would not approve in a town-wide Town Meeting. By 1891 the needs of the South Hardwick had diverged so much that it incorporated as the Village of Hardwick and immediately levied bonds for a municipal water supply and a volunteer fire company. The Village had a population of about 1100 people.
The industrializing world and out-migration from rural Vermont in the second half of the 19th century raised concerns about the adequacy of the education District Schools could provide students. After more than 20 years debating the issue, in 1891, the Vermont legislature finally decreed that each town create a single town-wide school system. The law made exceptions for municipalities that wanted to incorporate a school district apart from its town district, and the Village of Hardwick did. In 1892 it incorporated School District #1 and Hardwick Academy into an independent school district called Hardwick Academy and Graded School; its boundaries matched the Village boundaries almost exactly.
In 1892, the Boston and Maine Railroad, which controlled the St.J.&L.C., built a 1.7 mile railroad spur from the St.J.&L.C. to Buffalo Mountain, which became known as the Quarry Railroad. In the same year, the village added a sewer system and hired one policeman.
In 1894, a group of speculators incorporated the Hardwick &Woodbury R.R. (H.&W.) to run from Quarry RR to rich the granite quarries on Robinson Mountain in Woodbury. Without this railroad, they knew that the industry could never develop to its full potential. Meanwhile, others in the village successfully advocated for an electric power plant. With a railroad to haul the stone from the quarry to the cutting sheds in the Village and electricity to run the tools that shaped and polished it, the granite industry, dominated by the newly reorganized Woodbury Granite Company which built its sheds in the Village, became the dominant industry in the region. <See “Tale of Two Railroads” HHSJ 6:3; 17-27>
In 1896, the Village began to install concrete sidewalks beside its dirt streets. In 1897, the town converted the old 1860 Town Hall into a performance theater called the Opera House. The same year, Malvina Tuttle Jeudevine and M.V.B. Hathaway, two wealthy local philanthropists, donated a public library building and an extensive collection of books to the town. Hardwick looked on itself as a First Class Place.
The Granite Boom
In 1900, the Village had a population 1312 people, and 59% of the male workforce worked in some granite-related activity. In 1903, the Woodbury Granite Company won the two-year contract to build the Pennsylvania State Capitol and completed it in 22 months. Within a few years, the WGC became the largest building-granite company in the country and perhaps the world. It had headquarters in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago; it has quarries in Woodbury and Bethel, Vt.; it had cutting facilities in Hardwick, Bethel, and Northfield, Vt. Buildings around the country made with Hardwick granite include the Wisconsin State Capitol, Chicago City Hall, and the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., as well as hundreds of banks, post offices, and other public buildings. Bethel’s white granite appears in Union Station, in Washington, D.C.
The granite industry in Hardwick paid a monthly payroll of about $40,000 – about $1,120,000 dollars in 2022 – and the Village population peaked at 2091 in 1910. The granite industry relied heavily, but not entirely, on skilled immigrant labor from Europe, and the Village population reflected that fact. In 1900, immigrants made up 25% of its population; in 1910, 34%. At both counts, about ¾ of the immigrants came from English-speaking countries, chiefly English Canada and Scotland. Italians made up the largest cohort of non-English-speaking immigrants. <See “Shopping During the Granite Era” HHSJ 5:1; 9-11 > As the industry grew, entrepreneurs from other places in Vermont as well as other states — largely in New England — came to Hardwick to take advantage of the expanding business potential in the area.
Everyone celebrated Hardwick’s prosperity, but not everyone celebrated its diversity. Members of long established families resented the new people the industry brought to the Village; the new industrial leaders threatened the power and place held by established leaders in the community, and the locals developed an attitude of general snobbery toward them. Others, natives and immigrants alike, experienced specific fears of specific groups. Italian immigrants bore the brunt of the national prejudice which preceded their arrival in Hardwick. <See “How Did Americans View Immigrants?” HHSJ 6:4; 11-17 >
Regardless of how the community viewed them, granite workers never posed any local political threat. The Granite Cutters’ Union union participated to some degree in state politics, but not in Hardwick politics. Further, the workers posed no economic threat. Relatively few bought land or houses, and relatively few established businesses to compete with local entrepreneurs, whom they patronized.
The peace among the people in the Village was maintained in some measure because the granite workers and the local population operated in different spheres. A few granite workers who, having come to Hardwick to work, chose the Village as a permanent home, bought property, and changed careers when the industry failed, but most workers remained in the Village because of the industry. As long as the industry prospered, they stayed, living within the socially acceptable parameters defined by the Yankee population. Since the immigrants lived among the natives all over the Village, no geographic segregation developed. The locals accepted the granite workers at public gatherings and within public institutions, such as the schools and churches, but they did not associate in community organizations or private gatherings. At the end of the era, when the industry failed, the granite workers left, removing the potential problem of a large population of disgruntled unemployed workers, and leaving the Village a vast store of happy memories of boom times. < See “Hogmanany” HHSJ 11:2; 33-35>
Rural Hardwick remained agricultural. Farm families could have virtually no contact with the industry or the people it brought to the Village except perhaps in the marketplace. Farm children received the required eight grades of education in the Town’s ten school buildings – after the creation of the single Town school district, the Town continued to use the buildings built by the old District schools – and the Town paid the tuition of any rural student who chose to finish high school, but no one had to attend, and many didn’t. A farm family could follow the rhythms of the church bells and the seasons little affected by the clock time and noise of the industry. The industry’s presence did not threaten land values, air or water purity, nor increase taxes. It required no fundamental change in agricultural life style or value system and it enhanced rather than threatened the agricultural economy. The farmers could literally take it or leave it as they chose, some enjoying the benefits of its presence.
East Hardwick grew large enough that it needed both a water system and a fire brigade. As South Hardwick had found the rural voters of the Town unwilling to fund a water system for the village, so did East Hardwick, and in 1912, it incorporated itself into the Hardwick Fire District #1. <See “Historical Sketch of East Hardwick Fire District” HHSJ 9:4; 11-13 and “East Hardwick’s Fire Hose Cart” HHSJ 9:4; 14-21>
World War I
Hardwick responded to the war in Europe with dedicated patriotism, decorating its buildings with bunting and focusing on both the production and conservation of food. Starvation in Europe became a major weapon, and agricultural Hardwick rose to the occasion. ### men from the town joined the armed services. < See “World War I Comes to Hardwick” HHSJ 7:2; 6-9, “Hardwick’s Response to World War I” HHSJ 7:2; 13-19, “Letters Home from the War” HHSJ 7:3; 17-21, and “Letters home from the War: Part II” HHSJ 8:2; 5-6 >
After World War I, municipalities and corporations stopped building granite buildings in favor of sky-scrapers which could offer more internal space on a smaller footprint. The population attracted to Hardwick by the granite industry consisted of an extremely mobile occupational group which came to Hardwick to work and left when the work no longer held them. With the exception of a few families, they put down shallow roots. Although small sheds continued to operate into the 1950s, as the building-granite industry died, most of the workers moved away; the H&W tracks got torn up and sold in 1940. The Village went back to being the market center for the local region. < See “Man on the Street: Ernest Ryland Fletcher” HHSJ 2:2; 15 and “Ernest Fletcher: Hardwick’s Building Granite Pioneer” HHSJ 7:3; 10-15 >
French Canadian Immigration
From the late 18th century to the mid 20th century, the border between Vermont and Quebec had more reality on a map than on the actual ground. People traveled back and forth, aware of moving between countries, but without any official concern about their migration. Moving from Quebec to Vermont happened with no governmental interference on either side of the border. When the US government created laws to bar immigrants, it made exemptions for people from Canada and Mexico. Canadian and Quebec elites found the emigration from Quebec troubling, but government officials did not. As a result, between 1840 and 1930, roughly 900,000 French Canadians people emigrated to the United States, most of them to New England. Some felt pulled by economic opportunities in the mills and factories in southern New England; some felt pushed by poverty, discouragement, and lack of economic opportunity at home. < See “French-Canadian Migration to Hardwick” HHSJ 6:4; 6-8, “The Cost of Migrating” HHSJ 6:4; 9-10, “How Did Americans View Immigrants?” HHSJ 6:4; 11-17, “The Newcomers” HHSJ 6:4; 18-23, and “How Were They Greeted?” HHSJ 6:4; 24-28 >
Evidence suggests that French Canadians lived in the Hardwick area as early as 1872. By 1892, enough lived in the area to warrant the creation of St. Michael’s Parish in Greensboro Bend. In the 1900 census, French Canadians made up 12 percent of the immigrant population in the Village of Hardwick. While some French Canadians came to work in the granite industry, most came to farm. Occasionally a young man worked in granite long enough to save money to buy a farm.
The French Canadian population around Hardwick did not grow robustly until near the end of World War I. Like the end of most wars, the end of World War I produced a period of economic disruption. Agricultural commodity prices fell, as did land values, and farmers throughout the nation fell into a post-war depression. Hardwick’s Yankee farmers could not afford to pay hired help and did not have large families to work a farm; French Canadians did. Known as hard workers with many members of the family working together, French Canadian farms did well. Though some banks would not lend money to French Canadians, those that did provided them credit to buy farms when they arrived from Canada with very little money. While their coming to Hardwick may have raised anti-Catholic concerns, the French Canadians didn’t live apart in isolated communities, and they never developed their own schools. French Canadian children went to school with local children and their parents interacted in the market place. While private prejudice may have existed, it did not find wide-spread expression in the community.
In 1988, descendants, mostly children, of the French Canadian immigrants created a festival to honor their ancestors: Hardwick’s French Heritage Festival, 1988-2001. Each festival honored one family which produced an album of its stories and genealogies. By 2001, interest among the younger generations had waned to the point that nobody would undertake the work of organizing the festival, and it died. By the 1990s, the most common family names on Hardwick’s voting roles were French.
World War II
By World War II, granite made up a small portion of Hardwick’s economic activity, though the commercial districts of the Village of Hardwick and East Hardwick both thrived on the agricultural economy around them. ### residents joined the armed services to fight in the war. The civilian population set up civil defense activities such as black-outs at night, plane spotting posts, and paper and scrap drives in support of the war effort. < See “Get in the Junk” HHSJ 6:2; 6-10, “Hardwick’s Victory Store” HHSJ 6:2; 11-21, and “Childhood Memories of World War II in Hardwick” HHSJ 8:2; 16-18 >
The post-war economy which fueled tremendous expansion and prosperity in most of America favored the areas that supported industrialization, not small family farms that made up the bulk of the Hardwick economy. Hardwick’s population dropped from 2605 in 1940 to 2349 in 1960. Over time, having two municipal bodies ceased to make much sense, and the Village of Hardwick and Town of Hardwick merged in 1988.[To be continued. While you wait, enjoy past issues of the HHSJ online. < https://hardwickvthistory.org/publications/ > ]