“A young man following a mere ‘spotted path’ from the south into the untamed wilderness.”
The region of Hartland west of the Village, collectively known as West Hartland, was originally comprised of several smaller populated areas throughout the region where clusters of various families settled together soon after James Fuller, Sr first settled West Hartland in 1802. Many of these early areas often had their own schoolhouse, cemetery, house of worship, stores and numerous small businesses including several sawmills, shingle mills and brickyards.
Currently, no maps of Hartland detailing the locations of homes, businesses and merchants before 1860 have been discovered. Various documents provide us with enough information to know many existed in its early years of settlement, but most of the specific details of when they were built or by whom remain unknown. The following is based on our best interpretation of known maps, town records, census data, historical book references, photos, artifacts and family genealogical information. Updates will be made as new information is discovered.
It is in West Hartland where we bear witness to the humble beginnings of a town when a 16 year old young man from New Hampshire named James Fuller, Sr followed a mere “spotted path” from the south in search of the plot of land he had purchased from Dr. John Warren. Fuller staked his claim and began the task of building lodging in spite of the seemingly impossible odds against survival in what was nothing but untamed wilderness at the time. One wonders, as he felled the first of many trees to build his home, could he have ever expected some two centuries later his descendants would still be living in the town he was the first to call home.
James Fuller, Sr (1787-1845) – Fullers Corner Cemetery
When Dr. John Warren purchased Township No. 3 in 1799, the future town of Hartland was a 30,000 square acre lot which had been surveyed as a uniform rectangular lot. This uniform method was standard practice for the surveyors laying out the numerous new northern Maine “wilderness” townships which had just recently become available to sell to Land Proprietors following the end of the Revolutionary War. Albeit convenient for the latter parties, it typically ignored the area’s natural boundaries and often made for unrealistic future access to education, town affairs and services for the settlers who came to live there. Hartland was no exception and each of its 4 original town lines were eventually changed to follow closer to its natural boundaries to meet the needs of its new citizens.
Hartland Original Town Lines – 1820
Several early West Hartland Families referenced in the 1911-1912 East Somerset County Registry are presented below with edited notes and a link to their respective Family Trees. Further details on numerous other West Hartland settlers may be found on our Family Tree Page.
James Fuller, Sr (1787-1845) was the first permanent settler of the town of Hartland. Fuller came from Exeter, New Hampshire in 1802 and was prominent in the early affairs of the settlement. The region was an utter wilderness with very few inhabitants for many miles and it is even related that while he was clearing his land he was obliged to go for nearly ten miles to get his ax ground. Mr. Fuller’s first wife was Rebecca Lancey of Palmyra (1793-1829) and to them were born the following children; Warren, Thomas, James Jr, Elizabeth m. Hiram Burrill & George. Following Rebecca’s death, James remarried to Elizabeth Lancey, younger sister of his first wife. Their children were; George, Samuel, Josiah, Edward & Rebecca m. John Larrabee.
Peleg Thompson (1789-1869) moved into the town during the early days of its development and settled and cleared the farm now occupied by his grandson, Fred Thompson. He built a log house at first, as did most of the first comers to the town, and later replaced it with a frame structure. Mr. Thompson cleared much of the farm and his son, Prince Thompson, completed the clearing and built the large two story house which now occupies the farm. Mr. Thompson brought up a family of seven children.
Ambrose Finson (1789-1857) came to West Hartland from Pejobscot (Danville) about 1809. He cleared the farm now occupied by John Goodwin and built a log house. Mr. Finson’s house served as a Town Hall in the early days of the town and the people assembled here for their Town Meetings. The fields cleared by Mr. Finson were used as a training field for the muster. He served in the capacity of Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner and was sent three times to the Maine Legislature. Mr. Finson, or Squire Finson as he was called, was held in the highest esteem by his fellow townsmen, being often called upon to settle disputes between his townsmen. It is said that his decisions were never questioned. He and his wife, Elizabeth Jordan, had a family of seven boys and three girls; Ambrose Jr, Thomas, James, John, Henry, Amasa, Greenleaf, Elizabeth m. Greenleaf Church, Emeline m. Darius Rand & Mary m. John Butterfield, Jr.
William Larrabee (1796-1850) with his wife, Sarah Plummer, came from Pejobscot (Danville) and cleared the farm now owned by Mr. Ames in West Hartland. Mr. Larrabee was one of the early town officials, serving several times as Selectman. To them were born ten children, eight of whom lived to reach mature years; William, Jacob, Jane, Hugh, Andrew, John, George & Stephen.
Nathaniel Woodbury (1752-1850) came from New Gloucester to Hartland with his wife, Anna Nevens, around 1812 where he put up a log cabin and settled on the place where Wallace Goodwin now lives. He is said to have been the first to begin work in clearing the land on the hill. Their adult children came at the same time; Samuel, Moses, Isaiah I, Charles, Isreal, Charlotte m. Hurd, Sarah m. Jordan & Nancy m. Moses Huff.
Isaiah Woodbury I (1784-1878), son of Nathaniel Woodbury, came from New Gloucester to Hartland at the same time as his parents where he married Thankful Woodbury and settled on Huff Hill.
Isreal Woodbury, Sr (1790-18__), son of Nathaniel Woodbury and Veteran of the War of 1812, came to Hartland about 100 years ago (1812) at the same time his parents came and cleared a farm on Huff Hill. He married Abigail Spencer and to them were born the following children; Esther m. Charles Magoon, Druzilla, Isreal Jr, Louisa m. Maurice Lincoln, Mary m. Beede, Charles & Abram.
Hobbs Perkins (1777-1859) came from Wells and was an early settler on Huff Hill where he and his wife, Lois Spencer, built a log house and with the help of his sons cleared a farm on what is now the Town Poor Farm. Their sons were Jotham, Spencer & Erastus. Their daughters were Anne m. (1) Demons (2) Rowell, Casandana m. (1) Joseph Berry (2) Obed Dore, Maria m. Coffee, Beulah m. Decker & Ruth m. (1) Allan Berry (2) Jesse Merrill.
Richard Hopkins came with his family from England to Manchester, Maine before he moved to West Hartland as a young man with his wife, Rachel Pinkham of Litchfield. They lived on a farm which was only slightly cleared in the southwest corner of West Hartland. They had four children; William, Martha, Thomas & Sarah.
David Mitchell came to West Hartland in 1818 at the age of twenty together with settlers by the name of Nevens, Vincent and Jordan. They made their settlement on Herrin Hill in what was then Hartland and now the present town of Canaan. Mr. Mitchell and his wife, Eliza Jewett, later bought a farm near Brown’s Corner in Canaan but eventually moved back to West Hartland and brought up a large family.
John Spearin (1764-1830), a Revolutionary War Veteran, was born in Pownalbourough (Wiscassett). He and his wife, Mary Kendall, moved to Clinton by 1790 and to West Hartland by 1810. He signed the petition for Hartland’s Incorporation in 1820.
Joseph Bowley (1772-1843) settled in West Hartland by 1810 and signed the 1820 petition for Hartland’s Incorporation in 1820. He married Lydia Spearin, daughter of John Spearin.
John Nevens (1780-1850) settled on Herrin Hill then within the town limits of Hartland. He came from Pejobscot (Danville) when this part of the country was an unbroken wilderness, traveling part of the way from Danville by means of a spotted line through the woods. Later he moved to Canaan. His wife was Mary Ray and four (surviving) children were born to them in Canaan; Charles m. Roxana Wheeler, David m. Susan Finson, John, Jr m. Nancy Washburn & Julia m. William Rines. (Courtesy of Canaan Historical Society)
John Whiting III (1759-1846), a Revolutionary War Veteran, came from Lovell and married Margaret Fairbrother, daughter of Lovell Fairbrother, in 1806 and was living in West Hartland at the time of the 1810 Census. “Lovell Fairbrother came to the Kennebec at an early day and explored this river and the Sebasticook River; found choice intervale at or near the fork of that river, and abundance of fish in the river and game in the forest. He therefore pitched his tent at a big camp near the forks of the river in 1775 and moved his family there being joined by two others and this commenced the settlement in what is now the prosperous town of Pittsfield, then called Sebasticook Plantation.”
John Wentworth Jordan (1790-1861) is a brother of Elizabeth Jordan who married Ambrose Finson. John married Elizabeth McKenney and settled in West Hartland soon after his sister moved there.
Foster Jordan (1807-????) is also a brother of Elizabeth Jordan who married Ambrose Finson. Foster married Rebecca McKenney, sister of his brother’s wife, Elizabeth McKenney and also settled in West Hartland soon after his siblings moved there.
Two Public Cemeteries are located in West Hartland where many of the early settlers are interred. Click below for details:
James Fuller, Sr originally farmed his newly purchased land but he had also settled adjacent to the “County Road” which became a major Stage Coach route from Norridgewock to Bangor. Fuller seized the business opportunity and built a Stage Coach Stop & Tavern to service the well traveled route which originated some 35 miles to the west in Norridgewock. Fuller’s Tavern, which also served as a location for early Hartland Town Meetings, had the reputation for a long time of being one of the few prohibition era “public houses” in Maine.
The Norridgewock to Bangor Stage Coach Route via the County Road entered West Hartland from Canaan running past Fuller’s Tavern and across Pittsfield Avenue at Davis Corner into Palmyra. It then crossed over the Sebasticook River Bridge onto the Gale Road before passing over Warren Hill near the former Warren Mansion then onto Newport, Stetson and its final destination in Bangor.
Norridgewock to Bangor Stage Coach Route via County Road (Courtesy of Donald McDougal)
In its early years as a township and then an official town, most of Hartland’s town business affairs were conducted in West Hartland which served as the primary location for Town Meetings up until the early 1840s. Town Meetings, which were then held twice a year in March and November, were usually held at either Church’s Corner Schoolhouse near Morrill Pond or James Fuller’s Tavern at Fullers Corner. As the population of North Hartland grew and the Village’s boundaries were expanded between Hartland & St. Albans, a slow but steady shift of the center of town affairs to the Village began to develop. In 1843, one of the bi-annual town meetings locations was changed for the first time to the Ireland Schoolhouse on Pleasant Street likely as a compromise to accommodate the population changes.
One of several Hartland Town Line changes included the 1849 variance ceding most of the southwest corner of Hartland to Canaan.
West Hartland – 1860
To see a complete and enlargeable version of this original map, click the link below:
One of the final town line alterations occurred in 1852 when John Warren Fuller, for reasons unknown, successfully petitioned for his West Hartland property near Fullers Corner to become part of Pittsfield. Fuller (1814-1887) was the oldest child of James Fuller, Sr and was an active member in town affairs up to that point, even serving as Town Constable. In spite of several attempts to cede the lot back to Hartland over the decades, the unusual boundary line still remains in place today. Warren and his wife, Esther Butterfield, are interred at Fullers Corner Cemetery.
John Warren Fuller Property – 1860
The first documentation of Hartland Common Schools comes from 1820 when 6 School Districts were established throughout the newly incorporated town in the major population settlement regions including the West Hartland District. As town line boundaries and populations shifted over the decades, up to a dozen districts existed in Hartland. 7 of the known schoolhouses located in West Hartland included:
- Fuller’s Corner School: Last of all the rural schools to close in 1942
- Slab City School: West of Morrill Pond, later became part of Canaan Schools
- Church’s Corner School: South of Morrill Pond, closed by 1900
- Palmyra School: Unknown school name, located near Pittsfield Avenue, closed by 1900
- Rand School: North of Morrill Pond, closed 1917
- Huff Hill School: Closed 1917
- Bean’s Corner School: Later became part of Pittsfield Schools, closed 1931
West Hartland Schoolhouse Locations – 1883
By 1830, the matter of assisting its citizens who had fallen on hard times or could not support themselves for other reasons was first addressed by the town. Early Hartland Town Warrants, and later Town Reports, typically noted these funds asked for and raised at Town Meetings as “Liabilities for Support of Paupers”. Throughout its early history, Hartland was committed to assisting its poor with the title of its leading Town Officials noted for decades in Town Warrants and Town Reports as “Selectmen, Assessors and Overseers of the Poor”.
In 1866, Hartland opened its first dedicated Town Farm on Huff Hill in West Hartland. Town Farms, also called Poor Farms or Almshouses, were usually the last resort for the poor, the elderly and physically or mentally challenged people who were unable to financially support or take care of themselves. By 1920, the Town Farm was closed and the buildings and land were eventually purchased by Carl Randlett before Earl Sherburne purchased the homestead in 1943 living there with his family until the farmhouse burnt down in the early 1960s.
Location of former Town Farm on Huff Hill – 1939
A detailed report on the history of Hartland’s Town Farm is available on the link below:
Two ponds are located in West Hartland along with various streams and brooks.
Bowley Pond is a tiny 2 acre pond that drains into Morrill Pond and shares its direct drainage area.
Morrill Pond is a 145 acre pond is situated south of Route 23 in West Hartland on the southwest border of Hartland. A small amount of the pond has its western shoreline is in Canaan but the vast majority is within Hartland. Its mean depth is 16 feet and maximum depth is 48 feet. It has a small inlet from Bowley Pond and a main outlet that drains south to Sibley Pond in Canaan and Pittsfield.
Morrill Pond – West Hartland
Morrill Pond – West Hartland
Morrill Pond Fish & Game Association
West Hartland continued as a major population center of Hartland and hosted one of the Bi-Annual Town Meetings for a couple more decades until several factors began to change its role including the death of James Fuller, Sr in 1845 and Ambrose Finson in 1857; two of the more politically influential men of the region for decades. Another subtle but decisive move came when James Fuller, Jr left West Hartland to settle in the Village where he would establish himself as a successful businessman at Warren Square and become heavily involved with town affairs.
With an unlimited source of water power available from the Sebasticook River, several industries in the Village also influenced the inevitable shift of Hartland’s population and political center. The newest and most notable was the new Linn Woolen Mill in 1862. The mill lured in many citizens from the outlying regions of West Hartland and North Hartland seeking alternative means of employment to the grueling task of farming. Numerous new businesses, including several general stores, began after the mill opened adding to the Village’s growth and influence.
West Hartland – 1883
To see a complete and enlargeable version of this original map, click on the link below:
The railroad finally came to Hartland when the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad officially opened its 8 mile line from Pittsfield in 1886 further adding to the Village’s growth and influence as a future center of town affairs.
Hartland Railroad Depot on Outer Main Street
Although the Village’s influence on town affairs was led by many powerful men, including Archibald Linn, Greenville Shaw and James Fuller, Jr, change would not come quickly. The often heated debate over the location of a dedicated Town Hall continued for another 30 years before the Village officially became the center of Hartland town affairs when its citizens finally voted to build a Town Hall on Academy Street in 1892.
Hartland Town Hall ~ Opera House on Academy Street
As noted in a November 4, 1886 article from the Pittsfield Advertiser, “In West Hartland, the old (James) Fuller house has been purchased by Joseph Emery of Palmyra. It has been taken down and will be moved to the village where it will be rebuilt for a store near the depot.”
Thomas Fuller (1816-1904), son of James Fuller, Sr & Rebecca Lancey, built his farmhouse next to his father’s homestead soon after he married Laura Butterfield around 1845 where they raised their 2 surviving daughters. The oldest daughter, Ellen married Harrison Randlett and the young couple raised their 5 surviving children, Carl, Thomas, Annie Bell, Harry & Laura at her parents’ home until they took over the homestead.
Former Fuller-Randlett-Pelkie Homestead near Fullers Corner in West Hartland
Emerson R. Pelkie and his wife, Iva Dickinson purchased the former Thomas Fuller Homestead which was taken over by their son, Donald J. Pelkie and his wife, Glenice A. Perkins, who were living there when it burnt in 1951. It and the former Prince Thompson Homestead, located just above Pelkie’s home which had burnt down just the week before, were two of the oldest remaining farmhouses in West Hartland at the time.
Pelkie Homestead Fire Article – July 13, 1951
Charles Springer (1842-1914) was a Civil War Veteran with the 11th Maine Regiment, Company E and worked most of his life at the Linn Woolen Mill. He and his wife, Christiana Nevens, lived on the Canaan Road just before Huff Hill. Their only child, Harry Springer, took over the family homestead before selling it to Harold Emery and his wife, Leona Cyr. The farm was struck by lightening on August 10, 1955 and burnt to the ground. Joe Lewis and his wife, Christine Parent, later built a new house nearer to the road in front of the former farmhouse location.
Former Charles Springer & Harold Emery Homestead
A digital scan of the 1943 Map is forthcoming and will replace this rough photographed version.
West Hartland – 1943