William H Hart


William Henry  Hart.

William Henry  Hart was born in 1834  in New Britain, Connecticut. The was a “Hart Quarter” neighborhood there dating from the 1730s. There is the possbility that he was the eldest son of Deacon William Hart of New Britain. At this time little is known of his  early childhood or education. Records do indicate that he was a student at the Normal School in New Britain.

A first review of available family history shows a Judah Hart living in the Hart Quarter of the present- day New Britain in the year 1734. In later years there is a mention of a Thomas Hart and a Deacon Elija Hart. Deacon Hart owned a prosperous grist mill near the Kensington Avenue area. A Hart Park is within a few blocks of the road today. There were Hart family members all over the area.

Other records tell us that a number of years later, Deacon Stephen Hart arrived from England and settled in Hartford in 1832. He is the progenitor of many of the Harts in New England. A book titled Stephen Hart and his Descendants was published in 1875 and details the entire family during the period. A lengthy but excellent read.

My research found our William Henry Hart . He was born on July 25, 1834 in New Britain as the second son of George Hart and his second wife Elizabeth F. Booth. He received at least a part of his education at the Normal School in New Britain. 

Among his early jobs, Hart served  as an Assistant Railway Station manager and later as a Railroad Freight Agent Manager. I believe that the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad was formed in 1872. But there was a railroad in the area in 1840. Go figure.

In 1854 at age 19, he joined the Stanley Works in New Britain, Connecticut. After a few months he became Secretary-Treasurer at The Stanley Works, making tools and hardware. Before he became 21, in 1856 , he was elected to the Board of Directors. He had married Martha Peck who was born in 1837 on September 19, 1855. That would make Martha 16 years old. Their marriage would produce a Hart legacy with six sons and a daughter.

In 1857, at age 23 it is recorded that he paid his first visit to Martha's Vineyard. He sailed from New Bedford to the waters off the Gay Head cliffs with friends from New Britain.  . He was a stockholder and in a solid position at that time with The Stanley Works and the future looked bright.

The marriage produced six sons, the first Charles William was born in August of 1858 followed by George Peck in August 1860. The Civil War exploded in 1861 and a number of young men entered military service. Hart  did not have to join as he was already 26, married with children  and had been in business for six years. The 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery Battery was recruited from the area and served gallantly  throughout the war. There was a William Hart listed on the muster rolls. So there is the possibility he served.

Following the conflict, Hart was instrumental in expanding production facilities at Stanley in 1866 . He continued on as a true 19th Century Industrialist. His third son, Howard “Jim” Stanley ( note the middle name) was born in July 1867. Two years later, the couples only daughter Martha Elizabeth, was born in May 1869. The fourth son Edward Herbert was born on October 12, 1870 also in New Britain. Maxwell Stansbury Hart was born on April 15. 1873 and finally Walter H. Hart was born in August of 1874.

In late 1871 Hart came to Martha”s Vineyard probably on the train from New Britain  and purchased five lots on the island from the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company. Two years later he returned and purchased two more lots. It is interesting to note that the Martha”s Vineyard Railroad began a single track operation from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown in 1874. As an old railroad man, Hart would have been pleased.

The Hart family would continue to spend summers at Martha”s Vineyard for over 40 years and in 1911, he bought more land on the Island and formed Hart Realty Company.  I understand that he had a house built on the property for each of his children and a number of them are still standing. The company then sold some lots in the area around the present-day Harthaven complex.

William Henry  Hart retired as Chairman of the Board of The Stanley Works in 1918.. He died in the following year, probably in New Britain. His wife Martha died in 1929.

compiled by Fielding Lewis Tyler

Virginia Beach, Virginia

March 2011.

Selected Sources: Moore, John. Harthavem, The Best Darned Place to Grow up. Peruasive Press. 1999, Hart, Austin . Genealogical History of Deacon Stephen Hart and his Descendants, 1632-1875. 1875. New Britain, Connecticut. Tyron, Lillian Hart. A Biographical and Historical Sketch of William H. Hart, 1834-1919 and his connection with The Stanley Works of New Britain, 1929. Tyron, Lillian Hart. The Story of New Britain, Connecticut. Esther Stanley Chapter, DAR.1925

From Harthaven; A Brief History" - John Moore: "The interest of William and his wife Martha Peck Hart in Martha's Vineyard reportedly began as early as 1857, when they and several of their New Britain friends boarded a sail boat in New Bedford, MA to tour the beautiful cliffs at Gay Head. By October 2, 1871, records show that William and one George P. Blackwell purchased a number of lots in Oak Bluffs from the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company, specifically 49, 51, 53, 55 and 57 Penacook Avenue. They were one of the earliest purchasers from that company."

From The Vineyard Gazette - Sep 17, 1914: “There is a prospect that more new houses will be built in the new “Hart Settlement” off the Beach Road,” the article said. “It was our privilege to be shown over the lovely estate and new summer residence of Mr. Wm. H. Hart one day last week. Here are all the latest modern improvements and conveniences. Electric bells and electric lights all over the house and on the spacious piazzas. The interior of the house is of hard wood, finished in natural color. Fine oriental rugs cover the floors and the furnishings and hangings are all in keeping. Mr. Hart has built a fine circular driveway made from the Beach Road up to and from his residence. This has been concreted. The house sets a long distance back from the road and is in the midst of groves of oaks and pines. …A fine view of the sound is seen from the house as well as the interior ponds upon which his land borders. …Mr. Hart has had broad roads cut through his land making a drive through the woods a great pleasure. There is no doubt but that this estate will be one of the beauty spots of the town in a few years.”

The Beginning of Harthaven

1911, William Hart began buying up separate parcels of land beginning immediately south of the sea wall on the southern outskirts of Oak Bluffs and extending to the opening from Nantucket Sound into Sengekontacket Pond at the boundary between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. He had considered buying some prime 60 acres of land for $12,000 on Edgartown Harbor south of Tower Hill “and the Brainard place” from an Everett Allen Davis of West Tisbury in 1909 and 1910. Son Jim was for it, but older son George prevailed in convincing his father to buy land in Harthaven because of a lack of a beach and presence of mosquitos on the Edgartown property. Jim favored the Edgartown land because this would provide “...harbor facilities and a quaint old town with a much better reputation that Oak Bluffs.”

On December 6, 1911, when he was 77 years old, William bought his first Harthaven lot from Harry P Kent. he continued his purchases into 1912 and 11913, purchasing another eleven parcels from John H. Anderson, Manuel De Bettencourt, Charles T. Luce, John C and Eunice E. Hamblin, Susan F. Norton, Lilla W. Sinclair, Fred C. Gore, Mary A. Beetle, Michael J. Keegan and Susan R. Beetle. He picked up another lot from Frank W. Chase in 1915 and one from Charles C. Earle in 1918. His large land holdings not stretched from the low water mark on Nantucket Sound inland to the DeBettencourt farm and to some fields that later became the grass strip Trade winds airport.”

From Harthaven - A History by John Moore.

one of William’s good friends from New Britain was Phil Corbin, who founded Corbin Locks Company. On the left, Phil shows William how to ride a tricycle. On the right, the Corbin (now Norton) house in Oak Bluffs.

Hart family in front of the “White House.” See key below for identities.