Columns, Weeks Gone By

An Up-and-Coming Place

photo courtesy Hardwick Historical Society
The CF Davis Store, c.1908. The building at 426 S. Main St. now contains six apartments.  

HARDWICK – The October 12, 1899, issue of the Hardwick Gazette, announced that J. W. Hersey’s new two-story store on South Main Street – measuring 40’ x 50’ – was in the final phase of completion. In April, Hersey had begun to advertise clothes, groceries and feed, perhaps selling out of his unfinished store. Hersey, what we would today call a developer, had recently moved to Hardwick, probably attracted by the granite industry’s promise of making the village a major commercial center.

Between 1890 and 1900, Hardwick’s population grew from 1547 to 2466. Most of that growth occurred in the village which had 1,334 people in 1900, more than half the total for the town. In that same decade, the village had undertaken a breath-taking number of improvement projects. It had incorporated in 1891 and immediately established a municipal water system. It also started installing concrete sidewalks and created a tax-supported fire department, called the Granite Hose Company. The ludicrous name of the fire department indicates the strength of the village’s identity with the granite industry.

In 1892, the village started to install a sewage system, and it developed a police force of one full-time policeman. In the same year, the state granted a charter to the independent Hardwick Academy and Graded School District, which quickly built the Hardwick Academy building, thus ending, in 1893, the old Town House’s use as a school house.

In 1895, the village allowed a private company from Montpelier to install electric lights to light the streets at night. In 1896, after a dispute with the Village Board of Trustees, the company abandoned the project, and the village took over, creating the Hardwick Electric Department. Immediately, it started to develop a system of hydro-electric power plants to supply electricity.

In 1897, the town undertook to renovate the old Town House into an Opera House, while, Malvina Tuttle Jeudevine, widow of Alden Judevine (or Jeudevine – he spelled it both ways), former town clerk and successful businessman, donated a public library building to the town and Jeudevine’s friend, M. V. B. Hathaway donated the books to create the Jeudevine Memorial and Hathaway Public Library.

In 1898, a group of private investors built the Hardwick and Woodbury Railroad to haul granite from the quarries in Woodbury to the main line in Hardwick.

So, when J.W. Hersey considered Hardwick as a village in which he could successfully create a prospective development, he saw an “up and coming” place with an abundant water supply, and a sewer system, a fire department, hydro-electric power, concrete sidewalks, a new library, a new academy, a renovated Opera House, and a new railroad. He built his store, confident he would have enough customers to support it. To assure that customer base, by 1905 he had built 20 new buildings – three store buildings and 17 cottages just west of South Main Street. The area became known as Herseyville.

In early 1902, Hersey sold his store, stock, and goods to Charles F. Davis who took possession in the middle of March. In time, Davis’ son, Harold F., joined his father in business and eventually became the owner. H. F. Davis ran the business until 1968. The building, 426 South Main Street, is now an apartment house.

A version of this article first appeared in the Hardwick Historical Society Journal Volume 5 Number 1, 6-7. hardwickvthistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/HHS-Vol.-5-issue-1-final.pdf

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