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The Town of Hardwick, a rural industrial hill town in the highlands northwest of the Ware River corridor, lies on the western border of Worcester County. The town is part of a tract of land purchased from the Indians in 1686 by a group of settlers from Roxbury. The first European settlement occurred around 1730, and Hardwick became an agricultural community with grazing and orchards on well-watered lands. Seasonal work for residents came from lumbering, potash and charcoal making and mining of bog iron. As industry grew and changed in Hardwick, the community developed into four distinct villages: Furnace, with saw, grist and fulling mills and furnaces; Gilbertville, with its textile company that built company housing and mill buildings; Wheelwright, which was essentially built to house and employ paper mill employees; and Hardwick Village. In 1832, the iron foundry at Furnace Village used 180 tons of ore and 36,000 bushels of charcoal from Hardwick's forests to produce hollow ware castings. Those not employed in agriculture or iron works staffed a tannery and made palm leaf hats. Jobs and prosperity brought growth to the town and over 2,200 people were recorded in the community by the 1870's, many of them Irish and French Canadian immigrants. By the beginning of the 20th century, there was a large Polish immigration and the total foreign born population reached 44% of the residents. In the early 20th century, the Quabbin Reservoir depopulated the western upland areas of Hardwick and flooded some valleys. With a decline in industrial activity, Hardwick was left with a robust agricultural business involved in poultry raising, market gardening and dairying. Hardwick Center remains an unusually intact example of early 19th century highland meetinghouse village. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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