"Western Lands"
in Litchfield County

Back in the 1680s when the Colony of Connecticut was worried that its charter might be taken away by the British government, and that the "Western Lands" (now most of Litchfield County) might be lost, the entire northwest corner of Connecticut was given to the Hartford and Windsor “Plantations”* for safekeeping. When the threat had finally passed and the General Assembly asked to have the land back, Hartford and Windsor refused! They claimed ownership because the land had been given to them.

It was not until 1726 that the matter was finally arbitrated to settlement. The Colony was given back the western portion of the entire area, while Hartford and Windsor kept the eastern section of the contested tract. This eastern section was to become the seven towns named Hartland, Barkhamsted, Colebrook, Winchester, Torrington, New Hartford, and Harwinton as two half townships. As co-owners and developers, and for equitable division, the Hartford and Windsor proprietor's committee divided their sections into three and a half townships each, for eventual parceling out to the proprietors** back home in Hartford and Windsor who would become the beneficiaries when the land was parceled out.

By agreement Hartford became sole owner of “East Harwinton” and Windsor the owner of the “West Harwinton.” The common boundary for the two half townships was a reserved straight North and South ten rod (165') wide “highway.” It ran down the middle of the town and would contain the theoretical North and South Roads, running border to border.

When the Town's settlement began in 1732, the two halves were put back together in anticipation of eventually being declared a “Township” by a vote of the Colonial Assembly. During 1737 this approval was finally given by that legislative body and
the first Town Meeting was held. The name of the new town-to-be must easily have fallen into place. The more than thirty square mile area known to be
Hartford and Windsor's town (Har-Win-Ton) logically became “Harwinton,” “ton” being old
English for “town” as used in the town names of Canton, Burlington, Farmington, Stonington, Newington and other municipalities
.

There is a Harvington - pronounced "Harwinton", in Worcestershire, England that the name could have been derived from, but there is absolutely no evidence that it is.

One of the most unsettling things that native Harwintonians hear is having the town referred to as "Harwington". I guess because we are in close proximity to Torrington, people assume we are "Harwington". We are "HARWINTON" and here is the only location in the world that you will find this unique town name right here in Litchfield County! The best way to get on the good side of our natives is to refer to the town the proper way. That way you will definitely start off on the right foot.

Of course, pure native Harwintonians reserve the right to refer to "our" town, using our best old New England accent as simply "HAR-TEN"

Sources:
Lloyd T. Shanley Jr. research
Connecticut Town Origins by Helen Earle Sellers
(1973)
Roger Plaskett's obversations

NOTES:

* Plantations of Hartford and Windsor consisted of large areas of land that were eventually divided into several municipalities.

** “Proprietors” were qualified property owners of 1720 (or their heirs) back in Hartford and Windsor. The land was divided by lot and was in proportion to their old grand lists during the drawings.