Hart County's proximity to South Carolina meant that its commercial and demographic ties to the South Carolina upcountry sometimes seemed as strong as its political ties to Georgia. With Hartwell serving as its county seat and the center of local trade and crop processing, Hart followed an economic pattern fairly typical of Georgia's Piedmont counties. When the boll weevil crisis hit just ahead of the Great Depression, the county's population fell from roughly 18,000 in 1920 to scarcely 15,000 a decade later; it would be a half-century before the county regained its 1920 population levels. As the cotton industry declined after World War II (1941-45), many Hart County residents drifted away from farming and into local apparel and textile plants.
Perhaps the most momentous event in the county's history was the construction of Hartwell Dam.
Visions of surging prosperity danced in the heads of local boosters, but although the county clearly benefited from an influx of "lake people," many of them proved initially to be weekenders, and the local population grew by less than 4 percent in the decade after the lake was completed. The population expanded by 30 percent between 1970 and 2000, however, as the county finally began to attract more permanent residents, especially retirees from Atlanta and the North.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Hart County is 25,213, an increase from the 2000 population of 22,997.
Recent job losses in the apparel industry have tied the county's future even more tightly to tourism and in-migration by new and more affluent residents. In some cases this trend has sparked conflicts over taxes and land use. Poultry companies have encouraged rural Hart County residents to construct substantial numbers of chicken houses, and occupants of nearby homes and subdivisions have begun to define an "ill wind" as any that blows from the direction of the chicken farm.
There are also the predictable political tensions between officials of Hartwell,
John William Baker, History of Hart County, 1933, 3d ed. (Fernandina Beach, Fla.: Wolfe, 2000).
George M. Rooks Jr., The Hart of Georgia: A History of Hart County, Georgia, ed. Shirley Kaufhold (Hartwell, Ga.: Savannah River Genealogical Society, 1992).
James C. Cobb, University of Georgia
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