Hartland History

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Hartland Trail Community,

Cattails assume a ghostly appearance in the setting sun. Photo by Miranda Weston, The Art of Life photography.

When you walk the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through the Village of Hartland, you are treading on one of the gifts the glaciers left behind, a mostly-flat glacial melt-water spillway plain of marshes, forests, small glacial hills, and farmland.

The original inhabitants, the Potawatomi Indians, called the area Shabaquanake, the growing place, a fertile land of springs, forests of oak, ash and hickory, and the crystal clear Bark River.

The first European settlers arrived in the 1830s and began clearing the land and planting crops. Stephen Warren, Hartland’s first permanent settler, arrived in 1838 and filed claims on land the Ice Age Trail now crosses. During the early 1800s plank roads and railroads hastened development in the area and schools, churches, homes, and businesses were built. In the 1900s the invention of the automobile and the development of modern highways accelerated Hartland’s growth. Today, about 10,000 residents call Hartland home.

And when you hike the Ice Age Trail through Hartland, you are also experiencing the fruition of a vision held by Raymond T. Zillmer. Considered by many to be the “Father of the Ice Age Trail”, Mr. Zillmer, a native of Wisconsin, was an avid hiker and mountaineer who had trekked extensively in Europe. A feature he admired of the European trail system was how they regularly dipped into towns where one could grab a bite to eat or drink or find a place to sleep.

Zillmer envisioned a trail through Wisconsin, looping through forests and farms, past lakes and rivers, which would pass through towns. In the 1950s his plans came into focus as he advocated for a long, park-like trail roughly U-shaped that would trace the furthest advance of the last Wisconsin Ice Age.

While Raymond Zillmer died in 1960 before his dream trail received official recognition, his vision has been fulfilled. Today the Ice Age National Scenic Trail passes through forests and field, lakes and rivers, and it dips into towns like Hartland, where you may grab a bite to eat, a chilled beverage, and enjoy a brief visit back to civilization.

Welcome to our village!