Select Hart Miscellany

Here are some Hart stories and accounts over the years:

The Hart Witches of Latchingdon

The Hart family were the most notorious witches to reside in the area.  As a witch Mistress Hart suffered from an allergy to church bells.  She was especially annoyed by the bells at Latchingdon church.  One night she removed the bells from the church tower and took them to Burnham where she attempted to take them to the opposite side of the river.  Instead of a boat she used a barrel and used a feather for an oar.  Not surprisingly neither she nor the bells made the crossing.  Legend has it that on stormy nights the bells can be heard tolling from under the river Crouch.

Henry Hart, Governor of Culmore Fort

Culmore Fort lies on Culmore Bay to the north of Derry City.  The fort guarded the entry to the Foyle river from Lough Foyle and seems to date from 1555.  It was held by the O’Dohertys and then by the English.  In 1608 the O’Dohertys rebelled against English rule.

The rebellion began in a rather unusual way. On April 18, 1608 Cahir O’Doherty invited the Governor of Culmore Fort, Captain Henry Hart, and his wife to dinner in his new castle at Burt.  He enticed Hart upstairs, put a knife to his throat, and as the Captain’s wife screamed for mercy, O’Doherty threatened that if she or he did not take some present course for the delivery of Culmore into his hands, both they and their children should die.  O’Doherty did take the fort and later sacked the city of Derry.  But his rebellion soon petered out.

Family tradition has it that Captain Henry Hart was one of three brothers who came to Ireland.  He settled in the north, another brother in the west, and a third in the south.   Apparently Henry was not blamed for the Culmore Fort loss as he was soon granted lands in the district where he built his house.

Deacon Stephen Hart in Hartford

Deacon Stephen Hart and other hardy pioneers loaded their household goods on wagons, drove their livestock behind, and, with wives and children in tow, made the two-week long pilgrimage westward to the Connecticut river.  Here they set up camp until a way to cross the river was found.  Tradition has it that Deacon Stephen explored up and down the river until a shallow, narrow crossing was found.  It was also in a fertile valley, so they decided to build their town there.  The crossing was “Hart’s Ford” and hence, according to some, came Hartford.

Deacon Stephen was very active in the government of Connecticut as an elected official.  He combined this with his occupation as farmer until his death in 1682 at the age of seventy seven.  Descendants of Deacon Stephen Hart living in America today number in the hundreds of thousands.

Nancy Hart, Revolutionary War Heroine
Nancy Hart was about six feet tall and muscular, with smallpox scars on her face, flaming red hair and freckles, and eyes that crossed frequently.  She also had a very salty vocabulary that she used like a whip. She called her skinny husband a “sorry old stick” and she towered over him by several inches.   Even the nearby Indians called her “The War Woman” out of respect and fear. 

Her role during the Revolutionary War became the stuff of legend.  In a well-known incident, she detained five Tory soldiers at her log cabin under the guise of cooking them a meal.  When she had won the soldiers' confidence with food and liquor, she began to disarm them, passing their muskets stealthily to her daughter Sukey.  A soldier caught her stealing his musket.  Nancy shot him and then held the others captive until her husband's band of militia could arrive.

Nancy urged the militia to hang the captives, claiming that these soldiers were responsible for the ambush and murder of John Dooly, a celebrated patriot and neighbor.  According to the legend, Nancy sang Yankee Doodle as she marched the soldiers out to be hanged.  Recent digs around her cabin reportedly uncovered five skeletons.

Nancy also spied on enemy troops.  In one case, she pretended she was deranged so that she could roam through the enemy ranks, picking up information.  She would dress and act like a half-witted man, engaging the soldiers in conversation and acting crazy.  They would carry on their own conversations around her, frequently divulging information she could take back to the militia.

The Hart Affair

In 1807 Ezekiel Hart was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada.  He caused controversy when, being Jewish, he swore his oath on a Hebrew Bible, instead of on the Christian Bible.  The incident provoked a backlash against his Jewishness.  Le Canadien, the mouthpiece of the Canadian Party, even published a poem decrying the choice of a Jew for a seat as even more foolish than Caligula’s appointment of his horse as a Roman consul.  The Assembly then resolved by a vote of 35 to 5 that “Ezekiel Hart esquire professing the Jewish religion cannot take a seat, nor sit, nor vote in this House.” 

In 1808, new elections were held and once again Trois-Rivières returned Hart as one of its two representatives.  This time, to avoid controversy, Hart took the oath in the same fashion as a Christian. When the assembly finally reconvened in 1809, Hart sat as a member for Trois-Rivières for a few days.  After ascertaining that Hart had been expelled the previous year, the Assembly voted to expel him again.

Jacob Hart and the Slave Trade

Among Jewish slave traders was Jacob Hart.  He came to New Orleans from New York in 1804 and traded in slave ships and African people. 

In 1808 Hart advertised in Saint Domingues for the sale of three black people, including a cook, two fishermen, and a tailor who spoke English and French fluently.  In 1810 he bought two Africans in Florida. The 1820 census reports that he imprisoned seven African people as slaves.  He became the owner of a number of vessels, including the schooner Celestine, and he brokered the sale of four African citizens.  At the time of his bankruptcy in 1823, he held fourteen black hostages.

The O'Harts of North Grange, Sligo

In 1833 the O’Hart family was evicted from their North Grange estate which stood in the ruins of the castle built in the early 17th century by Teige O'Hart.  Six O’Hart brothers and sisters emigrated to America.  One brother James remained. 

James O’Hart was interviewed many years later in 1886 when he was 85 years of age.

"’Can you, sir, show me even one stone of the old castle of Grange which I came all the way from Dublin to see?’

‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘see’ (pointing to a stone embedded in the front wall of one of his houses) ‘where I have preserved a stone of the arch that was over the front entrance to the castle of my ancestors.’ And there sure enough, has James O'Hart preserved that to him precious relic, as a souvenir of his family castle which had once towered in North Grange, but was lately razed to supply the stones with which the spacious Catholic church which now stands on the site of the castle, the presbytery, and the walls around the church.

‘My sons,’ he said, ‘write their name Harte, but the correct name is O'Hart.

‘We may observe that we, too, wrote our name Harte up to 1873 and omitted the prefix O'.  Because of our parents' reduced circumstances, that prefix was omitted by my brother, to whom, as a Catholic clergyman, the family naturally looked for the mode of spelling the name in its transition from the Irish to the English language, and who from his boyhood variously wrote his name Hairtt, Hairtte, Hartte, and Harte."

Sir Robert Hart's Return to Lisburn

Sir Robert Hart was a key figure in China’s 19th century history and its foreign relations with the West.  He was the only Westerner in the latter half of that century to occupy an official post in the metropolitan bureaucracy, a position which gave him daily access to China’s highest officials.

He returned to his home town of Lisburn in county Armagh in 1908 and was warmly welcomed at a dinner given in his honor by the Lisburn Town Council.  They recognized his early association with the town and took the opportunity of honoring this distinguished Ulsterman by presenting him with a finely engraved cylindrical silver casket.  The casket bore at one end Sir Robert Hart's monogram and at the other extremity the arms of the town of Lisburn.

After many speeches the proceedings ended with the toast of: "the town and trade of Lisburn."

Reader Feedback - Daniel Hart in Trinidad

I am a descendant of Daniel Hart who came to Trinidad.  I am trying to trace him back to his roots (we thought it would be England).

Coleen Hart (

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