The first permanent settler arrived around 1810. The early lumber industry gradually converted to raising dairy cows as land was cleared. The town was formed from the Town of Hornellsville in 1844.
Windmills and controversy
In the fall of 2005, it was publicly revealed that Irish windmill company Airtricity was planning to build several windmills in Hartsville, and had signed contracts with several landowners for the use of land on which to put these windmills. This has proved controversial. Opponents alleged that the Town government was excessively partial to Airtricity and the participating landowners, that it failed to take into consideration any of the possible negative impacts of turbine development, and did not make enough effort to negotiate a favourable deal with Airtricity on its own part (towns can require various things of a wind developer, specifically among them a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT). In the spring of 2006 some residents brought in B. Thomas Golisano, founder of Paychex, who expressed willingness to provide money to begin a competing wind farm which would give substantially more benefits; specifically, the PILOT and payments to the landowners would be the same as or better than what was being offered by Airtricity, and residents of the town would receive part of the profits derived from the wind farm. This was bitterly fought by the landowners under contract and by certain members of the Town Board. It no longer is being actively promoted.
Two other developments occurred during the same time frame. It was discovered that the Town Supervisor had a contract with Airtricty to allow a power line to pass over her property to the power grid connections, a matter for which she received much criticism. Also, it was announced that the town board was considering using any PILOT funds it received if the project went through to enter the New York State Retirement program. The primary beneficiaries of the entry would have been the Supervisor's father and brother, respectively the head of and an employee of the town highway department. Her father, furthermore, has a contract with Airticity to build turbines on his property. This proposal was withdrawn in the face of opposition.
The Supervisor and one board member resigned, in September and November 2006, respectively, apparently due to criticism of their handling of the issue. A divided board was unable to appoint replacements, but in the 2007 elections, two seats, including that of Supervisor (out of four seats up for elections) went to candidates who had supported the Golisano plan when it was promoted. The incumbent pro-Airtricity deputy Supervisor was defeated by a large margin, and of the other two board members, both of whom were on the other side in the debate, only one was up for election, and received the largest number of votes for a non-supervisor seat. No further candidates were fielded by this faction, and the other two seats were filled by two of the four candidates fielded by the pro-Airticity faction.
In late 2007, Airtricity sold its American operations to E.ON, a German utility company. The town board which took office in 2008 considered a local law concerning windmills, which was enacted in 2009. It permitted windmills to be constructed provided they met certain criteria mainly concerning noise levels and distances from dwellings, while permitting windmill operators and the inhabitants of such dwellings to make exceptions in such cases, if both agreed. E.On ultimately chose not to pursue the project.