When it was carved out of Elbert and Franklin counties in 1853, Hart became the only county in Georgia named for a woman. Nancy Hart was a rugged and volatile frontiers woman and a fierce patriot whose real and mythic exploits included both harassing and, when feasible, shooting those Tories who had the misfortune to venture close to her cabin near the boundaries of present-day Elbert and Wilkes counties.
Nancy Hart, (born c. 1735, in North Carolina and died 1830, in Kentucky), An American Revolutionary heroine around whom gathered numerous stories of patriotic adventure and resourcefulness. She grew up in the colony of North Carolina and is said to have been related to both Daniel Boone and General Daniel Morgan, although with no real evidence in either case. She and her husband, Benjamin Hart, moved to Wilkes County, Georgia. She was well able to handle a rifle in the fierce and bloody internecine fighting that beset Georgia during the American Revolution.
Nancy Hart was a stalwart supporter of the Whig cause. A number of stories of her exploits in the war grew up and circulated for years before being written down. The best-known story told of a day when five or six armed Tories arrived at her cabin and demanded that she cook them a meal. As she roasted her last turkey, shot by one of the Tories, her young daughter slipped away to arouse neighboring Whigs. Hart plied the Tories with whiskey and contrived to get near their stacked rifles. She put two rifles out through a crack between the logs before she was detected, and she quickly took up a third to defend herself. One of the men rushed her and was shot dead; another she wounded. When help arrived, the Tories were taken to the woods and hanged.
Other stories told of Hart's acting as a spy for Georgia patriot forces, crossing the Savannah River on a raft of logs tied with grapevines to bring back information from enemy camps. After the war the Harts moved to Brunswick, Georgia, where Benjamin Hart died. Nancy Hart later moved to Kentucky. The story of her war exploit was first published in a newspaper reminiscence occasioned by the visit of the marquis de Lafayette to the United States in 1825. In 1848 it was retold by Elizabeth F. Ellet in Women of the American Revolution. In 1853 Hart county, Georgia, and in 1856 its seat, Hartwell, were named in her honor.
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 the Hartwell Dam. The dam converted the Savannah River and some of its tributaries into Lake Hartwell, which, with nearly 1,000 miles of shoreline, would become one of the largest man-made bodies of water east of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1955 and concluded in 1963, bringing in many new workers known to locals, sometimes good-naturedly and sometimes not, as "the dam people."
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 week-enders, 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.