Hartford City, Indiana began in the late 1830s as a few log cabins clustered near a creek. Folklore taught in local elementary schools suggested that Hartford City was originally a place to cross Lick Creek, known as Harts ford. This evolved to Hartford, and was eventually changed to Hartford City to avoid confusion. The community became the county seat of Blackford County. During the last half of the 19th Century, East Central Indiana consisted mostly of rural farming communities, including Hartford City. The town's population did not exceed 2,000 until after 1887, when the region began to grow because of the Indiana Gas Boom.
Sports and recreation are important to the community. The city Parks Department maintains four parks distributed somewhat evenly around town. The city has also had a public swimming pool since the 1950s. Two golf courses have Hartford City addresses, three more are located within ten miles (16 km) from the center of Hartford City, and ten more are within 20 miles (32 km). The city has some small “lakes” and reservoirs available for fishing, such as Lake Placid and the lakes around the nearby Shamrock Lakes area. A larger lake with over 2,600 acres (11 km2) of water (Salamonie Lake) offers boating, fishing, and swimming – and is located within one hour’s driving time. State Parks nearby include Ouabache, include Mounds, and Summit Lake. For those willing to drive north for about 90 minutes, Pokagon State Park is located on Lake James and Snow Lake. This park features campgrounds, hiking trails, a beach, the Potawatomi Inn, and a toboggan track.