Hartley is at the junction of U.S. highways 87 and 385, fourteen miles southeast of Dalhart in east central Hartley County. It was named after the pioneer Texas attorneys Oliver Cromwell Hartley and his brother Rufus. It began as a tent village in 1888 after the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway purchased the right-of-way through the site. By the summer of 1890 a permanent town had been platted, and a local school district had been established. When Hartley County was organized in 1891, Hartley was elected county seat and remained so until 1903, when another election made Channing the county seat. Despite threats from some local citizens, armed deputies and XIT Ranch cowboys managed to move the wooden frame courthouse, mounted on wheels, out of Hartley to Channing. Nevertheless, Hartley continued to grow as the Hartley Townsite Company advertisements attracted prospective homesteaders and businessmen. By 1910 Hartley had a hotel, a school, and a variety of stores and small businesses. The community had five businesses and a population of 150 in 1940 and was a shipping point for cattle and grain. Though Amarillo and Dalhart drew away some Hartley residents in the 1930s and 1940s, Hartley had grown to a population of 370 by 1990 and 441 by 2000.