Welcome to the Norton Historical Society
A big welcome to all our newest members in Norton, New York, Florida, Canada, New Hampshire, and Illinois. We're really growing! This historical society was created in memory of Lt. Col. Mark C. Biron of Island Pond, both of Mark's parents and his grandparents were born in Norton while my love of this area of northern Vermont and my knowledge of Norton's rivers and waterways began more than twenty years before Mark and I met. Today, my interest is in documenting Norton's history before it is lost.
Independently run, members of the Norton Historical Society enjoy belonging to an organization that is affiliated with the Vermont Historical Society. Since the creation of this society on the third anniversary of my husband's death - 25 August 2021, many descendants of Norton born residents scattered around the United States, Canada, and Great Britain have got in contact to seek information on their ancestors. I am always pleased to help with their questions and family tree research, and I am honored that so many of them have taken up membership of this wonderful society which has a lot of exciting surprises in store!
The Norton Historical Society is also fortunate to be privately funded, it is operated as a labor of love, and has no associations with nearby historical societies nor with the municipal offices in Norton - where the Three Towns Historical Society of Norton Averill & Stanhope lies dormant. The success of this society lies in the fact that its' focus is entirely on the history of Norton, it transcends the encumbrances of village politics. Appreciative of that stance, members of the Norton Historical Society have responded with generous physical and virtual donations of important relics. The support and feedback we've received is both astounding and illuminating. People are delighted to have a historical society and website dedicated to the history of Norton and the people who lived there and worked the land.
Those who toiled in the timber forests and logging mills, worked on the railroad and in the post office, taught in the schools, worshipped at the church, and served on the frontier as agents, border guards, and immigration officers should be remembered. Great thanks go to Pat Daniels Hadlock, and to Jody Gordon and Roch Letourneau for their collections which consist of important Norton-related relics. Those antiques have been acquired by this society with grateful thanks and immense appreciation. Together with very ancient documents long held in the safe-keeping of the Biron and Boutin families of Norton and Lake, the collections donated by Pat, Roch, Jody, and so many other members enables us to tell the authentic story of the town's original residents, those men and women who worked together to create the Mission of Norton Mills.
Our vision is clear: though this website documents the fortunes of the mill owners and other wealthy land purchasers our intention is not to focus exclusively on them or the wealthy lumber barons who were sometimes accused of exploiting the area's resources. Instead, our focus rests strongly on the workers and residents of Norton, those blood and flesh men and women of the soil who committed themselves to the land because they loved it, they ran logging camps, and worked as fishing guides or camp chefs. They were those teachers like Lydia Andrews, Muriel Maw, and so many others who battled on foot through deep snow and ice so children could get an education. They were the men who fought - and died, in conflicts overseas, and the women who took in cleaning, ran their own businesses, or worked for others in an effort to survive. It was through their blood, sweat, and tears that Norton was created, and it is the story of their labor that deserves to be brought to a wider audience. From time to time, every generation needs to be reminded that what 'it takes' to create a town from the wilderness and carve out a living is not wealth or petty politics but a strong back, willing hands, an ability to work with others for the good of the whole and the betterment of the community and - most of all, a powerful determination to forge on through epidemics and lack of local jobs. Those resourceful attributes deserve our respect. The people who built the Mission of Norton Mills have earned their place in history, and it is high time their story was told.
Thanks, too, to everyone who has donated old documents including letters found in attics and antique photos. The Norton Historical Society is a scholarly endeavor, we provide research opportunities and interesting information on the history of Norton. Ensuring that all those who once lived and worked in the town are remembered - including the ancestors of my late husband Mark, is vitally important and long overdue. From the feedback received, it's clear that people have been waiting a very long time for a website like this. Part of its' success is the fact that many of the stories about Norton and its secrets can only be told by those whose ancestors worked and lived there. I count myself fortunate to know just a few of those secrets from having married into a Norton family. The roots of my late husband's ancestors - the Biron, Henry, and Boutin families, lie in 1870's Norton. They spent many happy hours in Norton's secret old tunnels and small caves or listening to the stories of those who have long since passed away. I enjoy bringing the past to life on their behalf and telling the histories of their ancestors and all their neighbors in Norton. As time goes by more secrets about Norton will be revealed - including the strange story of the elderly lady who read Tarot cards, the shocking 'barn' murder, the Swede known as Lackey Brown Nose, and many other stories which are all but forgotten nowadays!
Organized on 6 March 1885, the town of Norton quickly grew into a thriving commercial enterprise with its own railroad station, post office, two churches, a creamery, two hotels, a boarding house, and numerous mills and lumbering camps. The first town meeting was held inside a resident's home, as was the first Mass. Eventually, a town office was created and this was run from inside the Nelson & Dunn store, formerly owned by Alpheus M. Stetson, a Boston lumber baron.
Nelson's store also functioned as a post office, and served as an outlet for gasoline, farming equipment, animal feed, and clothing. Among the town's first selectmen and officers were Wilmot Greenleaf Nelson, owner of Nelson's store; Albert McLean; clerk and treasurer, and selectmen Stuart A. Baldwin, Hazen E. Ames, and Leonard F. Jones. Thanks to Roch Letourneau - a radio host, author, and historian who lives in Coaticook, Quebec., the signatures of many of those early mill owners mentioned above and dozens of other residents can be viewed on this website. In December 2021, Roch Letourneau presented this historical society with more than two thousand Norton-related documents. Dating back to the very early 1800s, the Letourneau Collection is a valuable research tool which provides a unique insight into the lives of those who lived and worked in Norton and Norton Mills.
Norton - and the area which was named Norton Mills by the Grand Trunk railroad authority, did not have a hospital. It was usual in those early days for doctors to rent offices inside a hotel and have patients visit them there. Among them was Dr. Eastman, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, he divided his time between Norton, Coaticook, and Canaan, and received patients in his office inside Norton's Stetson House hotel. There were also other doctors living in Canaan, Coaticook, and Stanhope who visited Norton, as did the doctors who ran surgeries in Island Pond. Residents with medical emergencies simply boarded the train in Norton and traveled to the Hotel Dieu hospital in Sherbrooke for treatment. Getting medical help from doctors in Island Pond was slower and more difficult because the road between Norton and Island Pond wasn't completed until 1915.
Norton residents who needed to reach Island Pond before 1915 found it easier to walk along the railroad tracks, laid in 1865 by the Grand Trunk Railroad, rather than traverse the bumpy and sometimes impassable single lane dirt 'road' existing between the two towns. Nowadays the road is still known as the Rollercoaster Highway due to its' twists, turns, and dips. Norton is home to the Port of Norton customs inspection post and the Miriam Nelson municipal offices along with a number of businesses, farms, a restaurant, and numerous private homes. St. Bernard's church on Church Hill Road has closed and the building given to the town. Nelson's store, Duranleau's drive in movie theater, and the Hotel Carpenter are long gone.
The Norton Historical Society website has a wealth of information to share. Long forgotten newspaper articles; rare vintage photographs, and details about the lives of those who lived and worked in Norton make for fascinating reading. Within this virtual museum are customs and immigration stories, the names and signatures of some of Norton's investors and earliest voters, and the Hadlock, Gordon, and Letourneau Collections consisting of a wide range of photographs, postcards, relics, legal and social documents, school invoices, and postal records showing the signatures of mill owner Stuart Baldwin, hotelier and businessman John Carpenter, Norton pioneer John Boutin who farmed at Lake for half a century, and so many other Norton families including the Daniels, Gagnon, Turgeon, Gaudette, and the Griffins. Become a member of the Norton Historical Society and discover the real story of the hard working pioneers and the men and women who carved a living out of the wilderness to create a frontier community.
The Norton Historical Society is dedicated to the memory of the late Lt. Col Mark C. Biron
Become a member
Membership of the Norton Historical Society is open to everyone who shares an interest in preserving the history of Norton. Two newsletters a year are mailed to members. Updates appear each month on this site. Members receive discounts on books and free genealogical assistance. Apply for your membership pack now (containing NHS badge, pen, and membership card). Life membership for adults is $50. For more information contact the Norton Historical Society, Inc. PO BOX 391. Island Pond. Vermont 05846 or email email@example.com
This Historical Society enjoys hearing from you
Your recollections of Norton are important. Physical or virtual photos, old documents or news clippings are always of great interest and worthy of preservation. Please get in touch if you would like to share memories or photos of this unique area. Contact the Norton Historical Society at PO BOX 391. Island Pond. VT 05846