Norton Massachusetts, 1890

Norton
is a farming and manufacturing town lying in the northern part of Bristol County, 30 miles south of Boston by the Taunton and New Bedford Branch of the Old Colony Railroad; from which, also, another branch connects with Attleborough. On the first the stations are Norton and Crane's; on the latter, Chartley, Barrowville and Norton Furnace (Norton Mills). The post-offices are Norton, East Norton, Barrowsville and Chartley. The other village is Winneconnet. The town is bounded on the north by Mansfield and Easton, on the southeast by Taunton, and west by Attleborough, with Rehoboth at the southwest angle.

The assessed area is 16,828 acres,— of which 2,767 acres are forest, composed chiefly of pine. Formerly large quantities of ship timber were cut here. There are many small streams, as Rumford, Wading and Canoe rivers and Dora's Brook—flowing southeasterly through the town into the Taunton River — all abounding with pickerel and furnishing motive power. In the easterly part of the town, Winneconnet Pond receives the waters of Canoe River and Leach's Stream, spreading over about 120 acres. This was a favorite resort of the Indians, who lived in natural caves upon its borders, and subsisted on the fish which it afforded. The geological formation varies slightly from graywacke to conglomerate and the more distinct "pudding-stone." Iron ore was once abundant here and small veins of anthracite coal have been discovered. On Rocky Hill (so called from the huge bowlders which cover it) there is a cave formed by two great rocks and known as "Philip's Cave," where the sachem of the Pokanokets used to resort on his fishing excursions to Winneconnet Pond. The surface of this town is generally level and the soil sandy and stony; yet by careful cultivation fair crops are obtained. The value of the aggregate product of the 42 farms in 1885 was $65,424. The principal manufactories are a cotton mill employing some 25 persons; a wool-scouring mill employing upwards of 30 persons; a jewelry factory employing about 90; wooden and paper box factories, 5 lumber mills, an iron furnace, 2 carriage factories, and soap and beverage establishments. The value of goods made was $174,532. The population was 1,718, including 455 legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $798,550, with a tax-rate of $13.66 on $1,000. There were 364 taxed dwelling-houses.

There are a good town-hall, erected in 1882, at a cost of $12,000— a gift from Harriet Newcomb; a public library; and 8 public school-houses,—the latter valued at $10,000. The Wheaton Female Seminary has a library of some 4,000 volumes; and its several buildings and appurtenances are valued at $70,000. This is a flourishing institution founded by Hon. Laban Wheaton in 1834. The publications of this place are the " Mirror," a weekly journal, and the "Church and Home," a monthly. The Congregationalists, Unitarians, Baptists, Methodists and Roman Catholics each have a church in the town.

This township was a part of the Taunton North Purchase, and on June 12, 1711, was made the town of Norton, taking its name in honor of a town of that name in England. Easton was formed from it in 1725, and Mansfield in 1770. The first settlement is supposed to have been made by William Witherell, in 1669, near the outlet of Winneconnet Pond. As early as 1696, the Leonard family having discovered iron ore in the town, set up a forge and bloomery, and for many years the manufacture of iron was carried on largely by George Leonard and his descendants. The first minister settled in Norton was the Rev. Joseph Avery, who was ordained October 28, 1714. The Hon. George Leonard (1729-1819), an eminent lawyer and a member of Congress, was a native of this town.

pp. 519-520 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890

Gazetteer