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Mr. Norton was born in Greene County, New York, on April 7, 1786. As a young man he moved to near Lake Ontario, and became a government officer having the duty to stop the smuggling of contraband traffic across the US-Canada border.
Life in Michigan
After the Mexican-American War he spent a short time back in Adrian, then embarked on a mission to gather specimens and other objects of interest for a museum in Pensacola, Florida. He later founded a museum of his own at Adrian.
Life in California
During the California Gold Rush (1848–1855), he disposed of the museum and joined a wagon train for California. He took the so-called "southern route," and was one of the first settlers of Los Angeles, California in 1850.
After a few years working in Los Angeles as a farmer, Mr. Norton returned to Adrian where his wife soon died. He then remarried and moved back to California, this time settling in Contra Costa County, California, where he prospected for coal. In 1855 he founded the town of Nortonville, California where a large coal mine named the "Black Diamond" was located. Nortonville is now a historic preserve managed by the East Bay Regional Park District. His wife, Sarah Norton, became a locally famous midwife who met a violent death in October, 1879, by a run-away horse pulling her carriage. She is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, at Nortonville, where it is rumored that she periodically presents herself to visitors as a white ghost.
Death and Burial
- J. P. Munro-Fraser, History of Contra Costa County, California, W. A. Slocum & Co., Publishers, 1882, page 626.
- J. P. Munro-Fraser, History of Contra Costa County, California, W. A. Slocum & Co., Publishers, 1882, page 627.
- W. A. Whitney and R. I. Bonner, History and Biographical Record of Lenawee County, Michigan, W. Stearns & Co., 1879, page 51.
- Jacqueline Byer Dial, The Move of Coal Miners from Nortonville, California to Black Diamond, Washington Territory, 1885, self published, 1980.
- Traci Parent and Karen Terhune, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Arcadia Publishing, 2009, pages 9-11.
- Traci Parent and Karen Terhune, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Arcadia Publishing, 2009, pages 115-126.
- Traci Parent and Karen Terhune, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Arcadia Publishing, 2009, page 69.
- Ghost Stories, http://paranormalstories.blogspot.com/2007/04/black-diamond-mines.html Retrieved on 20 January 2011; The White Witch of Nortonville, http://www.thriftymoving.com/rosehill.html Retrieved on 20 January 2011.
- David Johnson, California Tombstone Project, http://www.usgwtombstones.org/california/californ.html
- William Holcolm Webster and Rev. Melville Reuben Webster, History and Genealogy of the Gov. John Webster Family of Connecticut, E. R. Andrews Printing Company, 1915, page 641.