COL. W. S. NORTON, who for the past five years has been a valued citizen of Columbus, is one of Cherokee County's most prominent and wealthy residents, a large mine and land owner, a political leader and a sociable, whole-souled gentleman. He was born in July, 1845, at Paris, Illinois, and is a son of Amos and Elizabeth (Frasier) Norton.
Amos Norton was born in 1826 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was a nephew of "Little Ben" Norton, the noted territorial Senator from Ohio, who was also the first Senator elected from that commonwealth when it became a State. In 1854 Amos Norton visited Kansas but did not locate here, settling at Buffalo, Missouri. In 1855 he purchased land south of Buffalo, in Dallas County, Missouri, and was engaged in farming and stock-raising until the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted as quartermaster of the 14th Regiment, Missouri State Militia, and was captured and killed by Turner's band of guerrillas, on April 2, 1863. His widow, who was a daughter of William Frasier, of Kentucky, died at the home of the subject of this sketch in Columbus, in 1901, in advanced age. Of their three sons, only Colonel Norton ever became prominent in this section.
The adventurous and interesting career of Colonel Norton dates from his 15th year, when he left his home at Buffalo (where his father had located, bringing the family from Edgar County, Illinois, when our subject was nine years old) and enlisted in the Missouri State Guards. This took place May 4, 1861, and for 10 months he served in company A of this organization and then for 90 days, in the Home Guards, and later, in the 8th Regiment, Missouri Vol. Cav., from which he was honorably discharged in September, 1865, with a commission. The close of the war found him, like many others, in doubt as to his future, different localities presenting their claims, but many having serious drawbacks attached. Thus his venture into Old Mexico only resulted in a breakdown of health, and January, 1866, found him back at work on the home farm. In the following summer he first came to Cherokee County, Kansas, a section in which he is now so well known and so highly valued.
At this time, on account of a heavy fire loss, Colonel Norton was some thousands of dollars in debt; all his obligations have long since been discharged, dollar for dollar. He located one and a half miles west of the present site of Galena on government land which had been transferred to James F. Joy, the promoter and builder of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad. Settlers who had located were exempt and could keep their lands. Colonel Norton purchased from the heirs of John Ross. In three years he broke out and seeded a portion of the tract, made improvements, secured the location of a post office at the crossroads town of Checo, served as its first postmaster and then sold out to Rev. Mr. Stephens, whose son is now a business man of Galena. Mr. Stephens succeeded as postmaster, and served as such until the organization of the town of Galena.
In 1869 Colonel Norton began school teaching near Carthage, Missouri, and lived there until February, 1871, engaging also in freighting between Granby and Sedalia. He then settled in Joplin, where he began his mercantile career and his mining operations. His earlier mining ventures were in lead and zinc, but his present operations are confined mainly to coal mining and are extensive and successful. He owns over 2,000 acres of land in Cherokee County, 600 of which are included in two stock ranches, one located south of Lowell, and the other, northwest of Columbus, the rest of the property being coal and farming land. For 15 years he had given his attention closely to his coal and mercantile enterprises, but in the fall of 1903 he closed out the latter, which had been conducted at Scammon.
Colonel Norton is a lawyer by profession, and was in active practice from 1881 to 1900, having been admitted to the bars of Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas. It is not remarkable that a man so identified with such large business interests, should be also prominent politically. He was reared in the traditions of the Democratic party, but has long been affiliated with the Republican party, and served as State Senator from Cherokee County, from 1888 to 1892. He served for six years as mayor of Baxter Springs, and has been a leading factor in almost all of the public affairs of this section for the past 30 years.
On April 11, 1883, Colonel Norton was married to Mary A. Stall, who was probably the first female infant born at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, her father being a lieutenant of United States Dragoons, who subsequently met death from wounds, during the Civil War, at Andersonville Prison. Mrs. Stall died in California. Colonel and Mrs. Norton have two children,Maude, who is yet a student at college, and Claude, who is a student in the Missouri Military Academy, at Mexico, Missouri. Mrs. Norton and her daughter are members of the Presbyterian Church. The Colonel has liberal views, but they never take him very far from orthodoxy.
His social and fraternal associations are with the Columbus G. A. R. Post, in which he has filled chairs at Baxter and Galena, and with the Masonic Blue Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter of Columbus.
History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Cameron Smith, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 1-10-97.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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