Norton Cemetery, Town of Nelson, Madison County, NY
Norton Cemetery, Town of Nelson, Madison County, NY
Research by Daniel H. Weiskotten, 1994
statistics unknown
No list, no stones, cited in Hammond (1872) History of Madison County
Last Modified October 24, 2000
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          The farm which is indicated here was located on Lot 169 and the west part of Lot 168 of #1 Township, Town of Nelson, based on historic map information.  This location is about 1.2 miles (2.0 km) south of the cross roads in the center of Erieville, on the Erieville Road.  The primary Norton house stood on the site of the house owned and occupied by Igor Pirogow (now deceased).  The old house burned in the mid 20th century and the present house was built on the same site.  This house may not appear on the 1853/1854 map of Nelson, but it is seen on the 1859 and 1875 maps as occupied D. Moore.
        A second house, wich may have been the original Norton house but which, in later years, seems to have been used as a tenant house, stood just north of Pirogow's, but it has been gone for many years.  The site of the tenant house is still identifiable and is located upon a low knoll in an abandoned field along the west side of the Erieville Road just south of the intersection of Sanderson Road.  A large pine tree and an old apple tree are still to be found there.  The 1853/1854 map shows that F.A. Norton was in this house, in 1859 it was occupied by Mrs. Stevens, and in 1875 by Mrs. Nichols.  The house is still shown on the 1937 Rural Index (occupant not yet identified) so it stood at least as late as that date.
        In trying to find this cemetery I spoke with a number of people in the neighborhood, one of whom recalled at least one tombstone in the area.  Mr. Pirogow (who passed away about 1997) lived on the farm since the 1950s and did not know of any cemetery on the property or in the immediate neighborhood, Carl Anderson, who has lived nearby for his entire life, also recalled nothing of a cemetery in the neighborhood.  The location of the cemetery was remembered by Jack (John W.) Miner, who lives on nearby Fire Tower Road, and he told me (12/26/1995) me that about 30 years earlier (1960s) a single headstone, not made of marble, with a rounded top, could be seen near the old house site just south of Sanderson Road, on the west side of the Erieville Road.  This would be at or near the location of the house shown as occupied by Mrs. Stevens in 1859 and Mrs. Nichols in 1875 and which probably served as the original Nichols house and then as a tenant house.
        I made a check of this location at several times during various seasons in 1994 and 1995 but I found no evidence of a cemetery or tombstones.  I have a feeling that any standing stones that had once been here may have been knocked down if the house site had been cleared for safe use as a pasture or field.  Mr. Miner said that while he remembered seeing the tombstone many years ago it has not been seen in many years.

        Holland Land Company Records for the property indicate that all 150 acres of Lot 168 was originally sold to Samuel Swift on August 1, 1793.  Swift was not the final purchaser as Joseph Bowen paid off the last of the debt in 1805, and in fact Company records indicate that in 1800 the lot was occupied by "Tho.s Clark + Eben.r Lyon", in 1801 by "Clark & Lyon", and in 1802 and 1803 by Joshua Lord.  On February 6, 1805 Joseph Bowen paid the debt on the lot in full, and he seems to have sold part of it soon thereafter as in 1806 the lot was occupied by "Bowen & Drinkwater".  (I have no idea who "Drinkwater" is!)
        Richard Carley purchased all 150 acres of Lot 169 on August 1, 1793 but he did not make the final payment on the lot.  Holland Land Company records indicate that Thomas Clark occupied the lot in 1800 and 1801, in 1802 by "Richardson & Daniels", 1803 by "Daniels & Richardson."  Aaron and Allen Daniels made two payments on the lot in March 1804 and on December 9, 1805 "A. Daniels" had paid the lot off in full, thus in 1806 the lot was occupied by "A. Allen &c."

        Holland Land Company Records place Francis Norton on Lot 24 of the Road Township (about 2 miles southeast of Cazenovia Village) before 1800.  This lot had originally been taken by Ebenezer Merrick in 1793, but other records show that Francis Norton was on Lot 24 of the Road Township in 1800, 1801, 1802, and 1803.  Norton made payments toward the debt on the lot as late as September 20, 1805, but by 1806 it was occupied by Benjamin Sweet.
        Federal census records and analysis of the neighbors who lived around him indicate that by 1810 Francis Norton lived about a mile north of his former place and about a mile and a half southeast of the Village of Cazenovia (somewhere in the southwest corner of the Road Township Reservation).
        By 1820 Francis Norton had moved to the Town of Nelson and was living on what was to be known for several generations as the Norton Farm, and where this cemetery is said to have been located.

        In a recent research project involving the carvers of early shale tombstones, I found that stones made of this locally quarried material fell out of favor when easily carved marble could be brought in quite cheaply from Vermont via the Erie Canal.  In areas such as Erieville, which is moderately close to the Erie Canal, the change from local to imported stone took place by 1830.  This would mean that for there to have been shale stones in the Norton Cemetery, where, as Hammond (1872) says could be seen the quaint head-stones so generally in use fifty years and more ago the burials would have had to have been made before about 1830.  All of this (materials and dates) indicates that it is unlikely that the missing Nortons are buried here.

The Norton Family

        Although it now seems likely that none of the Norton family are buried in this cemetery, in my initial research I made a search of the Norton family genealogy files at the Cazenovia Public Library; local history books, cemetery records in Cazenovia, Fenner, and Nelson, and census records for the Town of Nelson to find out about the Nortons and where they are buried.  What I found was that most of the Norton family members that died in this vicinity are buried in Evergreen Cemetery (in Cazenovia), Erieville Cemetery (about one mile north), or Wyss Cemetery (in Fenner).  Donna Burdick, Town of Smithfield Historian, tells me that Dr. Joel Norton and his wife Sophia are buried in the Peterboro Village Cemetery (he died in Newport RI, so he may not be buried there).  Burdick also informed me that an old list by the DAR (careful!) shows that there are several children of Joel and Sophia Norton in Peterboro, with death dates ranging from 1816 to 1841, indicating that Joel's primary residence was in the Peterboro area.

        The progenitors of the Norton family, Francis and Sally Norton died much too late (1858 and 1863 respectively) to have had tombstones that are carved of local shale as indicated by Hammond's history and Jack Miner's memory.  Although they may have been buried here on their farmstead, their stones would have been of marble and are more likely to have survived and be remembered.  It is likely, therefore, that the stones that were seen were for other earlier settlers who died before 1830 or so when marble from distant Vermont became the strict choice for tombstone material.

The following Norton family members are not accounted for in the cemetery records:

Norton, Celestia, wife of Joel Norton (may be Sophia Norton who is burid in Peterboro Village Cemetery)
Norton, Davis, son of Francis and Sally Norton, (wife Lydia Norton buried in Erieville).
Norton, Francis, died 1858 (father of family, owner of farm).
Norton, Sally, wife of Francis Norton, died 1863, age 80.

        Also, since at least one stone was seen perhaps 30 years ago and also that the only available list of Erieville Cemetery inscriptions was made in 1915, it may be that the stones of the Norton Cemetery were, between 1915 and 1960, moved to the Erieville Cemetery and do not appear on any transcript list.  Providing all the more reason to update that list!
        Except for the brief land history presented above I have not yet researched the families that owned the property before the Nortons came along about 1820, but that may be the place to look if the identities of those who had been buried here are to be found.  Also, when the Erieville Cemetery list is corrected a special notice of old stones which are in the cemetery now but which do not appear on the old list (meaning they were moved to the cemetery after 1915) might also help identify the people who were in the "Norton Cemetery" - especially if any of those stones are of shale!

END of Norton Cemetery History by Daniel H. Weiskotten