Patch Passport: Hidden in Time
Travel Back in Time with the Wednesday Patch Passport, to discover the history and roots of Norton.
As Norton celebrates its 300th birthday this year, it’s hard not to think about the history of the town we’ve all grown to know and love.
Norton was originally part of the Taunton North Purchase. The deed for this 50-mile piece of land was issued June 1, 1668. Since 50 miles was a long way for families to travel for worship in the rough road conditions, this area was sectioned off as the North Precinct of Taunton in 1709. Two years later, the Town of Norton was formed.
Norton was organized as seven villages known as Chartley, Norton Center, Barrowsville, Norton Furnace, Crane's, E. Norton and Winnecunnet. According to www.NortonMa.org, each village formed with its own characteristics and heritage. Some villages had their own post offices, railroad stations, fire stations and schools. Some of the villages were composed of immigrant groups depending on the industries that evolved in the area.
Two of the oldest homes in town are the Campbell house, located at 217 W. Main St. (built in 1697), and the Allen D. Lane House, at 67 Dean St. (built approximately 1685-1709).
Some of the oldest businesses in town are Reliable (1954), Valentine Tool (1947, Sinclairs (1946), TJ Holmes (1929) and J. R. Kilburn Glass Co., Inc. (1897). Kilburn Glass, the oldest company still in business according to Historical Society records, manufactures glass parts for the industrial and electronic field.
One business that always brings back fond memories is Frates Dairy, a popular place to have ice cream in the 50s. And what goes better with ice cream than a swim or boating in the Norton Reservoir? People also cruised around in a swan boat.
“If you remember having an ice cream at Frates Dairy, it is possible you could still be a Newcomer. If you remember eating it while standing next to the old Milk Bottle, you can’t be anything but a Townie,” wrote columnist Bill Gouveia.
Today, Tsang’s restaurant is located where the infamous milk bottle was.
Still in business today, Haskin’s Pharmacy was known for it’s soda fountain. Norton's Country Store was the original site of Haskins Pharmacy. The business was founded in 1945 by Lewis S. Rubin under the name of Norton Perfumery. In 1946, it was sold to Francis Sullivan and known as Sully's. In 1956, Malcom Haskins became the new owner. Today his pharmacy is next door.
“If you remember Haskin’s Pharmacy in its old location, it is possible you are a Newcomer. But if you ever had a milkshake at the old Haskin’s Pharmacy soda fountain, you have Townie written all over you,” Gouveia said.
Other Town Facts:
- According to the 2010 census, Norton has a population of 19,031.
- Norton is 29.82 square miles.
- The Unitarian Church is the oldest church in town, founded 300 years ago with the town in 1711. The bell was made by Paul Revere and his sons in 1810.
- Winnecunnet Lake is the only large natural body of water in Norton. Winnecunnet, an Indian word, is said to mean "the place of black geese."
- On Plain Street is where King Philip's Cave is located. King Philip's Indian name was Metacomet. The Pilgrims gave him the name Philip. He was the Chief Sachem of the Wamponoags. King Philip frequently visited Winnecunnet on fishing and hunting trips, staying in the cave.
- Football was introduced to Norton High School athletics in the fall of 1964. Peter Bartek and Andrew Whelsan were the coaches. Although the season was short, the boys on this first team played outstandingly in their games against Medfield, Mansfield and Lincoln. In the fall of 1966, the team played its first full varsity schedule.
- Prior to 1902, Norton did not have a high school. Any student desiring a high school education had to go out of town with Norton paying the tuition. In 1902, the town constructed a four-classroom school on land donated by Mrs. Evan Wheaton. Three of the rooms were elementary and the fourth room functioned as a high school. In 1915, the town voted to erect additions to both ends of the school. The first floor housed the grammar school while the second floor contained the high school. In 1966, the school building was razed. The Norton Historical Society's third schoolhouse now stands on this site.
- Norton had a few ice-cutting operations including the Woodward Brothers Ice Wagon, Barrowsville Ice House and Chartley Ice Company.
- During the free concerts sponsored by the Great Woods held on the Wheaton College campus 50 years ago, children enjoyed playing up and down the dimple. They still do, in fact. This depression began as a cellar hole for a barn. It was sloped into its present form when Emerson dining hall was built in 1908. Originally it was going to be a reflecting pool, a formal garden or a Greek ampitheatre. None of these plans materialized. But it does provide a natural ampitheatre for frolicking children.
To learn more about the history of Norton, visit Norton Historical Society Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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