William H. Norton, the superintendent and engineer of the Earlville
water-works, was born in New Portland, Somerset county, Maine, October 17,
1831, a son of William G. and Elmira (Parker) Norton, both natives of the
Pine Tree state.
The Norton family is of English origin and was represented in New England at an early period in the history of this country. The Parkers are of Scotch-Irish extraction. Both families were represented in the early wars of this country, Grandfather Norton serving in the war of 1812 and Grandfather Parker in the Revolutionary war.
William G. Norton and wife were the parents of the following named children: William H., the immediate subject of this review; John P., deceased; Ruth P., deceased, was the first wife of W. R. Haight, of Earlville, Illinois; Octava E., a widow residing in Jacksonville, Illinois; and Sybel, wife of F. H. Hall, the superintendent of the Blind Asylum at Jacksonville, Illinois. William G. Norton left Maine in the fall of 1849 and brought his family to Illinois, locating in Boone county, where they resided until the spring of 1851, when they removed to Freedom, LaSalle county. In 1852 they came to Earlville, and here the parents spent the closing years of their lives and died.
In his youth William H. Norton obtained a fair academical education, and when a young man engaged in teaching. He taught his first school in the winter of 1851-2, and for four or five years thereafter spent his time in the school-room as teacher. After his marriage, in 1854, Mr. Norton settled in Earlville, where he has since continuously resided, with the exception of four years, 1873 to 1877, when he lived in Aurora, Illinois. The first five years after his marriage he was engaged in farming, and from that turned his attention to the grain business, in which he was occupied at the time the civil war came on. He enlisted April 22, 1861, in Company D, Twenty-third Illinois Infantry, as a private. This regiment was captured in September, 1861, at Lexington, Missouri, was paroled three days later and was discharged by the United States government, when it was afterward reorganized Mr. Norton did not enter it. He re-enlisted in August, 1862, as a private in Company A, One Hundred and Fourth Illinois Infantry, and served until November, 1864, when he was discharged on account of ill health. Prominent among the engagements in which he participated were the battles of Hartsville, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge and the Atlanta campaign; and like most veterans of the Union army, he now maintains a membership in the Grand Army of the Republic, being identified with McCulloch Post, No. 475.
For two years after his return from the army Mr. Norton was in such poor health that he was not in any business. When he recovered he was for several years engaged in the manufacture of shoes, and for several years following that was in the employ of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, being engaged in railroading while in Aurora. In 1877 we find him dealing in agricultural implements, which he continued for seven years. In 1889 he was appointed the postmaster of Earlville, under President Harrison's administration, and served as such four years and seven months, until a change of administration caused his successor to be appointed. In early life he learned the business of stationary engineering, and has followed that, at intervals, when not otherwise occupied. Since May, 1896, he has held the position of superintendent and engineer of the Earlville water-works. Mr. Norton is an ardent Republican, and besides the office above referred to he has been honored with other official positions. He has served as alderman, town clerk, town assessor, township trustee of schools and justice of the peace. He was elected to the last named office in 1898.
Mr. Norton was first married, in 1854, to Miss Harriet A. Smith. She died in 1874, leaving four children — Lawrence J., Finette, Harriet and Maud. In 1878 he wedded Elizabeth Cook, his present companion. Their union has been blessed in the birth of two children, — Vere and Blanch. The latter was drowned at the age of six years.
Extracted 17 Jul 2017 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois, published in 1900, volume 2, pages 501-503.