Noah Norton (1786 - 1877) was a government agent, museum founder and California Gold Rush prospector. He was instrumental in founding two towns, Adrian, Michigan, and Nortonville, California.
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.
When the War of 1812 commenced, he volunteered and served as a Lieutenant and participated in the Battle of Lundy's Lane.
After the war, Mr. Norton relocated his family to a wilderness area that would eventually become Adrian, Michigan. In 1827 the Norton residence was the site of the first church service in Adrain.
Mr. Norton volunteered during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and became a member of the secret service.
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.
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.
Noah Norton died on January 31, 1877 and is buried in the Webster Family Plot (Plot #1) at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. (The Websters were his grandchildren.)