John Thomas Norton

John Thomas Norton (1865-1942) was born in Troy, New York, on February 4, 1865 during the civil war.   His parents Thomas Norton (about 1822-1888) and Rose Shattuck (about 1825-1898) came by sea from Ireland.   John Thomas became a well respected attorney who fought for justice and is portrayed in the novel “The Trial of Bat Shea” by Jack Casey.His father was 46 and his mother 42 when he was born.  They lived in the 9th Ward of Troy and his father’s real estate was valued at $10,000 in 1870.

John Thomas Norton married Margaret Hammond (1871-1922) on January 16, 1891 in Buffalo, NY.   Margaret’s parents Richard Hammond and Johanna Mahar, were born in Tipperary County, Ireland and emigrated to Troy, NY in 1863.

Some psychological theories suggest the importance of birth order in personality development.  One might even speculate that with John T. as the youngest child and Margaret as the oldest that their relationship had its own unique dynamics based on birth order.   Growing up, a youngest child might seek mothering while a oldest one may provide it.  Obviously, there is no way of confirming if this was a dynamic in their relationship.

In 1900, the Norton family lived in the 10th Ward Troy and later in 1920, they lived in the 15th Ward.

Children of John and Margaret:

Child Arrived Married Departed
Josephine Hammond Norton about 1895 NY Franklin B. Hyde
Margaret Hammond Norton 1896 Troy, NY none 1973
Thomas John Norton about 1898
Helen Rose Norton 12 Feb 1899 Troy, NY Allen Archiland ROFF, Sr. 16 Mar 1977 Albany, NY

John Thomas Norton’s career has been described as follows:

As a successful lawyer and an able and efficient public official, John Thomas Norton has made a name and a place for himself among the notably able members of his profession. For more than three decades he has been engaged in legal practice in the city of Troy, and there are few citizens of the community who are better known or more highly esteemed than is he.

John Thomas Norton was born in Troy, New York, February 4, 1865 and received his early education in the public schools of his native city. When his high school course was completed he matriculated in Williams College, from which he was graduated in 1886, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He then began the study of law in Troy, but later went to Buffalo, New York, where he completed his studies and was admitted to the bar in October, 1888.

The following year he returned to Troy and entered into partnership with M. H. Myers, under the firm name of Myers & Norton, which connection he continued until the death of Mr. Myers in 1893. Since that time he has continued to practice alone. Early in his professional career he was appointed corporation counsel for the village of Greenbush, Rensselaer county, New York, and in 1894 he was elected to represent his district in the State Assembly of New York, carrying the election by a majority of 750, the quality of his service as an assemblyman being best evidenced by the fact that the following year, in 1895, he was reelected, this time carrying the election by a majority of 2,147. In 1902 he was appointed corporation counsel for the city of Troy, and in 1911, he was made deputy attorney-general of the State of New York, in charge of the Conservation Bureau of the attorney general’s office. The duties of that responsible official position he continued to efficiently fill until 1914. During the incumbencies of Governor Glynn Mr. Norton acted as counsel to the governor. As a public official he has made an enviable reputation for ability, faithfulness and close adherence to the highest ideals of public service.

Though he has held many important public offices, his political career has not been entirely made up of successes. He was the candidate of the Democratic party for district attorney, for Secretary of State, and for judge of the Court of Appeals, in each of which campaigns he was defeated. His service, however, in the various public positions which he has held has been of so high a degree of efficiency that his reputation is well established and he is recognized as one of the progressive and conscientious political men of his party. He has won the esteem of his professional associates in a high degree, and though his successes, both professionally and in public service, have been many, he is one of those who always remain a student.

Originally published 1905 and re-published in 2009.

He keeps constantly in touch with the larger aspects of the profession through membership in the Rensselaer County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association, and steadily continues to serve the community in which he lives by giving his support to all those matters which are planned for the advancement of the welfare of the city. He is a member of the College Club, of New York City; of the Troy Club; the Van Schaick Island Golf Club; and of the Old Guard; and he is also a member of the Troy Citizens’ Corps. He is president of the Rockwood Manufacturing Company, of Fulton county, and of the Forbes Manor Realty Company, of Rensselaer. His religious affiliation is with the Catholic church.

John Thomas Norton married, on January 16, 1891, at Buffalo, New York, Margaret Hammond, who was born in Troy, New York, but was a resident of Buffalo, New York. She died February 11, 1922, leaving four children: 1. Josephine Hammond, who received her early education in the public schools of Troy and then became a student in Notre Dame University, of Maryland, from which she was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. 2. Margaret H., who also received her early education in the public schools of Troy and continued her studies in the Notre Dame University, but did not graduate from that institution. 3. Thomas John, who received his early education in the public schools of Troy, and then prepared for college in Troy Academy. Upon the completion of his preparatory course he matriculated in Williams College, where he continued his studies until the entrance of the United States into the World War, at which time he enlisted and was sent to France with the Hoosick Falls Company, of the 105th Troy Regiment. 4. Helen Rose, who after receiving her early education in the public schools of Troy, became a student in the Emma Willard School, of Troy. She married Allen Archiland Roff, of Cohoes, New York.

The above photo shows the friendship between John Thomas’ daughter Margaret Norton (right), the older sister of Helen Norton, and Eleanor Clemens (left) in the early 1920s. About 25 years later, Eleanor’s daughter Toya married Helen’s son Allen.

In his grief less than a month after his wife Margaret died, John Thomas Norton age 56 boarded the S.S. Araguaya with his daughter Josephine and returned from Bermuda to New York on March 9, 1922.  Family oral history has it that he never got over the loss of his wife who died at age 51.

Widowed for 20 years, my paternal great grandfather John Thomas Norton died on April 18, 1942.   John Thomas and Margaret are buried next to each other in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Troy, NY.  RIP

Author Jack Casey is credited with researching and telling the story of a significant case in John Thomas’ career.  It is the story of Bat Shea.  Thank you Jack for understanding the deep dynamics and emotions of this time in the history in Troy, NY.  Casey’s novel is a compelling story of human nature, integrity, and liminal space.


A History of Troy and Rensselaer County, NY — Volume III by Rutherford Hayner

The Trial of Bat Shea by Jack Casey

U.S. Federal Census 1870, 1900, 1920, 1930

U.S. Passengers Lists 1922

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