E.E. Norton: Humble Beginnings, Elegant End

Col. Emery Ebenezer and Jeanette Norton are buried in Stroudsburg Cemetery.
Photo courtesy of Erin Calpin.

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

One of the most common inquiries we receive at the Monroe County Historical Association, especially in October, is “Who is buried in that large mausoleum in the Stroudsburg Cemetery?”

The answer is Colonel Emery Ebenezer Norton and his wife, Jeanette Norton. E.E. Norton was born in Allegheny County, New York on May 4, 1816. According to Norton’s obituary, at the age of 16, he left home (with only 17 cents in his pocket) to make his way in the world. His first job was as a school teacher in a public school. Norton only taught for one year before he obtained a clerkship in the office of leading Belmont, N.Y., attorneys, Diven and Monell.

Norton remained at the law office for four years, gaining an extensive knowledge of the practice during the day and privately studying the law at night. By age 20, he was admitted to the bar and purchased the law office, running it entirely by himself. One year later, Norton was elected treasurer of Allegheny County, New York, and in 1844, he was admitted as a member of the Supreme Court of the state of New York.

In 1850, Norton was elected to the New York legislature and after serving his term, left to establish his own law firm, Norton, Wood and Chamberlain.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, beginning the American Civil War. Norton enlisted with Cassius M. Clay (a veteran of the Mexican American War) and his battalion to protect the White House, President Abraham Lincoln, and Washington DC. Because of the battle at Fort Sumter, U.S. forces were sent to South Carolina, leaving Washington DC unprotected. Clay’s group of 100 men, Norton included, were known as Clay’s Battalion and were the first to volunteer to secure Washington until federal troops arrived.

Immediately following the Civil War, Norton left the Army and traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he opened a law office. While in Louisiana, Norton’s law practice thrived; he handled bankruptcy cases for the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

In 1867, the Norton family came to Stroudsburg and purchased the 183-acre John Malvern farm on Dreher Avenue near present-day Glen Brook Golf Club. The following year, the Nortons had an extensive addition built on the side of the old farm house that featured a three story castle-like wall and tower, long thin windows, and a balcony. Maple trees were planted along the road, giving the property its name, Maple Court. Many locals, however, referred to the property as “Norton Castle.”

Following the completion of the addition, Norton Castle boasted 29 rooms, a large curved staircase featuring six types of wood, marble fireplace mantles, and red and crystal glass chandeliers. The home was heated with radiators that “received steam from a steam plant some hundred feet to the rear of the main house.” Outbuildings consisted of a carriage house for 20 horses, a barn to store vegetables, a spring house to keep dairy and eggs cool and a root cellar to stock foods during the winter months.

Jeanette Norton died at home on January 26, 1887. According to her obituary, Jeanette’s remains were placed in an expensive air-tight, gold-colored steel casket provided by Brown and Keller Undertakers of Stroudsburg.

Emery Ebenezer Norton died February 11, 1901. E.E. and Jeanette Norton are interred in the prominent temple-style mausoleum in the Stroudsburg Cemetery. In 1948, the tombs were vandalized. Rumor had it that the Nortons were buried with valuable jewels. Edward L. Burnett, great-grandson of E.E. and Jeanette Norton, wrote in his book,

The stone doors of the mausoleum are kept locked these days to prevent vandals from entering the tomb. I remember when the doors were left open, and only a gate of iron bars separated an onlooker from the sepulchral vaults inside. It thrilled me as a boy to peer into the tomb and see staring vacantly back at me a life-sized copper bust of Col. Norton, his full beard spreading halfway down his chest.

Interestingly, E.E. Norton had no will. The Nortons had two children together, Janet, who was often called Nettie, and Grace. Nettie inherited the Stroudsburg home while Grace received the property in Louisiana. Having been unsuccessful in the stock market and needing cash, Nettie attempted to sell the Norton Castle immediately following her father’s death. Nettie and her family periodically lived in the Castle until the home finally sold in 1909.

Norton Castle stands today as a private residence. The home has been modified and no longer resembles a castle, but the history of E.E. Norton and his contributions to local and national history continue today.