In the eastern end of the interesting spot of bright sunshine in vigorating air, happy homes, and green earth called Kansas, is located the beautiful little city of Nortonville. It is in Jefferson County, NE1/4 of Sec. 30, in township 7, Range 19 East, nestled up against the south line of Atchison County. This is the opening paragraph of G.W. Hills story “Nortonville, the Gem of the Plains” published in early 1900’s.
According to Marshall, author of “Santa Fe built a Railroad” the town of Nortonville was named for T.L. Norton, a favorite roadmaster on the crew building the railroad. A story often told by railroad men is that he would park his railroad car here on the hill at a siding and the term “Norton’s place” became common with the workers, thence the name of Nortonville seemed appropriate.
The original legal sale of this site was from the U.S. Government to George R. Hines in October 1858 when he purchased a patent for 160 acres. As the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe was pioneered and mapped toward Atchison, they purchased 27.80 acres of right-of-way.
Alden Spear of Boston who was one of the early directors of the Santa Fe (1870 – 1894), purchased the original plot and formed the Arkansas Valley Town Company and plotted the village, there not being a house nearer than one mile. The town was plotted in May 1873 with Alden Spear, Trustee, filing this plot June 1873. Later the Williams, Stillman, and Cottage additions were plotted and filed.
The first settler was John Taggart who arrived in May, 1873, coming from Pardee, Kansas, where he had lived three years. He brought with him a small stock of goods, intending to open a store. He pitched a tent, which he occupied until a building could be erected. On May 17, he was appointed postmaster and the post office was also in the tent. By June his building was erected on Railroad Street and our first business building opened with the general merchandise business. Later in September, the Depot was built by the railroad and Mr. Taggart was appointed the first agent.
Following Taggart to the settlement were the families of Wesley Cummings, B.F. Payne, R.O. Neely, Oliver Davis and Samuel Pardee. Dr. R.D. Webb and O.W. Babcock lived across the county line in Atchison County. During the year the settlement of the country around town progressed rapidly but the town grew little. The fact that the surrounding country developed more rapidly than the town has been much to Nortonville’s advantage, as these settlers were a substantial class of farmers and without them Nortonville could not have prospered.
June 1884, a petition was signed by the citizens and presented to the District Judge, asking for a city charter for a city of third class. Charter was granted and the first election ordered to take place the first Tuesday in August 1884.
The above information was taken from the Nortonville Centennial 1873 - 1973 book. If you are interested in more history of the City of Nortonville, enjoy the additional links to The Centennial Book and the 125 year book. For individuals wanting to search for grave markers visit our helpful links page where you can perform a search on our local cemeteries.