Norton, Jesse O.

Born: 1812-12-25 Bennington, Vermont

Died: 1875-08-03 Chicago, Illinois

Norton graduated from Williams College in 1835 and briefly taught school in Wheeling, Virginia. He soon moved to Potosi, Missouri, where he also worked as a teacher and began studying law. He married P. A. Sheldon in 1837, and the couple moved to Joliet, Illinois. Norton earned admittance to the Illinois bar and opened his own practice. He won election as city attorney and then, in 1846, as county judge. Norton served as a delegate to the 1848 Illinois constitutional convention. In 1850, he was practicing law in Joliet and owned $2,000 in real property. Norton won election to the Illinois House of Representatives, serving in 1851 and 1852. In 1852, he ran successfully as a Whig for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Norton opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and in the congressional election of 1854, he won reelection as member of the anti-Nebraska coalition. Norton soon became one of Illinois’ leading anti-slavery politicians and a Republican. He came back to Illinois in 1857 and won election as circuit judge. By 1860, Norton owned real estate worth $20,000 and had a personal estate of $3,000. Norton returned to Congress in 1862 and served there for the duration of the Civil War.

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Illinois of the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: Galaxy, 1875), 523-24; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1594; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Joliet, Will County, IL, 201; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Joliet, Will County, IL, 442.