59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the Jeremiah C. Norton Family Papers

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard MuseumGale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU478
Creator - creatorNorton, Jeremiah C., 1819-1897
TitleJeremiah C. Norton family papers
Date1845-1888, undated
Extent6 folders + 2 oversize folders (0.196 cubic feet)
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractThe collection contains bills, receipts, copies of legal records, and marine insurance policies, 1845-1888, bulk 1845-1865, created by Edgartown whaling captain Jeremiah C. Norton and members of his family.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions to access.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to museum staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 478, Jeremiah C. Norton Family Papers.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Philip Bergen, Bostonian Society, October 21, 1994. (Accession no. 1994.080).

Custodial History

According to institutional records, this collection was initially sent from the White River Valley Historical Society in Auburn, Washington, to The Bostonian Society. Auburn is less than 15 miles from Tacoma, Washington, where Jeremiah C. Norton's first wife settled with their daughter, Abby Norton Nolan and son-in-law, George Nolan. Philip Bergen was the librarian of the Bostonian Society at the time these materials were acquired.


  • City of New Bedford, Massachusetts. "City of New Bedford Official Website - New Bedford Free Public Library - Whaling Project." Published 2013. http://www.newbedford-ma.gov/Library/Whaling/Whaling.html
  • Lund, Judith N., Elizabeth A. Josephson, Randall R. Reeves and Tim D. Smith. "American Offshore Whaling Voyages: a database." Published 2012. http://www.nmdl.org.

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Insley Julier from December 2013-January 2014. Finding aid finished by Lara J. Ullman in July 2014. Finding aid machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick, July 2014.

 Creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Europa (Ship : 1853-1872)
  • Louisiana (Ship)
  • Smyrna (Bark)
  • Swift (Ship : 1805-1863)


  • Accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Subscription

Geographic Name(s)

  • Cottage City (Mass.)
  • Edgartown (Mass.)
  • Oak Bluffs (Mass.)
  • Vineyard Grove (Mass.)


  • Seafaring life
  • Whalers (Persons)
  • Whalers' spouses--Massachusetts--Edgartown
  • Whaling masters
  • Whaling--Massachusetts--Edgartown
  • Whaling--Massachusetts--New Bedford
  • Whaling ships

Biography/Historical Note

Jeremiah Crowell Norton was born on June 6, 1819 to Shubael Claghorn Norton (1794-1871) and Polly Davis Norton (1797-1874). The family lived in Edgartown, Massachusetts. Norton had seven siblings: Thomas, Shubael, Jane, Mary, Cordelia, Deborah and Henry. Jeremiah C. Norton and three of his brothers, Thomas H. Norton, Shubael C. Norton, and Henry D. Norton, all became mariners. Jeremiah Norton embarked upon at least five whaling voyages and is first listed as third mate on the Mars (Bark), 1841-1845, having reportedly come aboard at Tahiti, Society Islands (French Polynesia) on October 12, 1842.

When Norton returned from the voyage in 1845, he married his first wife, Margaret Stuart Vincent (1821-1906). The pair made their home in Edgartown and had one daughter, Abby Howes Norton (1853-). On his next whaling voyage aboard the bark Smyrna of New Bedford, 1845-1849, Norton rose in rank from mate to captain. He sailed on three additional whaling voyages out of New Bedford, including the Swift (Ship), 1849-1851, as mate; the Louisiana (Ship), 1853-1857, as captain; and the Andrews (Bark), 1858-1862, as captain. Norton's first wife, Margaret Vincent Norton remained on Martha's Vineyard until 1888, when she moved to Tacoma, Washington with their daughter, Abby H. Norton and son-in-law, George Nolan of Cottage City, Massachusetts. In 1862, while in port in Auckland during his final whaling voyage, Norton left the ship and resettled in New Zealand. He married a second wife, Anne Clara Simons (1842-1914) in the same year and the pair had six children: Louise, Cordelia, Anne, Thomas, William and Edward. By 1872, Jeremiah and Anne Norton were living in Port Russell, New Zealand. They later moved to Parua Bay, New Zealand where Jeremiah C. Norton died on August 31, 1897.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contain bills, receipts, copies of legal records and marine insurance policies, 1845-1888, bulk 1845-1865, created by Edgartown whaling captain Jeremiah C. Norton and his wife, Margaret V. Norton. The bills and receipts largely relate to whaling and include: charges for fitting out vessels, subscriptions to the Whalemen's Shipping List and Merchants' Transcript, receipts for Norton's lay or share of voyage proceeds, and receipts for marine insurance payments. There are a few household accounting records from Edgartown businesses, particularly for articles of clothing, fabric, sewing supplies, and wood. Copies of legal records include a subpoena issued to Norton to be deposed in a civil and maritime damages case brought to court by seaman, Henry Nugent (or Nugin) of the bark Mars in 1845 and a writ dated 1862 executed on behalf of the mariner, Philip Smith, summoning Jeremiah C. Norton and Abraham Osborn, managing owner and agent of the ship Europa of Edgartown, for breach of contract. In addition, the collection includes an 1875 receipt for a Vineyard Grove camp ground lease, an 1888 benefit certificate for the Widows and Orphans Benefit Fund of the Royal Society of Good Fellows, and a Cottage City auction announcement created by Abby and George Nolan.


The collection is arranged by material type and therein in loose chronological order. The material is housed in a box with other small collections.

Collection Inventory


Copy of Subpoena Related to Mars (Bark), 1845 August 20 


Bills, Receipts and Subscriptions, 1849-1865 


Bill, Receipt, and Benefit Certificate, 1857, 1875 and 1888 

OS GEN 726

Marine Insurance Policy for Catchings on Smyrna (Bark), 1848 February 14 


Marine Insurance Policy for Property on Louisiana (Ship), 1853 July 08 


Marine Insurance Policy for Ship and Outfitting on Europa (Ship), 1858 March 17 


Copy of Writ Related to Europa (Ship) and Letter, 1862 September 


Public Auction Announcement for Cottage City Property, undated