Hiram Norton

     Probably the wealthiest entrepreneur in Lockport, Il. during the 1840’s to the 1870’s was Hiram Norton.  Like most of the early residents at this time Mr. Norton was not a native.  He was originally a New England resident from either Vermont or New York.  He was born in 1799.   He was orphaned at a young age.  He moved to Canada; but returned to New York for schooling.  He relocated to Prescott on the Saint Lawrence River.  Here he became a businessman.  He was a partner in a stage coach line between Montreal and  Toronto.  He had an unsuccessful venture in manufacturing a steam boat that could navigate the Saint Lawrence Rapids. He was briefly involved in canal construction along the Saint Lawrence River.  This was never completed.   During this time, he gained experience in limestone quarrying and the use of hydraulic cement.
     While living in Canada, Mr. Norton participated in government activities.  He was a justice of the peace in the Johnston district.  He was a representative in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada from 1831–1838.  He left Canada in 1838 at the time of Upper Canada Rebellion.
  He moved to Lockport (a place that he visited the year before) probably due in part to his interest in the Illinois Michigan Canal.  He soon became involved in hydraulic cement manufacture locally and along the canal route.  He built a grain warehouse on the Chicago River in 1842.
     In the late 1840’s to the early 1850’s, he constructed a large 3 and one half story grain warehouse.  It was manufactured with locally quarried limestone.  It was adjacent to the east bank of the I and M Canal.  Later, the Chicago and Alton Railroad Tracks ran just west of the building.    In 1854, there was a three story addition to the building for a dry good store and warehouse.
     In the late 1840’s to the early 1850’s, a hydraulic basin was built on the west side of the canal.  This provided a 21 foot drop of water to provide power.  Soon after its completion, Mr. Norton obtained exclusive power rights to this basin.  He constructed a flour mill on its western edge.    This became the largest milling operation in Illinois. 
     Mr. Norton also owned a fleet of 5 canal boats.  He died in 1875.
     With the construction of the Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1895, grain shipments on the old canal halted and the Norton company went bankrupt.  With the construction of the Cal Sag Canal in 1911, most of the water power to Lockport was cut and the remaining mills closed.

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