Julia Norton: She yet Speaketh


A large white marble slab rests against on old brick chimney in the undercroft of the church. The tablet resembles ones that line the walls and floors of churches and cathedrals in England honoring royalty, poets, soldiers, and scholars.

The inscription on the tablet reads








Julia Norton was a teacher. Born in New York in 1819, her family came to Marion from Connellsville, Pennsylvania by way of Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1854.Marion was a small settlement on the banks of the Mississinewa. The first settlers had arrived only twenty odd years earlier. In part due to its role as county seat, the village was attracting tradesmen, lawyers, doctors and clergymen.

The need for schools arose and Julia Norton began teaching the youth of Marion’s pioneer families. School was a spotty affair, conducted in the Presbyterian Church, the County Courthouse, and in rustic cabins.Her obituary reported that Miss Norton taught for over thirty years. She was highly regarded by her pupils who recalled not only the “hard benches” that they had to sit on but also the Friday spelling contests that the students eagerly looked forward to.  A local history written in 1916 notes that Norton was reluctant to use the rod, a disciplinary tool used often resorted to in 19th century education. The Marion Chronicle described her as “ woman of a strong but peculiar character…who possessed a remarkable will and energy…”

Julia Norton was part of the early Episcopal community in Marion. No more than a handful of communicants, the group met for Morning Prayer in various homes, stores, and the county courthouse during the period 1850 to 1870. Circuit riding priests from Trinity Fort Wayne and Indianapolis would periodically celebrate the Mass and baptize new members. In 1890 Julia and her fellow Episcopalians became Gethsemane Episcopal Church when the new building opened for worship.

Miss Julia Norton was stricken by paralysis in 1891 and died in 1894.  Her obituary stated, “ Her life… has been devoted to teaching…and her death closes the earthly existence of a devout member of the Episcopal Church and a woman who will long be remembered.

Bill Munn

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