William H. and Eliza Norton’s elegant center-gabled brick home remains a symbol of the Norton’s substantial contributions in developing Columbus and Stillwater County. Built of local brick in 1899, the home, embellished by an ornate front porch, is still one of the most impressive residences in Columbus. The Nortons spared no expense, especially on the unusually sturdy load-bearing brick walls. At about thirty inches thick, the walls could have supported several more stories. Norton, nicknamed “Colonel,” arrived in Virginia City in 1866, taking jobs in farming, mining, and freighting. After the relocation of Crow Agency, south of Absarokee, in 1875 Norton opened a trading post with Horace Countryman near Columbus. In early July 1876, Norton relayed the first news of General Custer’s defeat at Little Bighorn to the Helena Herald; the story was picked up nationwide. Later that summer, he married Eliza Labey and worked at Crow Agency. After the arrival of the railroad in 1882, Colonel Norton built a mercantile, and in 1889 settled on lands that later became part of the townsite of Columbus. Over the next ten years, the Nortons established a sheep ranch and invested in the development of the local stone quarry, the opera house, the creamery, the flour mill, and the hospital. Colonel Norton served on many local boards and commissions and as territorial, then state, representative from Yellowstone County. After Stillwater County was created in 1913, the Nortons sold the courthouse block, including their home, to the county for $7,000.

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3rd Avenue, Columbus, Montana ~ Private