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Illustrated TimeLine of Dr. Norton S. Townshend,

Antislavery Politician, Agricultural Educator

  • 10-17-14: Avon dedicates example Pool Park History Walk display at the Gazebo


    Born Clay Coton, Northamptionshire, England


    May 1, arrived in Avon, Ohio. Stayed with Father's brother, Isaac.

    Father, Joel, purchased 150 acres in section 22, Avon, Ohio


    11 April, Norton bought 25 acres adjoining the land of his father.


    The Townshends installed tile drains under all their fields. They were the first farmers to do so in Avon. The Townshends continued to buy land until they had over 300 acres.



    Tile from the farm of Dr. Norton S. Townshend

    These unglazed clay "flat" tiles were found by Dick Herbst on land that was part of Dr. Norton S. Townshend's farm.

    Each tile has two parts. Many designs may have been tried in the early days of field tile in Avon.

    These nineteenth century tiles could have rested on an oak board and would not sink into the quicksand.


    2000 LETTER by Jessie M. Root

    My husband Frank and I [agree that] Avon's Dr. Townshend. ... was the first to tile land in Lorain County.

    Frank remembers those old tiles on his grandmother Garfield's Detroit Road property in Sheffield Village.

    The first tiles were four wooden boards nailed together in a square and placed in the ground. When the kilns were invented, the tiles were molded like a horseshoe and placed in the soil on a board.

    Later the tiles were several shapes: round, six-sided, flat on one side, etc. Today, tiles are long, round, plastic coils laid in the ground.


    Drain tiles were used in the Nile basin about 400 B.C. and in ancient Rome.

    Today drain pipes of clay, concrete, or plastic, laid several feet underground, are much used in the United States, where about 110 million farm acres were artificially drained in 1987.



    Glazed, hexagonal or octagonal tile

    The hexagonal tile was supposed to be stronger than the same size round tile.



    Unglazed clay "flat" tile

    Unglazed clay "flat" tiles were used during the last half of the nineteenth century. One side of the tile was flat so that the tile could rest on an oak board and not sink into the quick sand. Drainage problems were a formidable challenge to the first Avon farmers.

    The task of the settlers in 1814 was to clear enough land to feed themselves. The somber unbroken forest was gradually turned into stumps, and stump removal was hard work. Avon farmers became expert with explosives.

    Sledging glacial boulders to the edge of the fields was another tough job.

    Dr. Norton S. Townshend brought field tile to Avon during the last half of the nineteenth century. Solving drainage problems was a top priority, turning swamps into fertile vineyards.



    Unglazed clay T-tile (upper right)

    Unglazed clay T-tiles were used to change the direction of water flow or to form a header tile during the first half of the twentieth century.

    A T-tile, such as the one shown here, could also have been used in a leach field.

    Also note the line of horse shoe tiles (one side flat) on the board.



    November 16, he became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. with father, Joel.


    Began the Study of Medicine with Dr. Richard Howard in Elyria, Ohio.

    December, went to study at the Cincinnati Medical College. He became very interested in the antislavery movement. He developed a friendship with Salmon P. Chase.


    Enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.


    He received his M.D. degree. He wanted to continue his studies in Europe. He went first to Paris to take courses. After completing his studies there, he went on to Edinburgh, Scotland, to study at the Edinburgh Medical School.


    He returned to Avon to begin his practice. His training far exceeded that needed for a country doctor.


    He married Harriet N. Wood, his long time neighbor. They were to have three children, Mary, James and Arthur. Arthur died at age four.


    He took over the practice of Dr. Howard in Elyria. He kept his farm in Avon, but moved his family to Elyria.


    At age 29 he was appointed a trustee of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. Interested in establishing a school of Agriculture.


    Won a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, a member of the Free Soil Party.


    Became a U. S. Congressman in the 32nd Congress. Fought against slavery, asked Congress to repeal Fugitive Slave Act.


    Lost his seat due to "gerrymandering" of his district.

    Returned home, ran for the Ohio Senate, won. He was a Free Soil candidate.


    January 24, his wife, Harriet, died from tuberculosis. Late in that year he married Margaret Bailey. She was a great supporter of his views. They were to have three children, Arthur, Alice, and Harriet.

    In the Senate he opposed extension of slavery, opposed capital punishment. He supported prohibitory liquor laws, proposed amending the Ohio Constitution to give women equal rights with men to hold and dispose of property. He supported granting of elective franchise to "colored citizens."

    He proposed an "asylum" devoted to training "imbecile" youth. This was finally acted upon by the General Assembly in 1857.

    Townshend's term in the Ohio Senate ended his elected political life. It did not end his political activity, or his relationship with Salmon P. Chase. He returned to his farm in Avon. He closed his office in Elyria and sold the property. His first love called to him, and he began to farm again in Avon.

    The theme of Townshend's speeches and writings was for farmers to engage in "intellectual improvement". He began a series of lectures and published a bulletin announcing plans for the Ohio Agricultural College at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. It was proposed to be open in the winter months when farmers and sons could attend.


    School transferred to Cleveland, Ohio. Noted Dr. Jared P. Kirtland was added to the faculty. Dr. Townshend tried to get funding for the college from the Ohio legislature. When this failed, the school was closed.


    He resigned from the Board of Trustees of Oberlin College.


    He was elected to the State Board of Agriculture.


    Elected president of the above board. He focused on many things, especially the use of under-tiles to drain farm lands. These tiles were laid below plow depth to drain excess water.

    April 12, 1861

    The Civil War begins with the Confederates bombarding Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, harbor.


    Morrell Act of 1862 {Land Grant -College Act} passed the U.S. Congress. This act provided lands for the establishment of agricultural schools.


    Civil War -- Although he was already 49 years old, he accepted a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army. He was a medical inspector inspecting hospitals, troops, and camps throughout the country. He served until October, 1865.


    Lieutenant Colonel Norton S. Townshend, M.D.

    This photograph of Dr. Townshend, age 48, was taken in St. Louis during 1863, while Dr. Townshend was serving in the Union Army as a Medical Inspector.


    He was elected to serve again on the Ohio State Board of Agriculture. Townshend began working with the Ohio legislature to establish an agriculture college.


    Reuben Cannon introduced a bill to establish the Ohio Agriculture and Mechanical College. It passed both houses without opposition.

    Governor Rutherford Hayes appointed Townshend to serve from the 14th district on the first board of trustees. It was a six year term.

    October 13, 1870 The Board selected the Neil farm in Franklin Co. to be the location of the college. Townshend became chairman of the Executive Committee of the College.



    First Professor of Agriculture at the Ohio Agriculture and Mechanical College.



    The Avon Agricultural Fair of 9-28-1875, held at the Avon Isle, Awarding Committees:

    Horses -- Charles Hall, Harry Torrill, Hiram Burrell

    Cattle -- Horatio Torrill, Thomas Hurst, E. A. Day

    Sheep -- John Ellson, Josiah Hurst, John Carter, Sr.

    Swine -- Edwin Byington, Wm. Laudon, L. Crandell

    Poultry -- N. S. Townshend, J. B. Wood, E. Snow, E. D. Hicks

    Mechanics Work -- no committee shown

    (men's fine boots, men's coarse boots, women's shoes, single harness, double harness, farm wagon, buggy, flour barrel, pork barrel, wash tub, bureau, bedstead, horse shoes & nails, gate irons)

    Farm Products -- Sam'l Gillett, O. B. Cahoon, E. Jackson

    (wheat, oats, barley, corn, Timothy Seed, Clover Seed)

    Vegetables -- Jno. Blackwell, A. Townshend, J. Lester

    (early potatoes, late potatoes, Turnips, Sweet potatoes, Tomatoes, Onions, Beets, Water Mellons, Musk Mellons, Cabbages, Squashes, Pumpkins)

    Fruits - illegible; Dairy Products - illegible; Flowers - illegible

    Domestic Manufacture -- Mrs. C. A. Fitch, Mrs. O. B. Cahoon, Mrs. T. Wilder

    (Coverlet, yarn carpet, rag carpet, woolen socks, cotton socks, woolen mittens, domestic tailoring)

    Ornamental Work -- Mrs. M. Townshend, Mrs. H. H. Williams, Mrs. Langdon

    (worsted embroidery, silk , cotton , paintings , drawings)

    Miscellaneous Articles -- H. H. Williams, W. L. Smith, Mrs. Ford


    N. S. Townshend, Pres.,

    Geo. S. Phelps, Secretary,

    Wm. L. Smith, Treasurer,

    Cyrus A. Fitch, Marshall


    May -- General Assembly of Ohio voted to change the name of the school to the OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY; thus Norton S. Townshend, M.D. is also a founder of The Ohio State University.


    This photograph of Dr. Townshend, age 68, was taken at the Ohio State University during 1883, while Dr. Townshend was serving as a Professor of Agriculture.


    Sent to England by the Unversity to study veterinary and agricultural schools there.


    First faculty member to be elected Professor Emeritus.


    He wanted to retire and return to his Avon farm, but a brief illness in July took his life on July 13, 1895. After a funeral in Columbus, he was returned for burial in Avon's Mound Cemetery [south-east corner of SR-83 and SR-254].


    January 12, 1898 -- the new agriculture building on Ohio State's campus, is named to honor Dr. Townshend, Townshend Hall. In 2000 the Hall remains Townshend Hall but is home to the School of Psychology.


    A bronze plaque, purchased through contributios of alumni and students of the college of Agriculture, was placed in the entrance to Townshend Hall. It read "To the memory of Norton S. Townshend 1815-1895. Beloved Physician, Friend of the Cause of Freedom, Wise Law Maker, one of the founders of the University and its First Professor of Agriculture, the students of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine have placed this tablet 1909."


    A historical marker, honoring Dr. Norton S. Townshend, was dedicated on Sunday, May 6, 2001, 2 pm, at the Gazebo at the corner of Detroit Rd. (SR-254) and Stoney Ridge Rd., across from the Old Town Hall of 1871, in Heritage Square.


    Text of the historical marker dedicated on May 6, 2001 and installed on Detroit Road near the Gazebo at Heritage Square:


    (1815 - 1895)

    A progressive farmer, physician, and legislator, Norton S. Townshend had a residence in Avon from 1830 until his death.

    His introduction of field drainage tile significantly increased the productivity of Avon farming.

    A well-educated country doctor, he served this district as a U. S. congressman (1851 - 1853) and later as an Ohio state senator. As a legislator, Townshend, a member of the anti-slavery "Free Soil" Party, espoused civil rights for women and free blacks.

    Later he was instrumental in the founding of the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Columbus, serving as its first professor of agriculture. In 1878, this land-grant college became Ohio State University, where Townshend Hall stands in honor of his founding role.

    He is interred in Avon's Mound Cemetary.






    Bicentennial outdoor City pool with park

    This display is an example of the displays to be installed along a pool park path (City of Avon "Municipal Aquatic Facility") for the Avon History Walk.


    Reference: Norton S. Townshend, M.D.

    by Dr. Robert W. McCormick

    Worthington, Ohio

    Available: Western Reserve Historical Society Library, Cleveland, Ohio

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    [Avon dedicates example Pool Park History Walk display at the Gazebo on 10-17-14]

    Matt Smith

    Photo by Kaylee Remington, kremington@morningjournal.com

    Matthew Smith, of the Avon Historical Society, stands next to the new [display] that gives a timeline of the life of Dr. Norton S. Townshend.

    By Kaylee Remington, The Morning Journal

    Posted: 10/17/14

    Avon residents are able to learn more history of Avon after a display was dedicated at the gazebo at Detroit and Stoney Ridge roads Oct. 17 [2014].

    Matthew Smith, a member of the Avon Historical Society, was the project manager for the display, which is a [timeline of] the late Dr. Norton Townshend.

    Townshend, an agricultural educator, was born in 1815 in England and moved all the way to Avon, Smith said. His family had a farm on the east end of the city. Smith said Townshend [introduced field tile to north-east Ohio] ...

    Townshend then served in the Union army as a doctor, helping to run medical procedures. He also served as a trustee board member when Ohio State University was called Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, Smith added. "This particular display is a timeline of his life, so it goes into much more detail of his life," he said.

    Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen said that when he was elected, he wanted to do more with the Historical Society and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. "It's ... where we came from, it's really important," he said. "I think as a community as we get bigger and bigger, we kind of lose sight of that."

    Jensen said since it's the city's Bicentennial, it is appropriate to do this. Councilwoman Mary Berges thinks its a wonderful idea. "I think we have such a rich history here in Avon and it's a wonderful way for the community to learn about the history -- things that they may not have known before," she said.

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