Norton S. Townshend, M.D.


  • b. 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. The first farmers to do so in Avon. The Townshends continued to buy land until they had over 300 acres.


  • 16, November 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 there. 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 his needs 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, 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 "gerry mandering" of his district.
  • Returned home, ran for the Ohio Senate, won. He was a Free Soil candidate.


  • 24 January, 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 more children. They were 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 in holding property and disposing of same. 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. He was appointed to the first board of trustees. He held this post until 1878
  • 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 the 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 or sons could attend.


  • School transferred to Cleveland, Ohio. Noted Dr. Jared P. Kirkland 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Gov. 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.


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


  • 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 [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."

Reference: Norton S Townshend, M.D.

by Dr. Robert W McCormick

Worthington, Ohio

Available: Western Reserve Historical Society Library, Cleveland, Ohio

A historical marker, honoring Dr. Norton S Townshend, will be dedicated on Sunday, May 6, 2001, 2 pm, at the gazebo at the corner of Detroit Road (SR-254) and Stoney Ridge Road, across from the Old Town Hall of 1871. You are invited.

Norton S. Townshend, M.D.

Norton S. Townshend, M.D. 

Map of the Townshend Farm

1874 Avon property map showing the farm of Dr. Norton S. Townshend.