Milford Phillips Norton, lawyer, publisher, judge, and civic leader, the son of Peter and Aseneth (Blossom) Norton, was born in 1794 at Readfield, Maine. He was admitted to the bar and practiced at Bangor and Readfield. In 1830–31 he was state land agent; in 1838 he served in the Maine legislature and was on the commission to locate the northeast boundary of the state; he was a member of the state Senate in 1839. Norton was married first to Sarah Ann Gilman and after her death to Mary Stevens Russell. After financial reverses due to suretyship, Norton moved to Texas in early 1839 to look after his father-in-law's lands. He decided to remain in the republic permanently and sent for his family. He formed a law partnership with Alexander H. Phillips and practiced at Galveston until December 26, 1840, when the firm's business required his removal to Black Point in Refugio County, where a client, Joseph F. Smith, was planning the townsite of Saint Mary's. The Norton family resided at Black Point until September 1841, when they moved to Montgomery County, where Norton practiced at Bayou City.
Norton was appointed postmaster of Houston and moved there to assume his duties on January 8, 1844. At the same time he bought the Civilian, which he renamed the Democrat and turned into an Anson Jones-for-president and annexation organ. Shortly after Jones's election President Sam Houston appointed Norton judge of the Sixth Judicial District. He assumed office on September 8, 1844, but the validity of the recess appointment was challenged. Norton considered the argument well-taken and resigned but was elected by Congress at the next session. He was chairman of the Convention of 1845. After annexation he requested of Governor J. P. Henderson a transfer to the Western District of Texas. The governor acceded, the nomination was confirmed on April 14, 1846, and the Nortons moved to Corpus Christi. At the end of his term Judge Norton and his family moved to Refugio County, where his son, Henry D. Norton, had established a store at Copano. Norton practiced law at Copano until Henry L. Kinney, who was arranging to embark on his filibustering expedition against Nicaragua, employed him to return to Corpus Christi and manage the Kinney business. When Judge James Webb died in November 1856, Norton accepted appointment as judge of the Fourteenth District but continued to manage Kinney's affairs until 1858. Norton was an outstanding civic leader and prominent Mason. He died at San Antonio on June 8, 1860.
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Hobart Huson, District Judges of Refugio County (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941). Hobart Huson, El Copano: Ancient Port of Bexar and La Bahia (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1935). Anson Jones, Memoranda and Official Correspondence Relating to the Republic of Texas (New York: Appleton, 1859; rpt. 1966).
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Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Norton, Milford Phillips,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 1, 1995