A Little History

1800 to 1909
Norton, MA - The Braman Family

Washborn Braman and Polly Macomber married in 1818 and had four children: Chloe, Benjamin, Hodges and Fanny. Washborn and his brother Isaac Braman built and ran I.T. Braman manufacturing.They were carpenters and builders, making shingles and turning and cutting lumber. The girls, Fanny and Chloe both attended Wheaton Seminary and their brother Hodges died at 24 years of age. Isaac had two children: Isaac Jr. and Mary.

By the mid - 1800's, their parents had passed away, leaving Isaac, their first son, their estate. Also around the same time, Judge Lennard, an important figure in the community, passed away, leaving his sister, Miss Petty Bowen, his large estate. She gave a handsome portion to Benjamin Braman in 1888, and in 1894, he built his new home on Main Street in Norton Center. Now Benjamin and his sisters moved from Chartley, which was the western part of Norton, to Norton center.

 Through the late 1800's the Braman family did well, and their business prospered. The family built their new home (now on East Main Street) and gave themselves the luxuries and comforts the period offered them. The girls Chloe and Fanny never married. Isaac Jr. married and had three children: Kate, Arlon and Martha. Benjamin passed away in 1887 and left his estate, minus some bequeaths to the library and church, to his two sisters (to share alike). Between the years 1897 and 1901, records show that taxes were paid on the Chloe and Fanny Braman estate. Then in 1889 Isaac passed away, and in 1903 his sister Fanny died at 69. Niece Martha died at 32 in 1907 and in the beginning of 1909 nephew Arlon died in an accident at the mill.

By this period, Chloe was now alone and 84 years old with health problems. Things began to turn for the worse for her. The taxes were not being paid, and the town was sending people over to make sure proper maintenance was being done on the home and the property and to be sure she had coal and wood for heat. When she died in late 1909, she and Fanny had the same will, leaving the other whatever the had. When Chloe died, money was left to the church and money was left for care and upkeep of the family cemetery plots. The rest was left to Norton Center Library. Now the town had possession of the estate. It was now 1910.

1910 to 1972
House in the Pines

In 1910, President Cole of Wheaton College asked his friend, a teacher at Middlebury College in Vermont, if she would like to start a school for girls. He knew of a fine house located on Main Street in Norton, MA. That's when Miss Gertrude Cornish came into the picture. One can only guess how things went when she met with President Cole and Elisa Wheaton. These were two very influential people in Norton at the time. If Elisa Wheaton wanted to get something done, she got it done, usually at her own expense.

In 1911, the home was purchased through the Emmons and Lincoln auctioneers in Bridgewater, Massachusetts by Mr. Charles Ambrose. It was then turned over to Miss Cornish and Miss Althea Hyde who then started the House in the Pines School for Girls. The deed was in her and Miss Hyde's names, so it is unknown exactly where the money came from. From 1911 to 1936 the school did very well, even through the Great Depression. They catered to very wealthy young women from all over the world and offered the very best in activities: Equestrian, tennis, and trips overseas, just to name a few. After a short time in Norton, Gertrude started buying up or being given properties and large tracts of land in this area. Some she used for housing for the school, built an indoor riding ring and stables for the horses. They owned over a dozen different properties.

In 1928, Althea Hyde signed over all deeds to Gertrude Cornish. In 1936, Gertrude changed House in the Pines, Inc. to House in the Pines Association, which the town tax collector was not too happy about. Also in 1936, Gertrude married Mr. Joseph K. Milken, a lawyer from Rhode Island. She was head of House in the Pines until 1944 when she retired and returned to Middlebury, Vermont to take a position on the board of trustees at Middlebury College. She died in 1969 at 89 years old, leaving Middlebury College all property deeds from House in the Pines Association. Over the next 25 years, enrollment and interest faded, dropping from 160 girls to 12 to 15. The reason for this is unclear, but Middlebury College closed their doors in 1972.

1973 - Present
North Cottage Program, Inc.

In 1973, Laurence Schneider, founder of the North Cottage Program, Inc., from Dorchester, Massachusetts purchased the property on East Main Street in Norton from House in the Pines Association. Mr. Schneider, with a very dedicated staff (some of whom have been with him for over 45 years), has built one of the most respected alcohol and substance use treatment facilities in the state of Massachusetts.

Researched and Written by Jeffrey M., September 11, 2017


History of Norton 1669-1856, by George Clark
United States census data from 1850 through 1920
Massachusetts census dat from 1860 through 1920
Mass land records from1870 through 1973
Bristol County Probate Records from 1880 to 1911
Bristol County registry of deeds from 1911 to 1973

Boston Public Library: census, land records and maps
Norton Library: Genealogy, pictures and maps
Norton Historical Society: pictures and maps
Town of Norton auditor's reports and tax records from 1880 through 1911
Town of Norton town officers' reports: birth, death, marriage records from 1880 through 1911

Middlebury College, VT: Archives, House in the Pines records
House in the Pines: Yearbooks, pictures, school history
Family tree website: Verification of death records, family trees and land ownership records from 1800 through 1973