How Norton Shores Came to Be

Norton Shores is by many accounts considered to be a “young city” since the first City Charter wasn’t adopted until 1968. Even so, what preceded the city’s official founding is ripe with interesting stories, characters, and history. 

  1. Before settlers came to the area that would become the City of Norton Shores, Chippewa, Potawatomie, and Ottawa Indians occupied the natural wilderness of West Michigan. Together, they were known as “the People of the Three Fires” or “Three Fires Council.” 
  2. In 1845, Norton Township was organized by those who had settled Mill Point, which is now known as Spring Lake. It was named after Colonel Amos Norton, a Canadian patriot who was implicated in the Canadian rebellions of 1837, as a group of reformers in Canada rose up against British rule and tried to establish democracy. The rebels ultimately failed in their mission, but their actions set the foundation for Canada’s government becoming what it is today. 
  3. Originally, Norton Township was part of Ottawa County, but separated in 1859 and became a part of Muskegon County. The population at the time was less than 200 people. 
  4. In 1847, Robinson’s Sawmill was built at the head of Black Lake, now Mona Lake. In 1850, Ira Porter opened Porter’s Sawmill and operated a fruit farm. When Porter’s Mill and the other sawmills that were built in the township closed, fruit farming became the primary industry as boats would enter at Lake Harbor and make a trip around the lake picking up boxes of berries from the docks of the farmers. Then, they would return to Lake Michigan and transfer the cargo to steamers bound for Chicago. 
  5. It wasn’t until 1968 that Norton Township was incorporated under the Home City Rule, essentially giving power to the township to pass laws and govern itself. Nine commissioners were elected to draw up the first City Charter. 
  6. As of the 2020 census, 22,527 people reside in the City of Norton Shores. 

Whether you’ve lived in Norton Shores your whole life or are new to calling the city “home,” there’s plenty to appreciate about how Norton Shores came to be the city that it is today.

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