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Orlando Whitney Norcross, 1839 to 1920

Ellen Phebe Sibley Norcross, 1846 to 1907

Orlando Whitney Norcross was born in Clinton, Maine on 25 October 1839.

He married Ellen Phebe Sibley of Salem, Massachusetts. She was a graduate of the State Normal School at Salem. They had five children, two sons and three daughters. The sons both died young.

At an early age, however, by the death of the father (Orlando was only 11 years old), the family was left dependent upon their own resources, and for a time the family was thrown upon the exertions of the oldest of these brothers, James Atkinson. Orlando was required to stop his schooling and work to help support his family.  He was soon apprenticed as a carpenter.  His attitude to life was such that he continued his education unabated, using spare pennies to acquire the books he needed and reading whenever a spare moment offered itself, he became self-educated with the full support of his family. 

On the 5th of July, 1861, Orlando enlisted in the Union Army to participate in the Civil War.  He joined the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery where he was an Artificer holding the rank of Private.  He was involved in the Battle at Spotsylvania.  He carried out his duties for three years and was honourably discharged on the 8th of July 1864.

The picture was taken prior to his departure to the war zone and left with his mother.  We have his first will made by letter to his mother on the battlefield at Spotsylvania.

Through early self-dependence, the brothers James and Orlando found their way to the calling of carpenters and builders, perusing their trade in the eastern part of this state, starting business together in Swampscott, Massachusetts in 1864, the association and its offerings at first affording nothing more than ordinary promise. But the beginnings of success were not far distant for in 1866 the Norcross Brothers were given the contract for building the Congregational Church at Leicester, Massachusetts, an undertaking of most modest proportions in the test of their later business, yet it seems to have proven the golden key of success and the Norcross Brothers still cherish with warmest remembrance the kindness and aid of Leicester friends who gave them their first strong assistance on the way to fortune. Worcester has begun a marked stage of improvements and the Norcross Brothers have found their opportunity.  The Norcross Brothers story became significant as they established a revolution in the building contracting business in the sixty years between 1864 and 1924.

Orlando W. Norcross, in wide and deserved recognition of his skill as a building expert, was made a member of the notable commission set to investigate the condition of the Federal Building Post Office and United States Courts at Chicago, a most difficult and delicate task which will be long remembered in building annals with the fact that no suggestion or finding of the commission of which Mr. Norcross was a member has failed to be sustained by sub sequent events."

Parents: Orlando Whitney Norcross Jesse Springer Norcross
Margaret Ann Whitney Norcross
Ellen Phebe Sibley Norcross George V. Sibley
Phebe Abbott Sibley
Children: Walter Abbott Norcross 9 Apr 1871 21 Oct 1871
Alice Whitney Norcross Gross 22 Mar 1872 21 Apr 1967
Mabel Ellen Norcross Denholm 20 Jul 1874 2 Dec 1939
Edit Janet Norcross Morgan 8 Oct 1878 14 Mar 1972
James Orlando Norcross 5 Mar 1882 28 Jul 1882

Copyright 2004, Philip Norcross Gross

For more information please contact me at  All this information is based on family stories, or documents listed in the References.  Official documentation is not common except for recent generations (1850 or later) and may not necessarily be referenced herein.