Daniel was a physician and agronomist, who is widely credited with developing the “Norton Grape”, a standard of American wine-making.
Daniel was the son of John Hatley Norton, an English immigrant, and Katherine Bush of Winchester, Virginia. (His mother later remarried Col. John Ambler, a friend and relative of Chief Justice John Marshall; all are buried nearby.) He served as a Surgeon’s Mate in the 1st (Yancey’s) Regiment of Virginia Militia during War of 1812.
He was married first to Elizabeth Jaquelin Call, daughter of David Call and Lucy Nelson, on 20 January 1818; they had at least one child, Nelson. After her death, he remarried to Lucy Marshall Fisher in Richmond on 8 June 1831. They had at least five children.
While in the throes of depression over Elizabeth’s death, he channeled his energy into experiments attempting to create a disease-resistant grape that could be used to create a uniquely American wine. This was especially desirable as disease had ravished the vineyards of Europe. After many failures while working at his home estate, “Magnolia Farm,” he eventually was able to graft different plants to create a new grape that could thrive in varied conditions and avoid the diseases then plaguing the wine industry.
Most of the Norton grape plants in the United States were pulled up during Prohibition. Since the 1960s, the grape has made a comeback in North America and is again widely planted.
Daniel is buried next to his son Norborne, in his father-in-law George D. Fisher’s plot. In 2017, an interpretive marker with details of Daniel’s life and work was placed by the “Friend of Shockoe Hill Cemetery”, with the support of various individuals, and of several Virginia wineries who now grow the Norton Grape.
Katherine Bush Ambler