So begins the journals of Emma Swift just as they were found after her death. The journals had been hidden away behind secret panels in the walls of the library at Norwood House. Norwood House is located in Massachusetts on shores of Mercy Lake. The journals were first transcribed in 1989. To be clear, there have been ages of stories told about Norwood House. Tales of hauntings and ghosts. Tales of death and maybe a murder. The house was built by a Boston businessman named Christopher Norwood. Mr. Norwood was very successful but thought to be an eccentric. He built his fortune on the dead. He’d founded Norwood Casket Works, Limited in 1793. Over time Mr. Norwood came to supply almost all the undertakers in Massachusetts and eventually his business spread into the neighboring states of Vermont, New Hampshire then into Connecticut and finally Rode Island. His products, though morose, were considered the finest caskets at the time. By 1801 Norwood Caskets made up 98% of all caskets sold throughout Massachusetts and Rode Island. They were asked for by name. The rich would pay any price for a Norwood Exclusive design. Norwood Casket Works would produce a one of a kind casket for the right priceIn 1843 due to health concerns, Mr. Norwood bought a large track of land adjacent to Mercy Lake in Massachusetts and built a mansion as his rural retreat. He named it Norwood House. At that time, there wasn’t a township located near the lake so Mr. Norwood decided to open his home to runaway slaves. In such a remote location and with his large track of land, many runaway slaves stopped over to rest at Norwood House.
In 1855 with his health failing Mr. Norwood returned to Boston and was hospitalized. Christopher Norwood died in 1856 of consumption and was buried with little fan fair in Phipps Street Burying Ground in Boston. Mr. Norwood never married so had no airs to his fortune. He seemed disinterested in the fate of his famous casket company and left no one to inherit or assume ownership. The employees abandoned the company starting numerous casket works of their own but none of them ever achieved the success of the once famous Norwood Casket Works. As with all things, time diminished memory and Mr. Norwood’s accomplishments and he fell into obscurity as did the fate of Norwood House.
Records seem to show that Norwood House continued to be maintained by a few members of the house staff until the O’Malley family purchased Norwood House and adjacent property. They lived quietly there until the death of the families last member, Macy O’Malley. She left the property and the family fortune to her cousin Emma Swift.
The history of the house had been obscured until the passing of Emma Swift and the finding of her journals in the house library. What follows is a true and faithful copy of those journals. Ms. Swift had an unusual habit of writing titles or possibly chapter headings on pages in her journals. The relevance is undocumented so we have left them in place as they were found. We make no judgement as to the content of the journals we only offer them to the world due to the fame Ms. Swift obtained as a best-selling author.
Heifer Leeham & Jonathan Atwood, Editors