Carrying a legacy forward

Wheaton President Michaele Whelan and former President Dennis Hanno rode in Eliza’s carriage in the 2023 Norton Memorial Day parade and to the Norton Historical Society, where it is housed and on long-term exhibition. The carriage was pulled by King, a white Percheron draft horse from Remembrance Hill Carriages LLC in Rehoboth, Mass., and driven by John Frost, with help from his wife, Sue. (Photo by Keith Nordstrom)

Eliza Wheaton’s restored carriage embodies spirit of giving back

In the 1800s, Eliza Baylies Wheaton regularly traveled the streets of Norton in her horse-drawn carriage for errands, visits and meetings, according to her diaries. Today, her restored carriage is a timeless reminder of her vision for Wheaton College as well as her passion for philanthropy and giving back to students, faculty, staff and the local community.

The carriage also represents the enduring spirit of philanthropy that college leaders have carried forward since the inception of the college. To name a few examples:

Dale Rogers Marshall, Wheaton’s late sixth president, was a member of the Founders Society; was a lead donor who contributed to the college for 27 years; and established an endowed fund, the Adele and William Rogers Fund for Global Education, for faculty support, named in honor of her mother.

Ronald A. Crutcher, Wheaton’s seventh president, and his esteemed spouse, Betty, have made leadership level contributions to the college for years to support Wheaton students annually through an endowed scholarship in their name, and are members of the Founders Society.

Dennis Hanno, Wheaton’s eighth president, and his esteemed wife, Sue, are leadership donors and have given to scholarships and the Wheaton College Critical Retention Fund. Hanno also initiated the restoration of the carriage as a labor of love for the institution’s founder and her belief in the power of education to transform lives and he oversaw the completion of the project before he stepped down from his role.

Michaele Whelan, Wheaton’s ninth president, and members of the President’s Council recently made a major contribution to the Ronald A. and Betty Neal Crutcher Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship originally was established by the Board of Trustees in 2013 in honor of the Crutchers and to raise additional scholarship funds for the Go Beyond Campaign.

“The carriage encapsulates Eliza’s dedication and focused work throughout her life to create a liberal education for women with opportunities for an abundant life,” Whelan said. “That spirit of giving lives today in our community of students, staff, faculty and alumni, and connects us still to the local community.”

Now Eliza’s restored carriage has a place of honor for all to see. It is housed and on long-term exhibition at the nearby Norton Historical Society, thanks to a collaboration among Whelan, Hanno, the historical society, and former Norton Board of Selectman Bob Kimball and his wife, Paula, who were among many key Norton partners in the restoration efforts.

Hanno initiated the restoration of the carriage in 2019. Kimball and his wife, Paula, and his brother, Bill, drove the carriage in a U-Haul to Pennsylvania to leave it there with Amish craftsman Paul Stoltzfus for a total rejuvenation. In July 2021, Hanno flew to Pennsylvania and rented a 28-foot U-Haul to drive the carriage back to Wheaton.

The sparkling-like-new carriage has been in the barn at the Presidents’ House since the restoration—until it was brought out for a horse-drawn ride in the Norton Memorial Day parade on May 29, 2023. Hanno and Whelan rode in the carriage during the parade and Kimball carried a banner announcing Eliza’s carriage. After the parade, a police escort led the buggy to its new exhibition home at the historical society, located at 18 W. Main St.

Norton Historical Society President Janice Burkhart, Vice President Christine Carmichael, Whelan, Director Bryan Carmichael, Paula Kimball, Director Bob Kimball and Hanno at the ribbon-cutting for both the new museum space and to welcome Eliza’s carriage. (Photo by Keith Nordstrom)

Kimball, a historical society director, made arrangements for special housing to be built to safely store the carriage and to create a space for educational purposes. The historical society restored a shed to house Eliza’s carriage. Artifacts also were curated to create a Norton History Museum that includes the carriage shed.

“Since Memorial Day we have had many visitors stopping by to see our new museum and Mrs. Wheaton’s carriage,” Kimball said. “Everyone is very excited to see the history of the town and Wheaton.”

Kimball added that he is continuing to collaborate with Wheaton regarding bringing groups to see the carriage and creating opportunities for the carriage to be available for special events—including for alumni weddings on campus.

President Whelan said Wheaton equally values the partnership and is thrilled that this iconic symbol can continue to gain attention.

“Preservation is part of Wheaton’s DNA; we have archives for books and art, and we understand how the past informs the present and shapes the future. So, sharing the carriage is in keeping with our educational mission. And, Wheaton’s and Norton’s histories are deeply intertwined,” Whelan said.

“What is most exciting is that the historical society is open to the community and to the schools, so everyone will have an opportunity to see the carriage in some historical context in the new space that the society created,” she said.

The Norton Historical Society’s goal is to educate the citizens of Norton by providing an understanding of past traditions and a comprehensive history of the town. The carriage is on display in a restored shed at the Old School House at 18 W. Main St. Read more online at

Hanno is particularly happy to see the carriage in a place of prominence so close to campus. Prior to the restoration project, the buggy was at a museum in Middleboro, Mass.

“Wheaton is a central part of Norton’s history, and the town of Norton is an important partner for the college,” said Hanno, who now is a clinical associate professor at Fordham University in New York. “I’m certain that Mrs. Wheaton’s beautiful carriage was well-known around town, and it belongs nowhere other than right here in town. It is so exciting to see it at the museum near campus, where both town residents and members of the Wheaton community can view it and learn more about the shared history of the town and college.”

“Wheaton College has an incredible history, one that everyone connected to the college should point to with pride. There are many campus traditions and spaces that help us honor that history, and the restored carriage is one more very visible way to remind us of how we got to where we are today. History is important, and preserving the carriage and sharing it with others impacted by Mrs. Wheaton—the town—is so consistent with Wheaton’s values,” Hanno said. “The carriage has been and hopefully will continue to be a very visible representation of how the college and town can work together.”