Biographical Sketch of Reverend Abraham Norfleet (1802-1870)
By Phil Norfleet
Abraham (Reverend Abraham)6 Norfleet (James5, John4, John3, John2, Thomas1 Northfleete) was born 21 January 1802 in Pulaski County KY, and died 03 September 1870 in Cole County MO. He married Margaret Campbell 16 August 1832 in Callaway County MO, daughter of David Campbell and Margaret Campbell. She was born 21 April 1803 in Green County KY, and died 03 September 1872 in Cole County MO. Abraham was the son of James Norfleet (1767-1849) and his wife, Elizabeth (1775-1826) of Pulaski, Wayne and Russell Counties, Kentucky.
The first appearance of Abraham in any official records is in the poll tax lists of Pulaski County for the years 1825 and 1826. Although his father, James, was then living in Russell County, Abraham was living in Pulaski probably because he was working for his elder brother John and/or his aunt Catherine Norfleet (Widow of David Norfleet), both of whom resided in Pulaski County at that time. In June 1825, Abraham was converted to Methodism. Immediately thereafter, he commenced studying for the Methodist ministry and was licensed to preach in 1826.
LIFE AS A METHODIST MINISTER
In 1827 he removed to Missouri; he was the first Norfleet to permanently settle in that state. During his first three years in Missouri, he was a Circuit Rider for the Methodist Church. In 1827 he was in the Cape Girardeau area; in 1828, he was on the Saline and St. Francois Circuit. In 1829 he was on the Boonslick Road, near where the town of Old Franklin had once been located. Franklin had been the outfitting point for traders using the Santa Fe Trail during the years 1821-1825. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1826, a flood destroyed the town.
While on the Saline and St. Francois Circuit, the famous Methodist Preacher, Jerome C. Berryman was assigned under him. Berryman, years later, had this to say about Abraham Norfleet:
"He was a poor preacher and a hypochondriac but a devout Christian and a man of much prayer."
In 1830, Abraham was ordained in Saint Louis by Bishop Soule and was located in the Callaway County, Missouri area. In those days, except for the circuit riders, the Methodist Church did not provide any regular salary for its ministers. Accordingly, to supplement whatever income he might receive as a minister, Reverend Norfleet patented two 40 acre tracts of land in Callaway, which he farmed while performing his ministerial duties in the local area.
In 1832, Abraham married Margaret Campbell in Callaway County. Margaret was the daughter of David Campbell, who had recently migrated to Missouri from Muhlenburg County, Kentucky. Abraham and Margaret had three (3) sons and two (2) daughters: John Watson (b. 1833), Adam Campbell (b. 1835), David Campbell (b. 1841), Eliza Jane ((b. 1837) and Ann Hite (b. 1838).
In 1848, Abraham relocated to Cole County, Missouri, acquiring land in the Hickory Hill area, where his older brother Ivy Norfleet had also established a farm. Abraham Norfleet remained here for the rest of his life.
LIFE DURING THE CIVIL WAR
During the Civil War, Reverend Norfleet was a staunch Unionist. Two of Abraham's sons, John Watson (a sergeant) and Adam Campbell (a private), served with the Union forces, in the 9th Provisional Missouri Regiment of Infantry. In 1864, like his older brother Ivy Norfleet, he freed all of his slaves. A sworn deposition made by Abraham's son, John W. Norfleet, on 16 December 1878, states the following:
" ... I will say in regard to Emily Norfleet a colored woman about 56 or 58 yrs of age, now residing in Jeff. City: That she did belong to my Father, Abram Norfleet of Cole Co. Mo., who is now dead. That she is the mother of five children, Horace Washington, Eola Frances, Lou, Viney and Joseph. Three of these are dead: Horace, Lou and Joe. Emily's husband Jenk Norfleet died just previous to the war.
"In the latter part of the Summer or early in the Fall of 1863, Horace Washington, in company with my Father, came to Jeff. City and Horace enlisted in the U. S. Army. I think Abram Fulkerson was the recruiting officer. The papers stating the facts were placed in my Father's hands for safekeeping. In the Fall of 1864, when Price's Army robbed Father's house, those papers with others belonging to Father, were destroyed. I was a soldier myself and went to the camp a day or two after Horace enlisted, talked with him, and bade him goodbye. I have not seen him from that day to this, but I am satisfied, in my own mind from the best information received, that he died in the service of his Country.
"On the Evening of the 23rd day of Dec. 1864, Emily in company with three of her children, Eola, Viney and Joe, left Father's and came to Jeff. City in search of freedom. ... "
LETTER FROM JAMES BOLINGER DURING THE CIVIL WAR
As stated above, most of Reverend Abraham Norfleet's personal papers were destroyed in 1864, when his house was broken into by Confederate raiders serving under General Price. This is most unfortunate, as I believe that his correspondence would have been of some historical value. To the best of my knowledge, only one letter from his personal papers has survived. It was found among the papers of his eldest son, John W. Norfleet (1833-1922), of High Point, Missouri. The letter was written during the Civil War to Reverend Norfleet by a certain James Bolinger, who was a medical doctor living in Etterville, Missouri.
Bolinger appears to be a relative, probably by marriage, to the Norfleets. He makes mention of “Uncle Ivy Norfleet,” an older brother of Abraham who had a farm in the Hickory Hill area. Also, Bolinger refers to Abraham as “Uncle Abram” and to Abraham’s wife as “Aunt Margaret.”
Dr. Bolinger’s writing style is a bit flowery, but he does express his views regarding the effect of the Civil War with both fervor and eloquence. Until the events of 11 September 2001, the last time Americans found an enemy on our very doorstep was during the Civil War of 1861-1865. Accordingly, I find Bolinger’s concerns to be somewhat relevant and applicable to our current situation here in the United States. [These words are being written in December 2001.]
A transcription of the Bolinger's letter is shown below:
Several of Abraham's descendants continued to be active in the Methodist Episcopal Church. His son John Watson Norfleet (1833-1922) became a licensed Exhorter in the Methodist Church. Abraham's grandson (son of John Watson), Abraham Lincoln Norfleet (1867-1956), became an ordained Methodist minister, in the 1890's.
Reverend Norfleet died at the home of his son, John W. Norfleet, on 03 September 1870. His wife followed him two years later, dying on 03 September 1872. They are both buried in the Spring Garden Cemetery in Cole County, Missouri.
Abraham Norfleet and Margaret Campbell had five children as follows:
1. Annals of Methodism in Missouri, by W. S. Woodard, E. W. Stephens Publishing Company, 1893.
2. Newspaper clipping of an article that appeared in a High Point, Missouri newspaper (name unknown), for 03 December 1870. The author was the Reverend A. Manship, who had preached at the funeral service for Reverend Abraham Norfleet.
3. Sworn deposition of John W. Norfleet, dated 16 December 1878, Moniteau County, Missouri.