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Biographical Sketch of Frank Marmaduke Norfleet (1846-1921)

By Phil Norfleet

 

Frank Marmaduke7 Norfleet (Jesse Peters6, Abraham5, John4, John3, John2, Thomas1 Northfleete) was born 09 April 1846 in Marshall County MS, and died 17 November 1921 in Memphis TN. He married Elizabeth Octavia Stinson 12 April 1866 in Marshall County MS. She was born 01 January 1848 in South Carolina, and died 28 June 1919 in Memphis TN.

Frank was born and raised in Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi.  He was the son of a Cabinetmaker, Jesse Peters Norfleet and his wife Jane Carlock.  His life apparently was uneventful until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, when Frank was barely fifteen years of age.

An interesting Civil War story was told to me by the Curator of the Marshall County Historical Museum, Lois Swanee, about two young teenage boys from Holly Springs, one of whom was a Norfleet.  Although Lois did not know the names of either of the boys, she was sure that one of them was a Norfleet.  In my opinion, the Norfleet boy was probably Frank M. Norfleet.  The story is as follows:

When the War broke out, both of these boys immediately tried to enlist but were turned down due to their youth.  Not willing to give up so easily, the boys stowed away on a train bringing war supplies to the City of Richmond, Virginia.  In Richmond they were promptly apprehended by the local military authorities.  The local officials were in a quandary about what to do with the boys, who were obviously too young to serve.  It would be several days before a train leaving Richmond would be traveling back to Holly Springs, Mississippi - so what to do with them in the meantime?

It was decided to temporarily give them a simple guard duty job, in an innocuous location, where they wouldn't get into any further trouble.  They were sent to guard one of the more remote and little traveled outposts of Richmond; the boys were instructed not to let anyone pass through without proper papers.  All went well for a time, until one morning a great ruckus was raised from the outpost, with much shouting and yelling.  It seemed that several gentlemen, without proper papers, had tried to pass through their post.  The boys would have none of it and threatened the party with their weapons.  When an officer came up to see what the problem was, he found that the group was led by none other than Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy!  The officer immediately called the boys off and let the Davis entourage pass through.

Later that afternoon, a message came down to the boys that they were to report to the Presidential Mansion in Richmond precisely at 7:00 PM that evening.  It was with much fear and trepidation, that the boys arrived at the mansion, not knowing what to expect.  However, all turned out well.  President Davis had been favorably impressed by the courage of the boys in standing up to him and his party.  He greeted the boys and invited them in to take supper with him and Mrs. Davis.  A pleasant evening was had by all; the boys had an experience that they would never forget.  A few days later, the boys uneventfully returned to Holly Springs.

During the latter part of the Civil War, Frank was finally old enough to  enlist.  He joined Company C of the Eighteenth Mississippi Cavalry in 1864. Although only 17 years of age at the time, his abilities were quickly recognized and, for a time, he served on the staff of Brigadier General A. J. Vaughn (see photo on the right). In the latter part of the war, Frank was under the overall command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

After the War, on 12 April 1866, Frank married another Holly Springs resident, Elizabeth Octavia Stinson, a member of the well-known Stinson family from South Carolina.

In spite of the devastation wrought on the South during and just after the Civil War, Frank Norfleet was successful in establishing a thriving plantation business. His success in business and political circles was so great that, in 1884, he was elected as a member of the Mississippi State Legislature.

Brigadier General A. J. Vaughan and his staff - from left to right:  Frank M. Norfleet, James David Dinkins, General Vaughan, Emile Withers and Henry Myers.  This photo is a digitized facsimile of an oil painting which currently hangs on the fourth floor of the Mississippi State Archives in Jackson.

His success in Mississippi notwithstanding, in 1884, seeing an excellent business opportunity in the nearby urban environment of Memphis, Tennessee, he resigned from the legislature and moved his family to that city. In 1885 he entered into partnership with a certain Mr. Sledge, as a member of the firm of Sledge & Norfleet, cotton factors. By the turn of the century, this firm had obtained extensive cotton planting interests in Mississippi. By 1913, Sledge & Norfleet was probably the largest individual planter in the entire state! The firm's land holdings in Tunica county, Mississippi, aggregating nearly eighteen thousand acres. Frank M. Norfleet served for some time as president of the Memphis Cotton Exchange and held executive positions in various banks and other leading business concerns in Memphis. He retained a keen interest in his old Civil War comrades-in-arms and was a prominent member of the United Confederate Veterans' Association. He held memberships in the Chickasaw, City and Country Clubs. Both he and his wife were members of St. John's Church, Methodist Episcopal, South. He was a staunch Democrat for all his life.

Frank continued to serve as President of Sledge & Norfleet until about 1916. That year, he was succeeded in the presidency by his son, Jesse Peders Norfleet. Frank Marmaduke Norfleet passed away on 12 November 1921, at the age of seventy-five, His wife, Elizabeth Octavia Stinson, went to her final rest on 28 June 1919, when she was seventy-one years of age, her birth having occurred on 01 January 1848. Frank and Elizabeth Norfleet were the parents of six children, three sons and three daughters, the most notable of which was Jesse Peders Norfleet.

REFERENCES

1) "A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans" by Will T. Hale and Dixon L. Merritt, first published 1913, pages 221-2214.

2) "Tennessee the Volunteer State 1769-1923," Volume III, first published 1923, pages 499-500.

3) Interview with Lois Swanee, Curator of the Marshall County Historical Museum, in September 2001.

 

Children of Frank Norfleet and Elizabeth Stinson are:

 

i. Jesse Peders8 Norfleet, born 05 July 1877 in Panola County MS; died 08 February 1964 in Memphis TN. He married Elsie Vance 25 January 1905 in Memphis TN; died Aft. 1964.

ii. Ada Norfleet, died Aft. 1964.

 

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