Biographical Sketch of John Watson Norfleet (1833-1922)
By Phil Norfleet
John Watson7 Norfleet (Abraham (Reverend Abraham)6, James5, John4, John3, John2, Thomas1 Northfleete) was born 30 October 1833 in Callaway County MO, and died 24 March 1922 in Moniteau County MO. He married (1) Sarah Catherine Nichols 04 August 1864 in Cole County MO, daughter of John Nichols and Julia Lewis. She was born 02 April 1847 in Boone County MO, and died 24 April 1882 in Moniteau County MO. He married (2) Mary Jane Kupe 01 March 1883. She was born 1835, and died 1924. John was the eldest son of the Reverend Abraham Norfleet (1802-1870) and his wife, Margaret Campbell (1803-1872).
John Watson Norfleet was a prosperous farmer of Moniteau County, Missouri. His obituary, shown below, provides a good summary of his life and I cannot add too much else of significance.
PERSONAL PAPERS AND DEPOSITIONS
I have possession of many of his personal papers and have reproduced six (6) of the more interesting letters from that collection under the "Personal Letters" heading at this web site. In 1878, John gave two sworn depositions to the Clerk of the Moniteau County Court regarding obtaining a pension for a former slave of his father, Emily Norfleet. These depositions are historically interesting and are reproduced in Emily's biographical sketch that is also appended to this web site.
John W. Norfleet was reasonably well educated for his time. In the 1856-1858 timeframe, he attended a school in Lebanon, Missouri to prepare for a teaching career. On 25 January 1858, he was licensed to teach by the Cole County Commissioner of Common Schools. His certificate (in my possession) reads as follows:
"January 25, 1858
"This day personally appeared before the undersigned Commissioner of Common Schools for the County of Cole, State of Missouri, John W. Norfleet, and having been examined in reading, writing, etc. according to the law made and provided in such cases. This is therefore to license the said John W. Norfleet to teach a district school.
"/S/ Paul C. Edmunds"
Based upon my review of some of John's school attendance and grade records, he taught school in Cole County for only a couple of years, in the 1858-1859 time frame. Thereafter, he devoted himself to farming.
MILITARY SERVICE IN THE CIVIL WAR
John, like his father, supported the Union during the Civil War, He served as a sergeant in Company N of the the 9th Provisional Missouri Regiment of Infantry. His brother, Adam Campbell Norfleet, also served as a private in that same regiment. John apparently did not take part in any major battles. Being fairly well educated, he was given the job of company quartermaster. His most exciting experience was during the 1864 raid of Confederate General Price, during which time he was among the troops that defended the State Capitol at Jefferson City.
EDUCATION OF HIS CHILDREN
John W. Norfleet had a high regard for learning and made sure that all of his children received a good education. In the 1890's, he sent both of his sons, Abraham and Arthur, and one daughter, Viola, to attend the University of Missouri at Columbia. Viola married while in college and didn't stay in school long enough to receive a degree. However, John's eldest son, Abraham Lincoln Norfleet, went on to receive a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Northwestern University in Illinois.
Both of John's sons were able to successfully build upon their university education. Abraham became a Methodist minister, while the younger son, Arthur, became a wealthy merchant and served several terms in the Missouri State Legislature.
WAS JOHN W. NORFLEET KICKED TO DEATH BY A MULE?
While his obituary says that John W. Norfleet "departed this life peacefully and quietly on March 24, 1922." My Uncle, Robert Lincoln Norfleet (1898-1993), a Grandson of John W., tells a different story as to how he died. The following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote me on 27 January 1985:
"Granddad John Norfleet ... had a farm in High Point Mo. ... I remember Grandpa very well, the split rail fence around the house and barn & Grandpa had mules on the farm.
"One day he went to the barn to feed and curry four mules. One mule would not get over and Grandpa slapped the mule on the rear but he would not move over. Grandpa ... walked out of the barn & took a split rail off the fence, went back in the barn and pelted the mule on the butt; the mule kicked him to death. ...
"I remember Dad [Abraham Lincoln Norfleet] and I stayed overnight and slept in the upstairs attic. I had to climb up a straight up & down ladder and go through a hole to get to the attic."
JOHN W. NORFLEET'S OBITUARY
The following is a transcript of the obituary of John Watson Norfleet (1833-1922) that appeared in the Moniteau County, Missouri Herald on Thursday, March 30, 1922:
Children of John Norfleet and Sarah Nichols are: