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Judith Norfleet Baker of Buckland Plantation

by Phil Norfleet

 

Norfleet - Baker Marriages

In the 18th century there were at least two marriages between the Baker and Norfleet families of northeastern North Carolina. Elizabeth Ann Norfleet, a daughter of John Norfleet (1699-1753), married John Baker in about the year 1785. In addition, Judith Norfleet, daughter of Marmaduke Norfleet (1700-1774) married William Baker of Buckland Plantation.

John Norfleet's daughter Elizabeth Ann (Nancy) was probably his youngest child and, thus, was born on 28 march 1751. Possibly to avoid confusion between her and her mother, Elizabeth Riddick Norfleet, she appears to have been usually known by her middle name, Ann or Nancy. In about 1785, Ann married the successful planter, John Baker, of Hertford and Gates County North Carolina. John Baker was a grandson of Captain Henry Baker (d. 1739) and a half-first cousin of William Baker of Buckland Plantation, who had married Judith Norfleet, daughter of Marmaduke Norfleet (1700-1774). Thus, we have a situation where Baker first cousins, John and William Baker, married Norfleet second cousins, Ann (Nancy) and Judith Norfleet!

Birth and Death of Judith Norfleet Baker

Judith Norfleet was born in Chowan County in about about 1748.  Her parents were Marmaduke Norfleet (1700-1774) and his second wife, Judith Rhodes.  In about 1768, Judith married the wealthy planter, William Baker (1743-1805) of Buckland Plantation.  Based upon Gates County NC probate papers, Judith Norfleet Baker died in the year 1811, 6 years after her husband.

Buckland Plantation

Buckland Plantation lies a few miles west of the Corapeake area, where John Norfleet and his first Cousin, Marmaduke Norfleet, had their plantations. From about 1769 to1805, this plantation was owned by a certain William Baker (1743-1805). William was a grandson of Captain Henry Baker (d. 1739) and the son of "Lame Henry" Baker (d. 1769). In about the year 1768, this same William Baker had married Judith Norfleet, daughter of Marmaduke Norfleet (1700-1774). In 1795, William Baker built the great plantation house that is, today, known as "Buckland." The home is still standing and has been designated as a national historical landmark (see photograph).

Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury and Elizabeth Norfleet

William and Judith Norfleet Baker were early converts to Methodism. The famous itinerant preacher and the first Bishop of the Methodist Church in America, Francis Asbury (1745-1816), was a frequent visitor to their house when he was traveling in their vicinity. Knotty Pine Chapel, located near Buckland, was one of the earliest Methodist churches in North Carolina, and Asbury frequently preached there. On 17 March 1799, Judith Norfleet Baker wrote a letter to Bishop Asbury wherein she reported the names of people from the area who had converted to Methodism, but were now deceased. The first name she mentioned was Elizabeth Norfleet. I quote:

"When you were with me last, you desired I would give you an account of the dear saints who are fallen asleep in Jesus, in this place. I will give you a list of their names with a sketch of some of their characters. … Elizabeth Norfleet, one of the first that embraced religion after the gospel was preached here; she was one of the meekest women, a pattern of piety to the end of her days" [1]

I am quite certain that the Elizabeth Norfleet mentioned in Judith's letter was Elizabeth Riddick Norfleet, widow of John, who had died many years previously, in May 1781. Francis Asbury had first preached in the Nansemond County, Virginia and Gates County, North Carolina areas in the summer of 1780, hence it was probably in that year that Elizabeth Norfleet was converted.

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Footnotes

1.  J. Manning Potts, Editor-in-Chief, The Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury (1958), Volume III, page 176.