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Saint Boltoph's Northfleet Parish Church in County Kent, England

Norfleet Family Genealogy

Merton College, Oxford, the college of Master John de Northflete

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Early Norfleet Settlers of Middle Tennessee

by Phil Norfleet

 

 Section 1 – Introduction

Prior to the year 1820, at least seven Norfleet families had settled in Middle Tennessee. These families and the estimated year of their arrival in Tennessee are as follows:

Name

Year of Arrival

County of Residence in 1820

Major James Norfleet

1789

Robertson
Cordall Norfleet

1799

Montgomery
Martha Norfleet Dortch

1795

Robertson
Elizabeth Ann Norfleet Baker

1796

Montgomery
James B. Norfleet

1806

Montgomery
Elizabeth Norfleet Whitmel

1811

Dickson
Mary Gordon Norfleet Smith

1818

Montgomery

Virtually all of the above families settled near the now extinct town of Port Royal located at the confluence of Red River with Sulphur Fork Creek.

 

Section 2 - Tennessee Norfleets in the 1820 Federal Census

All seven of the above cited families were enumerated in the 1820 Federal Census for Tennessee.  The census for 1820 did not provide names other than the head-of-household.  Also, ages of family members were not provided except by age groups and gender - five age groups for whites and four groups for slaves. The Federal Government only required that slaves be listed in total; however, Tennessee elected to provide the slave data by gender in the four age groups as noted below.  

Census Day

In each census year, one specific date was designated as the official census day. The information given to the census taker was to be correct as of that day, which was not necessarily the same day that the enumeration was actually taken at each household. The designated census day for the 1820 census was the first Monday in August, 1820.  

Persons who had died by the time the census was taken, but after the designated census day, were to be included in the census because they were alive on census day.  Babies born after census day were to be omitted because they were not yet members of the household on census day.  Of course, these instructions were not always followed to the letter, but we must be aware of them and begin our study of the information as if they were followed. We need not assume that an entry contains errors or omissions before we have studied it and compared it with data from other sources.  The day or days on which the 1820 Census for Robertson County TN was actually conducted are not given on the report; however, it is noted that the report for Robertson County was certified on 18 January 1821 - hence the census for Robertson was actually conducted sometime between the beginning of August 1820 and 18 January 1821.

Census data reported for the seven Norfleet households mentioned in Section 1 above are as follows:

Montgomery County TN

James B. Norfleet (Census Page 8):

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

0

2

 

 

10 to 16

1

1

 

 

16 to 26

2

1

 

 

26 to 45

0

1

 

 

45 & up

2

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

1

0

14 to 26

 

 

1

0

26 to 45

 

 

0

1

45 & up

 

 

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

5

5

2

1

 

Cordall Norfleet (Census Page 7):

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

1

2

 

 

10 to 16

2

1

 

 

16 to 26

2

0

 

 

26 to 45

1

1

 

 

45 & up

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

3

6

14 to 26

 

 

3

1

26 to 45

 

 

1

2

45 & up

 

 

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

6

4

7

9

 

John Baker and Wife Elizabeth Ann Norfleet Baker (Census Page 8):

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

0

2

 

 

10 to 16

1

1

 

 

16 to 26

2

1

 

 

26 to 45

0

1

 

 

45 & up

2

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

1

0

14 to 26

 

 

1

0

26 to 45

 

 

0

1

45 & up

 

 

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

5

5

2

1

 

James Smith and Wife Mary Gordon Norfleet Smith (Census Page 23): 

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

0

0

 

 

10 to 16

1

1

 

 

16 to 26

2

1

 

 

26 to 45

1

1

 

 

45 & up

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

21

19

14 to 26

 

 

9

08

26 to 45

 

 

18

11

45 & up

 

 

4

14

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

4

3

52

52

 

Felicia Norfleet (Census Page 23) - Felicia was visiting her older sister, Mary Gordon Norfleet Smith, in 1820; for more information see Section 8 below.  She brought along 27 of her slaves from North Carolina; however, Felicia is listed in the household of James Smith, hence, only her slaves are listed in the following table:

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

0

0

 

 

10 to 16

0

0

 

 

16 to 26

0

0

 

 

26 to 45

0

0

 

 

45 & up

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

8

7

14 to 26

 

 

3

3

26 to 45

 

 

2

2

45 & up

 

 

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

0

0

14

13

 

Robertson County TN

Major James Norfleet (Census Page 7):

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

1

1

 

 

10 to 16

0

2

 

 

16 to 26

1

0

 

 

26 to 45

0

0

 

 

45 & up

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

4

3

14 to 26

 

 

3

3

26 to 45

 

 

1

2

45 & up

 

 

0

1

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

3

4

8

9

 

Isaac Dortch and Wife Martha Norfleet Dortch (Census Page 15):

Age Group

Free White Males

Free White Females

Male Slaves

Female Slaves

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 10

0

3

 

 

10 to 16

0

0

 

 

16 to 26

0

0

 

 

26 to 45

0

1

 

 

45 & up

2

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 to 14

 

 

12

5

14 to 26

 

 

8

6

26 to 45

 

 

3

2

45 & up

 

 

3

1

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

3

4

26

14

 

Section 3 - Major James Norfleet (1767-1846) 

 

Major James was the son of James Norfleet (1734-1780) and Mary Battle (d. after 1811) of Nansemond County, Virginia and a grandson of John Norfleet (1699-1753) and Elizabeth Riddick of Chowan County, North Carolina.

John Norfleet – Elder Brother of Major James

In 1780, When Major James's father died intestate in Virginia, the Law of Primogeniture was still was in force. Accordingly, his older brother John Norfleet (1765-1790) inherited his father's entire estate. John came of age late in the year 1786. By 1790, John had sold all the property inherited from his father in Nansemond County, Virginia (537 acres) and Gates County, North Carolina. However, that same year, John did acquire 640 acres of land from his step-father, Lemuel Lawrence. This land had previously been acquired by Lawrence from James Tatum on 28 April 1789. The land was then located in Davidson County, in the Middle Tennessee area of North Carolina (Tennessee did not became a separate State until 1796). The indenture, dated 29 July 1790, states that the land was located:

"……between the Clay Lick and the Battle Ground in the head drafts of Sycamore."

Unfortunately, before he could depart for Tennessee, John died intestate in the latter part of 1790. Pursuant to a 1784 Act of the NC General Assembly, the real property of John Norfleet would have been inherited by his surviving brothers, i. e., Major James and Cordall. Cordall was still a minor at the time; since he was now an heir to real property, a guardian would have to be appointed for him. There is an entry in the Northampton County Court Order Book (June Court, 1793) indicating that "Cordy Norfleet" had chosen Randolph Maddra to be his guardian.

Emigration to Tennessee

The first mention of James Norfleet being physically present in TN is on 18 January 1790. On this date, James appeared in the Tennessee County Court to prove, by oath, the 640-acre land conveyance from James Tatum to Lemuel Lawrence (see above). This means that Major James must have arrived in TN after the Tatum-Lawrence land transaction of 28 April 1789 but before his 18 January 1790 court appearance. He probably arrived in the Autumn of 1789, thus making him the first Norfleet to enter Tennessee. Thus, James arrived in Tennessee before his older brother, John Norfleet, acquired the land from Lemuel Lawrence in July 1790.

James was apparently accompanied on his trip to TN by another brother (William). The brothers settled in what was then called Tennessee County, but which would, in 1796, become Robertson County. William was apparently killed by Indians soon after his arrival [see the 1891 memorandum of Julius Allen for details].

After the death of his older brother, John, late in the year 1790, Major James inherited half of John's 640-acre property. Brother William already being dead, the other half went to Cordall Norfleet. The land John Norfleet had bought from Lemuel Lawrence was on the waters of Hollis Mill Creek in what is now Robertson County.

Tiner/Norfleet Indenture

Shortly after emigrating to Tennessee, Major James apparently also acquired an additional tract of land in the Middle Tennessee area. By an indenture, dated 16 August 1791, Nicholas Tiner of Northampton County, North Carolina conveyed 274 acres of land in Tennessee County (then also part of North Carolina) to James Norfleet of Northampton County. Major James did not retain this land for long, because, on 27 September 1796, Major James, then of Robertson County, sold this same 274 acres of land to his brother-in-law, Isaac Dortch, also of Robertson County. The land was then located in Montgomery County TN. Today the land is located in Stewart County TN and the indenture is recorded in Book B, page 346 of the Stewart County land records.

Military Service

The first documentary evidence of Major James's military service is a Mero District militia roster (roll of Captain John Rains's Company of Mounted Infantry) which shows him entering service on 14 April 1793, as a Private. In September 1794, Major James participated in the Nickajack Expedition sent to attack and destroy the Cherokee towns of Nickajack and Falling Water. James served in the company which had been raised in the Port Royal area by James Ford (the biological father of Philip Ford Norfleet). Ford himself did not go on the expedition, but placed his troops under the command of Captain William Miles. The expedition was successful and the back of Indian resistance to the Middle Tennessee settlements was broken. James undoubtedly distinguished himself during the attack, which at least in part, resulted in his later appointment as a 2nd Major in the Militia for Robertson County (1796).

Political Activities

Soon after the end of the Indian wars, James entered politics; he was elected as a representative for Robertson County to the Tennessee 2nd General Assembly (1797-1799). He was elected to the 3rd General Assembly (1799-1801), as a senator, representing both Robertson and Montgomery Counties. In 1813-1817, he again represented Robertson County in the House, during the 10th and 11th General Assemblies. In January 1798, Governor John Sevier commissioned him as a Justice of the Peace for Robertson County.

Freemasonry

The Masonic activities of Major James Norfleet are summarized in the following quotation from "The History of Freemasonry in Tennessee 1789-1943," by Charles Albert Snodgrass, page 434:

"James Norfleet was a member of Royal Edwin Lodge No. 5 at Windsor, North Carolina ... He apparently did not affiliate with any Tennessee Lodge until the Organization of Western Star lodge No. 9 at port Royal, being a Charter member and senior Warden of that Lodge under its Dispensation and its first Master under its Charter (N. C.), February 12, 1813."

Business Activities

Major James was a surveyor as well as a successful farmer and merchant. In 1796, in his capacity as one of the town commissioners, he drew the plat for the new Robertson County Seat, Springfield. For several years, he and fellow Commissioner John Young issued and signed most of the deeds for town lots sold in Springfield.

Mill Construction

In 1811 he surveyed and built a grist/saw mill on the Sulphur Fork, which he retained until the time of his death in 1846. To construct such a mill, the law required that the builder of a water powered mill possess land on both sides of the watercourse. As Major James's land was only on the south bank of Sulphur Fork Creek, he acquired one acre of land on the north bank from his ward, Olivia Polk. Olivia was the first cousin of James Knox Polk, eleventh President of the United States. The mill was known as Norfleet's Mill until 1853, when it passed into the hands of owners who were not members of the Norfleet family. The mill continued in operation until 1963, having been of service to the area for 152 years. It had been known as Hill's Mill since 1937. In 1967, the mill burned and virtually no trace of it exists today. [1]

Link to Photo (by Author) of Hill’s Mill Ruin

Wives

In about the year 1801, Major James married his first wife, Sarah Williams Lawson (1769-1821), a niece of Colonel Eppa Lawson. Eppa Lawson (1747-1814) had held the rank of Colonel in the Revolutionary War, hence he was always thereafter referred to as "Colonel Lawson." Eppa Lawson's wife, Elizabeth, was a daughter of Elias Fort, the patriarch of the socially prominent and numerous Fort family. Elias was an active member of the historic, old Red River Primitive Baptist Church and his son, Sugg Fort was the Clerk and later (1816) became the Pastor of the Red River Church. Eppa Lawson's plantation and that of Elias Fort both adjoined the farm owned by Major James. Major James had five children by Sarah Williams Lawson. After Sarah's death in 1821, Major James married Jane Bailey; they had one child.

Children

Major James and Sarah Norfleet had five children: one son (Willie Lawson) and four daughters (Elizabeth, Sally, Lucy Louisa and Martha Battle). Major James and his second wife, Jane Bailey, had one child, William Bailey Norfleet.

Elizabeth (Eliza) Norfleet

In July 1817, Major James's eldest daughter, Elizabeth (some sources believe she was the daughter of Cordall Norfleet), died at the tender age of 15. She was interred in the Elias Fort Burial Ground. This cemetery was located on the Elias Fort plantation, on a hill overlooking Major James's mill on the Sulphur Fork. Elizabeth's funeral sermon was delivered by the famous Baptist preacher, Elder Reuben Ross. Elizabeth had been a very popular young lady and was much beloved by the local community. Accordingly, her funeral service drew a very large audience. Elder Ross chose this occasion to publicly announce his rejection of the Calvinistic Doctrine of Predestination. Such a theological position was, of course, heretical to the Primitive Baptist congregation (most were members of the Red River Baptist Church), to whom he was preaching. This incident is considered to be a major historical event for the entire Baptist movement in Tennessee!

Elder Reuben Ross

The following is an extract from the book by John M. Goodman, Jr. entitled Red River Baptist Church – A History, pages 40-41:

"After years of careful study, Reuben Ross became thoroughly satisfied in his own mind that salvation is for “Whosoever will,” and not for a select few.  He determined to preach his           views regardless of what the consequences might be.

"An opportunity presented itself for him to express his views in the month of July of 1817.   He was requested to preach the funeral sermon of Miss Eliza Norfleet, who had died some time previously near Port Royal.  She had been buried in the Fort burying ground on the home site of Elias Fort.  This young lady had been greatly esteemed and beloved in the community where she had lived.    It was reported that she was of a gentle manner and had a very loving character. There were a large number of people who wished to pay their last respects to the memory of the dearly beloved young lady, and also to hear a beloved preacher on this occasion. On the day of the funeral, there was a large gathering at the graveyard.  A rude platform had been built for the occasion.  Reuben Ross, at the appointed time, mounted this platform without fear in his heart and expressed boldly, views that were contrary to those holding to the doctrine of salvation for the elect.  He told his hearers that those who would yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit and become followers of Christ would be saved and pardoned; that none, unless he personally surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, could be saved and that anyone who is lost is lost because, is his own fault.

"Surprising as it may seem, the crowd gathered around the grave seemed to accept with favor the views expressed.  As soon as the sermon had been concluded, Elder Ross descended from the platform looking straight ahead, walked to the place where his horse was tied, mounted him and rode home, a distance of twenty miles.  Apparently, he was not ready to meet, face to face, the kind old brothers that he had labored with for the past ten years.  No doubt, he knew that many friendships would be ruptured because of the stand that he had taken."

Will of Major James Norfleet

The other five children of Major James are mentioned by name in his will, dated 7 August 1844, which was probated in September 1846.

" ... 3rd My will and desire is that my estate both real and personal be divided into five equal parts taking into estimation what I have heretofore or may hereafter give any of my children, an inventory of which may be found in my memorandum book in my desk, a fifth part of which I leave in the hands of my executors, to be herein named, in trust for the use and benefit of my daughter Martha B. Allen as long as she lives, the interest and increase of which is to be for her use and benefit, and after her decease, I give, devise and bequeath the same fifth part to be equally divided among her children.

"4th I give, devise and bequeath the other four-fifths of my estate to my four remaining children, to wit, Sally W. Allen, Lucy Louisa Norfleet, Willie L. Norfleet & William B. Norfleet, to them, their heirs and assignees forever.

"5th Lastly, I nominate and appoint my son William B. Norfleet and my two nephews, P. F. Norfleet and James Dortch executors and trustees to this my last will and testament. ... "

Religion

Major James apparently was not religiously active until the latter part of his life. Unlike his brother Cordall, James never was a member of the Red River Baptist Church, although several of his slaves belonged. In September, 1838, probably as a result of urging by his daughters and his niece, Minerva Ann Norfleet (daughter of his brother Cordall, by then deceased), Major James joined the Harmony Baptist Church. His friend, Elder Reuben Ross was the Pastor. Major James continued membership in this church until his death in 1846.

The Bell Witch

Major James's mill was about five miles from the home of the successful planter, John Bell (1750-1820), whose land was located near the Red River and the modern town of Adams. John Bell had come to Tennessee, in about 1805, from Halifax County, North Carolina.  Back in North Carolina, two Norfleet women, Phereby Norfleet and Absilla Norfleet, had married relatives of John Bell. Phereby had married Joshua Bell, the brother of John Bell; Absilla had married Benjamin Bell, John Bell's nephew. Since 1816, John Bell had purportedly been plagued by a goblin-type of entity, which came to be known as either the "Bell Witch." or "Kate Batts's Witch." The fame of the Witch became so widespread that even Andrew Jackson was said to have visited the Bell household, in about 1819, to experience the "Witch" firsthand. John Bell had been an active member of the Red River Baptist Church since his arrival in Tennessee.  However, in January 1818, he was excommunicated for the sin of usury, as the result of a court conviction involving the sale of a slave to a certain Benjamin Batts, whose wife was named "Kate."  Some people suspect that the real reason he was excommunicated was due to his involvement with the Bell Witch phenomenon, which had become public knowledge by this time. The "Witch" supposedly killed John Bell in December 1820.

John Bell had died intestate and, on 12 February 1821. Major James Norfleet was one of the Robertson County justices who appointed John Bell, Jr. as administrator of John Bell, Sr.'s estate,   John Gardner and Jesse Gardner were named as consigners on the $10,000 bond that John Bell, Jr. was required to post. [See Robertson County Court Minutes, Volume 6, pages 193-196]  Subsequently, in May 1821, Major James was a buyer at the sale of John Bell's personal estate. Unfortunately, there is no record of what James Norfleet thought about the strange "Bell Witch" entity.

Another Norfleet may have an apparent connection with the Bell Witch folklore. The visit, in 1820, of Felicia Norfleet to the Port Royal area may also be remembered in one of the Bell Witch tales.  This visit is described in Section 8 below.

Link to Felicia Norfleet's Visit

Allen Memorandum

A grandson of major James Norfleet, Julius Allen, wrote a memorandum in about the year 1891, that provided some genealogical information concerning his grandfather.  While it appears to contain some errors, it, nonetheless, is worth reading.

Link to Allen Memorandum

 

Section 4 - Cordall Norfleet (1774-1834)

 

About the year 1799, Major James’s brother Cordall joined him in Tennessee. In 1802, Cordall purchased 123 acres of land from his brother. Thus, the two brothers had property directly adjacent to each other in Robertson County. However, in 1809, the boundaries between Montgomery and Robertson Counties were altered and Cordall’s property was placed inside Montgomery County. The Act of the Tennessee General Assembly which accomplished this change, dated 8 November 1809, refers to both brothers by name:

"Beginning at a point twelve and a half miles due east of the meridian of Clarksville … thence a direct course to a point on the south bank of the Sulphur Fork of the Red River, about midway between the dwelling houses of Major James Norfleet and Cordall Norfleet; thence down Sulphur Fork with its meanders to a point where the present line of the county now crosses the same; and thence with said line to the Kentucky line."

Back in Gates County, North Carolina, Cordall had learned the carpentry business as an apprentice (bound in February 1789) to Henry Lee. In Tennessee, he put this skill to good use as partner in a sawmill business. For many years, he and Joseph Woolfork operated a saw/grist mill on the Red River, just above Port Royal. Cordall joined the Red River Primitive Baptist Church in 1803. He was an active member of that church for many years. However, years later, he apparently become disenchanted with the Red River Church and was excommunicated in 1816 due to non-attendance at the church meetings.

Philip Ford Norfleet: In 1812, Cordall became the guardian of Philip Ford, the nine year old son of James Ford, who had just died. James Ford had been one of the early pioneers of the Middle Tennessee area and a Colonel in the Militia. The boy was raised in Cordall’s family and later in life he was always known as Philip Ford Norfleet. Philip became a medical doctor in Port Royal and the owner of a sizable plantation in Mississippi. His home, built about 1840, still exists, in quite good condition, about ½ mile from the center of the old Port Royal town site. The house is privately owned and not open to the public.

Major James and Cordall Norfleet had three sisters (Martha Ann, Mary Elizabeth and Sarah), one of which, Martha Ann, also moved to Tennessee.

Martha Norfleet: She is discussed in section 4 below.Martha Norfleet: She is discussed in section 4 below.

Mary Elizabeth Norfleet: Major James’s sister, Mary Elizabeth Norfleet, married Richard Christmas. After their marriage, Mary and Richard moved to Madison County, Mississippi.

Sarah Norfleet: His sister, Sarah ("Sallie") Norfleet, remained in Northampton County, North Carolina and married, first, Elias Hilliard and second, William Horn. On 29 August 1796, Lemuel Lawrence (Sarah’s step-father), deeded 360 acres of land located in Davidson County, Tennessee to William and Sarah Horn and their two sons. The deed was witnessed by Cordall Norfleet and contained these words:

" … for the love and natural affection I have unto my friend William Horn and his wife Sarah Horn ... title to said land unto the said William Horn and Sarah Horn his wife during their natural lives and after their decease unto the aforesaid sons of William and Sarah Horn. To wit, William Norfleet Horn and David Lawrence Horn … "

 

Section 5 - Martha Norfleet Dortch

 

Martha Norfleet was the daughter of James and Mary (nee Battle) Norfleet and the sister of Major James Norfleet. In 1795, Martha (also known as "Patsy") Norfleet married Isaac Dortch. They came to Tennessee from Edgecombe County, North Carolina during that same year.

According to some Dortch family historians, such as Bill W. Dortch of Paris, Tennessee, Isaac Dortch was the illegitimate son of Isaac Hilliard and Molly Dortch of Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Molly was reputed to be the daughter of William Dortch and Anney Hilliard, the sister of Isaac Hilliard. If true, Isaac Dortch would be the child of an uncle - niece incestial liaison! However, genealogist John Bennett Boddie has written that Anne Hilliard, sister of Isaac Hilliard, married a certain Mr. Ricks and had a daughter named Anne Ricks. I know for certain only that Isaac Hilliard acknowledged Isaac Dortch as being his natural son in his will, dated 14 Jun 1790 and probated in Nash County North Carolina in August 1790, with the following words:

" ... Item I give and bequeath to my natural son Isaac Dortch six hundred and forty acres of Land more or less lying on both sides of Pig-basket Creek to him his Heirs and assignees forever. ..."

Isaac and Martha Dortch’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Archibald Brunson in 1817. After Brunson’s death, Elizabeth married Cave Johnson on 28 February 1838. Cave Johnson was a prominent Clarksville attorney who later became the Postmaster General of the United States, during the Administration of President James K. Polk.

Cave Johnson Letter

In a letter, dated 10 January 1862, Cave Johnson provides some valuable genealogical information concerning the Dortch and Norfleet families.  The letter was published in the book entitled Picturesque Clarksville Past and Present, first published in 1887, at pages 295-301.  The following extract is from page 300:

"Your mother, Elizabeth Dortch, was the daughter of Isaac Dortch and his wife Martha, whose maiden name was Martha Norfleet, the sister of Major James Norfleet and Cordial Norfleet, both of whom resided in the same neighborhood. Isaac Dortch was born in Halifax county, North Carolina, but spent most of the earlier portions of his life in the county of Edgecombe, where he married and moved to Tennessee in t795, and settled the place where he lived and died near Turnersville, near eighty years of age, leaving the following children: Nancy Dortch, who married Robert West, and is still living, having outlived most of her children. Norfleet Dortch married a Miss Blair, and had several children, and are all dead. Elizabeth Dortch, your mother, who married Archibald Brunson in 1817, who died leaving Isaac, Elizabeth and Penelope, and afterwards married me on the 20tb of February, 1835. Martha Dortch, the third daughter, married Dr. Leavell, had several children, and died some years ago. John Baker Dortch, the second son, married the daughter of Governor Willie Blount, and both died, leaving Willie B. and John B., both now living, and Nancy, who married Bailey, and is now dead. William Dortch, the third son, married Marina Bryan, daughter of Colonel Henry H. Bryan, and died leaving two sons, George and William, now living in Clarksville. Isaac Dortch, the fourth son, died before he came of age. Catherine Dortch, the fourth daughter, married my brother, Willie B. Johnson, who died some years ago, and his widow and children now live in Clarksville. Hilliard Dortch, the fifth son, died many years ago, without ever having married."

Photo (by Author) of Cave Johnson's Grave Marker in Clarksville

 

Section 6 - Elizabeth Ann (Nancy) Norfleet Baker

 

Elizabeth Ann (Nancy) Norfleet was the daughter of John Norfleet (1699-1754). She 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 1786, 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!

John and Nancy Baker moved to Robertson County, Tennessee in 1796. One of their sons, William, fought in the War of 1812, dying in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. In 1802, their daughter Lucinda married Willie Blount, who subsequently became the Governor of the State of Tennessee. Lucinda died young and her mother, Ann Norfleet Baker, played a major role in raising Willie Blount’s children. One of the daughters of Willie and Lucinda Blount, also named Lucinda, married a son of Isaac and Martha (nee Norfleet) Dortch, i. e., John Baker Dortch. Martha Norfleet Dortch was a daughter of James Norfleet (1735-1780) of Nansemond County, Virginia; thus she was a niece of Elizabeth Ann Norfleet Baker.

Willie Blount was the Governor of Tennessee for three consecutive terms: from 1809 to 1815. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Clarksville, Tennessee. By an act of the Tennessee Legislature, approved on 21 March 1877, a marble monument was erected over the remains of Governor Willie Blount in October 1877 (photos of Willie’s grave marker are hyperlinked below).

The monument has four faces. On one face is an inscription containing the following information: Willie Blount, a native of Bertie and Pitt Counties, North Carolina; born April 18, 1768; died Sept. 10, 1835; Private Secretary to his brother Gov. Wm. Blount; Judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee from 1809 to 1815; and member of the Constitutional Convention of 1834. The other three faces of the monument are inscriptions to the memory of 1) John Baker and Ann Norfleet Baker (see photo link below); 2) of Lucinda Baker Blount, wife of the Governor; and 3) of Dr. John T. Dabney and his wife Elizabeth Ann, the daughter of the Governor.

Link to Photos (by Author) of Willie Blount’s Grave Marker in Clarksville

 

Section 7 - James B. Norfleet

 

The first mention of James B. Norfleet in the official records is in the will of his uncle, the first Marmaduke Norfleet (1700-1774). Marmaduke's will, dated 28 June 1774 (proven March 1775 in Northampton County NC), says the following regarding James Norfleet:

"…..….. Item: I give and bequeath unto James Norfleet the son of Philissia Norfleet grandson to my Brother James Norfleet the land and plantation whereon Henry Sikes now lives lying in Bertie County on the east side of one branch of the head of Curshy swamp being the land that I bought of William Robertson. I likewise give unto the above named James Norfleet all the stock of cattle belonging to the above said plantation.

"Item: I give and bequeath to the above said James Norfleet two young Negroes namely Davey & Celia my will is that if the above named James Norfleet should die without issue or before he arrives to the age of twenty one years then the above Land, Negroes & Stock to be sold to the best bidder & the money arising from the sale of the Land, Negroes & Stock to be equally divided among my three children namely Reuben Norfleet, Judith and Sarah, or to their Heirs………"

It is interesting to note that, in the last paragraph of the will, Marmaduke appoints his executors with the following words:

"…..I do hereby ordain and appoint my trusty and well beloved Son Reuben Norfleet and my very good friend William Baker and my approved friend James Hogan to be my true and lawful Executors……"

William Baker (1743-1805) was the owner of Buckland Plantation in Hertford County NC (this area in 1779 would become part of Gates County) and was the husband of Marmaduke's daughter Judith. James Hogan (d. 1781) was a man, who would later become a Brigadier General in the Revolution and be what I consider to be one of the outstanding American heroes of that War. At the time of the will, James Hogan was the husband of Ruth (nee Blunt) Norfleet, widow of Marmaduke's oldest brother, Thomas Norfleet (d. 1746) of Edgecombe County North Carolina.

Mother of James B. Norfleet

The mother of James, Philissia Norfleet was probably living in the household of Marmaduke Norfleet at the time he made out his will. She witnessed the will and a tradition in that branch of the Norfleet family (told by Marmaduke's great-great-granddaughter, Antoinette Rebecca Norfleet Smallwood) is that in Marmaduke's later years, after the death of his second wife, his niece (daughter of a deceased brother) had kept house for him. This was undoubtedly Philissia Norfleet. She probably died about the year 1780, as Reuben Norfleet was appointed as legal guardian of James on 04 March 1780 (see enclosure).

Father of James B. Norfleet

I have never been able to ascertain the name of James's father. The wording of Marmaduke Norfleet's will leads me to believe that he may have been illegitimate. I know of no Norfleet male living in the area at that time who would be a reasonable candidate as the legal husband for Philissia Norfleet. The middle initial "B." used in his estate papers in Tennessee may be a pointer in this regard. However, it is odd that the only place where I have seen the name "James B. Norfleet" used, is in the estate papers produced after his death. On every other document (including his will), of which I am aware, his name is always given as simply "James Norfleet." Could the "B" stand for Baker? Further research is needed on this topic.

Bertie County Land and Tax Records

The extant tax records for the Norfleets in Bertie County for the years 1757-1810 are summarized in the enclosed listing. James B. Norfleet first appears in the Bertie County tax records as the owner of 200 acres of land in the year 1779. Presumably this land was the plantation he inherited from his great-uncle Marmaduke Norfleet in 1775. He also appears with these 200 acres in the tax lists for 1786, 1787 and 1788. For each of these years he was taxed only for the land but not for the free poll tax which was levied only on white males over the age of twenty-one.

In 1790 he not only is taxed on the 200 acres of land but also for one white male poll (presumably himself). This indicates that he had finally reached the age of twenty-one within the year prior to the tax assessment for 1790. This fact establishes his date of birth as being either late 1768 or early 1769. After coming of age in 1790, he soon sold his 200 acre inheritance. By indenture (Bertie County, Book P, Page 224), dated 29 January 1791, he sold the 200 acre tract to Joseph Horne of Bertie County NC. Accordingly, James Norfleet was not taxed for any land in the 1791-1797 assessments. James apparently did not again own land until 1798 when he acquired a 213-acre tract from Elijah Harrell by an indenture, dated 26 February 1798.

Edward Acre and Joshua Hayse

It is interesting to note that the Harrell indenture was witnessed by Edward Acre, the same person who had cosigned the marriage bond between James Norfleet and Elizabeth Hayes on 14 November 1797. In another indenture, dated 9 March 1798, Cullin Purvis conveyed a 170-acre tract of land to Joshua Hayse; this tract was stated as being near the land of Edward Acre. Both Edward Acre and James Norfleet signed as witnesses to the Purvis/Hayse indenture. I suspect that Joshua Hayse was either the father or brother of Elizabeth Hayes, who had recently married James Norfleet.

In the years 1799 and 1800, James was taxed for only 100 acres of land in lieu of the 213 acre total for 1798 (see above). This change is accounted for by an indenture dated in 1799 (Bertie County Book S, Page 86), wherein James Norfleet conveyed 113 acres of land to William Hunter.

The tax lists for the years 1801 through 1805, show that James Norfleet was taxed for one white male poll, but no further land ownership tax is indicated. 

Slave Ownership

In 1790 James was taxed for two slave polls; presumably these were the two slaves "Davey" and "Celia" which he had inherited from Marmaduke Norfleet. However, for the years 1791 through 1796, James was taxed for only one slave poll. I have not yet found any document which explains this change.

From 1797 through the year 1805, James was again taxed for two slave polls. The identity of at least one of these two slave polls is revealed by a bill of sale (Bertie County Book R, Page 473), dated 18 December 1797, wherein Reuben Norfleet conveyed two slaves, a woman named "Penney" and a child named "Pheaseby" to James Norfleet in exchange for a slave named "Edy" and "sixty pounds Virginia Currency." The women "Edy" and "Penney" would be subject to the poll tax but probably not the child, "Pheaseby."

James acquired another slave poll by bill of sale (Bertie County Book S, Page 207), dated 26 February 1800, wherein William Ruffin of Bertie County conveyed one Negro man named "Champion" to James. Edward Acre was a witness to the Ruffin/Norfleet transaction.

I have found no record re the disposition of the two slaves, Davey and Celia, originally inherited from Marmaduke Norfleet.

Departure from Bertie County, North Carolina

James Norfleet apparently left Bertie County, North Carolina about the year 1806, as the last tax entry for him in Bertie County is for the year 1805.

Arrival in Montgomery County, Tennessee

The whereabouts of James B. Norfleet from 1806 to 1812 is unknown. The first notice of James B. Norfleet in Montgomery County, Tennessee is on 17 April 1812, when he acquired 223 acres of land on the east side of Parsons Creek, near the Port Royal road [see Montgomery County Deed Book I, page 309]. This 223-acre tract was adjacent to land owned by John Baker and Willie Blount (the Governor of Tennessee during the War of 1812). James acquired his land from John Baker, the husband of Elizabeth Ann Norfleet. Elizabeth was the daughter of John Norfleet (1699-1753) of Chowan County, North Carolina and was James's 2nd cousin once removed. Very little is known of James's life in Montgomery County. His will, undated, is recorded in Montgomery County in Will Book H, page 214. The will was probated on 5 February 1839. Starkey Norfleet, son of James, was named Executor and was required to post a bond in the amount of $3,650. The sureties on the bond, besides Starkey Norfleet, were Philip Ford Norfleet and James Dortch (son of Captain Isaac Dortch).

 

Section 8 - Mary Gordon Norfleet Smith

 

Mary Gordon Norfleet was a daughter of James Norfleet (d. 1796) of Gates County, North Carolina. In about 1799, she married James Smith, Junior of Halifax County, North Carolina. The couple lived in North Carolina for many years. However, in 1818, the family removed to Middle Tennessee settling in Montgomery County on land located close to the Kentucky border.  The couple were quite wealthy - the 1820 Census for Montgomery County TN shows James Smith as the owner of a total 104 slaves!

Dr. Claiborne Thweatt Smith, Jr. has carefully researched the Smith family of Scotland Neck, Halifax County, North Carolina and I quote him as follows regarding the family of James and Mary Gordon Norfleet Smith:

"James Smith was born in 1763, the son of Captain James Smith and his second wife Milly Turner. He appears to have married about 1799 Mary Gordon Norfleet, the oldest of the four daughters of James Norfleet of Gates County, N. C. and his wife Sarah Gordon. Sarah, the next Norfleet daughter, married about 1801 William Smith of Scotland Neck, first cousin of James, and in 1806 Betsy, the third Norfleet sister, married Thomas Whitmel, second cousin to both James and William. There is little record of James Smith before 1800 and during his young manhood he no doubt assisted his father in managing his large holdings on Deep Creek and on Roanoke River. James appears in the 1800 Census of Halifax County with a wife but no children. On the census he is listed in the same age category as his wife who was much younger but the date in the family Bible for his birth, 1763, is more reliable. After their marriage James and Mary Smith lived at "Greenwood, " the house built in 1796 by his niece Polly Turner Smith and her husband Dr. Simmons Baker. The house, a two-story white structure with a central hall and four rooms on each floor, survived until well into the twentieth century. Called "Vine Hill" by the Bakers, the name was changed to "Greenwood" by the new owners. The plantation, bordering on Deep Creek, comprised several thousand acres and covered much of what is now the southern part of the town of Scotland Neck. The "Greenwood"' residence was situated near the junction of several important roads and a little community grew up there near the house. James Smith was the first postmaster of Scotland Neck in 1800 and the activities of the post office were probably conducted in the "Greenwood" house or in an outbuilding in the grove. The post office served the extreme eastern part of Halifax County, known from early times as "Scotland Neck, " as there was no town named Scotland Neck until many years later. … On August 16, 1807 his father deeded him the fishery called Bells on the Roanoke at a place called Skinners Ferry. William R. Smith and Jacob N. Gordon witnessed the deed. This was similar to the fishery run by William R. Smith a few miles further up the river. This fishery was a large sand bar extending into the river where seines could be cast when fish, more numerous in those days, were coming up the river to spawn and could be caught in great numbers. They were then salted and sold. Salted fish was the main diet for the slaves in the neighborhood. There is evidence he ran a mercantile business under the name of "Smith and Bell" and later as "Smith and Bryant. The full names of the partners in either case are not known. Benjamin Paull in a letter to his nephew William H. Paull said he had parted from the family at Smith's store in 1815. In 1829 the sale of a tavern in Greenwood refers to "Smith's Old Store. " In the will of his father, dated 1809 and probated 1811, James was left "all the lands not otherwise given away. " These included "Greenwood" and a plantation on the river called "Dicks. " James, Turner, and George Nicholas Smith, sons of James junior, were each left a slave in their grandfather's will.

"James Smith became interested in Tennessee by 1813 and went on a tour of inspection at that time. On August 7, of that year Mary and Drew Young gave him a power of attorney to handle certain properties in Montgomery County in that state. Mary and Drew Young were residents of the Scotland Neck section and were members of the Smith family connection. Dolphin Drew Young married first Absilla Norfleet, widow of Benjamin Bell. By her previous marriage she was the mother of Sarah who married Drew Smith and Marmaduke, the husband of Drew's sister Martha. Drew and Martha Smith were first cousins to James. Dolphin Drew Young made his will in Halifax County, N. C. on January 24, 1795 and the same was probated the following May. He named his wife Mary and his children Mary, Absilla, General, Drew and James. The will was witnessed by his step-son Marmaduke Bell and his step-son-in-law Drew Smith was appointed executor. It is not known which children were by Absilla and which by the second wife. The land in Tennessee was warrant No. 4120 to Mary Young 6 December 1796. The Mary in question was probably the widow of Dolphin Young and Drew signed the document as her oldest son. The land consisted of two tracts of a 1, 000 acres each and a 700 acre tract all on the Piney Fork of the West Fork of the Red River, 600 acres on the west side of the main West Fork of the Red River and 400 acres which Mary and Drew Young agreed to give Duncan Stewart of Montgomery County for locating the tracts of land. The power of attorney was witnessed by James Young and Tom Whitmel and registered with Richard Eppes Clerk of Court, Halifax County August 17, 1813 and also with Robert Fenner, Chairman of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions on the same date. The Tom Whitmel who witnessed the deed was Smith's brother-in-law who had earlier emigrated west. He no doubt was back in North Carolina on business and James Smith made the return trip to Tennessee with him. James Smith liked what he saw in Tennessee and when he returned home to Scotland Neck in the fall, he bought from Mary Young on November 13, 1813 two tracts of 1, 000 acres and 700 acres on the Piney Fork of the West Fork of the Red River. The selling price was two thousand dollars and the deed was witnessed by Arthur Bell and James Young. The land was in the northwestern corner of the present limits of Montgomery County, very near the Kentucky state line.

"Though age 56 and somewhat old for moving so far away from home, James Smith and his family left for Tennessee in the late summer of 1818. The following deed is pertinent to this move:

"I, Hannah Norfleet, for and in consideration of $750 paid by William R. Smith as attorney for James Smith, who is now on his way to the State of Tennessee, slaves Harry & Betty. Sept. 7, 1818."

"It is likely these two slaves were spouses of slaves owned by James Smith and were purchased to prevent a separation. Hannah Norfleet was the widow of Marmaduke, nephew to James. James Smith, on his removal to Tennessee, left his cousin William R. Smith, his attorney, to finish up his business. … In 1818 the trip, five or six hundred miles, to Tennessee, involving crossing the Appalachians, was not an easy undertaking. No records exist of the travels of James Smith and his family. …

"James Smith was not alone in seeking a new home in the West at this particular time. The population of Halifax County from 1810 to 1820 dropped by half as a result of emigration. James Smith's record after his arrival in Tennessee is hard to trace as there were several men by that name living in Montgomery County at the time. On April 19, 1819 David and James Brigham sold one James Smith 1035 acres on the Cumberland River below the south of Blooming Grove Creek for $10, 350. The deed was witnessed by John M. Carrell and Henry H. Bryan. In 1822 David Anderson and Joseph Bowers, Trustees, conveyed to James Smith sundry property, including a house and lot in New York and 520 acres of land on Blooming Grove Creek. The deed was witnessed by his oldest son James N. Smith and the great proximity of the land to the 1819 purchase may indicate the same James was involved. The family in Scotland Neck recalled that James Smith had settled in Palmyra, Tenn. This may have been the post office he used but his lands and the village of New York were across the Cumberland from Palmyra.. New York did not develop into the city its promoters had intended. On an 1877 map of Montgomery County the only indication that such a place ever existed was a road by that name leading from the river.

"On November 1, 1823 James Smith sold 215 acres of the Piney Fork-Red River land to Robert Stamper. James N. Smith witnessed the deed. By 1826 he had moved on to Franklin County in the northwest corner of Alabama, for on I July as a resident of Franklin he sold Hiram Bailey 145 acres on the north side of the Cumberland and on Blooming Grove Creek. Mention was made of Brigham's survey and the S. E. corner of the New York boundary. Included in the sale was a town lot in New York, called ''the Ferry lot, where a blacksmith's shop and warehouse stand. " On June 4, 1826 he sold 14 acres to Nicholas Bryan on the south boundary of a 700 acre tract granted Mary Young. The deed was witnessed by Henry H. Bryan and Valentine Allen. This was James Smith's last transaction in Montgomery County though much of his property is not accounted for. …

"James Smith and his wife Mary Norfleet were the parents of sons James, Turner and George Nicholas and two daughters Frances Felicia and Lucy N. Smith. According to letters written back home to Scotland Neck, James, son of James, remained in Montgomery County. George moved to Pass Christian, Mississippi where he became a doctor and had a daughter who became a great belle. The third son, Turner, moved to Missouri. …

"By 1843 Mary Gordon Norfleet, widow of James Smith, had moved to Columbus, Mississippi. Her son George having married and settled there no doubt prompted the move. From family letters it appears in 1845 she was living with her daughter Frances and son-in-law Richard E. Meade at "Rose Cottage'' near Columbus. A few years later her oldest son James N. Smith in Bowie County, Texas and appeared on the census in 1850 as a member of his household. On the census she gave her age as 70 and Virginia as her place of birth. … Mary Gordon Smith seems to have died about the time her grandson Norfleet Smith came to Bowie and married his first cousin Bettie. In those days it was customary to keep a lock of hair of a deceased loved one. In response to a request from his father, Dr. George Smith, Norfleet [Smith] wrote in July 7, 1857: "We send the hair of our Grandma." [2]

Visit of Mary's Younger Sister, Felicia Norfleet

In 1820, Mary Gordon Norfleet Smith received a visit from her younger sister of Gates County, North Carolina, Felicia Norfleet.  Felicia was an heiress of some wealth in her own right as evidenced by the 27 slaves that she brought with her to Tennessee. [See the 1820 Federal Census for Montgomery County TN, Page 23]

Felicia Norfleet's visit may even be remembered in one of the Bell Witch folktales!  The following is an extract from a leaflet about the Bell Witch (who was also known as "Kate") that is handed out by the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce in Springfield:

"While Elizabeth Bell and her father were the chief victims of the Witch's torments, no member of the Bell family escaped.  Kate was not always a vindictive spirit either.  The Witch could be helpful when it wished.  Once when John Bell, Jr. was planning a trip back to North Carolina to settle his father's share of an estate, Kate told him the trip was a waste of time, that the estate had not been settled yet and if he went he would come back with nothing.  John, Jr. insisted he was going anyway.  The Witch told him he was making a mistake.  It said that a young lady was on her way to Robertson County.  It said she was very beautiful and very rich, that she owned 40 slaves and a fortune and that he could win her for his wife if he stayed.  But John, Jr. went back to North Carolina anyway.  He was gone for six months and he came back without a cent.  While he was gone a young lady did come to visit relatives in the area.  She was very beautiful and rich.  She did own 40 slaves, but she went home before John, Jr. returned and he never had a chance to meet her. ... "

Although Felicia brought only 27 slaves with her to Tennessee, the circumstances of her visit too closely match the visit cited in the Witch tale to be a mere coincidence.  I am sure that Felicia's visit was a significant event to the Port Royal society of the time.  As a wealthy heiress, she would have been pursued by many of the eligible bachelors residing in the area.  Apparently none of them suited her as she soon returned to North Carolina.  In November 1821, she married Dr. George W. Vaughan of Halifax County NC.  Her marriage to Vaughan was even noted in the local Nashville newspapers of the time.  Unfortunately, her marriage to Dr. Vaughan was not a happy one.  Vaughan was a heavy drinker and gambler who, in a fit of depression in November 1830, committed suicide!

 

Section 9 - Elizabeth Norfleet Whitmel

Elizabeth Norfleet was the daughter of James Norfleet (d. 1796) of Gates County, North Carolina. In 1806, she married Thomas Blount Whitmel, Jr. son of Thomas Blount Whitmel, Sr. and Ann Smith Whitmel. The couple resided in North Carolina for many years; however, in 1811, they removed to Dickson County in Middle Tennessee. Dr. Clairborne T. Smith, Jr. tells us the following concerning this family:

"In 1806 Tom Whitmel married Elizabeth Norfleet, one of the four daughters of James Norfleet of Gates County and sister to Sarah, wife of William R. Smith. Thomas Whitmel and his mother in 1807 sold 400 acres to William R. Smith on the Roanoke bordering Milly Barrow and the Cypress Swamp. Whitmel got into financial difficulties and in 1811 the Sheriff of Halifax County sold to William R. Smith 35 acres belonging to Whitmel on the road to Scotland Neck and adjoining Dudley Whitaker. The Whitmels moved west in 1811. According to the account book of William R. Smith, on March 1, 1811 he bought from Tom Whitmel a chest of drawers, a press and a desk. Whitmel doubtless did not wish to take excess furniture on the long journey to Tennessee. In 1812 Ann Whitmel, as of Montgomery, Tennessee sold her dower right to William R. Smith, 35 acres joining B. Young, Dudley Whitaker, the old school house and Drew Smith.

"In 1819 for some unknown reason the U.S. Government had a suit against Whitmel with his brother-in-law and cousin James Smith as co-defendant.

"Thomas Whitmel appears on the 1820 Census for Dickson County, Tennessee, adjoining Montgomery, with a female his own age and no children. His mother does not appear and probably was dead by that time. He is not listed on the 1830 Tennessee Census and had probably moved. There is a tradition in the family that he eventually settled in Alabama." [3]

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Footnotes

1.  An excellent article on the history of the mill by the Port Royal historian, Ralph Winters, appeared in the "Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle," for Wednesday, 1 July 1964, page 17.

2.  See Claiborne T. Smith, Jr. M. D., Smith of Scotland Neck (published 1976), pages 45-48.

3. See Claiborne T. Smith, Jr. M. D., Smith of Scotland Neck (published 1976), page 17.

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