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Norfleet Family Genealogy

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Aaron Norfleet (1756-1831) and the Nat Turner Revolt

by Phil Norfleet


Cordall Norfleet (d. 1788), prosperous planter of Southampton County, Virginia may have sired a child (Aaron Norfleet) by a slave woman, in about the year 1756. On 28 May 1798, Aaron was freed by Cordall's legitimate male heir, John Norfleet.

Deed of Emancipation

A transcription of the deed [1] of emancipation  is as follows:

To all persons to whom these presents shall come.   Know ye that I John Norfleet of the County of Southampton for divers good causes and Considerations me thereto moving Have emancipated and set free & by these presents Do emancipate and set free a Negro man named Aaron about forty-two years old whom I have heretofore held as a Slave.  And I do for myself, my heirs, executers & Administrators relinquish all right title, claim or interest either to his person or any property he may hereafter acquire in Witness whereof I have hereto set my hand & seal this 28th day of May 1798.

/S/  John Norfleet  (Seal)

Sealed & Delivered in presence of:

/S/  James Gee

/S/ Wm Blunt

At a Court held for the County of Southampton the 20th day of August 1798.  This Deed of Emancipation was proved by the Oaths of James Gee & William Blunt two of the Witnesses hereto and caused to be recorded.

/S/  Sam'l Kello 

After gaining his freedom, Aaron acquired land on the south side of Flat Swamp and lived there for many years. In March 1808, Aaron married Marian Artis. Marian belonged to the large and well-known Artis family of free blacks, who mostly lived in the St. Luke's Parish area of Southampton County.

Aaron Norfleet's Land Acquisitions

After achieving freedom, Aaron Norfleet made several land acquisitions in the Flat Swamp area.  The following table summarizes these acquisitions:

Date Grantor Grantee # of Acres Price Book/Page
25 Feb 1805 Frances Harris Aaron Norfleet 131&1/4 59/11/03 11/16
19 Feb 1807 Jesse & Ann Holt Aaron Norfleet 50 $50 12/100
28 May 1825 Thomas & Sally James Aaron Norfleet 100 $426 19/428

The above table indicates that Aaron acquired a total of 281 and 1/4 acres.  However, the 1831 Southampton County Tax List indicates that Aaron was then the owner of 181 and 1/4 acres of land with a value of $540.75.  The tax listing was dated 14 June 1831.  I found no record of a sale of the other 100 acres of land.

Federal Census of 1830

The 1830 Federal Census gives us some pertinent genealogical information concerning the household of Aaron Norfleet (11 people in total) shortly before his death in 1831.

Under the category of "Free Colored Persons" we find the following for Aaron Norfleet ( my comments are in brackets):

1 male age under 10 years [son John?]

1 male age 55-100 [Aaron Norfleet

3 females age under 10 years

5 females ages 10-24

1 female age 36-55 [wife Marian]

Children of Aaron and Marian Norfleet

The above 1830 Census implies that Aaron and Marian Norfleet had nine children, one son and eight daughters.  The names of three of these children are mentioned in Aaron's will, i. e., son John and daughters Martha and Eliza.   A study of the Southampton County Tax Lists for the years 1841-1847 reveal the names of four more of his daughters, i. e., Mariam, Angeline, Evaline and Adaline.  The names of the other two daughters are unknown to me.  Since their names never show up on the tax lists, they probably died before 1841.

Nat Turner Revolt

Aaron apparently died in October 1831, under rather suspicious circumstances.  Aaron's death occurred shortly after the Nat Turner Revolt, which occurred in August 1831, but before Turner (see drawing) was apprehended and hung in November 1831. [2] Aaron's farm was located less than 2 miles from the farm of Joseph Travis, where Nat Turner had lived (see map). In addition, several members of his wife's family had participated in the Turner insurrection. It was widely believed by the local white people that Turner had been aided in the planning for his "revolt" by the local free Negroes, accordingly, Aaron would have been a prime suspect in this regard. During the time while Nat Turner was a fugitive, gangs of white vigilantes roamed throughout Southampton County, searching for Turner and seizing any free blacks they ran across, for questioning re Turner's whereabouts. Many of the free blacks so taken were tortured and sometimes killed. Aaron, who by this time was an elderly man, may have been the victim of such a "vigorous" interrogation!

Aaron Norfleet's Will and Probate

Aaron's will, dated 20 September 1831, was probated in Southampton County, Virginia 0n 16 January 1832. The full text of Aaron's will is as follows:

Know all men by these presents that I Aaron Norfleet of Southampton County and State of Virginia now sound in mind though infirm in body do make this my last will and testament.   I give and bequeath unto Son John two hundred dollars extra of his part of the balance of my property.  I then wish the balance of my estate to be equally divided between all the surviving children of me and my present wife Marian except Martha and Eliza.  I loan them their part and give it to their body heirs at their death.   Given under my hand and seal this 20th day of September 1831.

/S/ Aaron Norfleet (his mark)  (Seal)


/S/  James James

/S/  Thomas James

/S/  Sally Wood


Aaron probably died in late October or early November 1831.  The following extracts have been taken from the Southampton County Court Minute Book (1830-1835) as follows ( my comments are in brackets):

21 November 1831:  "James Jackson is appointed curator of Aaron Norfleet dec'd f. n. [free Negro] and thereupon the said James Jackson gave bond of security according to law." [Page 126]

22 November 1831:  "Ordered that Henry Moore, Nat Jones & Jesse West being sworn & appraise Aaron Norfleet's dec'd est. & make report, etc." [Page 131]

16 January 1832:  "Aaron Norfleet's will proved by Thomas James one of the witnesses thereto." [Page 146]

20 February 1832:  "Mary Norfleet widow of Aaron Norfleet, dec'd (f n) [free black] appeared in Court and refused to take or accept the provision made for her in her said husband's will and renounced all benefit which she might claim under the same." [Page 156]

15 September 1834:  "The said will [of Aaron Norfleet] was fully proved by the oath of James also a witness thereto and ordered to be recorded.  And on the motion of James Jackson who made oath and together with James and Henry Moore has securities entered into and acknowledged Bond in the penalty of One Thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs.  Certificate is granted him for obtaining Letters of Administration on the estate of the said Aaron Norfleet deceased with his will aforesaid annexed in due form.  Teste /S/  James Rochelle Clerk"

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1.  See Southampton County, Virginia, Deed Book 8, page 676.

2.  The records of the trials of Nat Turner and his accomplices are found in the Southampton County, Virginia, Court Minute Book for the years 1830-1835, pages 72 through 131.

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