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Biographical Sketch of Reverend Abraham Norfleet (1802-1870)

By Phil Norfleet

Abraham (Reverend Abraham)6 Norfleet (James5, John4, John3, John2, Thomas1 Northfleete) was born 21 January 1802 in Pulaski County KY, and died 03 September 1870 in Cole County MO. He married Margaret Campbell 16 August 1832 in Callaway County MO, daughter of David Campbell and Margaret Campbell. She was born 21 April 1803 in Green County KY, and died 03 September 1872 in Cole County MO.  Abraham was the son of James Norfleet (1767-1849) and his wife, Elizabeth (1775-1826) of Pulaski, Wayne and Russell Counties, Kentucky.

The first appearance of Abraham in any official records is in the poll tax lists of Pulaski County for the years 1825 and 1826. Although his father, James, was then living in Russell County, Abraham was living in Pulaski probably because he was working for his elder brother John and/or his aunt Catherine Norfleet (Widow of David Norfleet), both of whom resided in Pulaski County at that time. In June 1825, Abraham was converted to Methodism. Immediately thereafter, he commenced studying for the Methodist ministry and was licensed to preach in 1826.


In 1827 he removed to Missouri; he was the first Norfleet to permanently settle in that state. During his first three years in Missouri, he was a Circuit Rider for the Methodist Church. In 1827 he was in the Cape Girardeau area; in 1828, he was on the Saline and St. Francois Circuit. In 1829 he was on the Boonslick Road, near where the town of Old Franklin had once been located. Franklin had been the outfitting point for traders using the Santa Fe Trail during the years 1821-1825. Unfortunately, in the spring of 1826, a flood destroyed the town.

While on the Saline and St. Francois Circuit, the famous Methodist Preacher, Jerome C. Berryman was assigned under him. Berryman, years later, had this to say about Abraham Norfleet:

"He was a poor preacher and a hypochondriac but a devout Christian and a man of much prayer."

In 1830, Abraham was ordained in Saint Louis by Bishop Soule and was located in the Callaway County, Missouri area. In those days, except for the circuit riders, the Methodist Church did not provide any regular salary for its ministers. Accordingly, to supplement whatever income he might receive as a minister, Reverend Norfleet patented two 40 acre tracts of land in Callaway, which he farmed while performing his ministerial duties in the local area.

In 1832, Abraham married Margaret Campbell in Callaway County. Margaret was the daughter of David Campbell, who had recently migrated to Missouri from Muhlenburg County, Kentucky. Abraham and Margaret had three (3) sons and two (2) daughters: John Watson (b. 1833), Adam Campbell (b. 1835), David Campbell (b. 1841), Eliza Jane ((b. 1837) and Ann Hite (b. 1838).

In 1848, Abraham relocated to Cole County, Missouri, acquiring land in the Hickory Hill area, where his older brother Ivy Norfleet had also established a farm. Abraham Norfleet remained here for the rest of his life.


During the Civil War, Reverend Norfleet was a staunch Unionist. Two of Abraham's sons, John Watson (a sergeant) and Adam Campbell (a private), served with the Union forces, in the 9th Provisional Missouri Regiment of Infantry. In 1864, like his older brother Ivy Norfleet, he freed all of his slaves.  A sworn deposition made by Abraham's son, John W. Norfleet, on 16 December 1878, states the following:

" ... I will say in regard to Emily Norfleet a colored woman about 56 or 58 yrs of age, now residing in Jeff. City:  That she did belong to my Father, Abram Norfleet of Cole Co. Mo., who is now dead.  That she is the mother of five children, Horace Washington, Eola Frances, Lou, Viney and Joseph.  Three of these are dead: Horace, Lou and Joe.  Emily's husband Jenk Norfleet died just previous to the war.

"In the latter part of the Summer or early in the Fall of 1863, Horace Washington, in company with my Father, came to Jeff. City and Horace enlisted in the U. S. Army.  I think Abram Fulkerson was the recruiting officer.  The papers stating the facts were placed in my Father's hands for safekeeping.  In the Fall of 1864, when Price's Army robbed Father's house, those papers with others belonging to Father, were destroyed.  I was a soldier myself and went to the camp a day or two after Horace enlisted, talked with him, and bade him goodbye.  I have not seen him from that day to this, but I am satisfied, in my own mind from the best information received, that he died in the service of his Country.

"On the Evening of the 23rd day of Dec. 1864, Emily in company with three of her children, Eola, Viney and Joe, left Father's and came to Jeff. City in search of freedom. ... "


As stated above, most of Reverend Abraham Norfleet's personal papers were destroyed in 1864, when his house was broken into by Confederate raiders serving under General Price.  This is most unfortunate, as I believe that his correspondence would have been of some historical value.  To the best of my knowledge, only one letter from his personal papers has survived. It was found among the papers of his eldest son, John W. Norfleet (1833-1922), of High Point, Missouri.  The letter was written during the Civil War to Reverend Norfleet by a certain James Bolinger, who was a medical doctor living in Etterville, Missouri.

Bolinger appears to be a relative, probably by marriage, to the Norfleets.  He makes mention of “Uncle Ivy Norfleet,” an older brother of Abraham who had a farm in the Hickory Hill area.  Also, Bolinger refers to Abraham as “Uncle Abram” and to Abraham’s wife as “Aunt Margaret.”

Dr. Bolinger’s writing style is a bit flowery, but he does express his views regarding the effect of the Civil War with both fervor and eloquence. Until the events of 11 September 2001, the last time Americans found an enemy on our very doorstep was during the Civil War of 1861-1865.  Accordingly, I find Bolinger’s concerns to be somewhat relevant and applicable to our current situation here in the United States. [These words are being written in December 2001.]

 A transcription of the Bolinger's letter is shown below:

Etterville, Missouri, June 18th 1863

To: Rev. A. Norfleet

My old friend,

Although it has been a great while since I have attempted an epistolary correspondence with you, it gives me no small degree of satisfaction to know that we are not yet quite deprived of this boon so long cherished by the American people.  But we may not be at all surprised to find our liberties even in this respect forbidden.  If we will take the trouble to cast our reflections back upon the history of ancient and modern wars, we may easily draw a picture of the ultimate result of our own country.  We boast of having been rocked in the cradle of freedom.  The great trouble is – we have been allowed too much freedom for our future good.  The time of our boasting is over.  We must expect forever after this, to find our liberties restricted, our cheerful homes turned into mourning, our ears strained by the roar of artillery and our eyes dazzled by the display of glittering steel.  It does not require the genius of a Solon or a Lycurgus to foresee all this. The moral and political condition of our country having become so corrupt, it seems that it has become necessary to throw the whole thing into … , and set it up more permanently. A certain degree of freedom is all that mankind can rightly appreciate, above this they murmur, each one striving for the mastery, and at length their liberties are swept away by their own foul hands.  The Israelites could not be satisfied under the wholesome administration of the great lawgiver, Samuel, and would not be satisfied until they had thrown their necks into the yoke of tyranny, and thus doomed through succeeding generations. This is our present condition.  I am preparing for the change.

God in his wrath has visited us, and I wonder that he has borne with us so long. I believe it is the settled policy of the Government to wipe out slavery, but I do not think it is altogether God’s work.  I believe the enslavement of any human beings, as a race, is a stench in the nostrils of the Great Creator of man.  Temporary slavery for crime or indebtedness is no doubt right.  But to make property of a human being and drive him at your will, and thus hold him in servitude to the same forever, …  is flying into the face of reason, and fraught with the most dangerous consequences morally and politically.  No wonder the just retribution of God is upon us.  The Southern leaders pretend to say it was not for fear of slave interest that brought about the rebellion.  But no one says so but he whose ambition leads to tyranny over all races, white as well as black.  I do not believe the Administration had an eye to the abolition of slavery in the beginning of this war.  But the rebellion has waxed so strong, that it is through strictly military necessity [that] the Negro has to be meddled with. I feel a deep interest in the restoration of the government; but in doing so it will doubtless shake the United States to its very center, and more or less jostle the interest of every civil government on the face of the Earth.  But as I said before, I am prepared for it; and right here I will drop this part of the subject and say, that I am willing to submit to the decree of God, coming in what shape it may, believing that God, through the instrumentality of Jesus Christ, is the savior of the world.

You know, Uncle Abram, I stood out a long time, by action if not in word, proving my unbelief in the existence of Jesus Christ.  But while my doubts were rife in regard to the reality of Christ’s advent into the world, I never had any doubt as to a great supreme power.  And when contemplating the grandeur and magnificence of the works of God, the millions of worlds of far greater magnitude than our own Earth, launched into empty space from the arm of this great architect, wheeling with the velocity of lightning, on and on for thousands of years without the slightest variation save that designed by the creator.  The revolution of our own Earth on its axis which gives us day for work and night for rest, its variation north and south which gives the four seasons of the year, so essential to our physical nature.  When I contemplate the superiority of man; his wisdom and genius compared to that of all other animated nature; his ability to traverse the great ocean and descend into its briny depths, and there subsist; to ascend into ethereal space, far beyond the reach of vision and descend at pleasure.  By his ingenuity construct means by which to hold conversation, as it were, thousands of miles apart. Can calculate the magnitude and distance of the heavenly bodies from our own Earth. And when I compare the wisdom and genius of the most illiterate specimen in human form with that of the lower order animals, I find the one susceptible of the highest literary attainments, while the other is doomed to that groveling instinctive habit, as found in their primeval state. Now must this great intellect lie down and die with the brute, and there remain in deadly chaos forever after?

All these [things] my mind has been ruminating upon for several months, which has fully convinced me that there is a God.  And why a God without reverence to that God by the intellectual part of creation?  And why reverence to the great Deity without hope of compensation in the future for our fidelity to this great power?  Suffice it to say that I have the witness in me proving that I am, etc. … …

My family are in the enjoyment of reasonable health and spirit, considering the great hurly burly and bustle of the country.  My practice continues to increase; I have no fear but I will command a lucrative employment as long as I am able to attend the business.  Our part of the country is complacently healthy and but little to do in my line.  We have a cavalry company stationed here, from the border of Iowa.  I was called in to act as surgeon during their stay here.  I accepted, of course, as it is profitable.  But here comes a messenger.  I must stop writing.  I hope to hear from you soon.  Give my kindest regards to Aunt Margaret, Eliza and the boys.  My wife and George Jains.

With high esteem I remain your obedient servant and friend,

/Signed/ James Bolinger

P. S.  Will you please see Uncle Ivy Norfleet and ask him if he has received a letter from me, enclosing a note against the estate of John Granstaffs. I sent it to him some time ago – to be forwarded to the probate court for allowance.  When you write, please let me know if the letter reached him in safety.

Several of Abraham's descendants continued to be active in the Methodist Episcopal Church. His son John Watson Norfleet (1833-1922) became a licensed Exhorter in the Methodist Church. Abraham's grandson (son of John Watson), Abraham Lincoln Norfleet (1867-1956), became an ordained Methodist minister, in the 1890's.

Reverend Norfleet died at the home of his son, John W. Norfleet, on 03 September 1870.  His wife followed him two years later, dying on 03 September 1872.  They are both buried in the Spring Garden Cemetery in Cole County, Missouri.

Tombstone of Reverend Abraham Norfleet (1802-1870) located in Spring Garden Cemetery, Cole County, Missouri. Photo was taken by Naomi Cotten in December 1999.

Tombstone of Margaret Campbell Norfleet (1803-1872), wife of Abraham Norfleet, Spring Garden Cemetery, Cole County, Missouri.  Photo was taken by Naomi Cotten in December 1999.

Abraham Norfleet and Margaret Campbell had five children as follows:

i. John Watson7 Norfleet, born 30 October 1833 in Callaway County MO; died 24 March 1922 in Moniteau County MO. He married (1) Sarah Catherine Nichols 04 August 1864 in Cole County MO; born 02 April 1847 in Boone County MO; died 24 April 1882 in Moniteau County MO. He married (2) Mary Jane Kupe 01 March 1883; born 1835; died 1924.

ii. Adam Campbell Norfleet, born 10 June 1835 in Callaway County MO; died 29 September 1901 in Missouri. He married Martha J. Farmer 13 August 1868 in Cole County MO; born 15 November 1851 in Missouri; died 09 April 1927 in Missouri.

iii. Ann Hite Norfleet, born 08 November 1838 in Callaway County MO; died 12 February 1901 in Cole County MO. She married Caswell Walser 27 October 1859 in Cole County MO; born 31 December 1825; died 27 February 1908 in Cole County MO.

iv. Eliza Jane Norfleet, born abt 1839 in Callaway County MO. She married John D. Hite on 05 March 1868 in Miller County MO.

v. David Campbell Norfleet, born 26 May 1841 in Callaway County MO; died 05 December 1920 in Cole County MO. He married Mary E. Farmer 03 March 1866 in Cole County MO; born 03 November 1845 in MO; died 07 January 1898 in Cole County MO.



1.  Annals of Methodism in Missouri, by W. S. Woodard, E. W. Stephens Publishing Company, 1893.

2.  Newspaper clipping of an article that appeared in a High Point, Missouri newspaper (name unknown), for 03 December 1870.  The author was the Reverend A. Manship, who had preached at the funeral service for Reverend Abraham Norfleet.

3.  Sworn deposition of John W. Norfleet, dated 16 December 1878, Moniteau County, Missouri.

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