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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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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:


J. W. Norfleet One of the First Settlers of High Point Attains Age of Over Eighty Eight

John W Norfleet was born October 31, 1833, departed this life peacefully and quietly on March 24, 1922, age 88 years 4 months and 24 days. He was the son of Abram Lincoln Norfleet and Margaret Campbell Norfleet and the eldest of five the children each of whom have preceded him to their future home. He was born in Callaway county, Mo., where he spent his boyhood days. At the age of 18 he moved with his parents to Hickory Hill, Cole County, Mo., where he engaged in farming at the family homestead and spent his young manhood until the outbreak of the civil war in 1861. At the call of Lincoln for volunteers to serve in the Union cause he enlisted as a volunteer, serving with Co. N., 9th Mo. Regiment, Infantry, being mustered out at the close of the war with an honorable discharge. In this three years service in common with all Civil War soldiers, hardships and serious times endured. He did guard duty for the State Capitol at Jefferson City during Prices Raid through Missouri and rendered other valuable service with his regiment. In 1864 he was united in marriage with Sarah Catherine Nichols of Callaway county, Missouri. Soon after this [in] 1865 they settled in south end of Moniteau county on the land where he has made his home, raised his family, and lived until departure for his eternal home. To this union was born five children, all still living viz: Viola Isabelle Reno of Fulton, Mo.; Abraham of Danville, Ill.; Robert A. of Excelsior, Mo.; Rosalie Ann Howe, Champaign, Ill.; and Sarah Catherine Donaldson of Lincoln, Ill. There are four grand children and five great great grand children. One of the severest trials of this early family and home life was during the spring of 1882 when the smallpox scourge took a large number from this community. Father's wife, and mother of his children falling a victim which left him a widower on April 24, 1882. March 1st, 1883, father was married a second time to Mrs. Mary Jane Kupe whose home was an adjoining farm. This marriage adding her three children to the home making 8 children in all. Two of these Fred and Nellie Kupe are deceased.

The oldest, Frank with his widowed mother survive and with the children are today mourners in these ceremonies.

The father of our subject being a pioneer Methodist minister. His son was raised and trained after the discipline and religion of the Methodist teaching. He therefore dedicated his heart and life to God at an early age - uniting with the Methodist church and in mature years became a licensed exhorter and local preacher which he maintained during his active life. In 1867 he and his co-laborers began the erection of the once famous High Point Methodist church which was completed and dedicated in1868. His ox teams hauling the framing timbers from the saw mill. This being the first Methodist Episcopal church dedicated in Missouri after the close of the civil war. His home was always a home for the itinerant minister of the early days. The early presiding elders were conducted around to the I. C. meetings in his conveyance, His home was a religious home from the start. In his children's growing days, the hack or buggies were hitched up every Sunday morning and all were off to Sunday School and church. Family prayer was a daily custom while raising his family. He was happiest when taking part in a spirited religious service. He was called on frequently not only by Methodist preachers to pray exhort in public services at close of a sermon, but also by Presbyterians, Baptists and others to which he always responded and many revivals in early days credited their success from his fervent exhortations to sinners. Father Norfleet was a Aid-de-Camp member of the Grand Army of the republic, Department of Mo. Post No. 135 Olean.

As an American patriot none exceeded him in loyalty to the flag and zeal for the perpetuity of the fundamental principles of liberty, freedom and justice of the American Republic. In his later years he has become known far and wide as uncle John. In his last years of dependence and decrepitude, his wife has been ably assisted by Uncle Tom and Mrs. Hattie Medlin in making his ripe old age as peaceful and happy as possible. Death was but the closing of his eyes in a eternal sleep. "He is not for God took him."


Children of John Norfleet and Sarah Nichols are:

i. Robert Arthur8 Norfleet, born 05 January 1869 in Moniteau County MO; died 05 January 1933 in Morgan County MO. He married Minnie A. Tising 1897 in Moniteau County MO; born 1868; died 23 July 1946 in Morgan County MO.

Notes for Robert Arthur Norfleet:

The following is an excerpt from "A History of Morgan County and Some of Its People," by A. G. Baker (published 1907-1917), pages 96-97:


"Mr. Norfleet and his wife live in Excelsior, this county. Mr. Norfleet is a merchant there in a firm styled Tising & Norfleet. Mr. Norfleet was born January 5, 1870, at High point, Moniteau county, Missouri. His father was John W. Norfleet, born Cole county about 1829, and his mother's maiden name was Sarah C. Nichols, born in Callaway county about 1842. Mr. Norfleet came to Morgan county March 15, 1897, from High point. His parents never lived in Morgan county. His father is still living at High Point; his mother died at High point in 1881, in April. He has one brother and three sisters, all living. His father was a farmer and never held office of any kind. R. A. Norfleet was educated in the public schools and in the Missouri State University at Columbia. he is a member of Versailles lodge I. O. O. F. His wife's maiden name was Minnie A. Tising and she was raised at High Point.

"For a year or so after coming to Morgan county Mr. Norfleet was justice of the peace and in 1904 he was elected representative of Morgan county. The Republican convention of that year nominated M. S. Evans, now of Topeka, Kansas, for representative but in a few weeks after the nomination was made it as discovered that for some reason Mr. Evans could not hold the office should he be elected. He withdrew and the Republican county central committee very wisely put Mr. Norfleet on the head of the ticket. Although Mr. Norfleet had but six weeks in which to make a campaign he made every hour count and left no stone unturned and he defeated his Democratic opponent, Mr. John A. Hannay, by a good majority.

"Mr. Norfleet made a good and influential representative. He was given second place on the committee of Appropriations. He took an active part in financial matters of state and was regarded as a safe and useful man in the legislature. He was re-elected in 1906 over D. E. Wray and given first place on Appropriations and Accounts committee as minority member. He was active in causing the building of the new hospital in the state prison. He worked hard to have the Missouri supreme court building built of Missouri stone, which was not done. In 1906 he was appointed by Governor Folk as the Republican member of the Junketing committee which has to visit and inspect all of the state institutions and make their report to the legislature. He received much applause for the good work he did on this committee. Mr. Norfleet is the present member of the legislature for Morgan county."

Notes for Minnie A. Tising:

Minnie Tising Norfleet was quite well known to my family. My father (Clark Wesley Norfleet) always called her Aunt Minnie. She published a book in 1917 entitled "Whirl Around the World" that told the story of her trip around the world in 1913 taken on the German-Amerika luxury liner THE PRESIDENT CLEVELAND. I have a photocopy of the book and may digitize and publish it on the Net some day.

The literary quality is not very high but the book is still worth reading as it portrays the world as it was during the last Indian Summer of Western Civilization, when people of European ancestry still ruled the world. Only one year later, Europe entered into the first of two horrible civil wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) that utterly destroyed European world hegemony. Minnie's trip was essentially a series of seaborne visits to various major ports around the world - almost all the places visited were then outposts of the British Empire!

ii. Viola Isabella Norfleet. She married _____ Reno.

iii. Rosalie Ann Norfleet. She married _____ Howe.

iv. Sarah Catherine (Sallie) Norfleet. She married _____ Donaldson.

v. Reverend Abraham Lincoln Norfleet, born 14 July 1867 in Moniteau County MO; died 11 April 1956 in Santa Clara County CA. He married Louella Belle Mayfield 28 June 1894 in Laclede County MO; born 08 February 1871 in Laclede County MO; died 19 October 1909 in Edgar County IL.


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