William Jett Norman

11/25/1831-12/28/1914


 

William Jett Norman, or W.J. as he was commonly known, was the youngest son of James H. Norman and a brother to Cyrus Norman. (See Norman History) He was born on November 25, 1831 in Knoxville Tennessee and later moved with his family to their farm in Bradley county, Tennessee. William became a schoolteacher by trade and ventured to Texas sometime in the 1850's.

It's told that in 1860 he married sixteen-year-old Mary Ann Barrow at Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. William would have been twenty-nine. I haven't been able to verify the location of this marriage. I do know that Mary was the daughter of Benjamin "the bearhunter" Barrow, who was an early settler and official of Chambers county, Texas. Benjamin was a man who possessed a sizeable ranch holding many cattle and a man who still carries quite a legend in that county today.

W.J. and Mary settled in Chambers county, Texas. The county is situated in the southeast part of Texas, consists of flat coastal plains, is one-third water, and lies directly on the Gulf of Mexico. Galveston Bay surrounds the east side of the county. Mosquitoes from the marshy surroundings spread disease in earlier years, killing many settlers. The Civil War and the hardships it brought during the 1860's, were an additional burden. During this time, W.J.'s wife Mary gave birth to a son, William Jett Norman. Infant "Willie" died September 9, 1864. Mary lived only a month longer, dying on October 13, 1864. Both were buried in her mother's parents family cemetery­the White cemetery. On her marker is inscribed, "Farewell my dearest Mary, my love, my bride, my all."

According to a Historical Marker on Highway I-10 in Chambers county, Mary's grandfather James Taylor White (1789 - 1852) migrated to that area from Louisiana in 1828. He developed one of the largest herds of longhorn cattle in Southeast Texas. On White's Ranch in June 1832, area colonists signed the Turtle Bayou Resolutions, written to protest the actions of Captain Juan Davis Bradburn, commander of the Mexican Troops at Anahuac. Four years later, White provided shelter and aid for settlers fleeing the advancing Mexican forces under Santa Anna, and supplied cattle for the Texas army.

Following the revolution, White began driving his cattle overland to markets in New Orleans, one of the first to make cattle drives. His cattle brand, the "crossed W," inherited from his father in 1806, is still used by members of the White family.

Texas had sided with the South during the Civil War; conscription was forced on many able men unwilling to volunteer and unable to escape north. Did W.J. serve? His brother Cyrus in Tennessee, in a claim of his own loyalty, had stated that no family had served the South. So I have doubts that W.J. was conscripted. There are various military enrollment records showing "William Norman's" name, but I haven't found conclusive evidence of anything.

In April of 1867, Cyrus paid his brother, William Jett Norman, $1,200 for W.J.'s share of their father's estate. W.J. was living in Chambers county, Texas according to the deed he traveled back to Tennessee to acquire. Deed transcription here.

W.J. may have moved out of Chambers County by 1870, but owned 250 acres there until at least 1876.

He married Mary Josephine Stafford, who had previously been married to a man with the last name of Cawthon. Mary had a young son named W.A Cawthon. They settled to live in the Troup, Cherokee County area of northeast Texas.

They probably lived on the farm of Mary's mother, the widower Cecilia Stafford who operated a toll river bridge near the present community of Ponta (community that didn't exist then) approximently twenty miles south of Troup.

W.J. and Mary Josephine's first daughter, Nancy Caroline, was born June 23, 1872.

W.J. traveled to his childhood home in Bradley county, Tennessee in 1873 to get his mother Nancy [Wiley] who had lived there alone for a year after her son Cyrus moved to Cherokee Indian Territory [Oklahoma].

I suspect that W.J.'s mom Nancy, who died around 1875, is buried on Cecilia Stafford's property a few miles south of Ponta in Cherokee county. I've noticed a small lake called Stafford Lake in that location. The property remained in the Norman hands for many years.

W.J.'s wife Mary Josephine had an asthma problem. To alleviate her condition, they moved several times trying to find a favorable climate in the state of Texas.

Their second daughter, Jettie Mae Norman (Mary Jett), was born September 23, 1875 at Troup in Cherokee county, Texas.

And their third daughter, Johnie Inez Norman, was born May 23, 1878 in Johnson county, Texas.

He moved his family to Belle Plain, Callahan County and taught for a couple of years.

By this time, the family was seriously thinking of moving to Arkansas and trying the "hot springs" in hopes of finding some help for Mary Josephine's asthma. In the process of moving from their current residence in Callahan county, Texas, they traveled through what would later become Mineral Wells, located in Palo Pinto county.

Upon finding the "healing waters" of that area, W.J. and Mary Josephine settled there to live the rest of their lives.

According to a letter written by a descendant of W.J. (see letter), they built the second house in the town, W.J. wrote the City Charter for the new town of Mineral Wells and he served as the first mayor of that town.

According to his daughter Johnie Inez's obit in 1968, W.J. eventually taught at the Mineral Wells College and carried the title of Professor.

William Jett Norman died on December 28, 1914 in Mineral Wells. His death certificate states that the already widowed William was buried in the adjoining Parker county. It was signed by informant and son-in-law H.C. McGowan of Baird (Callahan county).

A descendant of William Jett Norman once wrote of what she'd heard of her Norman lineage; that, when the Normans came to America, "they had many chests of silver and it took several slaves to take them off the boats, and that we were Huquenots."

Who knows...but read her letter.


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