Norris Family Line

By Carroll B. Jones, Jr,

The following list of documents are and will be cited as proof that the manuscript on the Norris Family by Harry Alexander Davis is in error, in relationship to the lineage of William Hutchinson Norris, b September 17, 1800 in Oglethorpe County Georgia. (Source: Headstone of W. H. Norris, Campo Cemetery, Santa Barbara Brazil, SA) Norris died on July 13, 1893.

"History of the Norris Family" by Harry Alexander Davis: page 302, identifies the parents of William Hutchinson Norris as being William Norris b Feb 1758 Baltimore County Maryland and Sarah Rigdon, daughter of Alexander Rigdon and Ann Reese, and who was born 1772-73 in Harford County Maryland. Other children listed by Davis include John Mitchell Norris (1807), Nancy Norris (1810) who married Benjamin Franklin Cleveland, and Harris Franklin Norris (1811-12). There are eight other children listed.

Davis goes on to say (p-301-2) that Nancy Norris marries Benjamin Franklin Cleveland in Harris County Georgia in 1831. He cautions that there is another Benjamin F. Cleveland, a minister, who was himself married to a Nancy, who was thought to be a daughter of another William Norris. The Cleveland children listed by Davis are:

l. Anna A. Cleveland b 1833, Harris County GA who married D. A. Cochran, both of whom died in Atlanta Ga.
2. William Reese Cleveland b 1835
3. John J. Cleveland b 1837
4. James Cleveland b 1839
5. Susan Cleveland b 1841
6. Benjamin Franklin Cleveland, Jr b 1843

On March 18, 1999 Grace Green of Sebastian Florida was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the Cleveland Family Tree showing the descendants of Benjamin Franklin Cleveland b 26 November 1810, Abbeville County SC.

"He married Anne Holman (Nancy) Norris in Whitesville, Harris County GA, 20 April 1832. Anne was the daughter of William Norris and Anne (Nancy) Watkins." Anne Cleveland died in Atlanta GA on 26 August 1891.

Green lists the children of Benjamin Cleveland and Anne (Nancy) Norris as follows:

1. Anne A. Cleveland b 1833
2. William Reese Cleveland b 25 May 1835
3. John J. Cleveland b 1837
4. James Thaddeus Cleveland b 29 August 1839
5. Susan Burch Cleveland b 21 August 1842
6. Benjamin Franklin Cleveland, Jr b ca 1844

Anne A. Cleveland married Demetrius Cochran in Harris County GA on 25 December 1852.

(Authors Note: There can be no doubt that the Cleveland Family, as listed by Davis and the Cleveland Family as listed by Green are indeed the same family. This would rule out the existence of a conflicting Benjamin F. Cleveland, even if he were married to someone named Nancy Norris. A check of the Federal Census Records for Harris and surrounding counties, both in Georgia and Alabama failed to identify such a family.)

On April 21 1999, Mrs. Charlotte Thomas Marshall of Athens Georgia, herself a researcher of the Norris, Cleveland, and the Watkins Family Lines was kind enough to provide me with a wealth of information. Included in her presentation were the following:

1. Transcription of the Obituary of William Norris that was published in the CHRISTIAN INDEX on April 26 1844: "[William Norris] Another Revolutionary gone. Captain William Norris, of this place, died on the 5th day of April 1844. He was 87 years and a few days old; he had been a worthy citizen through a long life - for the last 42 years, he has been a member of the Baptist Church.

2. Transcription of the Obituary of Nancy Watkins Norris (Mrs. Wm.) also published in the CHRISTIAN INDEX on July 11, 1852; "Died in the house of the Rev. B. F. Cleveland, in Harris County GA, the 18th June 1852, Mrs. Nancy Norris, late the relict of William Norris, deceased and mother-in-law of Brother Cleveland. Mrs. Norris at her death was about 80 years old....."

Mrs. Marshall included the known Revolutionary War information regarding William Norris and it is as follows:

From the book, History of Harris County Georgia 1827-1961 by Louise Calhoun Barfield:

William Norris, b 1757 Johnston County North Carolina, d 5 April 1844 in Harris County GA;

Lived in Rowan County NC in 1777 and enlisted in the army the same year and served as a private in Capt. Goodman's Company under Col. Armstrong in Malmedy NC Regiment.

Norris is known to have served beyond 1782 in various units.

Pension Certificate #29694 was issued 30 January 1835 for this Revolutionary War service.

Married in 1789 to Nancy Watkins, a daughter of Reese Watkins in Wilkes County Georgia.

William Norris gravesite is marked with a government marker placed there by the Button Gwinnett DAR Chapter, Columbus GA.

Mrs. Marshall included a transcription of the Last Will and Testament of William Norris;

Will Book A, page 73, Harris County Georgia: William Norris appoints his son-at-law, Benjamin F. Cleveland as his sole executor and leaves his entire estate to his widow, Nancy Norris. The will was signed on 7 September 1841.

William Norris is buried at the Rehoboth Cemetery, Cataula Georgia.

On 17 March 1999, supporting data was received from Yancey Watkins in the form of the Watkins Family Tree. It also shows the marriage between Nancy Watkins and William Norris in Wilkes County GA.

In the History of the Norris Family, p 301, Davis wrote that Sarah Rigdon was born 1772-73 and was the daughter of Alexander Rigdon and Ann Reese and that Sarah and William Norris married in Harford County abt 1784. He says that there is a break in the marriage records for that county from Dec. 1785 to Dec. 1791.

During 1999, I had numerous contacts with Jean T. Gillett on the subject of the Rigdons. Jean is a long time researcher of the Rigdons and has a wealth of information on that line. She furnished me with a copy of "The Rigdons of Maryland, Baltimore/Harford County. A search of that document reveals that Alexander Rigdon was very active in the community and the first and only marriage recorded was when he married a widow, Ann Clark Johnson, abt 1780. Alexander Rigdon was born 12 April 1743 and died between 19 June 1819 and 16 February 1820, the date his will was proved. In his will he listed Ann Amoss, Elizabeth Rigdon, and Thomas Baker Rigdon as his children. There is no mention of a daughter named Sarah. There are no other marriage records for Alexander Rigdon, save the one in which he married the widow Johnson. There is no indication of any kind in the Rigdon History to show that a Sarah Rigdon married a Norris of any name or description. There is no mention of an Ann Reese in the Rigdon History.

The manuscript by Harry Davis, p-301, says that William Norris, age 35 enlisted in the 2nd Maryland Regiment in the year 1782 while in Cumberland Pennsylvania and at the time of enlistment, gave his residence as Baltimore Maryland. He was further described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, swarthy complexion, black hair and well set. Davis originally stated that William Norris was born February 1758 in Baltimore County Maryland.

There is no way that William Norris could have been born in 1758 and be 35 years old in 1782. Where Davis got the information and how he attached it to the William Norris in question is unknown, as most of the Davis manuscript was done without the benefit of sources being cited for further study.

In 1848, Nancy Watkins Norris made an application to continue the Revolutionary War Pension awarded to her husband William Norris. According to the "Abstract of Revolutionary War Pension Files" this request was denied due to technical reasons. A portion of the file contains an affidavit from John M. Norris of Russell County Alabama, identified as a son of Nancy, alluding to the fact that a Family Bible had burned in a house fire and stating his knowledge of the marriage of his parents in Oglethorpe County Georgia. The marriage actually took place in Wilkes County, prior to the formation of Oglethorpe County where the family lived at that time.

According to information received from Teresa Norris Evans, a marriage bond was posted in Wilkes County Georgia for the marriage of William Norris and Nancy Watkins. The bond was posted on 06 February 1792. The exact date of the marriage is not known.

Additional input from Teresa Norris Evans is that William Norris was the son of Josiah William Norris (1739-1836) and that the Norris family located from Rowan County NC to Wilkes County GA prior to 1790. Josiah William Norris died in Harris County GA on 07 November 1836 without leaving a will. Following his death, a "Letter of Administration" was issued to his son, William Norris, and part of the estate claim was an Indian Depredation claim that the elder Norris had filed in Jasper County. The claim was actually for losses incurred by the elder Norris while he lived in Oglethorpe County prior to 1800.

Harry Davis claims that William Norris moved to Harris County GA about 1836 and died there in 1838-39. The records of Harris County GA show that Josiah William Norris died there on 06 November 1836, and that his son, William Norris died there on 05 April 1844. There are no other records of anyone else named William Norris passing away during that time frame in Harris County.

Davis further says that the widow of William Norris (I presume he is referring to Sarah Rigdon) moved to Jasper County GA and lived for a time with a son named Jacob. She then located to Chambers County AL in the early 1840's and there, lived with her son named John M. Norris and that she died there in the 1850's. There are no existing records for Chambers County AL that indicate that any elderly female resided in the household of John M. Norris during the 1850 Federal Census. There does appear in the 1850 Federal Census for Chambers County, a James A. Norris age 25 b AL, along with Harriett Norris age 17 b SC and Sarah Norris age 73 b GA. (This data from Wylene Alston on 8 July 1999) James A. Norris does not appear to belong to anyone in the Norris Line that would connect with William Hutchinson Norris.

In the manuscript, Harry Davis says that he is listing 12 children of a stated 14. There seems to be better than an average chance that not all of the children listed belong to the same family. Before the end of this narrative, I intend to connect the following as siblings: William Hutchinson Norris, Anne Holman (Nancy) Norris, John M. Norris and Harris Franklin Norris. There is much to suggest that Rigdon, Young Reese, James Elam, Sarah McElroy and Susannah Olivia are also siblings, however, exact documentation has not been found. There may also be others.

On page 301 of the Davis Manuscript, it is said that William Norris was a longtime resident of Franklin County GA. While there was a William Norris in Franklin County in the late 1700's, there is no indication that he was in any way connected to our Norris Family. Georgia maps of the era do not indicate that any part of Franklin County ever became part of Oglethorpe County. The headstone on the "Campo Cemetery" gravesite of William Hutchinson Norris was placed there by my great grandfather, Robert Cicero Norris, and it clearly states that William H. Norris was born in Oglethorpe County GA.

On 08 May 1999, Martha Crosby Jacobs, daughter of Sarah Norris Crosby, descendants of Francis Johnson Norris (a son of William H. Norris) informed me that Mrs. Crosby has in her possession a letter written by William H. Norris to his son "Frank," telling him that his Uncle Franklin was dead. This letter was written in January 1877. "Frank" was the only child of William H. Norris that did not migrate to Brazil with the family following the Civil War. In the letter, Wm. H. also said that leaves only me, and your Aunt Nancy Cleveland and I don't know if she is alive or not.

Through ongoing research, it was learned that Harris Franklin Norris had died in Shelby County AL on 26 January 1886. How William H. Norris learned of this is not known. Further research developed information that Nancy Cleveland died in Atlanta GA on 26 August 1891 while living with her daughter, Ann Cleveland Cochrane. Nancy Cleveland and her husband Benjamin F. Cleveland are both buried at Brooksville Georgia.


After careful consideration of the above listed facts, I can only conclude the following:

First: Because of the letter written by William H. Norris To his son Frank, it can only be reasonably Assumed that he was referring to the death of his Brother Harris Franklin Norris. Further, by adding Nancy Cleveland as an aunt of Frank, there is no Other conclusion to be reached than Nancy is in Fact a sister to William H. Norris.

Second: The Application for the continuance of the Revolutionary War Pension awarded to her hus- Band William Norris, made by Nancy Watkins Norris makes a direct reference to her son "John M. Norris.

Third: The connections made by the Obituaries from the Christian Index that identify William Norris, Nancy Watkins, and Rev. Benjamin F. Cleveland as her Son in law cannot be overlooked nor can they be Explained away. Similar facts are contained in the Last Will and Testament of William Norris, filed in Harris County GA.

Fourth: From the letter and from the other documentation, It can only be concluded that William Hutchinson Norris was the son of William Norris and Nancy Watkins. The fact that William H. Norris was born Oglethorpe County Georgia and not in Franklin County Georgia cannot be overlooked.

The purpose of this document is not to cast doubt on the work of Harry Alexander Davis, but rather to set the record straight on this particular aspect of the Norris Family. Much of the Davis Manuscript is very professionally done and obviously the result of many hours of research and preparation. However, many things (not facts) have changed in the almost seventy years since his work was done. And while the facts have not changed, the methods of locating and developing them have changed dramatically. I hope this exercise will meet with the approval of involved family members and I will try to answer any questions that arise.

Melbourne Florida
29 March 2000


24 Aug 2000
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Reformatted 22 Oct 2020
Dallas County, Alabama Genealogy