Biography of Maj. Matthew George Norman
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Beginning life with a clear head, true heart and high purpose, Maj. Matthew George Norman pressed on past the ranks of adversity and became what he is today-one of the most prominent and honored of Oregon County’s citizens. As a representative man of the county he is looked upon as one of the best type. Maj. Norman was born near Winchester, Franklin County, Tennessee, February 27, 1830, and was the seventh of eight children born to John and Elizabeth (Colquit) Norman, natives, respectively, of North Carolina and Georgia. The parents were probably married in Tennessee, and she died in Alabama in 1835. He afterward was twice married, first to Miss Nancy Tompkins, and after her death to Nancy Yealock. About the year 1833 he moved to Franklin County, Ala., and settled among the Cherokee Indians. There his death occurred in the year 1862, when seventy-two years of age. He served in the War of 1812, and was in the battle of Horsehoe Bend, serving as a corporal. In politics he was a Democrat. He had eight children born to his first marriage, one to his second and four to his third.
Maj. Norman divided his school days with a system of work on the farm in Alabama, and while still quite young in years began teaching school in Franklin County. In January, 1853, he came to Missouri and located on rented land in Oregon County. Two years later he purchased 320 acres of almost solid timber, which was then inhabited by deer and other wild animals. By hard work and perseverance he added to the original tract as the years passed by and is now the owner of about 900 acres with 225 acres under cultivation. His first official position was county and circuit clerk to which he was elected in 1859, when Oregon embraced a part of Shannon and Center Counties and all of what is now Oregon County. That office he was holding at the breaking out of the war and, seeing the danger menacing the county records, he carried them off and concealed them in a cave on Piney Creek. There they remained from 1862 until 1865. In February, 1862, Maj. Norman volunteered in the Fourth Missouri Infantry, Company 1, and was made captain of the same. He remained in the Fourth until the battle of Corinth, when his command was consolidated with the First Missouri Infantry, Company 1, Confederate Army. He still commanded Company I until the fall of Vicksburg, after which he came home and remained on patrol until that fall, when he was made recruiting officer and organized a company of 125 men, the same being organized into the Seventeenth Missouri Battalion. Our subject was then promoted to the rank of major, and held that position until he surrendered June 6, 1865. He was a brave and fearless officer, and was in many battles: Farmington, Corinth, Baker’s Creek, Black River and Vicksburg. He was also in the Price raid and took part in most of its battles. He was only taken prisoner once, at Vicksburg, and was struck by a spent bullet at that place. After the war until 1872 he turned his attention to dealing in cattle. Previous to the war, however, he studied law, was admitted to the bar, but never depended on it for a livelihood. In 1872 he was elected to represent Oregon County in the General Assembly, and in 1879 he was elected circuit and county clerk and recorder, holding that position for eight years. In 1892 he again represented his county in the Legislature, was subsequently public administrator and has held other prominent positions. While in the Legislature he was on the committee of ways and means, and salary and costs. The first time he was in the Legislature he was on the committee of enrolled bills. In the year 1849 Maj. Norman was married to Miss Mary Ann Waits, daughter of Simeon Waits, and a native of Franklin County, Ala., born in 1831. Seven living children were born to this union: Modema, wife of J. W. Johnson, of Montana; J. F., the present circuit clerk; Julia Elizabeth, wife of Jasper Pierce, of this county; George R., a physician of Winona, Shannon County; Lewis P., post-master at Alton; James C., merchant at Alton; William A., deputy clerk, and an infant deceased. Maj. Norman is a member of the Missionary Baptist Church, and is a Democrat in politics. He is a Mason and has filled every office in the order but one-worshipful master. He has represented his lodge in the Grand Lodge, and is a prominent member of that fraternity.