Thursday, December 16, 2010

David Norton Jr.

  • Name: David Norton Jr.
  • Born: October 23, 1796 Pendleton, Kentucky
  • Died: After September 28, 1860 Lehi, Utah
  • Related through: Dan's grandfather Heber Langford 

David Jr. was born 1796 in Pendleton, Kentucky near Falmouth. This was during his father's (David Sr.) first move into upper Kentucky. The family was hardly in Pendleton County long enough for David Jr. to be born before they moved on to Ohio and Indiana. Then in 1810 David Sr. acquired 3,000 acres in the western part of Pendleton County, Kentucky. They developed this land until this father’s death in 1814.

David Jr. and his brother, Henry Norton along with their cousin William Norton, signed on in the Kentucky Mounted Volunteer Militia commanded by Col. William Mountjoy to fight in the War of 1812. David was 16, Henry 22, William 20.

The Volunteers left Kentucky Aug 31, 1813 and rode to Canada for the Battle of the Thames where Chief Tecumseh was killed and the British were defeated. David's group was in the thickest part of the battle and it appears David lost his horse in the hand to hand conflict. On October 5 The British commander formed the British regulars in line of battle at Moraviantown and planned to trap Harrison on the banks of the Thames, driving the Americans off the road with his cannons. Tecumseh's warriors took up positions in a swamp on the British right to catch the American's in the flank. Despite the Indians' flanking fire James Johnson broke through; the British cannon having failed to fire. Immediately the British turned and fled the field, many of them surrendering.

Chief Tecumseh remained and kept up the fighting. Colonel Richard Johnson who commanded the Kentucky cavalry charged into Chief Tecumseh's position to draw attention away from the main American force. David must have been in the thick of the fighting and David lost his horse in the battle.

Tecumseh and his warriors answered with a volley of musket fire that stopped the cavalry charge in its tracks. Fifteen of the men were killed or wounded and Johnson himself was hit five times. Johnson's main force became bogged down in the mud of the swamp. Tecumseh was killed in this fighting; The main force finally made its way through the swamp and James Johnson's troops were freed from their attack on the British. With the American reinforcements converging and news of the death of Tecumseh spreading quickly the Indian resistance dissolved.

On November 5, 1813, they mustered out of the Mounted Volunteers. They had traveled all the way to Canada and back. He was later reimbursed $50 for a horse he had lost while in this militia. Six months after David was mustered out of the Kentucky Mounted Militia David's father died. David was only 18 and most of the family was still very young. With the death of David Sr. the family must have gone in separate directions. Samuel Norton the oldest brother was married and living in Bourbon, KY. Henry Norton only recently married was in Grant, KY.

David married Elizabeth Benefield February 10, 1820 in Fayette, Indiana and their first child (John Wesly) was born just nine months later on 6th of November 1820 near New Lisbon, Henry County, Indiana. The family moved to northern Indiana soon thereafter and the next two children (twins James Wiley and Melissa Isabell) were born in Stuben, Indiana which is in the North East section of the state.

March 10, 1825 David Norton Jr. purchased land in the town of Dudley, Henry County, Indiana. This is very close to the National Road pushing west from Pennsylvania. There is a John Norton who also bought land in Dudley about a mile from David in July of 1823. Perhaps this is David's younger brother. Three children were born to David and Elizabeth in Henry County. Henry b. 1826, Hyram Fletcher b. 1829 (Hyram Fletcher our ancestor is possibly named after Capt William Norton's brother Fletcher Norton.) and Isabelle b. 1836.

David is listed in the 1830 census in Henry County, Indiana with his wife and 5 children. Also listed is John Norton, with a wife and three children.

In 1830 a new religion was organized in upstate New York called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and commonly referred to as Mormons. On October 1, 1831 David Norton records that he joined this church. If so he was a very early convert indeed. The Mormon Church had barely established a center at Kirtland, Ohio in the spring of 1831.

In the Church Conference of April 1831 Joseph Smith announced that the elders of the church would travel to Independence, Missouri to organize the church there. But he instructed the elders to travel to Missouri by different routes preaching and baptizing as they went. Since David Norton's home was very close to the National Road which was a main conduit to the West, it's likely that the Mormon Elders stopped by on their way to Missouri and their return. It is certainly during this period that David Norton was introduced to the Mormon Church. He records being baptized Oct 1, 1831 which coincided nicely with the return of the Elders from Missouri. The Norton home on the National Road was certainly a rest stop for the Mormon travelers going between Kirtland, Ohio and Missouri.

In August of 1838 David moved his family to Missouri. He bought 160 acres of land just three miles from Haun's Mill, near present day Catabwa in Caldwell County. Just three months after David bought land in Caldwell County one of the most horrific incidents of the Missouri persecution of the Latter-day Saints took place.

As tensions grew in northwest Missouri following the Battle of Crooked River in October 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked Jacob Haun, leader of the Haun’s Mill residents, to remove his people from the remote site to the relative safety in numbers at Far West. Jacob Haun returned to his mill and his small community, feeling safe in spite of the Prophet's warning.

Late in the afternoon of October 30, 1838, a band of approximately 240 armed Missourians under the command of Colonel Thomas Jennings rode into town, slashing and destroying all in their path. The sisters took the children and ran for the woods, many of the men and boys sought shelter from the hail of gunfire in an unfinished blacksmith shop. It was butchery as the renegade militiamen fired through the unchinked logs into the shop, killing or wounding all present, including ten-year-old Sardius Smith, who was murdered by a point-blank musket shot.

Eighteen of Jacob Haun's people were killed, and another fifteen were wounded that afternoon. The survivors hid in the woods through the night, fearing further action by the marauding militia. The bodies of those who died that day were gathered and buried in a mass grave that had started out as a well that was unfinished when the mob came into town. The survivors fled to Far West, telling the Saints there of what became known as the Haun's Mill Massacre.

From the obituary of David’s daughter Melissa Norton Allred we get a picture of how the Norton family fared in the massacre.

"Melissa with her parents joined the church in an early day and moved from Indiana when twelve years old to the state of Missouri in President A.0. Smoot's company; settled near Haun's Mill; shared in the persecutions of the Saints and came near being in the Haun's Mill Massacre. Her father and family gathered to the mill for protection on the night before the massacre.

Father Norton had a premonition that trouble would occur and that if he remained he would be slain. His home being in a rather secluded place he returned with his family and consequently they escaped injury. The day after the massacre, David Evans and others of the survivors took refuge in a thicket on Brother Norton’s farm. To them in the company of her mother, Melissa carried provisions until peace was restored."

The Norton family fled the persecution in Missouri and went to Iowa (perhaps Pikes Co.) where they purchased a farm in the spring of 1839. In 1841 David Norton moved the family to Nauvoo, Illinois and purchased a farm four miles east and two miles south of Nauvoo. The City of Nauvoo became the largest settlement in the West and anyone who has been to Nauvoo, knows how the Mormon's built a great and prosperous city. The Norton's also participated and helped build the temple there. David, Elisabeth and their oldest son John Westly received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple on February 3, 1846 and the temple was closed four days later.

David Norton was also indicted as one of those involved with the burning of the Expositor. This is same event that sent Joseph Smith to the Carthage Jail.

By May of 1846 the Norton family had moved to Winter Quarters in Iowa. In the spring of 1847 it was time for the Mormons to begin the trek west. The two eldest sons of David Norton Jr, John Westly and James Wiley, were appointed by Brigham Young to come with the original group. But when Brigham Young found that the wife of James Wiley was expecting a child he released him to stay with her. John Westly was among the first group to leave. He was a member of the 12th Company of ten and was assigned to gather wild game for the party. This 1st group entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24th, 1847. Within a few weeks of reaching Salt Lake Valley, John Westly started back to Council Bluffs, Iowa for his wife and family. Because of insufficient funds he had to find work in Missouri during the winter of 1847 and spring of 1848 to earn enough for the family to travel west.

When John Westly and the first group left for Salt Lake Valley in 1847, David Jr. was 51. He was ordained a High Priest by Heber C. Kimball in December of 1847. He and Elisabeth remained in Winter Quarters till John Westly returned and traveled to the Great Salt Lake with John Westly and his wife. The Nortons came to Utah with the Heber C. Kimball Company in 1848. They left Iowa in June and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September.

That same year Sam Brannan began the Gold Rush in California. By the summer of 1848, Brannon’s camp had over a hundred men. Samuel Brannan, the "Spiritual Guide and director for the Mormon population of New Helvetia and other districts of California" opened a store there. The camp was called Mormon Island because the early miners cut a channel across one edge of the gravel bar there, forming a small island. The town quickly outgrew the small gravel bar.

David and Elisabeth Norton and family went to the gold fields of California in 1849. One of the most unusual developments involving Mormons and California gold took place in the fall of 1849, Brigham Young, going against his better judgment, permitted a few older leaders to "call" young men of their choice on a "mission" to California to mine for gold. Prominent among these men was Henry Bigler, whose diary set the accepted date of the original discovery of gold at Coloma, and George Q. Cannon, who later became an influential counselor in the church's First Presidency.

Bigler joined a company of about twenty gold missionaries, with James M. Flake as captain. They left Salt Lake Valley on October 11, 1849 and arrived at Colonel Williams's Ranch (near present-day Chino) on December 11, after a difficult journey during which they temporarily became part of the "Death Valley" group that attempted to take a short cut to the California mines. This train of gold missionaries traveled with the train that gave Death Valley its name. They turned off north of Moutain Meadows and traveled through Panaca, Nevada.

Captain Jefferson Hunt who was the leader of the Mormon Battalion, settled in Salt Lake City in 1847. Soon thereafter, Hunt proposed traveling back to California to bring food and supplies for other recent Utah arrivals. Mormon authorities approved this proposal, and Hunt undertook this journey with Porter Rockwell, several former Mormon Battalion members, and two of his own sons. Later he guided several parties of gold prospectors from Utah to California. One of the groups he led to California became impatient at his slow progress, and many of the party members elected to abandon Hunt's group, and follow their own route to California. They became the infamous Death Valley '49ers. Those staying with Hunt made the journey without serious incident.

I am not sure which group the Norton family traveled with into California or if it both of these accounts were all about same group. But the family is listed in the 1850 census in El Dorado, California. David listed his occupation as a hotel keeper. There is one interesting family legend about their trip to California about David's youngest daughter. Allegedly on the way to Sacramento the wagon train was attacked by Indians. David's youngest daughter held a Book of Mormon in front of her chest for protection and a bullet pierced the book in her hands. Her family is supposed to still have the book.

The Norton Family returned to Utah in 1851. We get this account from someone in their party. "In September 1851, we sold out our store and freighting teams. Buying an outfit of saddle horses and pack mules, we joined a party of Mormons and headed for home. Our company consisted of thirty-four men with pack outfits and three light wagons belonging to the Norton family. They were the only women and children in the outfit. We were delayed some time by the reports that the Indians were on the warpath and very bad. We finally got started and everything went along all right until one morning when we were camped on the inside of a horseshoe bend of the Humboldt River. I didn't like the place because the willows lining the opposite bank surrounded us on three sides. The others preferred it because of the good pasture and the ease with which the horses could be herded inside the bend. Having seen no sign of Indians up to that time, we were getting careless. There was one man who was very anxious to get back to his girl in Salt Lake City "Before the bishop ran off with her," he said. He always got up just before daylight, lighted the fire and put on the coffee pot. For a week we traveled only at night, lying by in the daytime to let our animals feed and rest. We could see by their signal fires along the mountain sides that the Indians, no doubt hoping for a favorable chance to attack, were watching us. But we had grown cautious. As it was late in the fall the grass was dry and scarce. Our animals got very poor and some fell out every few miles. This made traveling so slow that our grub gave out while we were still two hundred miles from the settlements. Leaving five of us boys to stay with the poorest horses and get them along as best we could, the rest took the more able animals and pushed on ahead. I thought John had outgrown his fear of Indians but the first night of this separation while he and I were getting into our bed he said, "Tommy, I thought the Indians would get me back on the Humboldt. Did I look scared?" I had no time to answer for just then an Indian dog came trotting up to the fire. We took this as a warning that the Indians were still on our trail and very close. So, leaving a large fire burning, we very quietly saddled up and traveled all night. This practice we kept up for the rest of our journey to Box Elder, the first Mormon settlement. There we left all but our saddle horses and rode on to Salt Lake City."

After returning to Salt Lake where they purchased lots where the Denver and Rio Grande depot now stands. In 1855, they moved to Lehi and were active in building that town.

David is described as a small, blond, quiet and kind man. Elizabeth, his wife, is mentioned as large, brunette, and ambitious. Many of her family were in the South during the Civil War and she was constantly inquiring after news of the war and her family. In fact it is mentioned that the last thing she requested before she died was news of the South. Both are buried in the old Lehi Cemetery.

Thanks to Scott Norton for doing so much research and placing this history and maps on his webstie. His info on David Norton Jr. can be found here


  1. Thank you for this wonderful information. I am 3rd great grand son of David E. Norton on my father's side. I really like the maps and great stories you have provided. Thank you.