William Samuel Norton, a lawyer of Columbus and a veteran of the Civil war, coal operator, farmer and merchant, is well and favorably known throughout the state as a financier of recognized ability. In addition to his coal mines and farming interests, he is largely interested in various life, fire and casualty insurance companies and banks; is vice-president of the First National Bank of Columbus, the largest stockholder and a director in the Columbus state bank; a director in the Prudential Casualty Company, of Indianapolis, and International Life, of St. Louis; a holder of large and valuable interests in other business concerns in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Alaska. He was born in Edgar county, Illinois, July 26, 1845, a son of Amos and Elizabeth (Frazier) Norton. His father was a native of Ohio, a son of Samuel Norton, who was a native of North Carolina, of English lineage, and a soldier of the war of 1812. He went from North Carolina to Ohio in 1832, thence to Illinois in 1843. Amos Norton and Elizabeth Frazier were married in Illinois in 1844. She was a native of Kentucky, but was reared in Greencastle, Putnam county, Ind., where her father, William Frazier, was a pioneer settler and prominent citizen. In 1855 Amos Norton moved with his family to Fort Scott, Kan., but owing to the dangers incident to the border warfare of the time he moved to Buffalo, Mo., and settled on a farm, where the family was living when the Civil war came on. In that conflict Amos Norton and his son, William, rendered conspicuous service in the defense of the Union. Amos rose from private to quartermaster of the Fourteenth Missouri state militia cavalry, and at Turner's Lane on April 2, 1863, he, with D. A. Lindsay, regimental commissary, and R. P. Wilcox, regimental adjutant, were captured by a band of guerrillas, taken to the mountains and all put to death. The son, William, at the age of fifteen answered the first call of President Lincoln for troops by enlisting in the home guards, where he served much of the time as a scout and despatch bearer. He reached Lexington, Mo., with a despatch just in advance of Gen. Sterling Price's attack on Colonel Mulligan's forces at that place which commenced early in the morning of Sept. 12, and continued for nine days, when Colonel Mulligan with his little band of 2,600 men surrendered to Price's of 24,000 men. On Oct. 24, by order of Colonel Stevenson of the Thirteenth Illinois cavalry, William Norton, in the capacity of guide, joined the forces of Maj. Charles Zagonyi of General Fremont's body guard, and Capt. Frank J. White of the "Prairie Scouts" near Bolivar, Mo., who were on their way to Springfield. The body guard and scouts numbered about 300 men, rank and file. They reached a point near Springfield the following day, when Major Zagonyi learned that the forces then in camp west of the city were about 2,000 strong. He decided to attack at once, and riding up and down the line of his men said: "Comrades, the hour of danger is at hand. The enemy is two thousand strong. None of us ever may come back, if any man would turn his back let him do so now." The response was a cheer. "Then I will lead you, follow me and do as I do." The enemy was routed and demoralized. Every man not killed or wounded stood guard over the town that night. General Fremont and his army reached Springfield the following day. Later on William enlisted in the Eighth Missouri volunteer cavalry and served to the close of the war, after which he became one of the leaders of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was a charter member of the Interstate Reunion Association of Baxter Springs; was commissioner aide-de-camp in 1895, by Gen. Thomas G. Lawler, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, with the rank of colonel on the staff of General Lawler. While in the army Colonel Norton received four slight wounds. After being mustered out of the service at Little Rock, Ark., he was appointed sheriff of Arkansas county, Arkansas, and in this capacity, with a strong force of deputies, he went to the county seat, where he learned that more than 400 Confederates had not surrendered. While sheriff he encountered many thrilling situations, but on account of failing health he resigned. He was at once commissioned by Governor Murphy as an examining court and ordered to Devall's bluff, where he held court one term, when he again resigned and came back to his home at Buffalo. In 1866 he located south of Carthage, Mo.; taught school that winter; bought a farm one mile west of where Galena now is; farmed in the spring and summer, teaching school in the winter, for three years; then sold his farm and engaged in freighting from Granby to Sedalia, Mo., making many trips as far south as Fort Gibson and Fort Sill in the Indian Territory. In 1871, when lead ore was discovered at Joplin, he went there, erected a store house, and opened up the first stock of goods ever there; engaged in mining, was elected police judge, and served as undersheriff for two years. He then engaged in the wholesale and retail grocery business, in 1877, lead ore was struck on Short creek, where Galena now is. He sold out his Joplin interests and again came to Kansas, engaged in the mercantile business, mining and practicing law with a fair degree of success until 1882, when he engaged in the coal business on lands he bought adjoining the site of Scammon. At this place he operated coal mines, carried on a mercantile business on an extensive scale until 1904, when he sold his store and one mine, leased out others and retired from active business. From 1892 to 1900 he lived at Baxter Springs, where he served as mayor of the city for three terms. During his business career he held, and now holds, large farming interests, several hundred acres being underlaid with coal. As early as 1873 he was admitted to the bar, and in connection with his mining, merchandising and farming, he practiced law with a success that made him prominent with the members of the profession. In politics Colonel Norton has always been an ardent Republican, having cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln in 1864, when he was but nineteen years old. He was elected state senator from Cherokee county in 1888, and served for four years to the satisfaction of his constituency, and with honor to himself. Colonel Norton has always been a leader in his community in politics as well as in business. He has always been active and notwithstanding he commenced without capital, he has been the arbiter of his own fortune in the business world. As a citizen he is held in high esteem by a wide circle of acquaintances, and by reason of his exemplary life he deserves the respect and confidence reposed in him.
In 1883 Colonel Norton was married at St. Joseph, Mo., to Miss Mollie E. Stall, who was the first white female child born at Fort Leavenworth. the only daughter of Capt. Andrew Stall of the United States army then stationed at that place. Mrs. Norton was possessed of sterling qualities of heart and mind. She was to him a worthy wife, and in home, church and social life, a leader, highly esteemed by those who knew her. She died on May 20, 1910, having borne her husband two children, Maud A. and Claude W. The danghter was drowned on June 10, 1905. Claude W. lives in Weir City and is attending to his father's interests in the coal mines near that place. In church matters Colonel Norton and his wife and children all became members of the Presbyterian church. Fraternally he is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of the Mystic Shrine, Mirza Temple, Pittsburg, Kan., and also a member of the Benevolent Order of Elks, Lodge No. 412, Pittsburg, Kansas.Pages 248-250 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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