GEORGE NORMAN, of Scott City, is one of the men of Western Kansas who may properly be called substantial and successful. He began with a little and has gained financial independence. More than ordinary limitations hedged in his early life, but he broke through these limitations and by his own energy and ambition attained those things which ambitious men most desire. The story of his career is not without encouragement and inspiration.
He is a native of Sweden and came to America when he was twenty-one years of age and without knowledge of a single word of the English language. He was born in that district of Sweden called Alfta-Socken on September 12, 1851. His father was Hans Johnson, a native of the same place, and that locality had been the home of the family for generations. Hans Johnson was a farmer, was a member of the Lutheran Church, and died when Mr. Norman was fourteen years of age. The father was about sixty when he passed away. He married Annie Olson, a daughter of Olaf Olson. According to the Swedish custom she continued to be known as Annie Olson until she came to the United States. She came to this country in 1872. Her sons on becoming Americans adopted the American method of having one family name, and chose Norman. Annie Olson also became known as Annie Norman. She died in West Jersey, Illinois. Her children were: Jonas, who remained in Sweden and was known as Jonas Hanson; Hans Norman, of Omaha, Nebraska; Peter, of Knox County, Illinois; Olaf, who died in Sweden; George; Andrew, of West Jersey, Illinois; Annie, wife of Dan Peterson, of Wisconsin; and Bessie, who married Charles Yelm, of Williamsfield, Illinois.
George Norman spent the first twenty-one years of his life in his native land. It was customary for the children of various families in the community to go to the home of one of the neighbors and be instructed for about six weeks each year. When he was fifteen George Norman attended a Swedish high school for about three months, and that with the earlier neighborhood instruction comprised his education. He learned farming on the Swedish plan. The principal crops grown there were oats, barley, rye, wheat, potatoes and flax. After he came to the United States his early adventures in farming were largely confined to the growing of corn and oats.
He came with his brother Hans to this country in 1872, sailing from Gothenberg to Hull, England, then traveling by rail to Liverpool, and from there on the steamship Wyoming to New York. His first destination was Fulton County, Illinois. A raw Swedish youth, he found his first work as a farm hand at monthly wages. Though he know not a word of the English language, he soon acquired familiarity with some of the more essential phrases, and his old employer testified that he showed a good deal of facility in getting the knack of English pronunciation. At the end of six months he was able to understand directions and had become a competent American farm hand. After working out for others about eighteen months Mr. Norman rented land and started farming for himself. Out of his wages he saved enough to buy a team and some necessary implements. For several years he lived with his mother and sister.
For about eight years Mr. Norman lived on a farm sixteen miles east of Galesburg. He married in that locality, and was a tenant farmer. He was making progress in a small but definite way, and the prospect of securing a homestead for himself was somewhat distant. Urged on by the hope of getting land in the west where it could be had direct from the Government, he disposed of his Illinois interests and set out for that region of promise, Western Kansas.
With his wife and three children he started in a wagon drawn by a team and crossed the intervening country from Illinois, arriving in Lane County in October, 1885. He took as his homestead the southwest quarter of section 31, township 18, range 30 in Lane County. His equipment as a homesteader comprised three horses and about $400 in cash. His first Kansas home was a soddy 12x16 feet, containing one room, with a board and sod roof. He made a similar shelter for his horses, and in the course of the first year he added three cows. Another important adjunct to his outfit was nine hens, and his wife raised seventy-five chickens the first summer. Like many of the early settlers Mr. Norman pinned his faith to corn raising, and it was only after the disastrous result of several years that he was convinced corn was not a winning crop. He then began to sow wheat, and from that time his fortunes as a crop grower began to rise. While his first experiences with field crops were not particularly fortunate, Mr. Norman was better off than many early settlers because from the first he had encouraged the stock end of his farming. His cows proved invaluable as a means of supporting the family. When crops were short some of the cattle were either eaten or sold, and many of them had to be sacrificed, so that his herd did not increase at the normal rate. He would sell cattle in those days at what now seems a ridiculously low price. A two-year old heifer that would now bring $50 would go for about $16.
Mr. Norman continued to live in his sod house in Lane County until he took a school claim in Scott County, and there he put up a large and commodious sod house. This remained his home until 1903, when his eight-room frame house took its place. The family look upon their experience in sod houses with pleasureable recollection, and it is their opinion that they found as much real happiness in such homes as elsewhere. After the critical times were passed Mr. Norman began converting his prosperity into land investment and to his homestead and school claim he added two quarters and an eighty. He continued to live in the country and look after his farm affairs until March, 1915, when he moved to a comfortable town home in Scott City.
Much of the time he lived on the farm Mr. Norman served as a school director. He helped move the first school house from Scott City to District No. 18. The first teacher in that school was either Miss Logan or Miss Benson. The Norman children all attended that temple of learning, and one of them subsequently took a business course in the Salina Wesleyan University and another a course in chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Mr. Norman also served as trustee and treasurer of Keystone Township. In politics, after he had taken out his citizenship papers in Illinois, he cast his first presidential ballot for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. He continued to vote the republican ticket until 1912, when he supported Mr. Wilson for president.
Through all his earlier years the mainspring of his efforts as a Kansas homesteader were the welfare of his wife and ample provision for his growing children. Mr. Norman was married June 8, 1881, to Miss Mary Yelm. Her father, Anderson Yelm, came from Alfta in Sweden at the age of fourteen, spent his life as a farmer in Knox County, Illinois, and by his marriage to Priscilla Avy became the father of fourteen children. Eleven of these grew up, mentioned briefly as follows: Matilda, who married Robert Petty; Charles; Jonas; Mrs. Norman, who was born November 10, 1859; Benjamin; Hattie, who married John Petty; Nancy, who died in Henry County, Illinois as Mrs. William Petty; Ida, who married Charles Riggins; Allie, who became the wife of Alvin Rice; Almeda, who died in Peoria County, Illinois, after her marriage to William Stargle; and William, of Peoria County, Illinois.
Into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Norman were born eight children. Five of them were born in Kansas, and all have lived in the sod house homes of the western part of the state. Ada, the oldest, is the wife of Spencer Hull, of Scott County, and has four children, Inis, Floyd, Norman and Merle. Charles, who is connected with the Citizens State Bank of Scott City, married Leah Cary and has a son, Everett. Allie is the wife of Arthur Hotelling, of Rock Valley, Iowa, and has two children, Vera and Leah. Frank, of Lenox, Iowa, married Delphine Pelcher and has a daughter, Elizabeth Louise. Emma is the wife of Chase Turpin, of Scott County, and their children are Ena and Edna. Annie married Clarence L. Shull, of Lane County, Kansas, and has two daughters, Eunice and Wilma. The two youngest of the family are John and Eva. John is in the United States service as a mechanic, while Eva is a junior in high school.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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