JOHN AUSTIN NORTON, one of twelve children of Harvey and Frances Marian
(Austin) Norton, was born March 15, 1830 in Sacketts Harbor, Jefferson
Co., New York and died December 4, 1869, in Madison, Greenwood Co.,
Kansas. He, with his parents and siblings moved from Sacketts Harbor to
Mahaska County, Iowa, in 1843, where he met and married Sarah Wells
Ferree, born August 15, 1834 in Dauphin, Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, the
daughter of Reuben and Nancy (Wells) Ferree.
In 1857, John, with his brother Frederick Augustus, came to Greenwood Co., Kansas and the next year, 1858, his parents and most of his siblings followed. John filed a claim of 160 acres in the Verdigris Valley, four miles east of Madison, Kansas. Prior to staking his claim, he had gone to California in the feverish search for gold, writing home of his impressions and experiences there.
When the Civil War broke out, John enrolled for three years on September 1, 1862, at Emporia, Kansas, and served with Co. D, 11th Regiment, Kansas Cavalry. He was stationed at Fort Scott, Aubrey, Ft. Riley, and Olathe, Kansas; Camp Blunt four miles south of Maysville in the Cherokee Nation; at Browns Mills, Cane Hill, and on Flint Hill Creek in Arkansas; Cottonwood Springs, Nebraska; Independence and Rolla, Missouri; in camp on Crane Creek, Missouri, and in Polk County and other locations in Missouri.
John returned home after being mustered out and continued to farm his homestead, despite severe attacks of pleurisy contracted during the war. He also served as Coroner in 1866, Probate Judge in 1867 and as Justice of the Peace in 1868. John's father, Harvey Norton, had been elected County Clerk of Greenwood County in 1866. John died December 4, 1869, of pneumonia resulting from pleurisy and lung disease, one day before the death of his father on December 5, 1869, in Lane Township, Greenwood Co., Kansas. John is buried in #8 Cemetery. Following his death, Sarah continued to farm with the help of her two young sons and the Indians who lived across the creek, giving the Indians half of the corn crop for their assistance. Sarah died February 29, 1888 in Greenwood Co., KS, at the age of 54 and is also buried in #8 cemetery.
John and Sarah had five children who lived to maturity:
The following letters were transcribed by Florene Phillips,
great-grandaughter of John Austin Norton, in the 1950s from the originals
stored in a shoebox in the possession of Ruby Lyman, John's
granddaughter who was living in Topeka, Kansas. Three of the originals are
in the possession of Florene.
Notes on names and places compiled by Melinda Norton.
Postscript on Sarah Norton's war years:
While John was serving in the Civil War, Sarah, with the help of Indians in the area, was able to plant crops, giving the Indians a share of the crop.
Guerilla warfare along the Missouri-Kansas border was fierce. Quantrill and his raiders passed through the Norton land and Sarah, hearing of their advance and the rumor that they were killing all the male babies, took their sons, James Austin (4) and Charles R. (2) and hid them in a hollow tree trunk in a stand of trees down by the river. She was always sure this action saved their sons. (Family story)
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