George R. Norvell was born on 7 February 1828 to his father Nathaniel Norvell and mother Elizabeth B. Powell in Franklin Tennessee. While the Norvell family in America started in Virginia, in the early 1700s, the family moved from Virginia to Granville North Carolina. By 1805, the Norvells[i] had moved to Sumner County Tennessee from North Carolina and by 1808 had settled in Bell Buckle, Bedford County, TN. When George travelled from Tennessee to Texas, he had with a $100 bill to see him through the journey and make a start in Texas. It is a story passed down through generations that he got many free meals along the way because no one could provide the change and permitted him go on his way.
George met Mary Ann Moore, and was joined in marriage at age 32 on 28 June 1860 in Bastrop Texas. The State of Texas seceded from the Union on February 1, 1861, and joined the Confederacy on March 2, 1861, less than a year after George and Mary were wed. George and May Ann had their first child, Martha in 1862 before the war, and would have nine more children after the War, for a total of 7 girls and 3 boys.[ii]
George Royal Norvell was enlisted at the rank of Private on February 6, 1864, in Capt. James Spears Bourland’s 1st Company, in Major James M. Hunter’s command of the Third Frontier District, of the, Texas State Troops commanded by Brigadier General John David. McAdoo. Maj. Hunter’s 3rd Frontier District HQs were in Fredericksburg in Gillespie County, adjacent to Llano County where George enlisted. Brig. Gen. McAdoo’s HQs for the Texas State Troops were in Austin. George’s service record showed that there were 67 men on the roster for this unit at the time of enlistment. When called to active State duty, George was paid $2 per day. George’s enlisting officer was E. Krewitz, and his record shows he reported with a rifle and a pistol when he took the oath of enlistment. The law that established the Frontier Organization directed that its soldiers were to take an oath “that they would use the best of their abilities to arrest and deliver to the nearest authorities every person reported or known to be a deserter, either from the state or Confederate States army, including all persons known to be avoiding conscription.” [iii] The oath of enlistment George took was very likely the same as this oath taken by men of nearby Gillespie County, upon entering the Texas State Troops also under Major Hunter’s command on December 24, 1862:
We and each of us, whose names are hereunto subscribed, do solemnly swear that we will be faithful and true allegiance bear to The State of Texas, and that we will, to the best of our ability, discharge the duties of soldiers in the regiment of State Troops, of which we are members, and that we will severally preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the State of Texas and of the Confederate States, So Help us God.[iv]
According to Mary Ann Norvell’s sworn statement in the application for Confederate Widow benefits from the State of Texas, he served a total of three years in the Texas State Troops as a cavalry Soldier, “rendered valuable service to the Confederacy… he did not desert, and was honorably discharged.”[v] The only surviving record we have for George’s active State military Service in the Confederate Armed Forces was from February 6, 1864 – June 1864 under Capt. James S. Bourland’s 1st Company, but his reserve service likely began before and after that period of active state duty. While we have no record of George’s service in the Frontier Regiment or Ranger units, his wife Mary testified to the State of Texas that he had served a total of three years in the Confederate Armed Forces, which would mean that he was in service not later than May of 1863, which overlaps with the time these Ranger and frontier State Troops units were operating. Over those 3 years of service, Mary Ann MOORE Norvell would have known the lot of a soldier’s wife, as “the absence of most of the able-bodied men in the army threw the whole burden of providing the necessities of life upon the women, who, with the assistance of the slaves, produced both food and clothing from the raw material to the finished products.”[vi]
After the war ended, the Reconstruction period that followed was a painful experience for most Texans, and this was very true for Bastrop Co., and especially in the Cedar Creek area, where colored freedmen had moved and racial tensions flared (his brothers-in-law Second Lieutenant George Washington Moore, and Private William Cannon Moore resided in Cedar Creek).[vii] George and Mary Ann would have another nine children. Of the ten children, their daughter Ida Valentine Norvell would live to see her 3rd great grand nephews and nieces growing up in Los Angeles California, before she passed away on June 20, 1970. George passed away on Dec 24, 1902 at the age of 74, in Hays City, Hays Co., Texas, and Mary Ann followed him in death on August 26, 1928. Both were laid to rest in adjacent graves at the Fitzhugh Cemetery, Hays County Texas, where many other Confederate soldiers are also buried.
George R. Norvell was also recognized as a Texas Ranger, and has been acknowledged by the Former Texas Ranger Association for his service protecting the frontier as an official Texas Ranger. According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum:
During the Civil War, Frontier Defense Troops were generally called Texas State Troops, (TST), Texas Militia or Texas Mounted. We consider these men Texas Rangers because the service they performed was that of the Texas Frontier Defense against Indians, not fighting with the Confederacy against Union Soldiers. These Texas State Troops were not part of the Confederate States Army (CSA) but served under the command and control of officers in the employ of the State of Texas, although the organization of the troops was along military lines. [viii]
[i] The spelling of the name from the Old World changed after the family reached America in the 16th Century from England. The Norvell name in early America had many spellings, to include Norvil, Norville (http://www.relativelyconnected.com/norvell.htm), and in 1779 was spelled Nowill, and the Former Texas Rangers recorded George’s last name as Nowell.
[ii] Martha Norvell (1862-1920); Mary Elizabeth Norvell (1866 – 1893); George Anne Norvell (1868-1870); James Robert Norvell (1869 – 1939); Mississippi Campbell Norvell (1871 – 1944); Nathaniel Norvell (1872 – 1924); Lillie Mae Norvell (1873 – 1940); George Cannon Norvell (1875 – 1964); Nancy Jemima Norvell (1879 – 1949), and; Ida Valentine Norvell (1882 – 1970). There is an entry for a second Martha Norvell (1872-??), but without any detail. See the Ancestry page at: https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/18125170/person/610299362/facts
[iii] David P. Smith, Conscription and Conflict on the Texas Frontier, 1863-1865, Civil War History, Volume 36, Number 3, September 1990, pp. 250-261
[iv] Muster roll/Record of oath administered of Gillespie County, Mounted Regiment, Texas State Troops under Captain James M. Hunter, December 24, 1862. Accessed December 13, 2020: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/uncategorized/IO_d52dd6c4-e659-4c9f-9fa4-d1bd0b05f066/
[v] Mary Ann Norvell signed the Form B “For Use of Widows of Soldiers Who are in Indigent Circumstances” pm February 5, 1915, and provided this statement. Unfortunately, Mary did not know the exact unit that George had served in. The pension application folder states that it was approved and a pension allowed from the 1st of March, 1915..
[vi] Louis J. Wortham, A History of Texas: From Wilderness to Commonwealth, Volume 4, Chapter LX, Worthham-Molyneaux Company, Fort Worth, Texas 1924
[vii] Paula Mitchell Marks, Bastrop County, Texas State Historical Association. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/bastrop-county
[viii] Texas Adjutant General’s Department: An Inventory of Adjutant General’s Department Texas State Troops Records at the Texas State Archives, 1861-1865, undatedhttp://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/30174/tsl-30174.html
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