James Norwood, A Vintage Vignette

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James Norwood
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 8, 2009

In the 1900 census I noticed a listing in the Monrovia precinct for “Elvar K.” Norwood. That being such an unusual given name, it piqued my curiosity. Because I know a Norwood family at my church in the Madison area, the surname also caught my notice each time I encountered it during my research into the pioneer families of this area. The name Norwood is a derivation from old English words for “North Wood”. Genealogists have traced Northwood families of America back to 1000 A.D. in Wessex, England.

There was a Nathaniel Norwood in the Madison County census of 1830. His neighbors included pioneers of the Madison area -- Hiram K. Nail, James and Stephen Tribble, Benjamin Bledsoe, Robert Payne, James and Matthew Bailey, David and William Gray, Wilsey Pride, and Roland Gooch. Madison County marriage records show that a John Norwood was licensed to marry Elizabeth Owen in 1824. The time fits for Elizabeth to be a sister of Harrison Owen, an early pioneer of the western portion of Redstone Arsenal. John M. Norwood was listed as Administrator of the 1815 estate of Richard Norwood in Madison County. An 1839 Madison County probate file shows Samuel and David as heirs of William Norwood. The family of Chappel and Caroline Norwood is found in the 1850 census in Limestone County. In 1870 Caroline, born about 1815 in Virginia, was head of a household in Madison County, and in 1880 she was listed in the home of her son-in-law, J. W. Hackell, in Huntsville.

Elvar in 1900 was shown as age 26, married for four years to “Bertie” (age 21 in 1900), with both of them born in Alabama. Elvar’s occupation was given as a miller. The only other Norwood family in Madison County per the 1900 census was Del__ M. Norwood, age 55, from New York, with wife Flora E., 40, and son Wallace, 18. Wallace was born in Minnesota, while his mother was shown as born in either Minnesota or Maine.

A check of the Madison County marriage record index showed that the only “Bertie” to marry a Norwood in the 1800s was per Alonzo Norwood’s license to marry Bertie Stewart on December 24, 1895. That fit the 1900 census record, so Alonzo was apparently the same as Elvar K. Norwood. The 1910 census showed that Alonzo (age 36) had become a “sawyer” in a sawmill and lived in West Huntsville. He and Bertie (age 32) had a daughter named Ellen (9) and a son named James M. Norwood (5). The 1920 census showed the family headed by James L. Norwood, superintendent in a cotton oil mill. His wife was listed as “Verdie”, son Melvin (15), and daughter Ellen (19) with her husband Charlie Neal in the Norwood household. By 1930 West Huntsville household number 47 was headed by Charlie Neal (laborer in a warehouse) with his wife Ellen (seamer in a knitting mill) and two children plus a sister of Charlie’s. Nearby, in household 50 was James Norwood at age 55, shown as age 19 when he married. His occupation was given as superintendent of a warehouse. Berdie L. Norwood was shown as age 50, recorded as age 14 when she got married. Their son James M. Norwood at age 25 was in the same household, with his own wife and a daughter. James (the son) had occupation as a cement contractor.

The World War 1 draft registration card for James “Lon” Norwood described him as having blue eyes, dark hair, medium build and medium height. It further stated that his left arm had been broken and “set badly”, leaving his arm and fingers stiff, which probably kept him from service. The research to track this family through the census years required several deductions and much persistence, as James Alonzo Norwood used different versions of his names in each census, and he also was apparently misunderstood when his name was listed in 1900. Still, it was interesting to be able to uncover these details about someone who was born in 1874. He would probably be amazed that public records still tell so much about him for anyone to discover.

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