Uncle John Norris


John D. Norris was born in Hartford County, Maryland on April 13, 1791.  His father immigrated to Mason County in 1795, where Norris grew up. He joined Captain John Perrys Cavalry in 1822, when Governor Isaac Shelby called for volunteers in the War of 1812. He was a gallant soldier in the War of 1812 and marched with his neighbor William Henry Harrison, from North Bend, Ohio. Norris was with Commodore Perry aboard the frigate Lawrence during his campaign on Lake Erie. When the British had virtually destroyed Perry's flagship, the St. Lawrence, Norris was one of the men rowing the small boat which took Perry to cover, to re-group, attack, and defeat the British on September 10, 1813.

Norris accumulated much Petersburg real estate, and was known as a breeder and seller of thoroughbred trotters.  As a slave owner, he had numerous problems with slaves who escaped to Indiana.  He and his agents made several trips to Northern Indiana to recover slaves, but as a rule he found the northerners unsympathetic to his cause.  His last trip north was to South Bend, where he was attacked by a band of anti-slavery sympathizers, who took his slaves from him by force.  He sued in US Circuit Court, not even trying the state courts, in which he knew he had no chance, and won a judgment, but since the sympathizers generally have virtually no assets, it was a hollow victory.

His participation in that famous battle made him a celebrity, and he was later invited to be the guest of the directors of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, who sent a special railroad car to pick him up.  He declined, preferring to stay in Petersburg.

He died in 1876.

The Wikipedia site on the War of 1812 is here, and its Commodore Perry article is here. The April 2000 issue of the Kentucky Explorer has a nice article from the 1878 Boone County Recorder where Norris talks at some length about his involvement in the Lake Erie Battle against the British Navy.  I thought it was too long to type, but if there are John Norris fans out there who want to type and email it to me (Id happily snail mail you the article needing typed), Im happy to post it.