oday, October 10, is the 64th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. H. W. Norman of Rose Bud, marking a record for the oldest married couple now living in White County, and also perhaps for the longest married life together as an all-time record. Their reminiscences are a valuable contribution to the history of Arkansas, both having lived in the vicinity of Rose Bud, about 25 miles from Searcy, since they were small children, and both recalling many early happenings of interest in the 82 years they have lived there. Mr. Norman, born December 22, 1843, is nearly 90, Mrs. Norman being four years younger. They were married October 10, 1869. When their parents settled in White County, both families coming in the same year, 1851, the location chosen for their home was virtually a wilderness, the houses they built from hand-hewn logs being the first for miles around. Wild turkeys, deer and other game were plentiful, with bear meat to vary the menu occasionally. Wolves were a constant menace to sheep and pigs.
Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Norman, with their eight-year-old son, Henry, emigrated from Minton, Marshall County, Kentucky, making the trip in ox wagons, only one horse-drawn wagon being in the long train of vehicles. With them came several of Jesse Norman's brothers and sisters (he was one of the family of 13) and other families -- the Coopers, the Hills, the Pruetts and others, Mrs. Minerva Cooper, now more than 100 years old, being the only one of the original colony, besides Henry Norman, who still is living.
Several years earlier, Thomas Moss had moved from Tennessee to Arkansas, locating at Clinton, Van Buren County, where he was a surveyor. One surveying job was the first in northwestern Arkansas. He served as county surveyor of White County for about 20 years. The Moss family came from Clinton to the Kentucky settlement late in the year 1851. Henry Norman was eight, Louisa Moss four, so the two children, destined to live more than six decades as husband and wife, growing up in the same neighborhood, attended the same school and church. Their parents were close neighbors during the early struggles when the prosperous settlement was being carved from the forest, Rose Bud now being one of the most wide-awake island towns in the state.
Several versions of the origin of the name "Rose Bud" are told, but Mrs. Norman recalls clearly the circumstances of the section. Mail service was on the Searcy-Clinton route, a two-day trip. The carrier spending the night at this settlement, then unnamed though the pioneer settles from Marshall County, Kentucky, loyally had perpetuated the name of the state and county by naming their township "Kentucky" and the adjoining one to the south "Marshall" by which they still are called.
In the late ‘50s, probably as early as 1857 or maybe 1859 (neither Mr. nor Mrs. Norman is sure of the exact date and records in the post office go back no further than 1886), Albert Hill made a trip to Searcy to make application for a post office at this settlement. The long journey over the hills required two days. Now easily driven in 40 minutes over a good graveled state road. So little Louisa Moss (now Mrs. Norman) spent the night with Mr. Hill's wife and little sister Louisa Hill, (both names are pronounced "Lou-i-sa"), and was there the next day when Mr. Hill returned with the good news that a post office soon would be established. Louisa Hill was transplanting some wild rose bushes from the woods to her flower beds and when her brother asked her to suggest a name for the new post office, she considered the matter as she pressed the dirt gently about the roots of her cherished plants, on which buds already showed a bit of color, then said, "Oh let's call it Rose Bud," and Rose Bud it has been from that day. A letter from the post office department found among the papers of Thomas Moss bears the date 1861, and the written post office name "Rose Bud" refuting the belief of some that the post office was not established until after the Civil War and not named until some time in the ‘70s. Mrs. Norman's memory of the above incident is clear and definite.
Albert Hill was the first postmaster, holding the office until he joined the Confederate Army in 1861. Thomas Moss, father of Mrs. Norman, past the age of military service, succeeded him. In 1865 the office was taken from him as no southern man was allowed to hold office, and given to Dr. Upton, a physician from Missouri who had come to this county during the War. The post office being moved from the home of Mr. Moss, a mile away, to the home of Dr. Upton, who lived at the present site of Rose Bud.
Mr. Norman was an interested spectator when the first company was organized at Center Hill, halfway between Searcy and Rose Bud, his father, Jessie Norman, formerly Captain of the Kentucky Militia with a good knowledge of Military tactics, assisting in drilling the raw recruits, Col. John Critz being in command.
His country's call was answered by Henry Washington Norman in 1862, when he was only 19. He joined a cavalry company, later changed to infantry, under Gen. Dandridge McRae, a prominent Searcy attorney for many years after the war. Young Norman's first period of service was cut short by illness, but not before he took part in an engagement at Cotton Plant, where he first heard the roar of cannon. He came near dying before being sent home on furlough, but as soon as he was sufficiently recovered, joined a regiment which fought in Missouri, first under Gen. Marmaduke, then under Gen. Price. Drawn leaders [sic] and two large scars where a bullet tore through his left forearm at Pilot Knob. He also took part in several other battles.
Mr. Norman tells of the incident which changed Kentucky, Marshall and Caldron townships from Conway County to White County. Soon after the Kentucky colony settled in Arkansas, his Uncle William Norman was elected representative. He promised his constituents that if he was elected he would use his influence to have the three townships changed to White County, the change being desired on account of the long distance 50 miles over the roughest roads (and in those days rough roads were ROUGH) to Springfield, the old county seat of Conway County, of which the present Faulkner County was then a part. Searcy was only 25 miles from the most distant point of the three townships and, comparatively speaking, the roads were not so rough. Mr. Norman, true to his promise, had a large part in the change. Later in 1855 he moved to Searcy, being engaged in the mercantile business. Henry Norman lived with him and attended the old Female Academy, being permitted to go to a girls school because he was only 12, and small for his age, his uncle living near the school.
The many changes since those far away days are recalled by Mr. and Mrs. Norman, "I wouldn't go back to the old times," said Mrs. Norman. “Woman's work was too hard -- we had to pick cotton seed by hand, card cotton and wool, spin thread and weave cloth.” Mr. Norman is strongly opposed to drunkenness and bad whiskey. "Back in those days", he said, "good whiskey sold for 50 cents a gallon. A bushel of corn made only 2 1/2 gallons, and it was pure and undistracted. That is when we had fine stills, but when the government took charge of the stills and collected revenue from the distillers, a man had to get four gallons from a bushel to make it pay, and had to use hops and other things to aid fermentation. Yes, before that we had good whiskey," he added.
Neither one of the dear old couple is harsh in criticism of present times. "Not so much differed after all,” they said. Woman used to smoke cob pipes, now they smoke cigarettes. The pipes may have been more unattractive but they were less harmful.
Many relics of the past are treasured by Mr. and Mrs. Norman. There is a beautiful old blue and white wool coverlet spread over the foot of the bed. It was woven by Mr. Norman’s mother before they left Kentucky. She also carded the wool and spun the thread. It is well preserved, though in use more than 90 years. A white cotton spread, also made by her, covers the bed. On the wall is a Seth Thomas clock, ticking away the hours as accurately as before making the long journey from Kentucky. The family Bible, brought from Kentucky, was published in 1845 by Jesper Harding, Philadelphia. Two walking canes, one made from a thorn bush, with many highly polished knobs is the work of William Norman. The other Mr. H. W. Norman made many years ago. "I thought I might need it some day," he said. He tied a box elder sprout making it grow just the proper shape for a carved handle.
Mr. and Mrs. Norman are happily situated in their declining years, living with two daughter, Mrs. Jessie Rhyne and Mrs. W. E. Plant, who with another daughter, Mrs. Eve Clark, whose home is in Florida, are their only living children. Three daughters and one son have died. They have nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Norman are in good health though somewhat feeble. Their hearing is only slightly impaired. Mrs. Norman's eyesight is poor, but Mr. Norman still can read large print and enjoys his daily Arkansas Gazette.
He states proudly that he draws a bucket of water every day and brings it from the well. "Yes," said Mrs. Norman gently, "he's a heap more active than I am. He waits on me a lots, because he gets around better than I do," and a lump comes in our throat to see continual evidences of considerate unselfish love and harmony as, hand in hand, the two "walk softly while evening shadows gather."
Louisa died a year after this article was published in 1933. Henry died in April 18, 1936, and rests beside her in Rose Bud Cemetery. Records show that he was living with his daughter Mr. Myrtte Plant at Conway on February 15, 1932. His application for a Confederate pension on January 31, 1925, was witnessed by L.G. Blankenship and S.M. Plant. It stated that at age 81 he was unable to work, documented by Dr. A.B. Hassel. The application noted an “old worn gunshot through arm above the waist” as well as heart and lung trouble. On August 10, 1925, he was approved for $100. The Normans’ 64 years together might have been a record for White County at that time but isn’t now. The record holders aren’t known but in recent years several couples have celebrated 70th wedding anniversaries: Mr. and Mrs. Otto Harral of Bradford on June 26, 1999, Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Gentry of Searcy on July 28, 1999, Mr. and Mrs. Burford Tucker of Searcy on July 20, 2002. –White County Historical Society