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November 12, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part V

Thomas Norvell Gravestone. Courtesy Jeremy Winfrey.

Need to catch up, click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


Thomas Benton “Tom” Norvell, the son of Averett (Toney) and William Brown Norvell, was a popular man in Buckingham County. His shocking and tragic death was reported in two obituaries in the Appomattox and Buckingham Times. He died on January 22, 1897.

The first article was submitted by “Artificer,” who frequently reported on the Well Water neighborhood:

Mr. Thomas Burton (sic) Norvell, one of the most prominent citizens of Buckingham county, residing near Sharon church, killed himself Friday the 22nd instant, with the razor cutting his throat from ear to ear and [ultimately ?] severing his head from his body. It is not known what caused him to commit the rash act. He was a successful farmer in good circumstances; was about 50 years old and leaves a wife and a large family of children to mourn his death. ARTIFICER.

The second was a reprint from the “News,” likely the Lynchburg newspaper:

Mr. Thomas Benton Novell (sic), a well-known and one of the most valued and popular citizens of Buckingham county committed suicide Friday. It is said that he walked out late that afternoon to the barn, and when found, about an hour afterward, he was dead, with his throat cut from ear to ear. He was lying in his barn, and a razor, with which the deed is supposed to have been done, near him.

Mr. Novell was about 54 years of age, and was an easy circumstances. He had a most delightful family consisting of a wife and six children, all of which seemed to be a great comfort to him; and for this reason the act caused great astonishment to his numerous friends. — News.

Mary Evelina Miller Norvell. Courtesy Carole Jensen.

Norvell’s widow, Mary Evelina (Miller) Norvell (1846-1919), long outlived her husband, rearing her large family in this house. In 1907, she applied for a Confederate widow’s pension. The application gave Thomas Norvell’s cause of death as suicide, with no further explanation.

Coming Next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part VI


Leave a Comment
  1. Nancy Morris Hardman Crenshaw / Nov 16 2020 9:00 am

    My great-grandfather, Benjamin Morris, (moved from Curdsville in 1870’s to Manchester, VA) after serving in the Civil War. He also was a prisoner at Pt. Lookout in Maryland. I have read many articles that described it, by far, as the worst prison. My great-grandfather died in 1896. The family has always said he suffered from the “melancholies”. This man may have also suffered from depression because of the war.

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 16 2020 6:15 pm

      Many thanks for your comments. You are absolutely correct that many Confederates suffered from psychological and emotional issues after the war.

  2. Mary Roy / Nov 12 2020 7:05 pm

    Dear Joan,

    In Howard’s Regimental History of the 56th Virginia Infantry, there is a biography of Thomas Norvell. Here it is: “Norvell, Thomas Burton (Benton): enl. 7/6/61 Co. D in Buckingham, pvt/sgt; present 7/8-10/61; reenlisted 8//11/62; admitted Scottsville hosp. 2/7/63 – still there 6/30/63; present 9-12/63, 4/1/64, and 5-6/64; furlough 7-8/64; POW Hatcher’s Run 3/31/65 – took oath and released from Pt. Lookout 6/15/65; b. 8/13/40; resident of Buckingham; light complexion, dark brown hair, grey eyes, 5’4 1/2”; committed suicide at home 12/22/97; widow Mary E. Norvell applied for pension 4/12/1907 –m. near Glenmore, Buckingham Co. 3/1/66 – $25 approved.”

    I can’t believe this was a suicide. Seems impossible.

    Kind regards,

    Mary Roy Dawson Edwards

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 13 2020 7:11 am

      Mary Roy,

      Many thanks for this additional information about T. B. Norvell’s CSA service.


  3. Joanne Yeck / Nov 12 2020 2:04 pm

    You are not the first to question the cause of T. B. Norvell’s death. His grave is in a cemetery located on former Norvell land. Stay tuned for a post at the end of this series describing the cemetery and location.


  4. Bernard Norvell / Nov 12 2020 1:49 pm

    Tom Norvell was my great-grandfather. His son, Bernard M. Norvell, age 5 when Tom died in 1897, was my grandfather. Pretty gruesome description of Tom’s suicide. Never heard of a person almost decapitating themself. Is that even possible? Wonder if the police back then looked at other possibilities?

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 12 2020 1:58 pm


      It is indeed a gruesome description. I have no details of an investigation.


  5. Ken Anderson / Nov 12 2020 11:20 am

    I guess it is ok to have the tombstone of a Confederate in a cemetery.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 12 2020 1:54 pm

      Ken, I guess it is ok. There are an awful lot of them, even in the North.


  6. oz1811 / Nov 12 2020 9:16 am

    Interesting article. My grandmother was a Toney. As a retired criminal investigator, the newspaper articles themselves make me view Mr. Norvell’s cause of death with some suspicion. Where is this grave?

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