The 1893 Norman House
| Cameron Family | Norman Family
This house illustrates how successfully the Greek Revival form could be reduced and simplified in the one-story house.
The principal characteristic of the Greek Revival evident in the Norman House is the floor plan of a central hallway with identical rooms on each side. Other characteristics include the front columns supporting a classic pediment, and the rectangular transom and side lights.
This house typifies many of the Texas residences between 1850 and 1890. Originally it had a detached kitchen and other outbuildings. The historical Norman House, built around 1883, was owned by three families.
It was probably constructed by Aurelia and Gilbert LaCour, who sold the house in 1887 to B.F. Cameron. W.T. Norman, a prominent Liberty attorney, purchased the home in 1910. His family occupied and owned the home until it was donated to the Atascosito Historical Society by Miss Edna Norman in 1988. Miss Norman provided, in her will, an endowment to restore and maintain the home.
After studying various possibilities, the Atascosito Historical Society donated the house to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission as an addition to the Sam Houston Center complex. The house was moved on May 20, 1992, and restoration was completed in June 1994.
The Norman House features exhibits in an historical house setting and is open to the public for tours. Current feature attractions in the house are the "Victorian Parlor," a display entitled "A Woman's Work is Never Done" on housekeeping and food processing artifacts, and a Depression-era exhibit featuring glassware, furnishings, and games. Please contact the Center for tour information. Tours must be arranged two weeks in advance.
History of the Families
Gilbert LaCour was born ca. 1818 in Louisiana and married Aurelia P. They had a son, Y.O., born ca. 1848 in Louisiana, and by 1851 they were living in Liberty, Texas.
In 1852 the elder LaCour became a partner with Byrd Holland and others in the ownership of the Sour Lake Springs Hotel which lasted until 1856. A prominent citizen throughout his life, Gilbert LaCour was elected a member of the Liberty City Council in 1884. Aurelia and Gilbert LaCour probably built the house around 1883.
The LaCours sold the property to Benjamin Franklin Cameron in 1887. He was born in 1840 or 1841 in Alabama. During the Civil War he served as captain of the militia organized in 1861 to guard the home front.
According to an affidavit, Captain Cameron came to Liberty in 1865 and boarded with H.C. Stone. Around 1865, Cameron married Adelia Ann Wrigley, who was born in Liberty in 1852 and a member of a well-known family. (Her father, James Wrigley served as Liberty County Treasurer from 1869 to 1871 and as Mayor of Liberty in 1850 to 1851, in 1858, and in 1882. He obtained the rank of colonel in the Confederate army. Wrigley was a commission merchant on the Trinity River in Liberty and a charter member of the Liberty Masonic Lodge.)
In 1870, Cameron was a dry goods clerk who had accumulated $2500 in real estate and $1000 in personal property. By 1880, he was a farmer and county government office holder with at least four children: eight-year-old Mattie, five-year-old Frank W., three-year-old Nina, and 18-month-old Charley.
Cameron served as the Liberty County Clerk from 1874 to 1893, the District Clerk from 1874 to 1875, from 1880 to 1893, and as the Texas State Representative serving District #36 (Tyler, Hardin, Liberty, Jefferson, Orange, and Chambers counties) from 1895 to 1896. He was initiated into the Masonic Lodge in 1868, and served in a number of leadership positions including secretary from 1869 to 1870, worshipful master in 1883, and treasurer in 1897. He also held the office of dictator of the Knights of Honor, a group which aided widows and orphans.
In 1887 Cameron and several other men had a merchandise business in Dayton and, as contractors, built several homes in Liberty. Even the Cameron family home had business functions, as it was used not only as a dwelling place but also as an eating establishment and as a boarding house for a small number of people. For example, in 1900 Thomas Branch, a single lawyer, and Jim A. DeBlanc and his wife and young daughter boarded with the Cameron family.
Cameron and his family took an active part in the religious life of the day. He and his family were active Methodists until 1893. He served as Sunday school superintendent and his wife, Adelia, organized a Sunday school class, led a music program, helped with fund raising suppers, and served as an officer in the Liberty Missionary Society.
Mrs. Cameron's ill health may have had an important impact on the Cameron family's religious life. Mr. and Mrs. Cameron frequently traveled to health resorts which offered mineral baths, such as Sour Lake. At Sour Lake they may have heard an Episcopal speaker which inspired them to change religious faiths. In any case, shortly after their return from Sour Lake, a missionary priest stayed at the Cameron home in May 1893.
As Cameron was the dictator of the Knights of Honor, he facilitated using the Masonic hall for Episcopal services. In fact, after Cameron and his son, Frank were confirmed in October 1893, Cameron himself conducted the church services in 1894.
The Camerons played an active role in the church. Frank Cameron played Romeo in a musical concert which was put on to raise funds for the church in 1896. In the same concert Frank Cameron and his future wife, Gertie Steusoff, performed a number called "Before and After."
In 1897 a Japanese tea benefit was held at the Cameron home.
Mrs. B.F. Cameron died March 8, 1903. Her life was not an easy one. She would have been married around the age of sixteen. She had had nine children, and by the time of her death she had buried six of them. She may have felt burdened by operating a boarding house out of her own home.
Mr. Cameron remarried in 1906. He sold the house to W.T. Norman in 1910 and relocated to San Antonio where he died in 1914. He was buried in the Liberty City Cemetery.
W.T. (Wilber Tatem) Norman's paternal grandparents were John Simeon Norman of Norfolk, Virginia and Elizabeth Old of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His father, Hollowell Old (H.O.) Norman, was born in 1840 in North Carolina and in 1858 married Emma Lucy Tatem.
H.O. and Emma Lucy Norman moved to Tennessee where H.O. Norman graduated from Cumberland Law School and worked as an attorney. While living in Tennessee they had seven children. Wilber Tatem was the fifth child, born in Memphis, Tennessee, on December 15, 1869.
Around 1888, after the death of Emma, the family, except for the eldest daughter, moved to Texas, settling in Shepherd, in San Jacinto County. W.T. married Katherine Wasson of Summerfield, Louisiana. Katherine "Kitty" Wasson Norman was born in Summerfield, Louisiana around 1874. She bore seven children, over a 22-year period: Wasson (1896-1901), Hollie E. (1898-1991), Elizabeth (1900-1980), Edna Ruth (1903-1991), W.T. "Dub" Norman, Jr. (1913-), Morris S. (1915-), and William "Ole Bill" Norman (1918-1979). The last three of the Norman children were born in the Norman house. A capable seamstress, Kitty made much of the family's clothing.
W.T. Norman worked at a variety of occupations before settling on a legal career. At one time he worked as a tie maker, using a broad ax to chop ties for the crossties for the railroad. In 1900, Norman's occupations were listed as farmer and preacher. By 1910 he was working at a livery stable which served as an early-day taxi service, transporting customers to cities such as Houston and Anahuac.
Later in life, his interest in religion became an avocation and not profession, as he continued to serve as a lay minister for the First Baptist Church in Liberty for many years and often held religious activities at the Norman home. His wife did not share his fondness for that particular faith and, perhaps due to his wife's influence, all of the children were raised in the Methodist church.
Norman followed in his father's footsteps and became an attorney. Like his father, he graduated from Cumberland Law School in Tennessee. By 1911 he served as Liberty County Justice of the Peace, a position he held until 1914. In 1915 he advertised that he was a real estate and land dealer, in addition to being an Attorney at Law. He practiced law throughout his life.
He died on August 16, 1950 at age 81, after a long illness. He passed away at the family home. His widow Kitty died in the hospital on September 1959 at the age of 85. After Kitty's death, the house was no longer used as a residence, although Edna Norman continued to maintain the property and preserved the residence. The house is dedicated to Miss Edna Norman.