Volume 6, No.
Buffalo County Historical
LOTTIE GOVE NORTON:
GRANDE DAME OF
FORT KEARNEY CHAPTER,
by Pamelia Nelson Long
Charlotte Gove Norton was the organizing regent of
Fort Kearney* Chapter,
Daughters of the American Revolution in 1908, and her devotion to the
was threaded throughout her lifetime. She was an energetic lady
great personal drive, and she believed in equal rights for women before
it became popular for the "distaff side" to enter the business world,
promote civic projects, to mark historic sites, and to be active in the
affairs of her community and state.
Lottie, as she preferred to be called, was born May 16, 1859, in Tomah,
Wisconsin. Her ancestors were from the New England states.
Her father, the Honorable Elijah Atwood Gove, was an eminent jurist,
her mother, Maria Louisa Haynes, was a writer. Lottie graduated
Minneapolis (Minnesota) High School; later she attended a Catholic
and then a private girls school in London, Canada. Lottie married
Charles Oliver Norton of St. Paul, Minnesota in 1885; he was a native
New York State. They came to Kearney soon after their marriage,
the early settlement of the area. Mr. Norton established a
insurance, real estate, and abstract business. Of the Nortons'
sons, only Oliver Gove survived. He was a pioneer in his own
as an automotive engineer, having spent most of his professional life
the Opel Division of General Motors in Europe. Oliver married but
there were no children.
Lottie became a widow after eleven years of marriage while she was
a young woman. She had followed very closely the details of her
real estate business, paying particular attention to land values.
It was said that Mrs. Norton became the richest woman in Nebraska
in farm and ranch lands due to her vast knowledge of Nebraska's
She foresaw the possibilities of the expansion of the great Platte
which laid the foundation for her immense fortune, a result of shrewd
sagacious buying. At one time she had the honor of being the only
woman in the State of Nebraska to belong to a commercial club.
all of Lottie's time was devoted to business. She would plunge
philanthropic projects and the amazing mass of detail connected with a
number of patriotic, genealogic, and historical societies.
While Lottie was small physically, her personality
was dynamic. She
was ambitious and could be domineering. She was also well read,
and refined. She loved beautiful things and especially enjoyed
exotic Chinese objects, such as oriental carpets and carved
A glance at some of her menus will reveal she was a connoisseur of the
art of European chefs. Lottie entertained with great flourish, at
one time having served a banquet to sixty-four guests in her own
The writer interviewed Mrs. Wessie Wilder, who knew Lottie and who told
of helping with the serving at her fabulous parties. The young
looked forward to Mrs. Norton's parties and the opportunity to be "in
the action". Wessie remembers, "Mrs. Norton was a hostess of
style, and she had all the accoutrements - spacious home, sterling
fine china - to do it right!" The Norton home was located on the
of 22nd Street and First Avenue in Kearney where the Elks Club now
first Public Library - 1905
Lottie was civic minded. In 1903 she gave
three seventy-five foot
lots to the City of Kearney on which to build a library. In the
it was stated that the lots were always to be the site of a library -
the land reverted to the family. Indeed, today our new library
built on these lots when the old library was razed. It should be
noted that Lottie had a talent for writing, like her mother, and she
a member of the League of American Pen Women.
During the period of much political activity to locate a state normal
in Kearney, it was Lottie who entertained the visiting legislators and
politicians. Whistles blew and church bells rang on September 1,
1903, when Kearney was named the site of the NORMAL OF THE WEST at 3:15
p.m., on the 111th ballot! Lottie led the rejoicing!
She organized the Fort Kearney Chapter DAR, in 1908. During her
as regent (1908-1911), Lottie and chapter members decided that the
Oregon Trail should be perpetuated by suitable markings throughout
The old trail, so long a narrow ribbon of road forgotten by all but
who traveled it locally, needed to be permanently remembered. The
first marble stone to be erected in Nebraska to mark the Old Oregon
was dedicated in Kearney by the Fort Kearney Chapter on February 14,
on Central Avenue at Union Pacific Park. Thus the marking of the
Oregon Trail was begun by Lottie, with many successive monuments placed
throughout Nebraska - and at other places as well.
the Oregon Trail Monument, June 9, 1910
Gate at the Kearney Cemetery.
As might be expected, Mrs. Norton became State
Regent of the Nebraska Society
DAR in 1911. During her two-year term, she doubled the number of
members in Nebraska as well as doubling the number of chapters -
an accomplishment that will never be matched. Her own ancestry
prestigious and surely it was this fact which whetted her interest in
- her own ancestry and that of others - whom she assisted to join the
and other hereditary societies. She was a member of the following
organizations: Colonial Dames of America, United States Daughters
of 1812, First Families of Virginia, and Society of Daughters of
and Patriots of America. Mrs. Norton was a member of the Nebraska
State Historical Society and of the New England Historic Genealogical
of Boston, Massachusetts. She held membership in the Hereditary
of Descendants of Colonial Governors, and in the Society of Americans
Armorial Ancestry. She served as a member of the International
Arbitration Commission. She was a member of the Episcopal Church.
One DAR recalled the manner in which Lottie worked to trace
records. She had a large desk with pigeon holes in it for sorting
research data. She used a high board upon which to pin ancestor
and she worked from a high stool. Another DAR recalled Lottie's
ability to trace a family genealogy, once she knew what line was
She also had the habit of pinning newspaper clippings to her clothing
to her curtains and drapes, literally covering her windows with them.
In 1924 when Fort Kearney Chapter planned to erect a gateway to the
Cemetery, Lottie was on the Committee and personally contributed
to the project. Later in 1926, she donated toward a bronze plaque
to be placed on the gateway pillar. In 1927, it was Lottie
who made the presentation of the gateway to the City of Kearney from
Fort Kearney Chapter during the 25th State DAR Conference in Kearney.
In the stock market crash of 1929, Lottie lost all the money she had in
New York banks, and her holdings were considerable! In the autumn
of that year, it was noted in DAR minutes that Lottie was seriously
Did the shock of a financial loss have a physical effect on her?
Whatever the illness, she recovered enough to go abroad in the summer
1930. No doubt she wanted to visit her son and his wife.
In her declining years she continued to attend DAR meetings and she
greetings at the state conference in 1931, participated in a group
in 1934, and was also honored at that time. Lottie G. Norton died
March 21, 1936. In the minutes of the April 3, 1936, DAR meeting,
"It was moved, seconded, and carried that the regent appoint a
to investigate prices and various kinds of plates placed on graves as
and that we have a most fitting one for Mrs. Norton's grave."
Mrs. Norton's tombstone in the Kearney Cemetery is auspiciously marked
with a bronze plaque inscribed,
During her time, Mrs. Norton was the most
influential woman in Kearney.
She supported, encouraged, and worked toward the development of
in the city of Kearney and in the promotion of agriculture in the great
Platte Valley. Throughout her busy, fruitful life, her love for
was always her heartbeat. Certainly she is fondly remembered as
distinguished first lady of Fort Kearney Chapter, Daughters of the
"e" is used in the spelling of Fort Kearney since it was too cumbersome
to have our city spelled differently in correspondence with our
headquarters in Washington. D.C.
Interview with Weslie Wort Wilder, June, 1981; research paper of Emma
Wilder; Nebraska State History of
the Daughters of the American Revolution,
June 7, 1894 to February 1, 1929, Mabel Lindly, editor; Where the Buffalo
Roamed, 1967; and the Recording Secretary's Minutes, Fort
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