There aren’t many records on the early life of Elizabeth (Simms) Norris (circa 1817-1893). According to her Find a Grave memorial, her granddaughter Artemissa (Norris) Chambers’s family bible tells some of her life story. The memorial reads, “Elizabeth Simms Norris was born in 1817 to unknown parents of a Cherokee tribe from the Oconee area of Pickens County, South Carolina. Around the time that the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Elizabeth was taken in by or worked for the Simms (Sims?) family in Pickens/Oconee County, South Carolina. The fate of her parents is unknown. By 1836, Elizabeth met Richard Norris of Cherokee County, Georgia where they lived before moving to Lumpkin County, Georgia where many of their 11 children were born. Their children were Amanda, Alford, Arminda, Serena, Wesley, Andrew, Milligan, Tempey, MaryAnn, William and Sarah.”
Elizabeth and some of her children moved to Bullitt County, KY by 1870. It is unclear why they moved to the area. In 1880, she was living with her son William and her daughters Serena, MaryAnn, and Sarah in Spring Garden. This area is now known as Southside, Highland Park, Strawberry Lane, Airport area. According to city directories, Elizabeth then lived at 1540 Lexington Street (now W. Breckinridge Street) until her death. On March 22, 1893, she died at the approximate age of 76. She was buried in Section 4, Row 47, Grave 17 of Eastern Cemetery. Her grave is unmarked. Six of her children are also buried at Eastern (William, MaryAnn, Andrew, Serena, Amanda, and Sarah “Sally”). To date, there are no primary sources to confirm Elizabeth as a member of the Cherokee Nation, only her family history. However, her removal from her birth family could explain this. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced eastern Native American tribes to move west of the Mississippi River, which led to the Trail of Tears. After refusing to leave their lands, the US Army forced the Cherokee people to walk over 1,200 miles to Indian Territory. It’s estimated that more than 5,000 Cherokee died as a result of the Trail of Tears.