Coley v. Artis, pt. 3: I never heard anything but “rent.”

The third in a series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908. The dispute centered on 30 acres of land. Thomas “Tom Pig” Artis began renting the property in 1881 from William J. Exum, a wealthy white farmer. In 1892, Exum’s widow Mary sold the land to Napoleon Hagans. Hagans died in 1896, and the land passed to his sons Henry and William S. Hagans. In 1899, Henry sold his interest to his brother William, who sold the 30 acres in 1908 to J. Frank Coley, a young white farmer. Tom Artis laid claim to the property, arguing that Napoleon Hagans had sold it to him. Coley filed suit and, after hearing the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, the court decided in his favor. (Paragraph breaks and some punctuation have been inserted for better readability.)

Plaintiff introduces Jonah Reid who being duly sworn, testifies as follows:

I have heard Tom Artis say that he was going soon to pay his rent with cotton to [William S.] Hagans. I don’t know how often I have heard him speak of that, I have heard him say something about it several times when rent was due. I didn’t hear him say what lands. Some times he was cultivating the three pieces, sometimes the 30 acre piece. I am his son-in-law. I never lived with him. Live back of his house. Never heard him call it anything but rent cotton, not interest cotton. (Defendant objects.)

CROSS EXAMINED.

I told Hagans that I heard the old man say he was going to pay his rent, that was along in September, I think this past September. The only reason I told him was he asked me. He came by where I was working on the road. He asked me how long I had been in the family. I told him 16 years. He asked if I had ever heard anything but rent. I told him no. That’s why I told him. That’s all he asked me. Tom worked the three pieces, then afterwards the 30 acre piece. That’s all I remember Hagans said. I didn’t know there had been a suit about the land. Hadn’t had the suit yet. I said I didn’t like to say anything about my father-in-law. Hagans didn’t tell me that he Artis was claiming that he was paying interest. I just answered what he asked me. I told him I had never heard any thing but “Rents.”

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