The eighth 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.)
Defendant introduces TOM ARTIS, who being duly sworn, testifies:
My name is Tom Artis. They call me Tom Pig. I own some land, 30 acres. (Plaintiff objects.) I have been living on the 30 acre tract of land 25 years, except one year. I mortgaged this land to Mr. [William J.] Exum. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know about how long it was. About 25 or 30 years. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know what became of that mortgage. I got [Napoleon] Hagans to take it up. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know who was present when I got Hagans to take it up. When Hagans agreed to take it up, Mrs. Exum, Hagans and myself were present. I own the 30 acre tract and lived on the tract adjoining. After Hagans took up the papers, he told me that I could build on that place, or on the 24 acre piece. He said he thought it best for me to build on mine, he might die sometime, and there might be some trouble about me holding the house. I did so. He furnished the lumber, and I did the work. I decided to build on his side. After I built there I had been paying the 800 lb. of lint cotton year in and year out. (Plaintiff objects to each and every statement of the foregoing evidence.) The 800 lb. of cotton was to keep up the taxes and the interest of the money. (Plaintiff objects.) I have been paying this 800 lb. of cotton all the time. (Plaintiff objects.) I left that place one year. I left because my house got in such a bad fix, and I couldn’t stay there and run my business like I wanted to, and I went over to Mr. Jones’. I rented the land. I rented it to Simon Exum. He gave me 950 lb. for the 30 acre place. I rented the Calv[in Artis] Place and the Adam Artis place. I moved back after one year at Mr. Jones’ place. I built on the Hagans place. Since then I built the piaza and shed room, to my own expense. Borrowed money from Hagans. I paid him back. He didn’t pay for the repairing of it. He furnished some shingles. Got 1/4 covered. I never asked W.S. Hagans to sell the 30 acre tract of land. I never said to Hagans in the presence of [Henry S.] Reid or anybody else that I wanted him to sell it. I never asked anybody to buy the 30 acre tract of Hagans. Not the 30 acre tract. I had a conversation with Mr. [J. Frank] Coley with reference to buying that land. I was talking about the Calv place. My land wasn’t brought in. The Calv place is the place I rented and lived on. That’s the land I spoke to Mr. Coley about buying from Hagans. He said if Mr. Cook and Hagans didn’t trade to send him a note. I told Hagans, he said tell him Coley, if his hands were not tied. I remember going over to Mr. Coley’s mill with Hagans. I didn’t hear any conversation between Hagans and Coley with reference to buying this tract of land. They were off from me. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I heard them say when they came back to the buggy, Hagans said that he would see him again shortly. I don’t know if he said what day. Next I heard after that was that Hagans had sold it all to Mr. Coley, mine and all. I never rented the 30 acre tract of land. I know Jno. Rountree. I never asked him to go to Will Hagans and ask him to give me an opportunity of buying the 30 acre piece of land. I never said to Will Hagans, Jno. Rountree or Henry Reid, or anybody that I wanted Hagans to give me the opportunity of seeing my boys in Norfolk, so I could buy the 30 acre piece. I asked Hagans what he would take for the acre back of my house, of the Calv place. I told him I would buy that. His answer was, “Can you find a buyer for the other part of the Calv place.” I told him I didn’t know. He walked about his buggy house door. He said, “Uncle Tom, I can’t take what that mortgage calls for for your land, land is so much more valuable now than it was when yours was given.” It passed off at that. Next I heard he had sold it to Coley.