I have blogged many times about siblings Cain Artis, William M. Artis, Walter S. Artis, Alberta Artis Cooper, Columbus E. Artis, Josephine Sherrod Artis, and June S. Artis — but not specifically about their father Adam Toussaint Artis, a free-born farmer who bought and sold hundreds of acres of farm and woodland in Nahunta township, Wayne County, North Carolina. Artis had five wives over his long life, and more than 25 children. Many of his thousands of descendants, including me, have ties to Wilson.
In this first post, a look at Adam T. Artis’ early years, relationships, and wealth-building.
Adam Toussaint Artis was born 19 July 1831, most likely in the Bullhead area of northwestern Greene County, North Carolina, or the Nahunta area of northeastern Wayne County, North Carolina. His mother Vicey Artis was a free woman of color, and his father Solomon Williams was an enslaved man. [Artis’ middle name, pronounced “too-saint,” is both fascinating and mysterious. How had his mother, an unlettered woman who spent her entire life in deep rural eastern North Carolina, heard of Toussaint Louverture, who died a few years before she was born?]
Detail of 1850 census, Greene County, North Carolina.
In the 1850 census of Greene County, North Carolina: at #428, Adam, 18, Jane, 17, and Charity Artess, 13, appear in the household of white farmer Silas Bryant. Though no bonds or other indenture documents survive, it is most likely that the Artis children were involuntarily apprenticed to Bryant until age 21 by the Greene County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. Next door, at #429, probably living on Bryant’s land, were their mother and siblings Vicy, 40, Zilpha, 22, Louis, 8, Jonah, 7, Jethro, 5, and Richard Artis, 1. I have not been able to identify Solomon Williams’ whereabouts during slavery.
In the mid 1850s, Adam Artis began a relationship with an enslaved woman named Winnie. They had two children together, Cain, born about 1854, and Caroline, born about 1856.
On 29 September 1855, Adam Artis bought ten acres in Wayne County, North Carolina, from John Wilson, husband of his sister Zilpha Artis Wilson. Artis mortgaged the property to Wilson in exchange for its $124 purchase price.
Detail, Nash County marriage register.
On 10 October 1855, Adam Artis married Lucinda Jones in Nash County, North Carolina. Jones’ father Jacob Ing was bondsman, William T. Arrington witnessed, and justice of the peace D.A.T. Ricks performed the ceremony. [In the 1850 census of Nash County: Jacob Ing, 64, white, farmer; Easter Jones, 55, John Jones, 20, [his wife] Dolly Jones, 21, Matthew Jones, 18, and Lucy Jones, 16, all mulatto.]
Lucinda Jones Artis died circa 1859.
Detail of 1860 census, Davis district, Wayne County, North Carolina.
The 1860 census of Davis district, Wayne County, tells a nuanced story. This entry contains the sole census reference to Adam Artis’ skills as a carpenter, probably gained during his apprenticeship to Bryant. The $200 in personal property he claimed probably consisted mostly of the tools of his trade, and the $100 value of real property reflects his early land purchases. Artis was a widower in 1860; Kerney, Noah and Mary Jane were his children by Lucinda Jones Artis. (Artis’ elder children, Cain and Caroline, as enslaved people, are not named in any census prior to 1870.) Jane Artis was Artis’ sister; her one month-old infant may have been daughter Cornelia. I’ve included two lines of the next household to highlight a common pitfall — making assumptions about relationships based on shared surnames. Celia Artis was not related to Adam Artis. At least, not in any immediate way. (Ultimately, nearly all Artises trace their lineage to a common ancestor in 17th-century Tidewater Virginia.) Adam’s brother Jesse Artis testified directly to the matter in the trial in Coley v. Artis: “I don’t know that Tom [son of Celia and Simon Pig Artis] and I are any kin. Just by marriage.”)
Adam Artis was 30 years old at the start of the Civil War, a farmer and carpenter who had already begun to build some wealth. Unlike many free men of color, he may have avoided conscription by the Confederacy to build breastworks at Fort Fisher near Wilmington. However, Artis had been forced to pay taxes on his crops to the Confederate government. (The reference to “Wife” on the assessment below suggests that she was acting in his absence, which could hint that he had been conscripted.) Artis likely had to turn over stock and provisions to Union soldiers foraging in Wayne County, but after the war did not file a claim with the Southern Claims Commission to recoup any losses.
Assessment of Adam Artis’ crop of cured fodder,Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865 (NARA M346), http://www.fold3.com.
In an 1863 Confederate tax assessment of David district, Wayne County, John Coley, as administrator, reported that H. Woodard Lewis’ estate included Winney, age 29, Cane, age 9, and Caroline, 7. This, of course, was Adam Artis’ first set of children and their mother, who remained enslaved until the end of the Civil War.
On 8 April 1867, Jacob Ing made out a will that provided in part, for bequests to “Mary Reynolds, wife of Benjamin Reynolds, Elizabeth Boon wife of Jesse Boon, Selah White, wife of James White, Sally Reynolds, wife of William H. Reynolds, William C. Jones, Matthew Jones, also old Chaney Freed woman (formally my house servant) also Lucinda Artist (dead) to her Children if any surviving (all colored).” Ing died a few years later, and Augustus K., Noah, and Mary Jane inherited about a hundred dollars each. In 1872, Adam Artis filed a guardianship application in order to manage his children’s estates until they reached the age of majority.
Adam T. Artis’ elder children:
- Cain Artis adopted his father’s surname in adulthood and farmed his own land in northwest Wayne County. He married first Annie Thompson, then Margaret Barnes. By 1890, he had bought a house in Wilson, and in 1900, he and his second wife sold land to Mount Hebron Masonic Lodge for its cemetery. (Adjoining land passed through Margaret Barnes Artis to her heirs, who eventually sold it to the city of Wilson to establish Rest Haven Cemetery.) The 1912 city directory shows Cain Artis a small grocery with Wiley Oates just outside city limits on East Nash road. He died of tuberculosis in Wilson in 1917.
- Caroline Coley married Madison Artis, son of Calvin and Serena Seaberry Artis in Wayne County in 1878. Caroline and Madison Artis appear in the 1880 census of Wayne County, but I have not found them after.
- Augustus K. Artis,who was known as Gus, Gustus, and Kerney, was born about 1857. Some time between the birth of daughter Lena in 1882 and 1893, Gus and wife Mary Rebecca Morgan migrated to the Little Rock, Arkansas, area. The city’s 1914 directory lists him as a laborer at J.W. Vestal & Son, a nursery. He died of heart disease 2 June 1921 in Brodie township, Pulaski County, Arkansas, and was buried in a “fraternal cemetery” there.
- Noah Artis, born in 1856, remained in northeastern Wayne County, where he farmed, married Patience Mozingo, and fathered children Nora Artis Reid, Pearl Artis, Pauline Artis Harris, Rena Belle Artis Foster, William N. Artis, and Bessie Artis Taylor. He died in 1952 in Wilson.
Noah Artis (1856-1952).
- Mary Jane Artis, born about 1858, married Henry Artis, son of Warren and Percey Artis. (Though all of Wayne County Artises are probably ultimately related, the exact kinship between Adam Artis and Warren Artis, whose parents are believed to have been Absalom and Clarkey Artis, is unknown.) Mary Jane remained in the Nahunta area of Wayne County all her life and died 20 June 1914 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Her and Henry’s children were Armeta Artis, Alonzo Artis, Lucinda Artis, Calonza Artis, John C. Artis, Mattie Artis Davis and May Artis.
Will of Jacob Ing, Wills, Nash County Records, North Carolina State Archives; Estates Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; Marriage Records, Register of Deeds Office, Wayne County Courthouse, Goldsboro NC; Nash County Marriage Records, North Carolina Marriage Records, 1741-2011, http://www.ancestry.com; photo courtesy of W. Waheed.