This Indenture made this Twenty eighth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & forty six Between James Tomlinson of the county of Edgecombe & State of N. Carolina of the one part & Hardy Lasiter of County & State aforesaid of the other part. Witnessesth that I the said James Tomlins[on] for & in consideration of the sum of Two hundred & fifty dollars & fifty cents to me in hand paid before the sealing & delivering of these presents the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge & myself feeling satisfied contented & paid have bargained sold & delivered unto the aforesaid Hardy Lasiter his heard & assigns forever one tract or parcel of land lying & being in the county of Edgecombe & the East side of Homony Swamp & bounded as follows (viz) Beginning at a pine in Benjamin Simms line then running with his line to the mill swamp then down the various of said swamp to said Simms line again & then nearly west with his line to an oak & pine then N. 8″ west to the beginning containing by estimation 81 acres To have & to hold the above land & premises with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging to him & his heirs forever. And I the said James Tomlinson do for myself my heirs & assigns warrant & forever defend the right & title of said Land & premises unto the said Hardy Lasiter his heirs & assigns forever. In witness whereof I the James Tomlinson have hereunto set my hand & seal the day & date above written James X Tomlinson [witnesses] Edwin Barnes, Lewis Ellis
In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Hardy Laster, 73, wife Beady, and children Mathew and Silas, 26, Green, 25, Hardy, 21, and Rachel, 20.
In 1851, Lassiter executed a will whose first provision bequeathed “unto my son Silas Laseter all that tract of Land where he now Lives known by the name of the Tomlinson tract containing Eighty one acres more or less adjoining the Lands of Benj Sims ….” I have not been able to identify the precise location of this property. Hominy Swamp arises near the Wilson airport and runs southeast through present-day Wilson into Contentnea Creek about a mile southwest of Beddingfield High School. Lassiter’s parcel was likely somewhere between Hominy Swamp and Toisnot Swamp north of present-day Raleigh Road.
Deed book 24, page 203, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.
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.
John Lucas (also known as Locus) made out his will on 10 July 1926, about six months before he died.
His bequests included:
to son Kenney Lucas, a life interest in “that part of the home place, on the North side of the cart road, on which the house I live in now stands,” and after his death to children Sidney Lucas, Susia Sims, and Eddie Lucas in equal shares.
to children Sidney Lucas and Susia Sims, in equal shares, the portion of the home place on the south side of the cart road, adjoining Dew’s place.
to son Eddie Lucas, 20 acres known as “the old Phine place,” adjoining the lands of Allison Howard, Gib Howard, Dick Cozart, and ten acres Eddie Lucas purchased from his father earlier.
to daughter Nannie Deans, ten acres from the old Phine place.
to daughter Dora Battle, ten acres of the Phine tract.
to son Frank Lucas, five dollars.
to Roxia Blackwell [daughter of Susan Lucas Simms Ellis],his organ.
to an unnamed granddaughter, described as “the daughter of Sidney Lucas, the one next to the oldest girl,” his bureau.
to granddaughter “Mink,” daughter of Eddie Lucas, his “clothing safe.”
to daughter Susia Simms, his sewing machine.
to son Kenney Lucas, his iron safe.
and other property to be divided equally among children Kenney Lucas, Sidney Lucas, Eddie Lucas, Dora Battle, Nannie Deans, and Susia Simms.
children Kenney Lucas and Dora Battle were named co-executors, and Glenn McBrayer legal adviser.
Vicey Artis, a free woman of color, and Solomon Williams, an enslaved man, had eleven children together – Zilpha Artis Wilson, Adam Toussaint Artis, Jane Artis Artis, Loumiza Artis Artis, Charity Artis, Lewis Artis, Jonah Williams, Jethro Artis, Jesse Artis, Richard Artis, and Delilah Williams Exum — before they were able to marry legally. On 31 August 1866, they registered their 35-year cohabitation in Wayne County. Vicey died soon after, but Solomon lived until 1883. The document above, listing his and Vicey’s six surviving children and heirs of their deceased children, is found among Solomon Williams’ estate papers.
In the antebellum period, Vicey Artis and her children, who were apprenticed to Silas Bryant, lived in the Artis Town area of Bull Head township, Greene County, N.C., just a few miles over the border of Wilson County. Solomon Williams presumably lived relatively close by. Before 1860, the family shifted west into the Eureka area of Wayne County (which may have been their original home territory), and Vicey died around 1868. Descendants of at least five of Vicey and Solomon’s children — most notably son Adam T. Artis — migrated into Wilson County starting around 1900, settling in and around Stantonsburg and Wilson.
We have met Jonah Williams here and here and elsewhere. We’ve also met Loumiza Artis Artis’ husband Thomas Artis. Stay tuned for more about my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis, Zilpha Artis Wilson, Jesse Artis, and Richard Artis.
[Sidenote: Artis was the most common surname among Wayne County free people of color. In the 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses, Artis families primarily are found clustered in northern Wayne County, near present-day Eureka and Fremont. Though eastern North Carolina Artises ultimately share common ancestry stretching back to mid-17th century Virginia, the precise relationships between various Wayne County lines — not to mention other Greene and Johnston County Artis lines — is not clear. In other words, though many of today’s Artises in Wilson are descended from Vicey Artis and Solomon Williams (or Vicey’s siblings Sylvania Artis Lane and Daniel Artis), none should assume descent from this line.]
On 19 February 1870, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered five year-old Cassanda Locust bound as an apprentice to Redick Eatmon until she reached 21 years of age.
Cassanda Locust’s surname suggests that she was freeborn, as does the name under which she is found in the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Reddic Eatmon, 49; wife Charity, 48; and hireling Casana Wiggins, 14.
We have read here, here, and here of Zealous “Deal” Howard Sr., who was born a free person of color in what was then Nash County, N.C., and developed relative wealth as a farmer and landowner in Taylor township, Wilson County. Howard died in 1911, leaving a detailed last will and testament executed in 1905. Some of the land he owned still remains in the hands of his descendants.
After directing payment of his debts and funeral expenses, Howard bequeathed:
to son Ira Howard, five dollars, noting that Ira had already received 37 acres of land;
to son Dock Howard, five dollars and nothing more (though he noted that Dock had previously received “advances”);
to daughter Anner Blackwell, a lifetime interest in a 4 1/4 acre tract of land, with the remainder to Anna’s daughter Lydia Blackwell and any other children;
to son Zelius Howard, a lifetime interest in a 38 3/4-acre parcel of land on Cabin Branch, with the remainder to his children;
to son Kenyon Howard, his “home tract” containing 50 7/8 acres on Cabin Branch, with the remainder to his children if he had any, and if not, to be divided equally among Anner Blackwell, Zelius Howard, Jesse Howard, and Mary Taylor (or their children, if they are deceased);
to son Jesse Howard, a lifetime interest in a 42 1/2-acre tract, with the remainder to his children;
to son Allison Howard, a lifetime interest in a 42 1/2-acre tract, with the remainder to his children if he had any, but if not to daughter Mary Taylor (or her children if she were dead);
to son James Gilbert Howard, a lifetime interest in the rest of his property, consisting of the 27 1/2-acre “Nelson Eatmon tract” on Big Branch and the 25 1/2-acre “Wood Eatmon land,” with the remainder to his children;
all his personal property to daughter Mary Taylor or her children.
Lastly, Zealous Howard appointed Devit Moore executor of his will.
About five weeks after executing this will, Howard executed a codicil that added a provision for his son George Howard, leaving him one dollar in addition to property he had already given him.
The will was not well-received. Kenyon Howard, Anna Howard Blackwell, and Allison Howard filed a caveat in order to challenge the validity of the document.
Receipt filed for publication of notice re estate action.The caveat filed to contest Zealous Howard’s will.
A jury heard In re Will of Zelius Howard during Wilson County Superior Court’s February Term, 1915, and Judge George W. Connor issued a judgment finding the will valid.
Will Book 4, page 406, Office of Clerk of Superior Court, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson; Estate of Zelius Howard (1911), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, http://www.familysearch.org.
To stave off responsibility for caring for poor women and their children, unwed mothers were regularly brought before justices of the peace to answer sharp questions about their circumstances.
On 26 January 1867, Zily Lucas admitted to Wilson County justice of the peace Solomon Lamm that her four-month-old son Bryan had been born out of wedlock and his father was Benjamin Ellis. Lamm ordered that Ellis be arrested and taken to a justice to answer Lucas’ charge.
In the 1870 census of Chesterfield township, Nash County, N.C.: Delila Lucus, 32; Rachel, 25; Zillie, 16; Louisa, 13; and Bryant, 2. [Note that Zillie was about 14 when her son was born.]
In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Dilla Locus, 40; niece Louiza, 29; cousin Mary E., 16; nephew Bryant, 13; cousin Dora, 5; and mother Delila, 72.
In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: mill laborer Bryan Locus, 31; wife Susan, 28; and children Pat, 12, Lou, 9, G[illegible], 6, Martha, 3, and Arthur, 10 months.
In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Bryant Lucas, 45; wife Susan, 38; daughters Pattie Winstead, 22, and Lula Joyner, 20; children Mary L., 17, Matha A., 15, James A., 12, Susan, 9, Laura C., 7, and John H.B., 4; and grandchildren Arta Lee, 5, and Eva May Winstead, 2, and May Lizzie Lucas, 10 months.
In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Bryant Locus, 64; wife Susie, 69; daughter Charity, 10, and son James R., 6; son-in-law Willie Barnes, 32, farm laborer; daughter Martha, 26; and granddaughters Catherine, 16, and Pauline Barnes, 13.
Susie F. Lucas died 10 June 1933 in Wilson. Per her death certification, she was 55 years old; was born in Nash County, N.C., to Dock and Charity Wilkins; was married to Bryant Lucas; and lived at 507 Carroll Street.
Martha Barnes died 7 December 1961 in Wilson township. Per her death certificate, she was born 20 September 1897 in Nash County to Bryant Lucas and Susie Wilkins; and was widowed. Catherine Nicholson, 103 North Vick, was informant.
Bastardy Bonds, 1866, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.
In the 1860 census of Indian Springs district, Wayne County: cooper George Simmons, 40; wife Axey J., 38; and children Riley B., 19, Simon, 15, Susan A., 17, Zach, 10, Silvania, 9, Bryant, 7, H.B., 5, and Gen. Washington, 2.
In the 1870 census of Brogden township, Wayne County: farmer Geo. Simmons, 52; wife Annie, 47; and children George, 24, shoemaking shoes, Zachariah, 22, Silavant, 20, Bryant C., 18, Hillary B., 16, and Washington, 12.
On 23 December 1875, Calvin Sutton, 21, married Sylvania Simmons, 22, in Wayne County.
In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Calvin Sutton, 25; wife Silvania, 26; children Hattie, 3, and twins Joel B. and Josephin, 1; mother Dolly, 55; brothers Dallow, 18, and Henry, 16; and sister Mary, 12.
In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Calvin Sutton, 45; wife Silvania, 49; and children George, 18, Walter, 16, Mary, 13, and Roscoe, 10.
In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Upper Black Creek Road, farmer Calvin Sutton, 54; wife Sylvania, 58; daughter Hattie Taylor, 33; and grandchildren Olivia, 9, Viola, 7, Lillie M., 5, Georgiana, 4, and Mittie, 2; plus adopted grandson Frank McNeal, 16.
Sylvania Sutton died 4 August 1916 in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 65 years old; was married; her father was George Simmons; and she was buried in Watson graveyard.
Detail of portrait, courtesy of Ancestry user cjjsinc.
Deed Book 1, page 657. Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.
This Indenture made this the 27th day of decr 1860 one thousand eight hundred & sixty between Rachel Lassiter of the county of Wilson & State of North Carolina of the first part & Matthew Lassiter of the county & state aforesaid of second part witnessed: That the said party of the first part for & in consideration of the sum of ten Dollars to her in hand paid by the said Matthew Lassiter for the [illegible] & [illegible] the trust, hereinafter mentioned at & before the sealing & delivery hereof the receipt whereof he does hereby acknowledge have given, granted, bargained & sold & by these presents doth grant, bargain sell & convey unto the said Matthew Lassiter his heirs & assigns forever all my personal property including her whole estate say 3 head of Cattle one bed & furniture household & Kitchen furniture & about eighty dollars in bonds or notes to have & to hold unto the said Matthew Lassiter his heirs & assigns & for the following & none other that is to say for the sole & separate use of my child Zelphia Lassiter & any other heirs I may hereafter have & the issues & profits thereof shall be for their use & benefit. In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand & seal this 27th day of Dcr 1860 Rachel X Lassiter Matthew X Lassiter
In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Hardy Laster, 73, wife Beady, 54, and children Mathew, 26, Silas, 26, Green, 25, Hardy, 21, and Rachel, 20; all described as mulatto. Hardy reported owning $650 of real property.
In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Green Lassiter, 36; [his wife] Mary, 24; [and his siblings] Matthew, 37; and Rachel Lassiter, 30. [Where was Zilpha?]
On 29 December 1860, Rachael Lassiter married Daniell [actually, David] Read in Wilson County.
This marriage surely precipitated the transfer of Rachel Lassiter’s assets to her brother Matthew Lassiter three days prior. David Reid was a widower with children. When Rachel Lassiter married, her personal property would in effect become her husband’s property. In order to preserve her assets for her own daughter’s benefit, Rachel Lassiter sold everything she had to Matthew Lassiter in trust for Zelphia Lassiter.
In the 1870 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County, N.C.: farm laborer David Reid, 58; wife Rachel, 40; and children Gustin E., 18, Nancy A., 16, and Zylpha, 17.
I have not found anything further about Rachel Lassiter Reid or Zelphia Lassiter, alias Reid, but note that David Reid’s 1910 estate papers do not list either of them.
[Update, 16 March 2022: Bernard Patterson, a descendant of Rachel Lassiter’s sister Penelope Lassiter Woodard, immediately went looking for Zilphia Lassiter and found this: on 23 March 1876, Amandiburt Mills, 30, married Sylphy Lassiter, 22, in No. 9 township, Edgecombe County.
With that information, I found: in the 1880 census of Roxabel township, Bertie County, N.C.: Mandaburt Mills, 35; wife Zilpha A., 25; and son Thadius, 12; plus servant Francis Clark, 18.
in the Death Register of Greensville County, Virginia: Zilphia Mills died 15 March 1892 of dropsy She was reported as 25 years of age; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Rachel Lussiter; and was married to M.B. Mills. In the 1900 census of Belfield township, Greensville County: Mandyburt Mills, 53, widower, farmer.]