Artis

The apprenticeship of the Artis boys.

On 4 February 1871, a Wilson County probate judge indentured William “Bill” Artis, age 5 years, six months, and his brother Joshua Artis, age 4 years, one month, to Jacob H. Barnes. The boys were to serve Barnes until age 21 and learn farming skills.

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In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: George Barnes, 22, farm laborer; Temperance Barnes, 19; Joseph Barnes, 12, laborer’s apprentice; Nancy Artis, 36, farm laborer; William, 7, and Joshua Artis, 3; George Barnes, 20, works on railroad; Robert Barnes, 18, farm laborer; and Isaac Taylor, 19, works on farm.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County, the Artises were still in Barnes’ household, described as “apprentices to farmer.”

United States Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at https://familysearch.org.

Family ties, no. 2: starting school.

Wilson’s emergence as a leading tobacco market town drew hundreds of African-American migrants in the decades after the 1890s. Many left family behind in their home counties, perhaps never to be seen again. Others maintained ties the best way they could.

Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver and her husband Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. left Dudley, in southern Wayne County, North Carolina, around 1905. They came to Wilson presumably for better opportunities off the farm. Each remained firmly linked, however, to parents and children and siblings back in Wayne County as well as those who had joined the Great Migration north. This post is the second in a series of excerpts from interviews with my grandmother Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001), Jesse and Sarah’s adoptive daughter (and Sarah’s great-niece), revealing the ways her Wilson family stayed connected to their far-flung kin. (Or didn’t.)

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Jesse Jacobs found good work in Wilson, first as a hand in Jefferson Farrior‘s livery stable and then as a janitor at a white public school (with side hustles as school superintendent Charles L. Coon‘s yard man and as janitor at First Baptist Church.) However, his wife Sarah had fewer opportunities, working seasonally in tobacco stemmeries and sometimes “taking in washing and ironing,” i.e. doing personal laundry for white families.

Though she seems never to have been seriously tempted to migrate permanently, Sarah H. Jacobs occasionally traveled North for short stretches to supplement her income by hiring out for housekeeping daywork. She generally took little Hattie to New York with her and parked her with her stepdaughter Carrie Jacobs Blackwell while she worked. (Carrie, who was Jesse Jacobs’ elder daughter, and her husband Toney H. Blackwell had migrated from North Carolina circa 1900-1905.)

Hattie Henderson Ricks recalled a visit to New York when she was perhaps six years old in which she grew homesick and lonely while staying with the Blackwells:

“… So I went to crying. I cried and I cried. I wanted to go home. I wanted to go where Mama was, but Mama wasn’t supposed to come over there ‘til the next day or a day or two after that. She was doing day’s work. ‘Cause day’s work was plentiful then.  People would clean up ….  So Mama wanted [to make money, so she] carried me with her …. So, anyway, I cried so, and … she come on over and got me, and I told her I didn’t want to stay there no more, I wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go where she was. She said, ‘Well, you can’t go right now,’ said, ‘I got a job to do.’ She said, ‘Well, I’ll take you over to Frances.’  So that’s when she took me over to Frances’ house, and Edward [her son]. And I stayed over there, and it was the first time I ever went to school.”

Frances Aldridge Cooper, also a Dudley native, was both Sarah and Hattie’s maternal cousin and Hattie’s paternal aunt. Frances and her husband George Cooper, also from Wayne County, married in New Jersey in 1908, then moved on to New York City, where their son, Edward Lee Cooper, was born in 1911.

“It was during school time and whatchamacallem took me and Edward down to the school, wherever it was….  And the first day I ever went to school, Frances took me and her son Edward. And the building — I don’t remember what the building looked like inside — but I know we went in, and they had little benches, at least it was built around in the room. And you could stand there by it and mark on your paper if you wanted to or whatever. I didn’t see no seats in there. You sit on the same thing you were writing on. It seem like, from what I remember, it was down in the basement. You had to go down there, and the benches was all the way ’round the room. And the teacher’s desk — and she had a desk in there. And the children sat on the desk, or you stand there by it, or kneel down if you want to mark on it. First grade, you ain’t know nothing bout no writing no how. And I went in, and I just looked. I just, I didn’t do nothing. I just sit there on top of the desk. And I was crying. I went back to Frances’ house, and I said, well, ‘Frances, I want to go home.’ Go where Mama was. So she said, ‘We’ll go tomorrow.’ I said, ‘How come we can’t go today?’ She said, ‘Well, it’s too far to go now.’ I said, ‘Well, can you call her?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know the phone number, and I don’t know the name it’s in.’ And so that kind of threw me; I finally went on bed. But, anyway, they all took me back to Brooklyn.”

Hattie and Sarah Henderson Jacobs returned to Wilson a few weeks later. When Hattie tried first grade again, it was at the Colored Graded School.

Sidenote: the 1915 New York state census lists George Cooper, 32, moulding mill fireman; wife Frances, 30, laundress; son Edward, 4; and sister-in-law Alberta Artis, 15, in school, at 1504 Prospect Place, Brooklyn (in the heart of the Weeksville neighborhood.) Alberta was the daughter of Adam T. Artis and Amanda Aldridge Artis and was not Frances’ birth sister, but was very close kin. (Her birth siblings, in fact, included Josephine Artis Sherrod, Columbus E. Artis, and June Scott Artis, as well as paternal half-siblings Cain ArtisWilliam M. Artis, Walter S. Artis, and Robert E. Artis.) This is complicated: Amanda Aldridge was the sister of Frances A. Cooper’s father John W. Aldridge. And Adam Artis was the father of Frances’ mother Louvicey Artis Aldridge. Amanda A. Artis died days after giving birth to Alberta in 1899, and Louvicey and John took the infant to rear in their own large family in Dudley. Alberta eventually followed her adopted sister Frances to New York, where she met and married George Cooper’s brother, James W. Cooper. The pair returned to Wilson County after World War I.

Detail from enumeration of inhabitants of Block No. 6, Election District No. 19, City of New York, Assembly District No. 23, Kings County, state census of New York, 1915. 

Adapted from interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1996 and 1998. All rights reserved. 

Crop liens and mortgage deeds, no. 1.

On 6 April 1936, General Supply Store Inc. agreed to advance brothers Will Artis and Roselle Artis a fifty dollar merchandise account for the cultivation of crops on the lands of W.J. Davis in Stantonsburg township. In consideration, the Artises agreed to convey to General Supply “a light brown Guernsey cow about 3 yrs old & increase 1 Poland China sow & 14 pigs 4 Poland China shoats about six weeks old” as well as a lien on all the crops grown on the land, in the event of default.

Deed book 220, page 160.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Willie Artis, 43; wife Francis, 43; children Alexander, 21, Harvie, 20, Willie Jr., 16, Nora E., 14, Marion, 11, Rosel, 9, Jessie, 8, Elcy, 5, and Johnie, 18; laborer Miles Warren, 40; and boarder Albert Thompson, 19.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Will Artis, 53; wife Francis, 52; children Roselle, 19, Jesse, 18, and Elsie M., 15, and Johnie, 18; lodger Myrs Warren, 50; and sister Beatrice Sauls, 19.

On 1 December 1934, Rozell Artis, 23, of Wilson County, son of Will and Frances Artis, married Rencie Bynum, 16, of Wilson County, daughter of William and Rosa Bynum, in Nashville, Nash County, North Carolina. Will Artis, William Bynum, and Frank Williams were witnesses.

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On 22 May 1936, P.L. Woodard & Co. agreed to advance Captain Rountree and Freeman Rountree $27.50 in money, merchandise and supplies for the cultivation of crops on an eight and one-fifth acre lot in Wilson township, “the identical land deeded to Freeman Rountree by Margaret Dew and having been a part of the Jeff Dew estate.” The Rountrees gave P.L. Woodard & Co. a lien on their crop as well as on the land they had purchased from Jeff Dew’s daughter. The Rountrees paid off the loan in October of the same year.

Deed Book 220, page 180.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Willie Rowntree, 29; wife Martha, 27; and children Freeman, 9, Willie, 8, Rapherd, 6, Captan, 3, Dasie, 2, and Andrew, 1.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Tarboro Road, Wiley Rountree, 42; wife Matilda, 34; daughter Matha, 20, and her son Roscoe, 2; children Freeman, 19, Wiley Jr., 18, Raford, 16, Captain, 14, Daisey, 13, Andrew, 10, Husband, 9, Nellie, 8, and Frank, 6; and grandson Bosy, 3 months.

On 31 August 1916, Freeman Rountree, 25, of Wilson, son of Wiley Rountree and Martha (last name not listed, married Vinie Wilson, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Tom Wilson and Anna Wilson. Rev. John A. Barnes, A.M.E.Z. minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Jesse C. Lassiter, William Knight and Johnnie A. Barnes Jr.

In 1917, Freeman Rountree registered for the World War I draft. Per his card, he was born 5 October 1890; was born in South Carolina; was a self-employed farmer; and lived in Black Creek township. He was literate.

In 1917, Captain Rountree registered for the World War I draft. Per his card, he was born 25 December 1895; was born in Wilson County; farmed for his father; and lived at R.F.D. #5, Wilson. He signed his name with an X.

On 24 May 1918, Captain Rountree, 22, of Wilson, son of Wiley and Sarah Rountree, married Lizzie Horne, 19, of Wilson, daughter of Simon and Nancy Horne, at the residence of Simon Horne. Fred Weaver, Jonah Dew, and Andrew Rountree were witnesses.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Freeman Rountree, 29, and wife Viana, 20.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Freeman Rountree, 37; wife Vinie, 30; and adopted son Eddie Bynum, 14.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Rocky Mount to Wilson Road, farmer Captain Rountree, 35; wife Lizzie, 28; and children Viola, 10, Lossie, 9, Martha, 5, Surisa, 3, Will Jr., 2, and Annie M., newborn.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Freeman Roundtree, 49, born in Florida; wife Viney, 38; and cousin Paul, 18, farm helper.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Calvin [sic] Rountree, 40; wife Lizzie, 40; and children Viola, 19, Mathie, 15, Swanee Belle, 13, Willie Jr., 12, Annie Mae, 9, Rosa Lee, 7, Calvin Jr., 6, Mavis, 4, and Doris, 1.

Deed books, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Her love drew her back.

I have written here and here of the children of Jonathan and Margaret Dew Artis, who migrated from Wilson County to Putnam County, Indiana, in the 1870s. The Artis family seems to have followed family there, as a sad newspaper story reveals Margaret’s cousin Esther Due in Indiana, too.

Esther Due was born about 1879 in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Edwin Due [Dew] and Adaline Barefoot (or Deans) Due. The family migrated to Indiana when Esther was an infant. On 2 July 1898, Esther gave birth in Putnam County to a son Raymond Due, whose father was white.

The boy was placed with an African-American foster family, who sought to adopt him.

Greencastle Banner, 28 April 1899.

They appear in the 1900 census of Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana: Virginia-born gardener John T. Fox, 32; wife Luella, 31; and son Raymond F. Fox, 1.

Things did not go well though. In December 1899, newspapers ran articles with varying details, but telling one essential story — Esther Due had taken her son from the Foxes and gone to Indianapolis. They lodged briefly with her cousin Margaret Artis, but were not allowed to stay. Due then entered a rescue mission for unwed women, Door of Hope.

Indianapolis’ Door of Hope Mission. Undated photo courtesy of IUPUI University Library.

Seemingly dissatisfied with her situation at the mission, and unable otherwise to care for the boy, Due left him in a stranger’s front yard.

Indianapolis Sun, 22 December 1900.

Indianapolis Journal, 22 December 1900.

Greencastle Star Press, 29 December 1900.

I have found nothing further about Raymond Due, alias Fox. His mother died 10 November 1904 in Putnam County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born 26 April 1879 in North Carolina to Edward Due and Ida Barefoot; was single; worked as a domestic; and was buried in Brick Chapel cemetery.

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In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: domestic servant Lucy Sanders, 45; farm laborers Ollen Womble, 19, Edwin Due, 15, and Tony Rountree, 23; and farm laborer Seth Deems, 22, (his wife?) Eliza, 20, and Dinah, 2.

Edwin Dew, 23, and Adaline Deans, 19, were married 10 September 1876 at Virgil Deans’ in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Jefferson township, Putnam County, Indiana: Edward Dew, 25, works on farm; wife Adaline, 20; and children James A., 2, and Easter A., 1.

In the 1900 census of Edwin Due, 48; wife Addie, 39; and children Arthur, 22, Easter, 21, Edwin Jr., 17, Ida A., 16, Lizza, 14, Mary E., 12, Edith, 11, John, 9, Joseph, 7, Eva, 4, and Marshal, 1. Addie reported 12 of 14 children living. The first two listed here were born in North Carolina; the remaining in Indiana.

Adeline Due died 2 November 1902 in Monroe township, Putnam County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born 1 July 1860 in North Carolina to Nicodemus Taylor and Anna Barefoot and was married to Ed Due. She was buried in Brick Chapel cemetery.

In the 1910 census of : Edwin Due, 56, farmer; wife Tena, 55; children Johnnie, 18, Joseph, 16, Eva, 13, Marshal, 12, and Lorenzo, 10; and mother-in-law Olive Howell, 82.

Per his headstone in Brick Chapel cemetery, Edwin Due died in 1921.

 

Rest in peace, Grace Whitehead Artis.

I grew up in a forest of teachers — my parents, their friends, my aunts and uncles, our neighbors. Every Black teacher I had during my elementary years was a woman I already knew away from school, which was both comforting and a little uncomfortable. They cared, and they didn’t need to wait for parent-teacher conferences to voice their concerns.

Grace Whitehead Artis was my sixth-grade math teacher. She had a slightly gruff voice and a reputation for sternness, but her eyes twinkled beneath her crown of swept-back curls. I saw her wheeling her Cadillac through the neighborhood regularly and knew she and her husband S.P. Artis thought the world of my parents. Fairly soon after school began, she called my mother directly. “Get Lisa’s eyes checked,” she counseled. “She’s solving problems correctly, but they’re not the equations I’m writing on the blackboard.” Weeks later, I was peering at the world in trendy aviator frames, marveling at details like pine needles high up in the trees.

Mrs. Artis passed away early this month at age 104. She had moved to Detroit a few years ago to be near a niece, so it had been a while since my father had stopped by to deliver the ice-cold cans of Pepsi-Cola she loved. My mother had been embraced by Mrs. Artis when she arrived in Wilson as a young bride, and she helped celebrate Mrs. Artis’ last birthday via Zoom.

I’ve blogged about Mrs. Artis and her family here and here and here and here and here and here. May she rest in peace, legacy assured.

 

Negroes punish white man.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1920.

The Baltimore Afro-American‘s rather more detailed version of this incident is here. The “negro woman” was Melissa Wilkins. I have not been able to identify her father, who allegedly owned a blind tiger.

  • James Dickerson
  • Henry Elons
  • Bill Artis
  • Edgar Artis

Snaps, no. 82: Artis cousins.

Beulah Artis Exum Best (1909-1972), Helen Carter Greenfield (1916-1994), Margaret Artis Thompson (1910-1981), circa late 1930s.

Beulah and Margaret Artis were daughters of William M. and Etta Diggs Artis, and Helen was the granddaughter of their father’s sister Louvicey Artis Aldridge. Though William M. Artis and family lived primarily just south of Eureka in Wayne County, he owned property a few miles away in Stantonsburg, Wilson County.

Beulah Artis and her first husband, Leslie “Jake” Exum, lived in Wilson from the time they were married in December 1929 until he was killed in July 1934.

Helen Carter Greenfield‘s paternal great-uncle, Jesse A. Jacobs, lived in Wilson, and she and her family lived briefly on Green and Vance Streets in the early 1920s.

Copy of original photo in the collection of the late Helen C. Greenfield.

Artis’ miracle.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 May 1939.

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In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg and Wilson Road, tenant farmer Willie Artis, 43; wife Francis, 43; children Alexander, 21, Harvie, 20, Willie Jr., 16, Nora E., 14, Marion, 11, Rosel, 9, Jessie, 8, Elcy, 5, and Johnie, 18; laborer Miles Warren, 40; and boarder Albert Thompson, 19.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg and Wilson Road, farmer Willie Artis, 53; wife Francis, 42; children Roselle, 19, Jesse, 18, and Elsie M., 15; lodger Myrs Warren, 50; and sister Beatrice Sauls, 19.

On 1 December 1934, Rozell Artis, 23, of Wilson County, son of Will and Frances Artis, married Rencie Bynum, 16, of Wilson County, daughter of William and Rosa Bynum, in Nashville, Nash County, North Carolina. Will Artis, William Bynum, and Frank Williams were witnesses.

Helen Jean Artis died 10 June 1939 in Wilson township [12 days after her father survived his lightning strike.] Per her death certificate, she was born 24 February 1939 in Wilson County to Rosell Artis and Rencie Bynum.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Old Wilson Road, farmer Roselle Artis, 27; wife Rencie, 20; son Milton, 4; mother Frances, 60, widow; nephews Marion Jr., 10, and Thomas S., 9;  lodgers Jimmie D. Barnes, 21, and Miles Warren, 60.

Roselle Artis registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 5 April 1911 in Wilson County; lived at Route 3, Wilson; his nearest contact was his wife Rencie Bynum Artis; and he worked for W.J. Davis, Wilson.

Jimmie Dee Barnes registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 6 January 1918 in Wilson County; lived at Route 3, Wilson; and his nearest contact was his employer Roselle Artis, Route 3, Wilson.

Black businesses, 1913, no. 6: the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street.

Cross-referencing the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory and the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson reveals the specific locations of Black-owned businesses just after the turn of the century. Here’s a closer look at the 200 block of South Goldsboro Street, which was dominated by wholesale groceries and small restaurants.

In 1913, before he founded a funeral home, Columbus E. Artis operated a small eatery in a narrow brick building on South Goldsboro Street. Alexander D. Dawson, having closed his fish and oyster stall in the city market, ran a rival eating house across the street.