Artis

504 North Vick Street.

The one hundred sixty-sixth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

The approximate location of 504 North Vick.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1922; 1 story; shotgun with hip roofed porch.” This house has been demolished.

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Detail from 1922 Wilson, N.C., Sanborn fire insurance map.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Harris Milton (c; Florence) lab 504 N Vick

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bright Janie (c) lndrs 504 N Vick

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 504 Vick Street, rented at $12/month, Janie Bright, 26, laundress, and sons James, 7, and Theo, 5; and sister Malisia Murphey, 35, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 504 Vick, widow Janey Bright, 40, and sons James, 18, CCC camp, and Joshua, 15, new worker.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bright Janie (c) cook 504 N Vick; also Bright Jas (c) h 504 N Vick; also Bright Joshua (c) tob wkr h 504 N Vick

In 1942, James Theo Bright registered for the World War II draft in Richmond, Virginia. Per his registration card, he was born 24 February 1922 in Wilson; lived at 407 East Clay Street, Richmond, Virginia; his contact was mother Jannie Bright, 504 North Vick, Wilson; and he worked for John Sarras, Richmond.

Joshua Royal Bright died 25 October 1943 at “Wilson Co. T.B. Hospital.” Per his death certificate, he was born 12 March 1925 in Wilson to Joshua Bright of Sampson County, N.C., and Jannie Murphy of Duplin County, N.C.; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Magnolia, N.C.

In October 1944, Leslie and Minnie Diggs Artis transferred title to the property at 504 North Vick to their daughter Sallie Mae Artis Bell (later Shackelford).

Wilson Daily Times, 28 October 1944.

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bright Janie (c; wid Joshua) tob wkr h 504 N Vick

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2022.

The last will and testament of James Artis.

James Artis‘ February 1930 will was devoted primarily to paying his debts to those who cared for or helped him during his final illness.

He directed that Dr. Matthew S. Gilliam be paid from insurance proceeds for “rendering me medical service, furnishing me medicine, paying my room rent, boarding me and furnishing me what ever I need as long as I live.”

Artis then directed that Julia Johnson‘s bill for “cooking, washing and looking after me” be paid, but only after his burial expenses were paid and lawyer Glenn S. McBrayer was paid $50 for handling his affairs.

If there was any money left, he directed that his unnamed daughter receive two dollars, and anything after that was to go to his unnamed wife.

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In the 1870 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County: Louisa Artis, 21; husband James, 25, works on street; and children Adeline, 5, and James, 1 month.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: James Artice, 39, laborer; wife Louzah, 26; and children Adeline, 13, James, 10, Isadora, 8, Effie, 2, and Minnie, 1.

On 10 October 1902, James Artis, 29, of Wilson County, son of James and Louisa Artis, married Armelia Speight, 30, of Wilson County, daughter of Rufus Speight and Tempsy Speight [she, alive and living in Peterburg, Virginia]. Richard Renfrow applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister F.M. Davis performed the ceremony at Jane Branch’s residence in Wilson in the presence of C.R. Cannon, H.S. Phillips, and Jane Branch.

Blount Artis died 24 April 1916 in Boon Hill township, Johnston County. Per his death certificate, he was about 16 years old; was born in Wilson County to Jim Artis and Amelia Artis; was single; and worked as a clerk in a drugstore. Charles Gay was informant.

Amelia Artis appears in the 1912, 1916, 1928, and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory. James Artis is listed in none. Amelia Artis worked variously as a laundress, cook, factory hand, and domestic, and lived at 121 Ash Street, 512 South Street, 117 North East Street, and 810 East Nash Street. [The couple seems to have separated early in the marriage, though they reunited long enough to appear in the same household in 1920.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 121 Ash Street, barber Jim Ardis, 30; wife Amelia, 28; and daughter Amelia, 14. [Jim and Amelia’s ages are off by twenty years.]

James Artis died 5 March 1930 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 50 years old; was born in Wilson to James Artis of Wilson County and Louise Faison of Duplin County, N.C; was married to Amelia Artis; and lived at 210 Manchester. He was buried in Rountree [Odd Fellows] cemetery. Amelia Artis, 112 East Street, was informant.

Amelia Speight Artis’ broken grave marker in Odd Fellows Cemetery.

I found the headstones of Amelia Artis, Blount Artis (also known as Rufus Artis), and Amelia’s mother Tempsy Speight in a pile with two dozen other headstones in Odd Fellows cemetery. The locations of their graves are unknown. I have not found a marker for James Artis, though he is surely buried there.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, March 2022.

Lane Street Project: an anniversary and a promise.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my discovery in Odd Fellows cemetery of my great-grandmother Rachel Barnes Taylor‘s grave marker. I am again in Wilson unexpectedly, but that meant I was able to stop by to lend encouragement to the Senior Force and to meet two young men who stopped by out of curiosity.

Castonoble Hooks filled them in on the Lane Street Project and encouraged them to bring their friends to the next scheduled clean-up on February 12. I reeled off a few names of families buried in Odd Fellows. When I said “Artis,” the young man in the Rugrats sweatshirt looked up quickly. “I’m an Artis,” he said. I asked if he wanted to see the Artis headstones we’ve discovered, and he turned to his friend: “Cut the car off.”

I led the two back to the pile in which I found Rachel Taylor’s headstone, as well as those of Amelia Artis and her son Rufus Artis, who died in 1916 at age 16. Both agreed that more in the community should know about Lane Street Project’s work and promised to return next month.

Fatal auto crashes.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 December 1929.

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  • Clarence Rogers — Rogers died 15 December 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 24 years old; was born in Wake County, N.C., to James C. Rogers and Martha Perry; was married to Mary Rogers; worked as a common laborer; and was buried in Wake County. Millard Rogers, Wilson, was informant.

“Coronary Embolus auto accident. Not at R.R. crossing occurred at place of death”

  • Eddie Walker — in the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Eddie Walker, 20; wife Pecolia, 24; and daughter Dallas, 9 months; also farm laborer Augustus Mitchel, 29; wife Cora, 24; and children Earnest L., 6, and Farman, 2.
  • Agelene Rountree — per her death certificate, Arger Lee Rountree of 120 Manchester Street died 15 December 1929 in Wilson. She was born 8 April 1921 in Wilson County to Wiley Rountree and Mary Barnes and was a student.

“Run down by Automobile while crossing the street, killed almost instantly. Was dead when Doctor reached there.”

  • James Artis 

The death of Jesse Artis, farmer.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 December 1922.

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[Note that several Jesse Artises lived in early 20th-century Wilson County, or in nearby northern Wayne County, including Jesse A. Artis, son of Jesse and Lucinda Hobbs Artis, who died in March 1922.]

Jessie Artis died 10 December 1922 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 50 years old; was a widower; was a farmer; and was born in Wilson County to Benjamin Artis [Sr.] and Feriby Woodard. Emma Moore was informant.

Runaway horse injures girl.

RUNAWAY ACCIDENT.

Sunday afternoon while James Daniel and Christine Forte, both young colored people were out driving late in the evening on the Lucama road about three miles from Wilson, the horse ran away and the young woman was badly hurt. She is suffering from concussion of the brain and is in a local hospital for treatment.

The father of the girl is named A.F. Forte of Franklinton and was called here to see his daughter, who was on a visit to her sister, Cornelius Sellars.

Forte says that the statement of the young man is to the effect that he stood up in the buggy to get a cigarette from his hop pocket when the horse sprang away, throwing Daniel who held the reins, to the ground. The horse ran further throwing the girl from the buggy and when Dr. Reid came along in his car, he found the man trying to hold up the girl, who was unable to stand. Dr. Reid brought both to the city.

Forte says the young man has expressed his deep sympathy for the girl and has offered to pay all of her expenses while in the hospital.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 August 1916

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  • Christine Fort and Cornelius Sellars [actually, Cornelia Fort Artis]

In the 1880 census of Franklinton township, Franklin County, N.C.: Anderson F. Fort, 29, born in Alabama; wife Mary J., 22, born in Mississippi; and children Cornelia, 6, Florence, 4, James, 2, and Eva, 1 month. Cornelia was born in Mississippi; the other children in North Carolina.

On 30 November 1898, James M. Artis, 32, of Wilson County, married Cornelia Fort, 24, of Franklinton, in Franklin County.

In the 1900 census of Franklinton township, Franklin County, N.C.: farmer Anderson Fort, 50; wife Mary J., 43; and children James, 21, restaurant worker; Evie, 20; Henry, 15; Battle, 13; Luther, 8; Lola, 5; and Christine, 2.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer James Artis, 26; wife Cornelia, 22; son Solomon, 8 months; and brother-in-law Charlie B. Fort, 12.

In the 1910 census of Franklinton township, Franklin County, N.C.: Cornelia Fort, 31, cook, and children Mary E., 8, and Albert, 2.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Artist Cornelia (c) cook 640 Viola

On 19 May 1923, Christine Fort married Nathaniel Kearney [also of Franklin County] in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Solomon Artis died 29 November 1927 in Washington, Beaufort County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was about 26 years old; was born in Wilson County to James M. Artis and Cornelius Fort; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Franklinton. Mary A. Daly was informant.

In the 1930 census of Bridgeport, Connecticut: Nathel Kearney, 50, bolt shop laborer; wife Christine, 28; and children Nathael, 5, and Louise, 3.

In the 1940 census of Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut: Nathaniel Kearney, 50, park maintenance project laborer; wife Christine, 38; and children Nathaniel, 15, and Louise, 13.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

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.