Struck by a falling tree.

William Artis was killed by a falling tree while working “on the roads” somewhere near the current intersection of Lamm Road and Raleigh Road/U.S. Highway 264 Alternate between Wilson and Sims. After an inquest held at Charles H. Darden‘s funeral parlor, a coroner’s jury pronounced Artis’ death accidental. I have not found his death certificate.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 February 1931.

The obituary of Cora Artis.

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Wilson Times, 20 November 1925.


In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Artis, 34; wife Patsey, 35; and children Adeline, 15, Dora, 12, Lornce, 7, Barney, 4, Jane, 2, and Corah, 2 months.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Artis, 55; wife Patsie, 58; and children Larnce, 27, Bonnie, 24, James, 22, Cora, 20, and Emma, 17.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Artis, 55; wife Patsie, 58; and children Larnce, 27, Bonnie, 24, James, 22, Cora, 20, and Emma, 17.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Artis, 69; wife A. Patsy, 64; and daughter Cora, 30.

Cora Artis died 17 November 1925. Her death certificate belied the newspaper’s claim of the heroic efforts of four physicians to save her life, noting her cause of death as “pneumonia stated to us no Doctor.”

The estate of William L. Farmer.

William L. Farmer’s hefty estate file contains multiple references to both enslaved people and free people of color.

From an inventory of assets, a list of enslaved people hired out in 1857 and 1858 — Samson, Blunt, Joshua, Jane and Clarkey.

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A 25 November 1856 inventory of the debts owed to William L. Farmer highlights the web of financial relationships that characterized the largely bankless antebellum South. For many, after land and slaves, their greatest assets consisted of I.O.U.’s.

Green Lassiter (and his sister Rachel Lassiter?) seems to have been one of the largest debtors.

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Terrell Parker‘s $11.32 debt to Farmer was declared “bad,” i.e. uncollectible.

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As were those of many others, including Gray Boseman …

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… another of Green Lassiter’s …

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… the $1.25 Silas Lassiter owed …

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… the $7.50 John R. Locus owed …

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…  the $3.25 Warren Artis owed …

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… debts by Timothy Howard, Lawrence Hagans, Zealous Howard, and James Howard …

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… and another $5.57 owed by Warren Artis.

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Benjamin Thorn hired out Joshua for a year. Jane went to Archibald Roes, and Sampson to Henry Armstrong. The estate paid Evins Baker five dollars to care for Clarky.

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“They are to have 3 soots of Cloths & three pair of shoes one of woolen one hat & one Blanket” Henry Crumpley hired out Daniel for the year, and W.G. Sharp hired Ben. Though both were described as “boys,” their hire prices suggest they were young men in their prime.

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On 6 April 1860, “negro Ben” required a visit to Dr. James G. Armstrong.

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This remarkable document, the only one of its kind I’ve seen, is a receipt for the late fall purchase of goods for Farmer’s slaves — seven blankets, seven pairs of shoes, five wool hats, 18 and-a-half yards of osnaburg, five yards of linsey, one pair of coarse boots, and 29 years of kersey. Osnaburg was a coarse, stiff fabric woven from flax or jute and commonly used to make garments for enslaved people. Linsey (or linsey-woolsey) was another coarse cotton and wool fabric. Kersey was a dense woolen fabric.

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In 27 August 1856, shortly before he died, Farmer gave Rachel Lassiter a note for $15.59, which could have represented money borrowed or more likely services rendered or goods sold.

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On 14 July 1857, Farmer’s administrator, Augustin Farmer, paid Green Lassiter $16.42 to settle a debt.

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William L. Farmer Estate File (1856), Wilson County, North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,

Studio shots, no. 146: Richard Artis.

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Richard Artis (1890-1932).

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Artice, 63; wife Bettie, 26; and children James F., 18, Richard, 9, Annah, 15, Lou E., 13, and Francis, 11.

Richard Artis, 23, of Wayne County, N.C., son of Tom and Polly A. Artis, married Sadie Woodard, 24, daughter of Fan Woodard, on 8 February 1914 in Stantonsburg.

In 1917, Richard (Bill) Artis registered for the World War I draft in Wayne County. Per his draft registration card, he was born 24 August 1890 in near Eureka, N.C.; was a self-employed farmer near Eureka, Wayne County; and had a wife and five children.

In the 1920 census of Nahunta township, Wilson County: farmer William Artis, 32; wife Sadie, 33; and children Ida, 15, Willie, 13, Eddie, 10, Walter, 8, Rosa Bell, 6, and Council Odell, 7 months.

In the 1930 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Bill Artis, 38; wife Sadie, 42; and children Ettie, 20; Walter, 18; Rosa, 16; Richard, 14; Odell, 10; and Agnes, 8.

Sadie Artis died 16 January 1931 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 42 years old; was born in Greene County, N.C. to Fannie Woodard; was married to Richard Artis; and farmed.

Richard Artis died 29 November 1932 in Stantonsburg township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1888 in Wayne County to Tom Artis and Polly Ann Daniel; was married to Sadie Artis; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Red Hill cemetery. Ida Horne was informant.

Photo courtesy of user Richard Grantham.

Establishing a property line.

On 12 February 1946, Leslie and Minnie Diggs Artis of Eureka, Wayne County, and the Trustees of Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church reached an agreement to resolve uncertainty over the location of back boundary for property that each party owned on Smith and Church Streets.

Both Artises had close ties to Wilson. Leslie Artis, son of Napoleon and Sallie Taylor Artis, was the nephew of Cain, C.E., June Scott, Walter and William Artis, Josephine Artis Sherrod, and Amanda Artis Cooper, as well as Jonah Williams, whose daughter Clarissa Williams owned the lot adjoining the disputed properties.

Leslie Artis (1892-1974).

Minnie Diggs Artis was a cousin of Edgar H. Diggs. And the Artises’ daughter Sallie Mae Artis Shackleford (1924-2013) was a long-time resident of Academy Street in East Wilson.

Minnie Diggs Artis (1897-1970).

The church’s trustees were Camillus L. Darden, John Mack Barnes, Separise P. Artis, Louis Thomas, James Henry Knight, Charles Knight, D.E. Simms, C.L. Hardy, A.J. McCoy, Linwood Moore, and David Henry Coley.

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Photos courtesy of Leroy Barnes; deed book 318, pages 183-185, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

Lane Street Project: the continued search for gravestones in Rountree and Odd Fellows cemeteries.

It was chilly Saturday morning, too, but not as bitingly cold as at my last visit. This time, I focused on the end of Odd Fellows cemetery closest to its boundary with Vick.

First depressing thing I notice — some jackass has been spinning donuts in Vick cemetery.

Once I clawed my way into Odd Fellows, though I was achingly aware that the depressions I was stumbling in were collapsed gravesites, I didn’t see much beyond broken stones scattered here and there across the forest floor.

Have I mentioned the vines? The vines are insane.

The low-lying back of the property, which has standing water, probably year-round.

After poking around in piles of broken bottles and rusted-out enamelware, I finally spotted a cluster of grave markers about thirty feet distant.

This is the only military headstone I’ve seen in Rountree or Odd Fellows, and may be the only military marker I’ve seen anywhere with “after-market” enhancement.

James F. Scott North Carolina PVT 365 INF 92 DIV March 28, 1939 Born March 6, 1887 Who is now with the Lord

In the 1910 census of Weldon township, Halifax County, North Carolina: farmer John Scott, 53; wife Mary J., 46; and children James F., 22, Annie B., 16, Salomie A., 15, John A., 13, Sylvester, 11, Eliga, 9, Mary E., 7, David, 5, Sarah J., 3, and Inthe, 1.

James Franklin Scott registered for the World War I draft in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 6 March 1887 in Wayne County, N.C.; lived on “Robinson” Street, Wilson; worked as a porter for Carroll Grocery Company; and was single.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wainwright Street, farm operator John Scott, 60; wife Mary, 51; and children James, 30, wholesale company helper; Elijah, 19, David, 14, Sarah, 11, and Ianthe, 13.

Bessie Wife of John McGowan Born 1888 Jan. 7 1925 Gone But Not Forgotten

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John McGowan, 40, brickmason; wife Bessie, 35; and Beatriss, 13.

Jesse Parker Dec. 1, 1890 Apr. 12, 1937 light from our household is gone

And then there was this stack, roped with vines:

The broken granite marker supports two intact concrete headstones, two marble footstones, and a few other chunks of rock.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Edd Hunter, 27, odd jobs laborer.

Ed Hunter, 27, married Minnie Woodard, 23, daughter of Ruffin and Lucy Woodard, on 28 December 1910 at Lucy Woodard’s in Wilson. Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of James H. Knight, J.L.Barnes Jr., and Joe Baker.

Ed Hunter, 30, married Lossie Ruffin, 27, on 18 March 1914. Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at William Coppedge’s in Wilson in the presence of William Coppedge, Timcy Jones, and Bessie McGowan.

In 1918, Ed Hunter registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 30 August 1883; lived on Carroll Street, Wilson; worked at Barnes-Harrell bottling plant; and his nearest relative was Lossie Hunter.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Washington Street, laborer Edd Hunter, 37; wife Lossie, 33; children Maeoma, 3, and Eliza, 1; and step-children Inise, 13, and Addie L. Ruffin, 11.

Rufus Son of James & Amelia Artis Born July 16, 1900 Died Apr. 24, 1916

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. [Though the first name is different, this appears to be the same boy as Rufus Artis.]

Tempsy Wife of Rufus Speight Died July 16, 1917 Aged 75 Yrs. Gone to a Better Home, Where Grief Cannot Come.

In the 1870 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Rufus Speight, 23; wife Tempsy, 25; and children Isabella, 8, Rufus, 3, and Celey, 1.

In the 1880 census of Upper Fishing Creek township, Edgecombe County: farm laborer Rufus Speight, 45; wife Tempsy, 38; and children Isabella, 19, Rufus, 12, Wesley, 8, and Celey A., 10, and Mattie, 4.

Back toward the cleared section of the cemetery near the road, two broken concrete markers lay atop the marble base of a missing monument that must have been quite large.

Only the footstone of Mark H. Cotton, engraved with the Odd Fellows’ triple links symbol, is standing.

Mark Cotton, 23, married Jane Freeman, 22, on 27 February 1878 in Wilson, Minister Joseph Green performed the ceremony in the presence of I.S. Westbrook, S.W. Westbrook, and Charles Smith.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: laborer Dempsey Parker, 60; wife Phareby, 50; and children Mark, 27, works in nursery, Sanders, 23, laborer; Mary, 22, cook; and Lemuel, 40, laborer.

Mark H. Cotton, 45, son of Dempsy and Fereby Cotton, married Mahalia Battle, 22, daughter of Turner and Effie Battle, on 26 June 1895 at the residence of Mahalia Battle in Wilson. Henry C. Rountree applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Thomas J. Day and J.T. Deans of Wilson and J.T. Tomlinson of Black Creek.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: graded school janitor Mark Cotton, 45; wife Mahaley, 27; daughter Mary E., 2, and adopted daughter Rosa L., 11.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Gold Street, school janitor Mark Cotton, 52.

Mark Cotton 67, son of Dempsey and Farebee Cotton, married Minnie Brooks, 38, daughter of Tobe Farmer, on 11 December 1922 in Wilson. A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Edward Smith, Sallie Smith, and Rosa Arrington.

Mark Henry Cotton died 19 November 1934 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 95 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to Dempsey Cotton and Fariby Mercer; was married to Minnie Cotton; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 November 1934.

I stepped from the wood line into the cleared section of Odd Fellows cemetery. At its line with Rountree cemetery, remnants of a stone border nestle in moss, then the ground dips into a vine-choked ditch. Below, the city has recently clear-cut the western side of the street, a section of which was once part of Rountree cemetery. A short stretch of stone or concrete border remains.

Naturalized daffodils hint at the strip’s past as a graveyard.

This ambiguous concrete rectangle is the sole evidence I saw of a grave marker.

Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.


The obituary of Rose Artis Stewart, 106.

Ms. Rose Artis Stewart, age 106, of 2578 W. 5th Street, Greenville, formerly of Wilson was called from labor to reward on Saturday, January 18, 2020.  A celebration of her life and legacy will be held Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 12 noon in the Robert King, Sr. Memorial Chapel of Carrons Funeral Home, 726 South Tarboro Street, Wilson.  Evangelist Myra Artis will deliver the eulogy, and Minister Gail Batts Shiver will preside.  Interment will follow in Rest Haven Cemetery.

To celebrate her life and cherish precious memories, Mother Rose leaves her son, Lester Artis; her daughter, Ruth Artis Smith; three grandchildren, James Artis (Cheryl), Kirk Artis (Angie) and Alice Lavinia Dozier (Ronald); eight great grandchildren, Keith, Quiana (Amaree), Jason (Latonya), Jerrod (Laura), Kaleisha, D’netra, Michael, Crystal (Jamal) and Maysha (Vadym); thirteen great great grandchildren, Mckeever, McKayla, McKenzie, Mya, Jordan, Reagan, Ava, Alivia, Jason II,  Solanam, Nailah, Amir and Emma; a god daughter, Anetra; two dear close friends, Virginia Bolling and Mother Rumella Patterson; her special nieces, Marie and Geneva; her spiritual father, Bishop Ed W. Thomas; a host of nieces, nephews, Redeemer Church Family, other church families and a host of other relatives and friends.

Obituary courtesy of Carrons Funeral Home.

Green Street lot for sale at auction.

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Wilson Daily Times, 4 January 1922.

  • Jonah Reid and wife — Wayne County native Jonah Reid was a son of Jonah Williams below. Jonah married his first cousin Magnolia Artis, daughter of Thomas and Louisa Artis Artis, on 30 August 1892 in Wayne County, North Carolina.
  • J.D. Reid — principal and banker.
  • Jonah Williams — Jonah Williams established several Primitive Baptist churches in Wayne, Wilson and Edgecombe Counties.
  • B.R. Winstead — Educator Braswell R. Winstead was a close associate of Samuel H. Vick, serving for a while as assistant postmaster. He lived at 415 East Green at the time of his death in 1926.

Arch Artis, a free man of color.


In the 30 August 1952 edition of his Daily Times column “Looking Backward,” Hugh B. Johnston transcribed a will executed in 1849 by Arch Artice, a free man of color. The will is not included in or databases, and I have found no evidence that it ever entered probate. Artis (the more common spelling) is not to be confused with Archibald Artis Sr. (or Jr.) of Johnston County, who was his rough contemporary, and here’s what we know of him:

In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County, Arch Artis is listed as a 55 year-old “mulatto free” and described as blind. Elisha Vick, a 48 year-old white laborer, and Elizabeth Woodard, 46, who witnessed his will, were Artis’ close neighbors.

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1850 federal census of Edgecombe County, N.C.

In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County, Arch Artis, 65, blind, is listed in the household of white farmer Calvin Woodard, a 32 year-old white farmer who reported owning $17,225 in personal property (which would have been mostly in the form of enslaved people. Calvin Woodard was the son of Elizabeth Simms Woodard, above, and William Woodard Sr., who died about 1850.)

On 31 October 1869, Puss Artice, daughter of Arch and Rosa Artice, married George Bynum, son of Thos. Drake and Eliza Bynum, at Arch Artice’s. [“Puss” was the nickname of Tamar Artis Bynum.]

On 6 January 1870, Jessie Woodard, son of Arch and Rosa Artice, married Pennie Bess, daughter of Harry Ellis and Selvey Bess, in Wilson County.

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Archabald Artis, 70; wife Rosa, 34; Tamer Bynum, 23, and [her husband] George, 25. Though they did not register their cohabitation, this record strongly suggests that Arch Artis had a relationship spanning several decades with a woman named Rosa, who was enslaved. She, with her and Arch’s children, had belonged to members of  William Woodard Sr.’s family. (Details to come in a later post.)

Arch Artis seems to have died between 1870 and 1880.

John Artist, son of Arch and Rosa Artis, married Hannah Ellis, daughter of Jack and Margaret Ellis, on 29 February 1872 in Wilson County. (This was his second marriage. On 9 April 1867, John Artice married Pricilla Woodard in Wilson County.)

Ned Artis died 21 October 1917 in Falkland township, Pitt County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 1831 in Wilson County to Arch Artis and Rose Artis; was single; was buried in Wilson County; undertaker was Jesse Artis; and informant was Joe Artis, Falkland, N.C.

Gray Artis, 72, of Chicod township, Pitt County, son of Arch and Rosa Artis, married Caroline Howard, 66, of Chicod township, daughter of Emily Nobles, on 22 April 1918 in Chicod township, Pitt County.

Tamar Bynum died 25 February 1923 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 77 years old; was born in Wilson County to Arch and Rosa Artis; was the widow of George Bynum; and had farmed. Rosa Bynum was informant.