free people of color

John Artis Jr. buys two parcels.

The Artises were a large extended free family of color with roots in late 17th-century Tidewater Virginia. They began to migrate individually into North Carolina in the mid-1700s, and John Artis Jr. is the earliest Artis recorded in Edgecombe County. In 1765, Artis bought a parcel of land on the south side of Toisnot Swamp in what is now Wilson County. He sold it in 1782. His deed reflects the earliest known land purchase by an African-American in the county.

In his groundbreaking (and often conjectural) study of colonial free people of color, Paul Heinegg posited John Artis Jr. as the ancestor of several Artises who appear in Edgecombe County records in the late 1700s and very early 1800s, including Absalom Artis, who died in Wayne County circa 1864. However, the links, if any, between John Artis Jr. and the Artises featured elsewhere in Black Wide-Awake is not known.

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North Carolina } To all persons to whom these presents shall come I Jesse Blackwell send Greeting This Indenture made the 10th day of June Anno Dom. one thousand seven hundred & sixty five Between Jesse Blackwell of the County of Edgcombe Planter of the one part & Jno. Artiss Jr. of the County afs’d of the other part Witnesseth that for the consideration of this sum of ten pounds [illegible] money to him in hand paid by the sd. Jno. Artiss before the sealing & Delivery of this Presents the Receipt thereof Is hereby Acknowledged & the sd. Jno. Artiss thereof & every part thereof acquitted & Discharged hath given granted Bargained Sold Aliened Enfeeofed Conveyed & Confirmed & by these Presents do fully & absolutely give Grant bargain sell convey and Confirm assigned [illegible] over all that tract of parcel of Land unto the sd. Jno. Artiss his heirs & assigns Forever Lying & being in the County of Edgcombe & Province aforesd. Beginning at a maple in the mill Branch then North to Arthur Dews line to a pine & by the sd. Dews line and Hickmans Line So. a pine then along sd. Hickmans line to the mill Branch to a live Oak it B part of a Grant granted to the sd. Jesse Blackwell bearing date the third day of Nov’r Anno Dom 1761 To have & to hold the sd. Land & Premises with all Liberties Privileges prophets Benefits & Comodities thereto belonging to gether with the woods Meadows waters & timbers & the Impertinances belonging to the same unto him the sd. Jno. Artiss his hairs for ever he & they Subject to pay the Quitrents Due to his Lordship & the sd. Jno. Artiss his heirs & Assigns forever Shall & may from time to time & at all times for ever here after by Virtue of these presents Lawfully peaceably & quietly have Hold Occupy & Injoy the sd. Land & Premises & all the Appertainances pertaining there to against the Lawfull Claim & Demand of him the sd. Jesse Blackwell against all & every other person or Persons, whom so ever shall & will For ever warrant & Defend & Secure unto him the sd. Jno. Artiss his heirs & assigns forever firmly by these presents in Witness whereof the sd. Jesse Blackwell hath set his hand & assigned his seal the day and the Year first above written Jesse X Blackwell

Signed seald & Delived in presence of Jesse Pitman Nath’l Hickman Sen’r

October Court 1765 The above deed of sale was duly proved in Open Court & on mo[illegible] Ordered to be Regis’d Test Jas. H[illegible]

Deed Book C, page 369, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.

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This Indenture made this twenty first day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty two John Artis Jun’r of the State of North Carolina & County of Edgecombe planter of the one part & Thomas Vivrett and Thomas Vivrett of the said Place of the other part Witnesseth that I the said John Artis for & in consideration of the sum of Twenty Five pounds Specie to me in hand paid but the said Thomas Vivrett before the Sealing & delivery of these presents the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge & myself to be fully satisfied and contented therewith, Hath granted bargained & Sold aliened enfeoffed conveyed and confirmed & by these presents do grant bargain sell alien enfeofe convey & confirm unto him the said Thomas Vivrett his Heirs and Assigns forever one certain Tractor parcel of Land situate lying and being in the County aforesaid and South side of Tosneot Swamp Viz. Beginning at a maple in the Mill Branch and runs thence down to Arthur Dews line to a Pine, then by the said Dews & Nathaniel Hickman jun’r to a Pine then along the said Hickmans line to a live Oak in the Mill branch, being part of a Tract of Land granted to Jesse Blackwell bearing date the 3rd November 1761, To Have and to Hold the said Land and Premises, together with all Houses, Orchards, buildings ways water & water courses tenements, priviledges and all other profits and priviledges whatsoever belonging to the said Land or in any wise Appertaining to him the said Thomas Vivrett his Heirs and Assigns & to their only proper use benefit & behoof of him the said Thomas Vivrett his Heirs & Assigns forever & I the said John Artis for myself my Heirs Exec’s Admr’s and Assigns doth Covenant & agree to and with the said Thomas Viverett his Heirs Exrs Admires & Assigns that the said land and Premises with the appurtenances to the sd Thomas Vivrett his Heirs Executors Admors and Assigns and I the sd John Artis for myself my Heirs Admrs Admrs & assigns shall and will warrant & forever defend the sd Land and Premises from all Persons whatsoever laying any claim or claims in any wise hereof to him the said Thomas Vivrett his Heirs & Assigns forever, the Taxes of the State only excepted. In witness whereof I the said John Artis have hereunto set my hand and fixed my Seal the day and year above written   John Artis {seal}

Signed Sealed & delivered in the presence of Jas Cobb Stephen Cobb Natha’l Hickman Junr. Benj’a Cobb

Edgcombe County February Court 1783. The execution of the within deed of sale was duly proved in open Court by the Oath of Jas. Cobb a subscribing witness thereto. Ordered ti be registered Test Edward Hall Cl[erk]

Deed Book E, page 256, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.

Hardy Lassiter buys 200 acres in 1829.

This Indenture made this twenty third day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine Between Moses Farmer of the County of Edgecombe and State of North Carolina of the one part and Hardy Lasiter of the County and state aforesaid of the second part. Witnesseth that I the said Moses Farmer for and in consideration of the sum of Two Hundred Dollars to me in hand paid the said Hardy Lasiter the receipt where of I do hereby acknowledge do bargain sell and Deliver unto said Hardy Lasiter a certain tract or parcel of Land lying and being in County and State afor said and bounded as follows. Beginning at a pine formally Robert Colemans Corner thence along his line south two hundred & fourteen poles to a hickory in said line Joseph Sims Corner thence along his line East one Hundred and twenty poles to that Corner a stake thence along said line to Isaac Farmers Corner thence south to the first station Containing two Hundred Acres more or less. To have and to hold the above Lands and premises free and Clear unto him the said Hardy Lasiter for ever and I the aforesd. Moses Farmer for myself my heirs Exers. Admrs. and assigns do warrant and defend the said Lands and premises free and Clear unto the said Hardy Lassiter his heirs Exers. Admrs. and assigns forever. In Witness where of I the said Moses Farmer have hereunto set my hand & seal the day and date above written  — Moses Farmer {seal}

signed sealed and acknowledged in presents of Jesse F. Wood, Samuel Farmer

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This was Hardy Lassiter’s first recorded land purchase in what is now Wilson County.

Deed book 19, pages 374-375, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds Office, Tarboro, North Carolina.

Hardy Lassiter buys 81 acres in 1846.

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

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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.

Adam T. Artis, part 1.

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.

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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.

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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.

The obituary of Delphia Taylor Lucas.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1923.

Delphia Taylor Lucas was born free in Nash County to Dempsey Taylor and Eliza Pace Taylor.  (“One of the old time darkies” was a bizarre (and utterly offensive) term of approval.)

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In the 1850 census of Nash County: farmer Dempsey Taylor, 35; wife Eliza, 33; and children Margaret A., 4, Sarah, 2, and Delphi, 7 months; and Jane, 12.

In the 1860 census of Winsteads township, Nash County: farmer Dempsey Taylor, 46; wife Liza, 44; and children Margaret A.W., 14, Delphia A., 10, Riley A.R., 8, and Joel R., 6.

In the 1870 census of Chesterfield township, Nash County: farmer John Lucus, 24; wife Dalphia, 20; and son John F., 1.

In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County: John Locus, 30; wife Delpha, 30; and children Frank, 10, Dora, 8, Kenny, 5, Nancy, 4, and Samuel, 9 months.

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Johnnie Lucus, 43; wife Delpha, 51; children Kinion, 26, Nannie, 24, Edwin, 15, Sidney, 12, and Susan, 9; and grandsons Bunion, 5, and Martin L., 3.

On 20 January 1909, Sidney Lucas, 21, of Taylors, son of John and Delphia Lucas, married Mamie Rountree, 17, of Taylors, daughter of Alex and Watie Rountree, at Emma Rountree’s in Taylors. Missionary Baptist minister William Rodgers performed the ceremony in the presence of James Ross, Pollie Howard, and Emma Lucas.

In the 1910 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: on Howards Path, John Locust, 66; wife Delphia, 64; children Kinyan, 36, and Susie, 19; and grandchildren Bunyan, 15, Luther M., 13, and Roxie, 7 months.

On 15 May 1913, Loyd Simms, 21, of Taylors township, son of Lou Simms, married Susan Locus, 22, of Taylors, daughter of John and Delphia Locus, at the Register of Deeds office in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: John Locus, 77; wife Delphi, 65; son Kennie, 48; and grandchildren Roxie, 11, and Luther, 23.

Delphia Lucas died 24 February 1923 in Taylor township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1849 in Wilson County to Dempsey Taylor of Wilson County and Essie Pace of Nash County; was married to John Lucas; and was buried in a family cemetery. 

The roots of many Wilson County Artises, part 1: Solomon and Vicey Artis Williams.

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.]

The apprenticeship of Cassanda Locust, alias Cassanda Wiggins.

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

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.

The last will and testament of Zealous Howard Sr.

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.

State vs. Benjamin Ellis.

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.

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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.

Studio shots, no. 197: Sylvania Simmons Sutton.

Sylvania Simmons Sutton (1853-1916).

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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.