funeral home

Newest and finest.

201809172233310840.jpg

Wilson Daily Times, 26 March 1948.

Seventy years later, Edwards Funeral Home — still operated by the Edwards family — remains a cornerstone of East Wilson business. Its website sets out the company’s history:

“On a calm, sunny day in March 1948, two brothers, Oliver H. and James Weldon Edwards, opened the doors of Edwards Funeral Home, Inc. at 805 E. Nash Street in Wilson, North Carolina. The story does not begin there. Rather it begins with the conception and dream that two brothers had of being entrepreneurs and opening their own business, a funeral home. Oliver, the older of the two, lived in Raleigh and worked at a funeral home as a licensed funeral director. He encouraged James, who had just completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Army in World War II, to attend school in funeral service and mortuary science rather than pursue another career and major. James was in New York City by this time, and he began and completed American Academy of Mortuary Science in New York City (now American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service) as a licensed funeral director and mortician. The dream moves toward reality. Having met two of the requirements (experience and knowledge) for starting an enterprise of this type, both men had to decide where to locate the business. The decision was a fairly easy one – to go home. “Home” was the tri-county area of Wilson, Nash, and Edgecombe Counties where the Edwards family had deep roots, dating back several generations to at least the 18th Century and where the brothers, as well as the extended family, grew up, went to school, and attended church. Their father, the Reverend B.H. Edwards, was a highly respected Baptist minister who pastured Sandy Fork Missionary Baptist, Red Oak Grove Missionary Baptist, Rising Sun Missionary Baptist, and Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Churches over a span of 42 years. In their youth, Reverend Edwards carried his boys (and all his children) throughout the various church communities and neighborhoods in these counties. Thus, Oliver and James knew the people, and the people knew them. The decision was made – Wilson. The brothers, encouraged by their parents and wives, bought a two story white frame house in East Wilson. Located on the main thoroughfare, this “home” was a classic representative of the Colonial Revival type of architecture. It still has the original interior paneling, crown molding, woodworking, winding stairway and a marble hearth fireplace. The site was chosen as much for its location and the charm of this house far for the warmth and friendliness of the neighbors and the neighborhood (some of whom reside there today). The funeral home (with interior and exterior renovations and expansions) remains in the same location today due mostly out of a desire to remain in the area where the family still lives and because of the history and symbolism of the structure. Oliver and James worked hard and opened the doors to Edwards Funeral Home and established it as a thriving business. Both brothers ran the business until Oliver’s death in July 1963. James assumed leadership, ownership and management of the business until May 1982 when he died. James’ widow, the former Josephine Farmer from Nash County, assumed leadership, after her husband’s death. She wanted to keep the dream and legacy alive for their children, Angela and Carla. Having worked as a classroom teacher in the public schools of Nash and Wilson Counties for 36 years, Josephine joined the ranks of the funeral home staff upon her retirement in 1987. Under her watchful nurturance, the funeral home continued to operate and prosper in a profession that has been traditionally dominated by men. Despite “being a woman in a man’s world,” Josephine expanded the funeral home to include, among other changes, a chapel with an organ. The chapel has a seating capacity of 200 people. Her commitment to the business, the people, the community and to serving Wilson and surrounding counties is evidenced by her ever presence at the funeral home and at funerals. Josephine’s community orientation and dedication to Wilson County is also evidenced by her service as a county commissioner, per participation in the various local, civic, and service organizations/clubs and her service through appointment on state committees by Governor Hunt. The future of Edwards Funeral Home, Inc. is certain. It is moving into the second millennium under the family oriented leadership of Mrs. Edwards with the support of her children: Angela R. Edwards Jones, Carla D. Edwards Williams, Tyrone P. Jones, III, and Darryl A. Williams. Hopefully the third generations will keep the legacy alive with the grandchildren, Darian and Carlin Williams. The legacy lives. Mrs. Edwards remembers and is appreciative for the kind support of her patrons throughout the years. She hopes to continue serving you in the difficult times during and after the loss of a loved one. She gives the best in dignified, personalized, professional care and service at the time of death and afterwards. Edwards Funeral Home, Inc. hopes to continue this tradition of meeting people’s needs with friendliness, kindness, understanding, warmth, innovation, and confidentiality. Over these sixty years, many employees have helped to insure quality service and care to patrons. Mrs. Edwards is thankful to all persons who have assisted the family since 1948. The fine tradition of service with dignity continues to be the aim of the Edwards Funeral Home staff. ‘Let Gentle Hands and Kind Hearts Care For You When Loved Ones Depart.'”

  • Rev. B.H. Edwards — Buchanan Hilliard Edwards (1891-1967)
  • O.H. Edwards — Oliver Hazel Edwards (1907-1963)
  • James W.  Edwards — James Weldon Edwards (1921-1982)
  • Josephine Farmer Edwards (1922-2013)

 

The Home of Personal Service.

Columbus Estell “C.E.” Artis was born in 1886 near Eureka, Wayne County, North Carolina, to Adam T. Artis and his fourth wife, Amanda Aldridge Artis. Artis tried his hand at a number of businesses, including grocery stores and “eating houses,” before establishing what was arguably the #2 black funeral home (after Darden & Sons) in Wilson at mid-century.

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County, North Carolina: Adam Artice, a widowed farmer, appears with children Louetta, Robert, Columbus, Josephfene, June S., Lillie B., Henry B., Annie, Walter and William Artis.

In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Columbus Artis, grocery storekeeper, 30, with brothers June Scott, 24, and Henry J. Artis, 16, box factory laborers, and two boarders, John Newson, 30, and Eliga Diggs, 16.

As filed with the Wilson County Register of Deeds, on 7 February 1912, W.S. Harriss filed a deed for the sale of property to Columbus E. Artis, for $225, i.e. one lot in Wilson township about 1/2 mile from the Town of Wilson, beginning at Julius Freeman‘s corner east to Plank Road and measuring 50 feet by 100 feet and another lot on Plank Road measuring the same.

As filed with the Wilson County Register of Deeds, on 27 September 1913, Wilson Insurance & Realty Company filed a deed for sale of property to Columbus E. Artis, for $350, at the corner of Vick and Nash Streets, known as Lot no. 8 in block A of the plat of the Rountree Tract.

The 1912-13 Wilson city directory listed “Artis Columbus E eating house 214 Goldsboro h 304 Jones.”

On 23 January 1914, E.T. Moore and wife Pearl filed a deed for sale of property to C.E. Artis, for $300, in the eastern suburbs of Wilson, adjoining the lands of C.E. Artis and W.P. Singletary, beginning on East Nash Street at the corner of Lot No. 6, 50 feet by 112 feet, designated Lot No. 7 of the division of the Rountree lands.

The following year the 1915 directory of the town of Wilson described Artis as an undertaker, with a home at 308 Pender Street and business at 571 East Nash. This was the long-term address of his funeral home, but it is not clear that he owned a business at that point. Artis spent several years in Washington D.C. during and after World War I, and on 4 July 1918, he married Diana A. Adams at 403 4th Street, N.W., in the city. Four months later, on 12 September 1918, he registered for the draft there. His card: Columbus Estell Artis.  Born 28 Aug 1885.  Resides 623 – 8th Street, N.E., Washington DC.  Letter carrier, Federal Government.  U.S. City Post Office, N. C[illegible] Mass. Ave.  Nearest relative, Ada L. Artis.  Medium height and build.  Blue eyes, black hair.

C.E. Artis seems to have been missed in the 1920 census, but death certificates and a 1922 newspaper article make references to Batts Brothers and Artis as local undertakers.

Further, he passed the state embalmer’s licensing exam in the spring of 1921:

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-11-52-43-pm

Concord Daily Tribune, 24 May 1921.

However, in the 1922-23 Wilson city directory, there is: Artis Columbus E propr[ietor] The Delicatessen h 308 Pender. The 1925 Wilson city directory carries this entry: ARTIS & FLANAGAN (C.E. Artis, W.E. Flanagan) funeral directors 563 E Nash phone 1183, and in the 1928 Wilson city directory, the multiple hats C.E. wore are clear: Artis Columbus E (c; Ada D), undtkr 571 E Nash and prop[rietor] Smith’s Filling Sta h 308 Pender.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County:  Columbus Artis, a merchant/undertaker, wife Ida, and niece Gladys Adams. Artis owned the house at 308 Pender Street, valued at $4000.

Over the next decade, at least twice Artis Funeral Home appeared in bizarre stories published in the Pittsburgh Courier:

pc-2-23-1935

Pittsburgh Courier, 23 February 1935.

pc-8-1-1936

Pittsburgh Courier, 1 August 1936.

(Interestingly, in that Jim Crow era, the Burnett family was white. In the 1930 census of Wilson , Wilson County: farmer Alex Burnett, 58, wife Lula, 51, son Festas, 20, and nephew Columbus Dawson, 16, all white.)

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: embalmer Columbus Artis, 55, and wife Ada D. Artis, 48.

car-times-9-19-1942

Carolina Times, 19 September 1942.

Artis also maintained a mutual burial association. Under state law, among other things, the purpose of mutual burial associations was to provide a funeral benefit for each member in merchandise and services, not cash.  Services were always to be provided by the official funeral director of the burial association of which the decedent was a member.

201610051946513283-png

Wilson Daily Times, 20 February 1951.

C.E.’s wife Ada D. Artis died 31 December 1950 at their home at 611 East Green Street. Her death certificate notes that she had been born 18 June 1891 in Brooks County, Georgia, to William and Elizabeth Troup Adams. She was buried in Rest Haven cemetery.

Columbus Estelle Artis died 18 March 1973 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 August 1886 to Adam T. Artis and Manda Aldridge; was a retired undertaker; and was married to Ruby Barber.  He was buried 22 March 1973, Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson, and the informant was Ruby B. Artis, 611 East Green Street, Wilson.

Here is C.E. Artis’ business described in 1979 in the National Register of Historic Places Inventory — Nomination Form for  “East Wilson Business Area,” Wilson Central Business and Tobacco Warehouse Historic District:

One of only two black funeral directors in Wilson, Columbus Estelle Artis (1886-1973) had this modest, one-story, three-storefront building [at 567-571 East Nash Street] erected in 1922. His funeral business occupied the 571 store until the mid 1950s when he retired and closed his business; the other two stores have always been used for rental purposes, except for a brief period from ca 1945 until ca 1951 when Artis expanded his funeral home into the 569 store. The stuccoed brick structure has narrow stores at 567 and 569 that contain a simple door and a large adjacent display window, both of which have transoms of clear glass. The store at 571 East Nash Street has a central door with flanking display windows, also with transoms. Unfortunately, all of the windows and three of the window transoms have been boarded up. The blind northwest elevation originally abutted the drug store occupied by Darcey C. Yancy during the 1940s and 1950s; this building was razed in the mid 1960s. The rear elevation of the Artis building has a one central door per store. The southeast elevation wall is adjacent to the Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church, which has maintained offices in the Artis building since 1980.

Historic designation notwithstanding, Jackson Chapel tore down the buildings in the 1990s to make way for a church expansion and parking lot.

[Sidenote: In his capacity as an undertaker, C.E. Artis’ distinctive wide-nibbed, angular cursive, sharp slashes marking his r’s, appears on hundreds of Wilson and surrounding County death certificates. Though his funeral home is largely forgotten, Artis has — quite literally — left a lasting imprint in Wilson County.

An early example, when his style was still emerging:

29

A sample from 1945, when it was in full flower:

s123_1290-1098