Greene County NC

Conjure doctor Henderson charged with selling poison.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1930.

We first encountered George Henderson (no relation) here, when I wondered what kind of doctor he was, as he was also described as a laborer.

In 1930, Henderson was arrested after allegedly selling poison to George Gay, a young white Greene County man who was charged with killing his wife, Mollie R. Windham Gay.

Gay went to trial less than a month later. Witnesses testified that Gay said he was tired of his wife, that he didn’t like her because she was slow, that he could have her killed for $6.01, that a Negro conjure doctor in Wilson would do it. A “young divorcee” testified Gay had told her he had been to see “his girl” and, when she criticized him for not staying home with his wife, Gay had said she wouldn’t be in his way much longer. His brother-in-law testified that Gay had purchased ingredients for an abortifacient (whiskey, camphor, quinine, and “capsules”) and given them to his wife. And on and on. For his part, Gay testified that his wife was in delicate health after having four pregnancies in six years, with two babies dying, and admitted that he had taken her to Wilson to see Henderson, whom he called a “praying doctor.” (Others described him as a liquor dealer and conjure doctor.) Gay asserted that his wife had asked him if arsenic might relieve her troubles and hinted at committing suicide. Gay said he had never been alone with her in her sick room, and Gay’s sister testified her sister-in-law had said the year before that she would kill herself before she would have another child. 

Henderson was released just before Gay’s trial. Gay was acquitted. 

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.


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),

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.


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,; photo courtesy of W. Waheed.

Cemeteries, no. 31: Saint Delight community cemetery.

Saint Delight Community Cemetery lies perhaps four miles inside Greene County from Wilson County’s Stantonsburg, but it is the final resting place of many Wilson County residents with roots in the Speights Bridge and Bullhead area of Greene.

Saint Delight contains more than one thousand graves within its well-kept borders. The stones marking these sites include dozens carved by Wilson marble cutter Clarence B. Best; at least two by an unknown artist whose style I have dubbed “angle-and-serif;” and two beauties of a style I have not seen before, characterized by white lettering, idiosyncratic numbers, and designs that could almost be described as dainty.

The astonishing headstone of Greene County native Adam Fields, who was both a Mason and an Elk.

Addie Edwards’ headstone. The illustration under its ornately shaped top is faded, but lovely.

The headstones of Dicie Williams, Thelma W. Joyner, and Cloudie Williams feature the angle-and-serif style of an unknown artist. I’ve seen only two other examples, both in William Chapel Cemetery.

And this fascinating work with inset glass:

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2023.

The roots of many Wilson County Artises, part 2: Artis Town.

A mash-up of few old posts from my personal genealogy blog,  Artis Town was not an incorporated place; rather, it was a neighborhood in which an extended family of free people of color had lived in the antebellum period, and in which one, Daniel Artis, had had bought 120 acres in 1853 upon which to settle his large family. Not all modern Artis descendants in Wilson County are linked to Artis Town, but many are, including me. Documents and DNA evidence strongly suggest that Daniel Artis was the brother of my great-great-great-great-grandmother Vicey Artis Williams.

I checked first at the Court House. I had a hazy memory of a dusty, yellowed pull-down map hanging on a wall in the Register of Deeds office outlining Greene County townships in, perhaps, the 1950s. Most county roads were then unpaved, and the map bore witness to many now-abandoned crossroads and hamlets, including “Artis Town.” But the map was gone, cast aside in a reshuffling of office space that relegated Greene County’s Register of Deeds to the basement. The two ladies on duty — blue-permed and powder-fresh — interrupted their gossip (“He’s good as gold, but when he’s mad, he’ll … he’ll CATCH”) to help, gamely pulling two or three crumbling maps from storage, but none was what I sought. “Try EMS!,” one finally suggested, “They know all the roads.”

In the dim front office of a low brick building on the northern edge of Snow Hill, I explained myself: “I’m looking for a place in the road called Artis Town. There used to be a sign. Like, a green one with white letters. And it was somewhere off Speights Bridge Road, or maybe Lane Road, but I hunted up and down this morning and couldn’t find it.” The good old boys were puzzled. “Artis Town … Artis Town …” “Well, naw, I never heard of … Mike! You know where Artis Town is?” “Artis Town. Artis Town ….” An older man walked through the door and was put to the test. “Well, I think … hmmm. Hey. Call Donald. If he don’t know, don’t nobody.” … “Hey, Pam, is Donald — wait, you’re from out that way. Do you know where Artis Town is? … Okay … okay … okay. Donald? Yeah, Artis Town. … Okay … mm-hmm … that’s what Pam said. Okay, thankee.” And sure enough, it was in a bend of Lane Road, off Speights Bridge, and there had been a sign, and it was gone.

But I asked my mother about it, too, because she taught in Greene County for two years when she first came to North Carolina, and I thought maybe she’d heard of it. Her school had been in Walstonburg and probably drew students from Speights Bridge, and … “Let me look at my gazetteer.” She has the old version from the 1980s, which, of course, I pitched once I bought the shiny new one. And I’m regretting that surely, for Artis Town is marked quite clearly on her map, and I could have saved myself some gas and tire rubber had I consulted it. (Though I would have missed out on the helpful hospitality of the fine people of Snow Hill.)

This is what happens when you throw things away. You get new maps, shiny and updated, with all the latest roads. And all the old place names gone. My mother has the 1993 edition of DeLorme Mapping’s North Carolina Atlas & Gazetteer, and there is Artis Town.

I dug my old laptop out of storage today. It took a bit of searching, but finally: photos I took in December 2004 when I was wandering the roads of Greene County with no real purpose other than a penchant for what William Least Heat-Moon calls “blue highways.” Almost ten years would pass before I’d connect Artis Town with my own Artises. The ancestors, though, are patient.

I haven’t seen it for myself, but I understand that a new Artis Town sign was placed a few years ago.

[Update, 6 February 2023: Here’s the new sign.]

Photograph of sign by Lisa Y. Henderson, 23 December 2004.

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.]

Reunions, no. 2.

I don’t often get to see my high school friends, and I can’t recall the last time we gathered in numbers. Last June, however, we came together to celebrate Thelma Braswell Forbes and lift up her daughter, Dawn Forbes Murphy. I have known all of these folks since at least elementary school (or in the case of Thomas Lofton Jr., since birth), but only recently discovered that two are actually my cousins.

Felicia Wilkes Curry (in the gray teeshirt) and I share common ancestry in the Artises of Artis Town, Greene County, N.C., and we’re just two of many of that early 19th century family to wind up in Wilson. (Now that I’m thinking about it, an Artis Town post is probably warranted here at Black Wide-Awake. Stay tuned.) 

Kimberly Bynum Deans (yellow shirt), via her great-grandfather James W. Cooper, is descended from my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis’ brother Richard Artis, which means she has Artis Town roots and is Felicia’s cousin, too. 

Among the most rewarding aspects of researching for Black Wide-Awake are discovering, uncovering, and recovering lost family connections, both my own and others’. I was particularly excited to piece together the Taylor family puzzle, which linked three of my childhood friends (and possibly me to one of them, Gregory Wilkins, via an Eatmon ancestor). Wilson County is small enough that it’s not surprising that many of us share distant common roots, but finding out just who those long-lost cousins are is always a delight. 

Studio shots, no. 207: Laura Joyner Bullock.

Laura Joyner Bullock (1897-1959).


In the 1910 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County, North Carolina: farm laborer Connor Bullock, 28; wife Pennie, 28; and children Laura, 9, Ceif, 8, Bert, 6, Gatsey, 4, and Sarah, 9 months.

On 27 December 1930, Jesse Joyner, 35, of Greene County, son of Charles and Linda Joyner, married Laura Bullock, 24, of Greene County, daughter of Connie and Pennie Bullock, in Snow Hill, Greene County.

In the 1930 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jessie Joyner, 35; wife Laura, 25; and children Clara, 14, Daisy B., 11, John V., 7, Girtrue, 5, Douglas, 3, and Minnie L., 2.

In the 1940 census of Chinquapin township, Jones County, North Carolina: farm operator Jesse Joyner, 49; wife Laura, 45; children Daisy B., 19, John, 16, Gertie, 15, Douglass, 13, Minnie L., 12, Pattie M., 9, Agnes, 7, and Shirley R., 1; niece Ethel Bullock, 14, and nephew Jesse Bullock, 3.

Jessie Joyner died 10 December 1941 in Chinquapin township, Jones County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1892 in Wayne County, N.C., to John Joyner and Laura Bulard; was married to Laury Joyner; and worked in farming.

Laura Joyner died 15 October 1959 in Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 September 1897 in Greene County, N.C., to Paul Speight and Pennie Bullock; was widowed; and lived near Stantonsburg, Wilson County.

Photo courtesy of user belinda1joyner.

The death of Robert Smith, prominent farmer.

Mercy Hospital provided critical healthcare not only to African-Americans in Wilson County, but those in surrounding counties as well.

Robert B. Smith, a prominent Black farmer near Walstonburg, Greene County, came to Wilson for treatment of his kidney disease. He died at Mercy on 21 September 1935.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 October 1935.

Rev. Rufus A. Horton performed Smith’s funeral service. Lula Smith of 630 Suggs Street was informant for the death certificate.

The obituary of Ernest Artis.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 November 1950.


In the 1930 census of Bull Head township, Greene County: Ernest Artis, 50; wife Saddie, 37; and children Robert, 18, Lawyer, 17, Spencer, 15, Ernest, 9, William, 8, Metta, 19, and Sudie, 6.

In the 1940 census of Bull Head township, Greene County: widow Sadie Artis, 45, and children or grandchildren Robert, 25, Lawyer, 24, Spence, 23, Earnest, 19, and William, 1. 

Ernest Artis died 21 November 1950 at the Veterans Administration hospital in Kecoughtan, Virginia; lived at 700 Vance Street, Wilson; was born 20 October 1920 in Wilson to Ernest Artis and Sadie Thompson; was single; and worked as a laborer.

On 4 December 1950, Sadie Artis, 700 East Vance Street, applied for a military grave marker for her son Earnest Artis. Per the application, Artis was born 20 October 1920 in Greene County; was inducted on 28 October 1942 and discharged honorably on 26 October 1943; ranked private; and served in Company B, 134th Engineer Training Battalion, Corps of Engineers. He was buried in Artis cemetery near Stantonsburg, and the marker was to be shipped to the Wilson freight station from Proctor, Vermont. 

For more about Greene County’s Artis Town, see here. (The sign has been replaced, by the way.) For more about the Artis Town cemetery, where Ernest Artis was buried, see here.

Barnes-Edwards family portrait.

The family of Lee John Edwards, circa mid-1940s.

This lovely colorized photograph depicts three generations of Lee John Edwards‘ family and dates to the mid-1940s. Edwards stands on the porch beside his second wife, Maggie Speight Edwards. who is holding baby John Henry Edwards. Lee Edwards’ daughter Elizabeth Edwards Barnes sits at right, her husband Frank W. Barnes stands at left, and her stepson Frank W. Barnes Jr. stands on the steps beside his young uncle, A.J. Edwards. On the bottom step are Marvin, Hattie Mae, and S.T. Edwards. Willie Edwards stands behind his sister Elizabeth.


On 21 January 1912, Lee John Edwards, 21, of Greene County, son of Elizabeth Edwards, married Almira Rowe, 18, of Greene County, daughter of Julus and Sarah Rowe, in Bullhead township, Greene County, North Carolina.

Lee John Edwards, 21, registered for the World War I draft in Greene County in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born April 1896 in Greene County; was a farmer; and was single.

On 8 February 1920, Lee J. Edwards, 24, of Saratoga, son of Isaac and Elizabeth Edwards, married Tessie Ward, 19, of Saratoga, daughter of Dug and Sallie Ward, in Wilson County.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Lee J. Edwards, 24; wife Tessie, 19; and son Lee, 16 months.

Lee McKinley Edwards died 12 November 1925 in Saratoga, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in June 1919 to Lee Edwards and Tessie Ward.

Lee John Edwards Jr. died 30 May 1928 in Saratoga, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 May 1928 to Lee Edwards and Tessie Ward.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lee Edwards, 34; wife Tessie, 28; and children Elizabeth, 8, Tinsie, 7, and Eddie, 9 months.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Lee Edwards, 46; wife Maggie, 25; and children A.J., 4, Elizabeth, 19, Marie, 18, Eddie, 11, and Willie, 8.

In the 1950 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm operator Lee J. Edwards, 54; wife Maggy, 39; and children Eddy H., 20, Willy J., 19, A.J., 15, Marvin Lee, 12, S.T., 10, Haddy May, 8, John Henry, 5, and Isaac Lee, 2.

Lee John Edwards, 65, of Black Creek, married Maggie Speight, 40, on 10 July 1959 in Wilson County.

Lee John Edwards died 24 July 1959 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 30 July 1894 in Greene County; was married to Maggie Edwards; resided at Route 3, Wilson; and was engaged in farming. A.J. Edwards was informant.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 August 1959.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Frazier and Dr. Michael Barnes — thank you for sharing!; World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, online at