migration to Indiana

George H. Washington is buried at Crown Hill.

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Indianapolis Recorder, 9 May 1936.

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In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Jerry Washington, 42; wife Jane, 29; and children Georgiana, 14, Joshua, 12, William, 11, George H., 7, Andrew, 5, and Samuel, 2.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: blacksmith Jerry Washington, 52; wife Jane, 40; and children George H., 17, works in blacksmith shop, Andrew, 14, Samuel, 12, Anna Maria, 8, Paul, 6, Sarah Jane, 3, and Mary Cathren, 11 months.

On 15 August 1901, George Henry Washington, 38, of Wilson, son of Jerry and Jane Washington, married Cora Miller, 25, of Wilson, daughter of Cynthia Miller, at the bride’s residence on Green Street. A.M.E. Zion minister C.L. Alexander performed the service in the presence of Sallie M. Barbour and Alice F. Moore. [George Washington was the brother of Samuel H. Vick‘s wife, Annie Washington Vick. She is the “Anna Vicks” erroneously listed as George’s daughter in the obituary.]

In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana: Marie Smith, 35, single, laundress, born in Kentucky, and George H. Washington, 50, widower, railroad company coach cleaner, born in North Carolina.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed cook Lou Miller; her daughter Cora Washington, 34, a widowed school teacher; her grandchildren Irene, 7, James, 4, and Cora Washington, 1; and two boarders, Mary Hadley, 20, cook, and Mary Pender, 60, widowed servant. [Obviously, neither George nor Cora Washington was, in fact, a widower. They had been either separated (most likely) or divorced since George H. Washington had taken up residence in Indiana in 1903.]

In the 1920 census of Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana: Emma Lilly, 49, widow, laundress, born in Kentucky, and George Washington, 30 [sic], married, railroad employee, born in North Carolina.

George H. Washington died 28 April 1936 in Indianapolis, Center township, Marion County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1856 in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Jerry Washington; was the widower of Cora Washington; was a laborer; and lived at 802 1/2 Indiana Avenue.

Madam Walker and Doctor Ward.

The Netflix limited series Self Made is refocusing attention on Madam C.J. Walker, the millionaire entrepreneur and empowerer of women best known for her haircare empire. The series is honest about being more “inspired by” Madam Walker’s life than true to it. Chockablock with B-list black star power (plus Octavia Spencer), Self Made is entertaining if you don’t think about it too hard. Ultimately, however, its heavy-handed resort to tropes and types and its soap opera style do a disservice to her story. Anyone wanting a closer truth should turn to A’Lelia Bundles’ On Her Own Ground, or my fave, Beverly Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker. Among other things, you’ll find an important part of Walker’s story completely omitted from Self-Made — her relationship with Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African-American physician born in Wilson about 1872.

When she first arrived in Indianapolis in 1910, Walker boarded with Joseph and Zella Locklear Ward and gave beauty culture demonstrations in their parlor.

Indianapolis Recorder, 12 February 1910.

Indianapolis Recorder, 5 March 1910.

Walker and her daughter Lelia Robinson grew close to the Wards, and Dr. Ward was Madam’s personal physician the remainder of her life. He was at her bedside when she died.

The Wards accompanied Madam Walker on a drive to Kansas City, Missouri, where she addressed the National Educational Congress on “How the Negro Woman May Success in Business.” Indianapolis Star, 13 July 1913.

On a drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, the automobile in which the Wards and Walker were traveling was jumped by a wild animal. Indianapolis Star, 28 September 1913.

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Also in 1913, on the steps of the newly dedicated Y.M.C.A., Madam Walker with Booker T. Washington and, behind them, her lawyer Freeman Ransom and Dr. Joseph H. Ward.  

From Lowry’s Her Dream of Dreams:

“By Friday, Ward informs the household that Madame Walker cannot last longer than Sunday. On Saturday night, about midnight, she slips into unconsciousness. And her faithful friends and doctors and family gather around her bed; they are religious people who also believe in love and company, and that no one should pass from this life into the next alone. And so they wait, hushed, whispering, watching her, waiting.

“Sunday dawns warms and clear, and early rays of the sun crack through the drawn damask curtains and perhaps fall in splinters across the rose silk coverlet on Madame’s bed. At seven o’clock her people are still there, but no one feels her go and no one knows when she dies until Ward turns and says, ‘It’s over.’

“And if they weep it is with relief, for the end of her suffering. Her dying words, Ward later reports, were ‘I want to live to help my race.'”

Photo courtesy of Madam Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Dr. Ward challenged Jim Crow.

Indiana History Blog published Nicole Poletika’s detailed look at Dr. Joseph H. Ward‘s role in challenging segregation as the head of Tuskegee, Alabama’s Veterans Hospital No. 91 in the 1920s and ’30s.

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Dr. Ward is on the front row, center (next to the nurse) in this 1933 photograph of Veterans Hospital staff.  Photo courtesy of VA History Highlights, “First African American Hospital Director in VA History,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more on Dr. Ward, who was born in Wilson about 1869, see here and here and here and here and here.

[Sidenote: Dr. Ward was not born to “impoverished parents” per the article, though it is possible that he himself gave this gloss on his early life. Rather, his father was Napoleon Hagans, a prosperous freeborn farmer in nearby Wayne County, and his mother was Mittie Ward, a young freedwoman whose family moved into town after Emancipation from the plantation of Dr. David G.W. Ward near Stantonsburg.]

Hat tip to Zella Palmer for pointing me to this article. She is Dr. Ward’s great-granddaughter, and they are my cousins.

Sarah Artist Battle of Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Indianapolis Recorder, 1 October 1938.

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In the 1880 census of Greencastle township, Putnam County, Indiana: farmhand Jonathan Artis, 47; wife Margret, 39; and children Evert, 19, Gray, 16, Sarah, 14, Tamer, 12, Minnie, 10, Rose, 8, John, 6, Jonathan, 4, and Willie, 2.

In the 1900 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: at 2419 North Oxford, Margaret Artist, 57, and children John, 24, day laborer, Jonathan, 22, grocery deliveryman, Willie, 22, railroad section laborer, and Sarrah, 34.

In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, Indiana: Margaret Artist, 67, with family members John, 30, Emma, 34, and Damon Artis, 8; Ralph, 13, and Mona McWilliams, 8; and Rose, 29, and Sarah Artist, 40.

In the 1930 census of Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana: in a house owned and valued at $300, Anthony Battle, 70, farmer, and wife Sarah, 70, both of North Carolina.

Sarah Artist Battle died 27 September 1938 in Evansville, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was about 72 years old; was born in North Carolina to Jonathan Artist and Margaret Woodard; was married; and resided in Greencastle, Indiana.

Minerva Louise Ward Artis Biggins Hanks.

After he left Wilson, Joseph H. Ward‘s close family members migrated to Washington, D.C. Once he was established in Indianapolis, Indiana, however, his mother Mittie Ward Vaughn and younger half-sister Minerva Vaughn, also known as Minerva Ward, joined him in the Midwest.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Sarah Darden, 57, son-in-law Algia Vaughn, 23, daughter Mittie, 22, and grandchildren Joseph, 8, Sarah, 6, and Macinda Vaughn, 5 months. [Joseph “Vaughn” was actually Joseph Ward, listed with his stepfather’s surname.]

In the 1900 census of Washington, D.C: William Moody, 27, wife Sarah S., 24, and children Augustus, 5, and Crist Moody, 4, plus sister-in-law Minerva Vaughn, 10, mother-in-law Mittie Vaughn, 46, and mother Fannie Harris, 55, all born in North Carolina.

Indianapolis News, 12 December 1903.

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Indianapolis News, 2 January 1909.

On 11 June 1910, Minerva Ward married S. Dillard Artis, of Marion, Indiana, son of Thomas and Esther Hall Artis (who were migrants to Indiana from Wayne County, North Carolina.) Per Grant County Indiana Biographies, www.genealogytrails.com, Artis “began as janitor of the court house located in Marion, Indiana in 1900. He later accepted private contracts trimming trees, laying sod and making lawns. This work led to contracts for digging cellars, sewer and cement work, street building, and finally municipal contracting. Dillard had a cement contract connected with the $100,000 residence of J. W. Wilson, with the First Baptist Church and numerous others as well as finishing contracts on tar via roads amounting to $840,000 in 1914.” (Artis’ first wife, Asenath Peters Artis, died in December 1909.)

Indianapolis News, 18 June 1910.

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Indianapolis Star, 26 June 1910.

In 1911, Dr. Ward and his young son, Joseph Jr., visited his sister and mother in Marion.

Indianapolis News, 19 August 1911.

Per Google Street View, the house at 920 South Boots Street, Marion, Indiana, today.

Dillard and Minerva Artis’ social life was occasionally noted in Indiana newspapers. For example, in 1915, they were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Beverly Lafoon of Kokomo, Indiana.

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 10 April 1915.

And in 1916 they joined the J.H. Weavers of Weaver, Indiana, for dinner.

Indianapolis Recorder, 4 November 1916.

But just a few weeks later:

Indianapolis Recorder, 25 November 1916.

In the 1920 census of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois: at 486 South Wabash, Diller Artis, 44; wife Minerva, 41; mother-in-law Mittie Ward, 56; and three lodgers, John Smith, 30, and William, 49, and Anna Brown, 46. Artis was working as a railroad poster. [What happened?] Minerva claimed that she and her father were born in Indiana. [In fact, both were born in North Carolina.]

The couple apparently divorced between 1920 and 1923.  On 1 January 1923, Minerva Ward married Jonas B. Biggins in Denver, Colorado. (Dillard Artis died in 1947 in Evanston, Illinois.)

The 1935 Denver, Colorado, city directory lists Jonas B. Biggins as a Pullman porter and Minerva Biggins as a charwoman at the Custom House.

However, per Findagrave.com, Jonas B. Biggins died in 1935 and was buried in Denver. On 15 July 1936, Minerva Louise Biggins married John Q. Hanks in Greeley, Colorado. The couple is listed in the 1936 Denver directory living in the home Minerva had shared with her previous husband.

In the 1940 census of Denver, Colorado: at 1433 East 25th, owned and valued at $4000, John Q. Hanks, 49, butler; wife Minerva, 37; and son Roy, 7. [Roy was born in Illinois. Whose son was he — John’s or Minerva’s?]

In 1942, John Q. Hanks registered for the World War II draft in Denver. Per his registration card, he lived at 1433 – 25th Avenue, Denver; was born 5 February 1889 in Osage, Kansas; his contact was wife Louise Hanks; and he worked for Laurence C. Phipps, 3400 Belcaro Drive, Denver.

John Hanks died in May 1966 in Denver. I have not found a death date for Minerva Ward Artis Biggins Hanks.

Ruby Jane Lassiter comes home.

Ruby Jane Lassiter, born 19 August 1923 in Wilson, N.C., died 30 August 1943 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

On 30 August 1943, two months after she arrived in Indianapolis (and 11 days after her birthday), 20 year-old Ruby Jane Lassiter was dead. Her family entrusted her body to Jacobs Brothers Funeral Home, and the newly digitized records of that establishment detail the arrangements to bring her home.

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(Plummer D. and Cary D. Jacobs, born in 1897 and 1901 in Dudley, Wayne County, North Carolina, were the nephews of Jesse A. Jacobs, Jr.)

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In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb Road, owned and valued at $1000, truck gardener Jesse C. Lassiter, 41, widower, and children Jesse C., Jr., 15, James D., 13, Ernest D., 12, Annie B., 10, Mildred P., 8, Ruby J., 7, Lesie D., 6, Harvey G., 5, and Wade, 2. [Mildred Lassiter Sherrod died six months prior to her sister Ruby, also of tuberculosis.]

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 709 Lipscomb Road, WPA laborer Jessie Lassiter, 50, and children Ruby, 16, Lessie L., 15, Harvey, 14, and Wade, 12.

Many thanks to Allen County (Ind.) Public Library’s Genealogy Center, the Indiana African American Genealogy Group, and the Indiana Genealogical Society for collaborating to digitize Jacobs Brothers Funeral Home’s records and to digitalblackhistory.com for bringing this database to my attention.

On the occasion of his historical marker dedication, another account of Dr. Ward’s appointment.

This weekend, with his granddaughter and great-grandchildren in attendance, the Indiana Historical Bureau, the American Legion, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History will dedicate a historical marker commemorating the lifetime achievements of Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward. Though I’ve blogged about him here and here and here and here, this seemed an appropriate time to feature yet another long newspaper article detailing Dr. Ward’s accomplishments.

 

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“The appointment of Dr. [Joseph H.] Ward to this position marks a decided step forward for the race. In many respects this may be regarded as the highest office to which a Negro has ever been appointed, certainly the most responsible.”

Topeka Plaindealer, 25 July 1924.

Photos courtesy of L. Bates.

The Kerseys.

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John Kearsey married Julia Richardson in Franklin County, North Carolina, in 1849. Both were free people of color. The couple migrated to the Town of Wilson prior to 1860.

In the 1860 census of Wilson, Wilson County: John Kersey, 37, blacksmith; wife Julia, 31; and children Louisa, 9, Dellah, 6, John, 5, and William, 1.  Kersey reported personal property valued at $300.

In the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith John Kirsey, 45, wife Julia, 42, and children Louisa, 19, Idella, 16, John, 13, Walter, 10, and Robt., 9.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: blacksmith John Kersey, 61; wife Julia, 53; and son Walter, 21; plus boarder William Joyner, who worked in the blacksmith shop.

John and Julia Kersey’s children included:

  • Louisa Kersey — Louisa Kersey Johnson died 15 January 1934 in Wilson after a fall from her front porch. Per her death certificate, she was 78 years old; was born in North Carolina to John and Julia Kersey; was married to Henry Johnson and lived at 503 Warren Street. Gertrude Jones, 309 Elba Street, was informant.
  • Ardella Kersey
  • John Kersey Jr.
  • William Kersey
  • Walter Kersey 
  • Robert Kersey — like Walter, Robert Kersey migrated to Indiana. Robert Kersey died 30 August 1902 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was 36 years old; was born in North Carolina to John Kersey and Julia Robinson; and worked as a laborer.

They are non-residents of this state.

Hardy Lassiter died about 1853 in a section of Edgecombe County that two years later became part of the newly created Wilson County. During the probate of his estate, the court ordered this ad placed in an attempt to locate his daughter Sally Lassiter Artis and her husband, Morrison Artis.

The Tarborough Southerner, 24 September 1853.

Where were the Artises?  Indiana.

Morrison Artis, son of Micajah and Bedie Powell Artis, was born about 1822 in or near what would become Wilson County. His father Micajah is listed as a head of household in the 1830 census of Taylor district, Nash County, and the 1840 census of Davis district, Wayne County. Morrison Artis married Sarah “Sally” Lassiter circa 1845. Born about 1827 in what was then Edgecombe County, she was the daughter of Hardy and Obedience Lassiter. Morrison and Sally’s first child, Benjamin F. Artis, was born in 1847, and within a year or so the family struck out for Indiana with Morrison’s family.

In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Morrison Artis, 24, farmer; wife Sarah, 21; and children Benjamin, 3, and Rachel, 6 months. All except Rachel were born in North Carolina.

In the 1850 census of District 85, Parke County, Indiana: Micajah Artis, 50, farmer; wife Bedy, 40; and children Arcada, 17, Eliza, 14, Burket, 4, and Henriette, 1. All but Henriette were born in North Carolina.

In the 1860 census of Reserve township, Parke County, Indiana: farmer Morrison Artis, 35; wife Sally, 33; and children Benjamin, 13, Rachel. 10, and Martha, 5. Morrison reported owning $1000 in real property and $465 in personal property.

In the 1860 census of Adam township, Parke County, Indiana: Micajah Artis, 58, farmer; wife Beda, 50; and children Birket, 16, Henrietta, 10, Elmeda, 8, and Benson, 7.

Per Early Black Settlements by County, indianahistory.org, “During the 1850s, the Bassett, Artis and Ellis families left Parke County, Indiana, and established a settlement in Ervin Township. (The Bassett and Artis families were free African Americans who came to Indiana from North Carolina.)  At least 11 families lived in this area that became a small farming community of blacks sometime known as the Bassett Settlement or the Bassett and Ellis Settlement.  They had a school, church, cemetery (located at 950 W.), general store, blacksmith shop and a post office.  Some of the other surnames associated with the settlement include Canady, Griggs, Jones, Kirby, Mosely, and Wilson.

“Zachariah and Richard Bassett served as ministers at the Free Union Baptist Church in Howard County.  The 1870 census list Bassetts, Artis, and Ellis as farmers.  Richard had land valued at $8,400 and Morrison Artis’s land was valued at $2,800.  In 1892, Richard Bassett became the third black person to be elected to the Indiana state legislature.”

The heart of the Bassett Settlement as shown in this 1877 plat map. Two parcels are labeled M. Artis — one, perhaps, Micajah and the other Morrison. A small cross is visible at the center of the image in a parcel marked R. Bassett; it marks the community cemetery in which the older Artises were buried. [For an account of my visit to Bassett cemetery and a family connection to this place, see here and here.]

In the 1870 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: Morrison Artis, 46; wife Sarah, 40; and children Benjamin, 23, Martha, 16, and William, 1. Morrison reported owning $2800 in real property and $500 in personal property.

In the 1870 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: Macajah Artis, 65, farmer; wife Bedea, 65; and children Henrietta, 22, Almedia, 20, and Benson 17. Morrison reported owning $700 in real property and $100 in personal property.

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Indianapolis Leader, 30 August 1879.

In the 1880 census of Ervin township, Howard County, Indiana: farmer Morrison Artis, 57; wife Sarah, 55; children Benjamin, 33, Martha, 26, and William M., 11; and grandson Melvin, 8.

In 1891, Morrison Artis was nearly swindled from his life’s accumulation in a fraudulent land transaction.

Kokomo Saturday Tribune, 12 May 1891.

Morrison Artis died in April 1896 after terrible head injuries sustained when his spooked horse threw him, then fell on him.

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 9 April 1896.

Benjamin F. Artis died 8 September 1910 in Coopers Grove, Howard County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 February 1947 in North Carolina to Morrison Artis and Sarah Lassiter; was married to Caroline Artis; and was a retired laborer.

Melvina Bassett died 7 April 1917 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1839 in North Carolina to Micajah Artis and Bedie Powell; was the widow of John Bassett; and was buried in Bassett cemetery. William Bassett was informant.

Benson Artis died 17 April 1919 in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana. Per his death certificate, he was 56 years old; was born in Indiana to M. Artis and an unknown mother; was single; lived at 145 Western Avenue, Kokomo.

William M. Artis died 27 August 1920 in Indianapolis. Per his death certificate, he was born 26 February 1869 in Indiana to Morrison Artis and an unknown mother; was married to Lula Artis; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Kokomo.

U.S. Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.