Wayne County NC

Stephen Woodard’s apprentices.

Under laws authorizing the involuntary apprenticeship of poor orphans and the children of unmarried parents, county courts in antebellum North Carolina removed thousands of children from their homes to be bound to serve their neighbors. Hundreds of indentures dot the pages of Wayne County court minute books, and free children of color were disproportionately pulled into the system. Involuntary apprenticeship created an inexpensive, long-term and tractable labor supply for white yeoman farmers, many of whom could not (or could not yet) afford to purchase enslaved people.

Wayne County lost its northern tip to the newly created Wilson County in 1855. By pinpointing the locations of the farms of the men (and rare women) to whom they were indentured, we are able to identify a few free children of color as residents of the area that would become Wilson County’s Black Creek township and part of Crossroads township.

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Stephen Woodard was born about 1790 and died in 1864. He was a wealthy farmer whose last will and testament named 75 enslaved people. In the 1850 census of North of the Neuse River district, Wayne County, Woodard’s household included 40 year-old farmhand Sollomon Woodard, who was a free man of color. In the 1860 census of Woodard’s household, then in Black Creek township, Wilson County, the same man, now known as Solomon Andrews, 50, carpenter, is listed.

The Black Creek Rural Historic District was nominated as a National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and listed in 1986. The nomination form described the residences in the district, including Stephen Woodard’s, as “a rare survivor of antebellum architecture and … excellent examples of early farmsteads in Wilson County.” Per the nomination form, Woodard built a “modest coastal cottage” between 1810 and 1820. In 1821, he inherited additional land from his father John Woodard.

Stephen Woodard Sr.’s coastal cottage, at left, attached by breezeway to a two-story, frame I-house later built for his son, Dr. Stephen Woodard Jr., possibly by carpenter Solomon Andrews. Photo courtesy of the nomination form for Black Creek Rural Historic District.

Over the span of 1820 to 1831, as he began to expand his wealth, Stephen Woodard indentured at least eight children of color:

  • Welthy [no last name given, possibly Artis], age 15, and Ned [no last name given, possibly Artis], age 4, in 1820.
  • Kinnard Samson, age 7, Liza Samson, age 12, and Jere Samson, age 2, in 1820.

Possibly, in the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Jesse Sampson, 35, day laborer, with wife Mary, 30, and children Caswell, 10, Martha, 8, Elizabeth, 6, Temda, 4, and Gabriel, 6 months.

  • William Artis, age 7, in 1822.
  • David Artist, age 15, as a farmer in 1829.

In the 1840 census of Boswells district, Wayne County, David Artis is listed as head of household consisting of two free people of color. In 1850, North Side of Neuse district, Wayne County: David Artis, 40, day laborer, wife Siry, 40, and Lafayet Artis, 3. In 1860, Nahunta, Wayne County: David Artis, 50, turpentine hand, and wife Elizabeth, 35.

  • Willie Hagans, age 9, in 1831.

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The indenture of four year-old Ned.

Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.

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.

The obituary of Larry Artis, 99.

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When I’ve gone the last mile of the way,
I will rest at the close of the day;
And I know there are joys that await me,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.

Mr. Larry Artis, 99, of 100 A St., departed this earthly life on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at his home in the North End Section of Goldsboro, North Carolina. Larry was born on March 03, 1918 to John Eddie and Alneda Artis in Wilson, North Carolina.
Larry joined the Army in Apr 1941 and served in World War II. Mr. Artis served in the US Army from April 2, 1941 to August 31, 1945 in the East Indies, Papua and New Guinea in a all Negro Construction Battalion. While in the US Army He was decorated with the WW II Victory Medal; Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars; the American Defense Service Medical and the Distinguished Unit Emblem. He was honorably discharged August 31, 1945. He did his basic training at Fort Bragg and was then shipped over to the Pacific. He was a See Bee (Construction Battalion). He was decorated with an Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars; an American Defense Service Medal; a Distinguished Unit Emblem and a WW II Victory Medal. When he was there, he visited Australia when they were given leave. He was honorably discharged in October 31, 1944.

He was a member of St. James Holiness Church of Stantonsburg, North Carolina where he sung in the choir. On November 1, 1953, Larry married the former Lillie Frazier of Central Heights. To this union two sons was born, Nelson and Michael. Nelson has since passed away.

Mr. Artis was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Lillie F. Artis; his son and daughter-in-law, Nelson Frazier and Jewel Frazier; his grandson, Nelson Frazier, Jr.; his siblings, Jesse Artis, Eddie Artis, Henry Artis, Mammy Artis, Clyda Newsome, Carrie Lee Newsome, Mary McCoy and Lizzie Mae Thomas. Larry leaves to cherish his lifelong memories; one son, Michael (Dawn) Artis; two sisters, Avris Jean White and Maggie Diamond; grandchildren, Savonnah Re’ Artis, Stephanie Davis, Tony Atkinson, Sharon Atkinson; great grandchildren, Greg Davis, Jr. and Kim Davis; and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

Please remember the Artis family in your prayer time as they have entrusted their Final Services of Love and Compassionate Care to Serenity Memorial Funeral Home & Cremations, LLC.

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In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg & Wilson Road, John Ed Artis, 31, tenant farmer; wife Maggie, 32; and children Jessie, 9, Rosa, 7, Henry, 5, Claud, 2, Lyra, 2, and Ella, 6 months.

In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: John E. Artis, 41, farmer, widower, and children Jesse, 19, Rosa, 18, Henry, 15, Claud, 13, Larry, 12, Mary, 10, Eddie, 8, Mamie, 6, Carry L., 4, and Maggie, 2.

In the 1940 census of Indian Springs township, Wayne County: farmer Earnest Thomas, 31; wife Lizzie Mae, 25; and children Earnesteen, 9, Doris, 8, and Louise, 6; and lodger Lara Artist, 21, farm laborer.

In 1940, Larry Artis registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County. Per his registration card, he was born 3 March 1919 in Evansdale, Wilson County; resided at R.F.D. #1, Dudley, Wayne County; his contact was brother-in-law Ernest Thomas; and he was engaged infarming.

On 1 November 1953, Larry Artis, 34, of Goldsboro, son of John Eddie Artis and Mattie Clay Artis, married Lillie M. Frazier, 34, of Goldsboro, daughter of Wright Frazier and Nettie Hines Frazier. Holiness minister W.H. Holiday performed the ceremony at Saint James Holiness Church in Stantonsburg, Wilson County, in the presence of Johnie Newsome, Hackney Artis and Henry Artis.