On March 30, 1932, in Lucy, Tennessee, just north of today’s Memphis International Raceway, an old man closed his eyes a final time. His doctor described his death in an unusually detailed, almost poetic, passage: “causes due to advanced age weakening of heart muscles beats slowing down until stopping quietly but regular.” He was, according to the death certificate, 121 years old, and his name was Guy Lane.
I scanned the rest of the form: farmer … living in Shelby County … born in North Carolina … son of Guy Lane … an informant named Lillie ….
My great-great-great-great-grandmother, Vicey Artis, born free in or near Wayne County around 1810, had a sister named Sylvania. Both women married enslaved men. (And their brother Daniel married an enslaved woman.) On 31 August 1866, Vicey Artis and Solomon Williams and Sylvania Artis and Guy Lane registered their decades-old cohabitations in Wayne County and thereby legalized their marriages. Old Man Guy died before 1880, but ….
Sylvania and Guy Lane’s twelve children, who used both parents’ last names, were born over the course of more than twenty years. Morrison Artis, born 1837, was first, followed by Mary Artis (1839), Jane Lane Sauls (1842), Daniel Artis (1843), Mitchell Lane (1845), Mariah Artis (1846), Guy Lane Jr., Penny Lane (1850), Dinah Lane (1851), Julie Lane Sutton (1853), Washington Lane (1855) and Alford Lane (1859).
In 1869, Guy Lane Jr. married Dinah Dew in Wayne County. They appear together in the 1870 and 1880 censuses and had at least six children: Ora, Moses, Lizzie, William, Mary S., Milton F. Lane, and a girl. By 1900, though, Guy and his family are nowhere to be found in North Carolina. Instead, they surface 800 miles due west, just outside Memphis. (Had they been Exodusters sidetracked on the way to Arkansas?) Guy had a new wife, of four years — Eliza, born in Tennessee — but his youngest two children, Milton and Guy Jr. (actually III), both born in NC, were with him. In 1910, on the Memphis & Shakerag Road, 60 year-old Guy and Eliza Lane are listed with eight year-old daughter Lilly. Both reported that they had been married twice, and Eliza reported that only one of her nine children was living. In the 1920 census, the couple are living with Lillie and her husband Robert Burnett. Guy continued to work as a farmer, and his age is reported as 78. Ten years later, in 1930, Guy and Liza are living alone again, and his age has leapt inexplicably to 114. By time he died in 1932, Guy had gained another seven years.
The credible evidence suggests that cousin Guy Lane, in fact, was born about 1848, making him a more reasonable 84 years old when his heart slowed down until stopping quietly. He is not forgotten.