Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Volte-face, no. 1; or 52 Ancestors: Daniel Artis.

[Though my format only infrequently focus on individuals, I’ve taken up the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. This is week 4, so I have some catching up to do. We’ll see.]

I had an inkling, didn’t I? Here’s what I wrote in my notes when I found Mariah Artis Swinson’s death certificate:

MARIAH SWINSON.  Died 6 Feb 1955, 500 Creech Street, Goldsboro NC, arteriosclerosis.  Born 14 Feb 1849 to Daniel Artis and unknown. Informant, Mrs. Mary Swinson.  Buried 9 Feb 1955, Elmwood cemetery, Goldsboro NC.  [Daniel Artis?  Is this an error or was Mariah Silvania’s niece rather than her daughter?  I conjectured that Daniel Artis was a brother of Silvania and Vicey Artis.]

Up to then, I had firmly believed that Mariah Artis Swinson, wife of Jesse Swinson, was the daughter of Guy Lane and Sylvania Artis, so I was thrown when her death certificate listed her father as Daniel. I had a Daniel Artis in my file with a question mark behind his name — was he Sylvania and Vicey Artis’ brother? He appears sparingly in records, and here’s all I knew about him:

On 20 Aug 1853, in Greene County NC, Silas Bryant sold Daniel Artis for $325 120 acres adjacent to the mouth of a lane at the dividing line between said Bryant and John Lane, the Bull Branch, and the mouth of Sellers Branch.  Henry Martin witnessed.  The deed was registered 7 Jun 1882.  [Silas Bryant apprenticed the children of Vicey Artis, who may have been Daniel’s sister.  John Lane apprenticed the children of Vicey’s sister Sylvania and probably owned her husband, Guy Lane.]  


In the 1860 census, Bull Head, Greene County NC, 40 year-old free man of color Dannel Artis, a ditcher, is listed next door to the household of white farmer John Lane, who reported $10000 personal property and $25000 real property, included Dannel, Mike, Penney, Dyner, Juley, and Washington Artis, who were Silvania’s children.

I have not found Daniel in earlier censuses. However, a few days ago, following up a request for assistance by a descendant of a Daniel Artis from Greene County, I examined the will and probate records of a Daniel Artis who died in early 1905.  The will, in black and white, stated that Mariah Swinson, wife of Jesse Swinson, was this Daniel Artis’ daughter, not Sylvania Artis’.

So, is Daniel Artis the will-maker the Daniel Artis that I believe to have been a brother of Vicey Artis Williams and Sylvania Artis Lane?

What does his will tell us?

There were two, in fact. The first, dated 15 January 1905, was recorded at the Greene County Courthouse in Will Book 1 at page 514; the second, dated two days later, at page 524.  The legatees are the same, but the gifts packaged differently, so I present both:

Item 1. Page 514 — to daughter Clary Edwards, wife of Henry Edwards, his interest valued at $172 in the tract of land on which Clary and Henry live. The tract was purchased from Debro Cobb with money advanced from Henry Artis. If $172 is more than the other’s children’s share, Clary is to make them even, and vice versa.  Page 524 — to daughter Clara Edwards, wife of Henry Edwards, his interest valued at $172 in the tract of land purchased from Debro Cobb. His agreement with Henry Edwards has not been recorded.

Item 2. Page 514 — to son Henry Artis, 1/4 interest in his real estate.  Page 524 — to son Henry Artis, 40 acres, including the house in which Daniel then lived.

Item 3. Page 514 — to the children of his son Lodrick Artis (Anna Randolph, Frank Artis, Lula Forbes, Madison Artis, Marcellus Artis, Ernest Artis, Dicey Batts and Hannah Artis) 1/4 of his estate.  Page 524 — to the children of Lodrick Artis and his wife Mandy, 40 acres (land Lodrick resided on at the time of his death) and all buildings thereon.

Item 4. Page 514 — to the children of his daughter Prior An Thompson (Isaac Sauls, C.D. Sauls, Maria Edwards and Clara Lane), 1/4 of his estate.  Page 524 — to Prior An Thompson’s children and their heirs, 40 acres that Willis Thompson lives on.

Item 5. Page 514 — $50 to daughter Mariah Swinson, wife of Jesse Swinson, to be paid from the shares of the others in the amount of $12.50 each.  Page 524 — A committee to be appointed to assess value of shares and make Clara Edwards’ share equal to the others, difference to be paid within seven years.

Item 6. Page 514 — none.  Page 524 — Each lot to be taxed $12.50 to pay daughter Mariah Swinson, wife of Jesse Swinson.

Grandson Isaac Sauls was appointed executor in both, Daniel Artis signed each with an X, and both were proved on 21 March 1905.

Whatever his intent at clarification, things did not go well with Daniel’s estate. A Notice of Sale ran four weeks from December 1923-January 1924 in the Greene County weekly The Standard-Laconic announcing the sale of “a certain tract or parcel of land devised to Henry Artis by Daniel Artis by his last will and testament, … containing 40 acres.” The sale was advertised pursuant to a judgment in Greene County Superior Court in the matter of Frances Hall; Bennett Hall; Bessie Woodard, infant; and Alice Woodard, infant, by their next friend Amos Woodard v. J. Settle Artis and Roumania Artis. Settle Artis, who was Henry Artis’ son, had purchased the parcel at a courthouse sale the previous July. Frances and Bennett Hall were Settle’s sister and brother-in-law, and Amos Woodard was another brother-in-law, widower of Settle’s sister Dillie.

I don’t know what Hall et al. v. Artis was about, but the allegations of the next suit over Daniel’s estate — filed in 1930 — are clear. The case caption alone is daunting: Isaac Sauls; Walter Sauls; Luby Sauls; Edward Sauls; Hattie Speight and her husband Walter Speight; Mariah Thompson; Lillie May Sauls, minor, George Sauls, minor, Sarah Sauls, minor, Lillie Lee Sauls, minor, Walter Sauls, minor, appearing by their next friend, Luby Sauls; and Nettie Sauls; Henry B. Lane; Lillie Maud Best and her husband Alex Best; John H. Lane and Carrie D. Lane, a minor, children and heirs at law of Clara Thompson; Penny Edwards, Silas Edwards, Prior Edwards and the Henry Pettaway children as follows: Hadie Pettaway, minor, Willie Harrison Pettaway, Georgia May Pettaway, minor, Minnie Clyde Pettaway, minor, grandchildren of Mariah Edwards, by their next friend Henry Pettaway  v. C.D. Sauls and Duffrey Edwards. In other words, a fight among the heirs of Daniel’s daughter Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson.  The crux of the matter is set out in paragraph 10:

10. That the plaintiffs, heirs at law of Isaac Sauls, Mariah Edwards and Clara Thompson are the owners of three fifths of the land devised by Daniel Artis in Item 4 of his will to the children of his daughter Prior Ann and are entitled to have the defendant Cain D. Sauls declared to have the same held in trust for them and are entitled to an accounting of the rents and profits of the same from the date of his purchase in 1908.

Instead, they alleged, C.D. Sauls had been keeping hundreds of dollars of rent for himself and, in 1928, had sold the parcel to Duffrey Edwards for $3000, with full knowledge by Edwards that Sauls was trustee for his relatives. C.D. denied all, of course. In 1937, his daughter and son-in-law, Willie Sauls Burgess and W.D. Burgess, were added as defendants after C.D. and his wife Ada allegedly tried to fraudulently transfer the disputed property to her.  In 1939, the clerk of court entered a non-suit judgment noting that the parties had reached an amicable settlement. No details were included. The matter was over.

So back to my original line of inquiry: who was this Daniel Artis?

Though he often managed to slip censustakers, the enumerator of the 1880 census found Daniel, his children Henry, Clara, Mariah, Prior Ann, and Lodrick, and their children living in a cluster in Bullhead district.  (There was a marker for “Artis Town” at a spot in the road in Greene County. I think it’s in this area.) At #260, Henry Artis, 30, wife Mary, 27, and children Frances, 16, Didida, 8, Missouri, 7, Settle, 3, and Henry, 2. At #261, Henry Edwards, 40, wife Clara, 45, and children Thomas, 19, Wright, 18, Scott, 15, Eliza, 13, George, 11, Henry, 9, Daniel, 7, and William, 5. #264, Jessee Swinson, 23, wife Maria, 20, and son Charles, 1.  #267, Willis Thompson, 28, wife Prior, 32, and his stepsons Isaac Sauls, 19, Cain Sauls, 18, and Richard Sauls, 15.  #268, Timothy Edwards, 22, wife Maria, 21, and children Mony, 2, and Lilly, 7 months, niece Alice Wood, 15, and grandmother Maria Sauls, 60. #269, Lodrick Artis, 35, wife Amanda, 30, and children Hannah, 12, Frank, 10, Lula, 8, Sarah, 4, Monsey, 2, Lodrick, 1 month, and Marcellus, 1. #270, Daniel Artis Sr., 65, wife Eliza, 60, and granddaughter Ida, 9.

This Daniel is roughly the right age to be the one listed in the 1860 census and certainly old enough to have purchased property in 1853.  [A future project: hunt for a plat or metes and bounds to compare that purchase with the land devides in 1905.]  Daniel Artis and Eliza Faircloth registered their two-year cohabitation just over the county line in Wayne County. If they were, in fact, married in 1864, she was not the mother of his children, who were born circa 1835-1860. Like Eliza, though, their mother — or mothers — probably  was enslaved, as were they. If Daniel was the brother of Silvania and Vicey, he followed in their footsteps by looking beyond the free colored community to find a spouse. (It is possible that the Daniel who married Eliza Faircloth was Daniel Artis, born in 1843 to Silvania Artis Lane. He and his wife Eliza appear in the 1880 census of Greene County with children Emma and James.)

It is time, I think, to adjust my files. Unlink Mariah Artis from Silvania and move her to Daniel, then enter all the new names I have for his descendants. The evidence is sparse and circumstantial, but sufficient to make a tentative determination that Daniel, Vicey and Silvania were siblings. They were born within about a ten-year span; they live in close proximity in Bull Head district, Greene County; they are the only Artises in the area (and among few in the county); they all had connections with Silas Bryant and/or John Lane; and there are some commonalities among the given names of their offspring (Silvania had a son Daniel; Silvania and Daniel had daughters named Mariah; and Vicey and Daniel had grandsons named Cain.)


22 thoughts on “Volte-face, no. 1; or 52 Ancestors: Daniel Artis.

  1. Trisha Blount says:

    Great post. My aunt Priscilla Blount was married to Frank Artis, Loderick’s son and her brother Jacob married Jesse and Mariah ‘s daughter Mittie.
    You are a step ahead of me. Inbox where you located the court records. Also Hall was another large free black family found in Greene County.

  2. Pingback: 52 Ancestors: Week 4 Recap | No Story Too Small

    • Hi, Donald. I stumbled across it a few years ago while wandering Greene County back roads. I took a photo, but I think it’s stored in an old laptop. I’ll keep looking for it. Do you have family from that area? Are you an Artis descendant?


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  13. Michele Fenton says:

    Mariah Artis was my great- great grandmother. I found a marriage certificate for her and my great-great grandfather, Jesse Swinson on They were married in January 1879 in Greene County, North Carolina. According to the information on the marriage certificate, Mariah’s parents were Daniel Artis and Ruthy Edmondson. Henry Artis was listed as a witness on the marriage certificate.

    • Yep, that’s Mariah. I’m working on a blog post about Daniel’s wife (or wives), based in part on information from his children’s marriage and death records. Thanks for commenting, cousin.

  14. Michele Fenton says:

    You’re welcome. By the way, Mariah’s daughter Laurinia (Laurina) Swinson married Jacob Blount. Their son Emmett Blount was my grandfather.

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