We passed Edwards cemetery on the left, rounded the curve, and there, just where I suspected, was the turn-off onto a farm road leading to Artis Town cemetery. The graveyard is a rectangle of green amid bare spring fields, neatly mowed. A row of weedy trees bristles down one side, broken limbs scattered from recent storms. The oldest stones tilt sideways or sprawl toppled on their backs, but the cemetery is obviously cared for. It lies at the heart of what was once known as Artis Town, a hundred or more acres between Highway 58 and Speights Bridge Road on which lived and farmed Artises and Edwardses in every direction, descendants of Daniel Artis, who bought the land in the 1800s. There was even a racetrack here, said my cousin, where men would line up horses and buggies for weekend contests. As time went by, however, the land got “swindled down.”
Daniel Artis’ headstone stands in a shadowy pocket underneath a chinaberry tree, the grave itself sprinkled with wrinkled yellow fruit. The small white marble obelisk is a testament to Daniel’s prosperity and the esteem in which his offspring held him.
I did not locate stones for any of Daniel’s children in the graveyard, though surely some are buried there. (Daughter Clara Artis Edwards is buried in the nearby Edwards cemetery.) Many markers memorialize the deaths of descendants of Loderick Artis and Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson, including Loderick’s daughter Sarah Artis Speight:
and son, Manceson Artis:
and daughter Hannah Artis Mitchell, as well as Prior Ann’s daughter Mariah Sauls Edwards:
and a host of other Saulses, Forbeses, Artises, Speights and Mitchells descended from Daniel Artis.
Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2 May 2014.