Births Deaths Marriages, Business, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs


Aunt Ninas stone

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about looking for my cousin Nina Frances Faison Hardy‘s unmarked grave and wanting to honor her by placing a stone. Today, I got a text from my cousin and an email from my mother with photos. My cousins’ business, Eastern Carolina Vault Company, installed the marker today and, after 45 years, A’nt Nina’s final resting place is no longer lost.

Eastern Carolina Vault at work

My cousins L., left, and T., right, and a helper install Nina Hardy’s gravestone today at Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson NC. When A’nt Nina arrived in Wilson from Wayne County circa 1910, she lived for a while with Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who reared L. and T.’s great-grandfather Jesse “Jack” Henderson and his nieces, my grandmother and her sister Mamie.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Draft prospectus.


Twenty-five years ago today, I submitted the first draft of my master’s essay prospectus to Professor Barbara J. Fields of Columbia University. The thesis itself took another year-and-a-half to complete. In between, I submerged myself in the North Carolina State Archives and the literature of free people of color and forged an unwavering fascination with their time and place in Southern antebellum history. Though I found frustratingly little direct evidence of my own ancestors’ apprenticeship, I gained a depth of understanding of their circumstances and community that has served my genealogical research well.

Births Deaths Marriages, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin



Wilson Daily Times, 26 October 1899.

The whole sorry story appeared in the 27 October 1899 edition of the paper. William Coley was Napoleon Hagans‘ oldest (perhaps) son, born about 1867 in Wayne County to Winnie Coley, and I originally thought that he was the one bamboozled. With closer reading, though, I noticed that this William Coley was still living in Wayne County in 1899 and was described as an “old negro.” Napoleon’s son was in his early 30s and living in Wilson at the time, so I’ve revised my opinion.

While I’m at it, though, here’s what I know about “my” William Coley:

I can’t find him in the 1870 census, but in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, Winnie Coley is listed with sons Nathan, 19, and Willie, 12.

On 25 Feb 1891, Cain Artis applied for a marriage license in Wilson County for William Coley, son of Napoleon Hagans and Winney Coley, both living, and Minnie Woodard, daughter of Alfred and Sarah Woodard.  The marriage was performed on 26 Feb 1891 by Presbyterian minister George Carson, with Cain Artis and Hilliard Ellis as witnesses.  Cain was William’s half-brother; his mother was also Winnie Coley.  Further, Cain’s father, Adam Artis, married Napoleon Hagans’ half-sister, Frances Seaberry.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, Willie Coley, 30, is listed with wife Minnie, 30, children Effie M., 8, and James M., 6, mother Winnie Coley, 65, and sister Zilley Coley, 38.

William seems to have been missed again in the 1910 census. Sometime between 1900 and 1920, his wife Minnie died, and he married a woman named Mary. It also seems likely that son James died during this period, as there is no World War I draft registration for him. Daughter Effie Mae married Arthur McCarter on 27 February 1910 in Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, living on Roberson Street: Will Coley, 50, wife Mary, 47, and granddaughters Ruth and Nannie Coley. Will worked as a public house mover. Minnie Ruth and Nannie Mae were actually McCarters, daughters of William’s daughter Effie (also known as Ethel) Coley McCarter. As I have not found Effie or her husband in the 1920 census, they may have died early as well.

Cain Artis died 23 March 1917 in Wilson County of pulmonary tuberculosis.  His death certificate, for which William “W.M.” Coley provided information, noted that Cain was colored, was born March 1851 to Adam T. Artis and Winnie Coley, was married, and was a farmer.

William Coley himself died 26 Jan 1928 at the age 61 of the same dread disease that killed his brother Cain. His wife Mary Coley informed the registrar that he was the son of Pole Hagans and Winnie Coley, was a farmer, and resided at Route 3, Wilson.

Free People of Color, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Timeline of Napoleon Hagans’ land transactions.

1860 – 18 January. Eliza Seaberry [Levisa Hagans Seaberry] purchased 3.5 acres in Wayne County from Bryan Minshew for the odd sum of $109.37. How (and why) did she make this purchase instead of her husband Aaron?

1860 – In the federal census of Wayne County, Aaron Seaberry reports owning $100 real estate. This is likely his wife’s purchase above.

1862 – The deed for Minshew-Seaberry sale was recorded in Wayne County.

186713 February. Aaron Seaberry filed a mortgage deed conveying to his stepson Napoleon Hagins a “tract of land lately conveyed by Bryant Minshew to Louisa Seabery, wife of Aaron, all interest therein, also one grey mare, four head of cattle, nine head of hogs, all household and kitchen furniture … and 12 barrels of corn, about one thousand two hundred pounds of fodder & about nine hundred pounds of pork, one wagon & cart, and all the farming implements of every description of the said Aaron Seaberry” for $500.  “The condition of this deed is such that whereas, the said Aaron Seaberry is justly endebted to the said Napoleon Hagins in the sum of one hundred & seventy dollars with interest from the first of February 1866, money paid by the said Hagins to William J. Exum for the said Seaberry and at his request and also the sum of two hundred dollars, loaned by the said Hagins to the said Seaberry, the precise date whereof is not remembered, but which the said Seaberry thinks was about eighteen months prior to the date hereof, and whereas the said Seaberry is justly indebted to the said William J. Exum as agent for J.M. Caho in the sum of thirty six dollars & twenty some cents, with interest from 1st January 1861 due by open account & also in the sum of sixty one dollars and thirty eight cents, due by note, the date of whereof is not now remembered by the said Seaberry, but supposed to have been given about two years ago…”  The deed carried a condition that Hagans sell the conveyed property to pay off Seaberry’s debts, with the balance to be paid to Seaberry.

1870 – Napoleon Hagans appears in the federal population census of Nahunta, Wayne County, with $3000 personal property, but no reported real property. Is this accurate? What personal property could Hagans have owned of such value?

18711 January. Hagans purchased two tracts, totaling 221 acres, in Wayne County for $3500 from William Bryant and wife Sarah. The first was on the east side of Aycock Swamp and bounded by Hooker, Fort, Caho and Rodgers; it contained 48 acres and had been conveyed by Ruffin Hooks to J.P. Rodgers in 1861. The second was on Aycock Swamp, contained 173 acres and had been conveyed by John V. Sherard, administrator of the estate of Jesse Coleman, in August 1859. Both tracts were conveyed by William J. Exum to William Bryant and wife Sarah in 1867.

18714 January. Aaron Seaberry purchased 91 ¼ acres for $700 from Eliza Sauls. The deed notes that Seaberry and Napoleon Hagans would pay the $700 on 1 January 1872.

1874 – 25 July. Adam and Frances Seaberry Artis purchased three tracts of land totaling about 109 acres from her half-brother, Napoleon Hagans. All three are on or near Watery Branch, an east-flowing tributary of Contentnea Creek. The first two documents are a mortgage deed and deed of sale for two tracts on the creek. The third is a deed of sale for an additional nine acres nearby. Notably, this last is land upon which Adam had lived in prior years, as it contained the graves of his first wife, Lucinda Jones Artis, and a child. Hagans purchased 9 ¼ acres for $275 from Adam Artis and wife Frances, who was Hagans’ half-sister.

1874 21 April. A justice of peace examined Celia Bailey, wife of William Bailey, to determine her consent to her husband’s sale of land to Hagans. Hagans’ records do not show a copy of the deed for the sale, and it does not appear in Wayne County deed books. Apparently, it was not filed.

1878 – No date. Hagans purchased 3 acres for $45 from William J. Exum and wife. The deed was not recorded until 3 Nov 1885.

1880 – The federal agricultural census of Wayne County shows N. Hagans with 75 improved acres and 200 unimproved, valued at $2000.

1880 – Hagans testified to a Senate Committee that he owned 485 acres purchased for $5500 and a town lot purchased for $500. All his property was acquired after the war. “I rented a farm and started on two government horses. I went to the tightest man I knew and got him to help me.  I rented from Mr. Exum out there.” [Why the discrepancy in acreage and value with what he reported to census takers? If his testimony was accurate, there were several deeds that went unfiled, including that for the town lot.]

18822 January. Hagans purchased 6 acres for $1 from W.J. Carr and wife Lizzie. The tract was situated at Sauls X Roads, beginning in “center of the road leading to Bul-head [in Greene County] near where the Wm Durden old hors stall stood,” along the road to a ditch, then to Fremont road, then to the cross roads, then back to Bullhead road. Sauls Crossroads was later known as the town of Eureka. “Bullhead road” is S. Church Street leading from Eureka, which becomes Faro Road and then Bullhead Road when it crosses the Greene County line. “Fremont road” is present-day Highway 222. This tract, then, was at the very heart of present-day Eureka (which remains, frankly, little more than a crossroads.)

188529 October. Hagans purchased 307.74 acres for $5075 from Thomas Edmundson and wife.

1885 31 October. Hagans purchased 4 acres from Burden West and wife Martha and Freeman West and wife Elizabeth. The tract adjoined “Napoleon Hagins formerly William Bryant W.B. Fort.”

1886 — Hagans bought land in Greene County from G.A. Jones and others.

18882 February. Hagans purchased 71.23 acres for $1500 from Mary Exum. The tract was on the Spring-Bank road bounded by Thomas Edmundson, Hagans, Jack Yelverton, Beaver Dam Branch and Spring Branch.

188822 July. Hagans and wife Absala sold 24 acres to Essex Farmer for $650. The tract adjoined Thomas Artis, “the Jack Wilson land” and Zilphy Artis, bounded by road leading from Sauls X Roads to Stantonsburg, being lot #3 in division of lands of Celia Artis and containing 34 acres. “Absala” signed her name “Appie Hagans,” and Hagans signed with an X. This is the land purchased in 1879 from Celia Artis’ son Calvin. Zilpha Artis was Calvin’s sister. John “Jack” Wilson married another Zilpha Artis, the sister of Hagans’ brother-in-law Adam Artis. Farmer apparently never paid off his mortgage as tract included in 1899 partition of Hagans’ estate.

1889 — Hagans bought land in Greene County from T.F. Jones and others.

18933 March. Hagans purchased 25 acres for $270 from J.W. Aycock and wife.

18944 January. Hagans purchased a lot on Pine Street, measuring 26′ x 220′, in Goldsboro for $700 from A.A. Williams.

189624 August. Napoleon Hagans died, almost a year to the day after his wife. They are buried just west of their house near Fremont.

189921 March. Partition of Napoleon Hagans’ lands, consisting of two tracts in Nahunta township containing 173 and 48 acres, described in deed from William Bryant to Napoleon Hagans; a tract containing 3 acres described in deed from W.J. Exum to Hagans; two tracts containing 75 ¾ and 6 acres, described in deed from Patsey Hall et al. to Napoleon Hagans; three tracts containing 39 ¼, 30 and 8 1/3 acres, described in deed from O.L. Yelverton et al. to Hagans; a tract containing 4 1/8 acres, described in deed from [omitted] to Hagans; a tract containing 25 acres, described in deed from J.W. Aycock to Hagans; a tract containing 9 ¼ acres, described in deed from Adam Artis to Hagans; a tract containing 24 acres, described in deed from Calvin Artis to Hagans; and a tract containing 30 acres, described in deed from Mary A. Exum to Hagans. Total acreage, approximately 475 2/3.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Floyd McKissick and Soul City

We drove up from Wilson to Soul City a few times in the mid-1970s, when my mother’s brother Charles C. Allen was city planner for the project. My memories are fleeting: the iconic Soul City sign, a scattering of house trailers, a large white “plantation house” cum operations center, and tick-infested fields. I was maybe 10 or 11; I wasn’t paying attention. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had another family link to Soul City. Floyd McKissick’s wife, Evelyn Williams McKissick, was the granddaughter of Mathew W. Aldridge and niece of my grandmother’s cousins Mamie Aldridge Rochelle and Fannie Aldridge Randolph.

Free People of Color, Land, Paternal Kin

Lisa Henderson Collection

Thanks to Will Robinson for his good work and to my cousin Bill Hagans for entrusting me with the preservation of these documents!

Wilson County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Blog

lisa_henderson _collection_16 William and Sarah Bryant are selling land to the renowned (and maybe a little infamous) Napoleon Hagans in 1871.

lisa_henderson _collection_14 Plat of Edmundson land being sold to Napoleon Hagans.  Did you know I used to be a land surveyor?

Last week when Lisa Henderson was in town to give her presentation, she also brought by a collection of family deeds for me to digitize.  My focus at graduate school was in the digitization of historic, archival records so anytime someone brings me musty old documents, I am very happy. These deeds are records that may not be in the state archives and if they are they are not easy to access. Very few of North Carolina’s historical records have been digitized so anyone that wants access has to plop down at the archives and sort through them.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, all of their holdings will be digitized…

View original post 133 more words

Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Another Arkansas Artis.

Scrolling through old notes, I found two more Artises — Nathan and John — who migrated to Arkansas, probably in the 1880s.

Here’s what I know about them:

  • Nathan and John Artis were the sons of Charity Artis, daughter of Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis. I don’t know who their father was. They were first cousins of Gus Artis and Eliza Artis Everett and second cousins of Guy Lane Jr., all of whom headed west from Wayne County, North Carolina.
  • The 1870 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, shows Solaman Williams, 70 year-old farm laborer, with daughters Charity and Daliley and grandsons Anderson, Nathan, and John.
  • In the 1880 census of Pikeville, Wayne County, Nathan Artis is listed as a nephew in the household of farmer Jonoah Williams, farmer, his wife Pleasant, and children George, Cora, Clarissa, Willie and Vicey.
  • This is a notice of delinquent and insolvent taxpayers published in the Goldsboro Headlight on 28 September, 1893. Nathan Artis is GONE.


Goldsboro Headlight, 1893. 

  • In the 1900 census of Point, Woodruff County, Arkansas: Nathan Artist (born February 1852, NC, farmer), Nora (born Dec 1863), and children John F. (October 1877), Bicy Ann (December 1880), Nathan jr. (March 1883), Adalina (February 1885), James H. (October 1887), Lou (August 1890), Solomon (September 1891), and McKinley (November 1897); plus Nathan’s brother John Artis (May 1866, NC), nieces Parthena (December 1894) and Alsie (February 1899) and nephew John H. (February 1897).  Nathan’s last four children were born in Arkansas.  The nieces and nephews were born in Arkansas to a North Carolina-born father and Tennessee-born mother.
  • In the 1910 census of Point, Woodruff County, Nathan Artis (55, farmer, b. NC), wife Norah (50, b. NC), and children Solomon (16), McKenley (11), Markannon (11), Mittie Ann (8) and Anderson (6), all born in Arkansas.  Nora reported 10 of 15 children living. John Artis (47, born NC) appears in the same township with second wife Bettie (33, born Georgia) and children Parthenia (14), John Henry (12), Elsia Jane (11), Pinkie Ann (7), Josheway (5) and Daisy (3), plus Mary Artis (65), described as “mother.” [Who was this? A stepmother? Bettie’s mother?]
  • Nathan Artis died 3 August 1915 in Woodruff County, Arkansas, and was buried in Harris cemetery in that county. His headstone gives his birthdate as 23 January 1849.
  • Nathan’s five sons registered for the World War I draft: (1) Nathan Artis, born 12 March 1885; resided Brinkley, Monroe County, Arkansas; section laborer for St.L.S.W.Ry.; wife Mary Artis; tall, medium build, brown eyes, black hair; signed his name; registered 12 September 1918; (2) James Artis, born 14 November 1888 in “Goldsburg,” NC; resided Aubrey, Arkansas; farmer for self; supported wife and three children; medium height, slender, brown hair and eyes; registered 5 June 1917; (3) Mark Hanna Artis, born 6 November 1896; resided Audrey, Arkansas; employed by T.F. Turner; nearest relative, Nora Artis; medium height, slender, black hair and eyes; signed with X; registered 5 June 1918; Mark’s twin (4) McKinley Artis, born 6 November 1896; resided Audrey, Arkansas; employed by Angeline Steward; nearest relative, Frances Artis; tall, medium build, black hair and eyes; signed with X; registered 5 June 1918; and (5) Solomon Artis, born 16 November 1893; resided Aubrey, Arkansas; farmer for self; single; medium height and build, black hair and eyes; signed with X; registered 5 June 1917.
  • So did John’s oldest son John Henry Artist, born 8 April 1899; resided Gregory, Arkansas; farmer for John Artist; nearest relative, John Artist; tall, medium build, brown eyes, black hair; signed with X; registered 12 September 1918.
  • John Artis was alive as late as 1930, when he appears in the census of Mississippi County, Arkansas.
  • At least two of Nathan Artis’ sons migrated to the Memphis. McKinley, died there in 1925 of tuberculosis. His first cousin John Henry, who lived in Oakville, Shelby County, died three years later of the same disease brother. His brother “Jack,” however, lived into early middle age, dying in Memphis in 1939. The remainder of Nathan and John Artis’ children seem to have remained, at least till the eve of World War II, in eastern Arkansas.