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

No damages.

More times than I might have imagined, see here and here and here and here and here, members of my extended family have figured in litigation that made its way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Here’s another such case:

William Hooks v. William T. Perkins, 44 NC 21 (1852).

In 1845, the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions bound brothers Rufus Artis and Thomas Artis to William Hooks to serve as apprentices until age 21. At the time of their indentures, Rufus’ age was reported as 7 and Thomas’ as 18. In 1849, after the court determined that Thomas was, in fact, only 15 when apprenticed, a judge ordered his indenture amended to correct his true age. Hooks, apparently, never got around to it.  Meanwhile, William Perkins hired Thomas. Deprived of the young man’s labor, Hooks attempted to enforce the court order, and Perkins took up Thomas’ cause.  Arguing that Thomas was bound to serve him until his true age of 21 — regardless of the age listed on his indenture — Hooks sued Perkins for damages for the period from November 1848 to February 1849 during which Perkins would not turn Thomas over.  The state Supreme Court held that Hooks should have amended Thomas’ indenture to reflect his actual age at the time it expired, per the court order.  Having failed to do so, Hooks was not Thomas’ master when Perkins hired him and was not entitled to damages.

Notwithstanding the court’s findings, Rufus, 11, and Thomas Artis, 20, were listed in the household of farmer William Hooks, along with another apprentice, W.H. Hagins, 15, in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County. (William Perkins does not appear in the county’s census at all.)  Worse, by 1860, Rufus Artis had lost ground, as the census of Nahunta, Wayne County, lists him as a 17 year-old — rather than the 21 or 22 year-old he actually was — in Hooks’ household, along with Polly Hagans, 15, and Ezekiel Hagans, 13.  In other words, what Hooks could not get out of Thomas Artis, he appears to have extracted from his younger brother.

Rufus Artis eluded the census taker in 1870, but he was around. On Christmas Eve 1874, he married Harriet Farmer in Wayne County. The family appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: Rufus Artis, 46, wife Harriet, 30, and daughters Hannah, 13, and Pennina, 9. The family lived very near a cluster of three other sets of extended Artis families descended from Vicey Artis, Celia Artis, and Vincent Artis, none of whom were not known to have been related. (Or, at least, not closely so.) In the 1900 census of Nahunta, Rufus and Harriet, their children grown and gone, shared their home with Harriet’s mother, 73 year-old Chanie Farmer. Daughter Pennina had married Curry Thompson, son of Edie Thompson, on 11 October 1893 in Wayne County. They had two daughters, Harriet (1895) and Appie (1896). On 10 January 1917, Harriet Thompson married John Henry Artis, born 1896 to Richard Artis and Susannah Yelverton Artis. Richard, of course, was the son of Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis, and the brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

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One thought on “No damages.

  1. Kith Maloney says:

    Hi Lisa. I’m Keith in Live Oak Florida. Recently, in a private local collection, I purchased a charcoal or charcoal enhanced portrait of a young black woman. Based on her dress, I’m guessing Civil War Era. I find her extremely beautiful. She has very light colored brown eyes. The frame, which I believe is circa 1890 or so was in terrible shape, so I completely redid it. I have not touched the portrait. I would part with it… if you are interested in purchasing it. I am a local artist here, and will be happy to upload images of it.
    Best Wishes.
    Stay Blessed,
    Keith Maloney

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