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

Napoleon Artis, known as Doc.

Napoleon Octavius “Doc” Artis was the oldest son of Adam T. Artis and Frances Seaberry Artis.

In the 1870 census of Holden, Wayne County: Adam Artices, black farmer, wife Francis and  children Kerney, Noah, Mary J., Idar, Octavia, Elizer, Vicey, George A., and Adam.  Adam reported owning $200 personal property and $300 real property. In Nahunta township, there was a duplicate listing: farmer Adam Artis, wife Francis, and children Kenney, Noah, Mary J., Jaden, Tavious, Elizar, Vicy, George A., and Adam. In Nahunta, the family appears next door to Adam’s brother-in-law and sister John and Zilpha Artis Wilson.

In the 1880 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Adam Artis, 48, and children Eliza, 15, Dock, 17, George Anna, 13, Adam, 12, Haywood, 10, Emma, 8, Walter, 6, William, 4, and Jesse, 2, and grandson Frank, 4 months. (Frances died shortly after Jesse’s death.)

On 10 January 1887, Napoleon Artis married Sallie Taylor in Wayne County.

In the 1900 census of Saulston, Wayne County: farmer Napolion Artis, 37, wife Salie, 29, and children Humphrey, 12, Lesley, 8, and Odel, 6, plus his grandfather Aaron Sebery, 85 [father of Frances Seaberry Artis, often called Frances Hagans], and his brother Jesse, 23.

Tragedy struck soon after. As reported in the Goldsboro Headlight on 3 January 1903:

On Christmas day, Humphrey Artist, the 18 year-old son of Dock Artis, colored, was shot and killed by William Smith, also colored, in Saulston township.  The latter claims the shooting accidental but the coroner’s jury pronounces it criminal neglect.  Smith was promptly arrested and brought here to be jailed.

In the 1910 census of Saulston, Wayne County: on Goldsboro & Snow Hill Road, Napoleon Artist, 46, with wife Sallie J., 35, and children Leslie, 18, and Odel, 15. Next door: Celepus Thompson, 23, wife Lillie, 20, and daughter Jenettie, 5 months. [Lillie was Napoleon’s half-sister. Two doors away: six year-old Lula Shadding, see below.]

On 21 January 1914, Lesly Artis, 22, son of Napoleon and Sallie Artis, married Minnie Diggs, 19, in Nahunta, Wayne County. Odell Artis of Saulston was a witness to the ceremony.

On 5 June 1917, both of Napoleon’s surviving sons registered for the World War I draft registration: Odell Artis, born 14 August 1893 in Wayne County; resided at RFD 1, Saulston, Wayne County; worked in farming; nearest relative, Napeon [sic] Artis, Saulston; single; medium height and weight; brown eyes, black hair. Leslie Artis, born 5 Feb 1892 in Wayne County; resided in Goldsboro; had a wife and two children; tall and slender; black hair, black eyes.

In the 1920 census of Saulston, Wayne County: Napoleon Artis, 57, wife Sallie, 45, and son Odell, 24. Napoleon reported owning his farm. Also in Saulston: Leslie Artis, 28, wife Minnie, 25, and daughters Gertie, 5, Alberta, 4, and Malave, 2.

On 4 December 1920, Lula Shadding, 19, of Saulston married Ed Fowler, 20, of Saulston at a Freewill Baptist church in Pikeville. Their license names Dock Artis and Minnie Shadding as Lula’s parents.

On 20 January 1921, Odell Artis, son of Napoleon and Sally Artis, married Olivia Diggs, daughter of Suler Diggs, in Wilson. Edgar Diggs applied for the license and served as one of the witnesses. (The marriage record mistakenly lists Napoleon as the groom.)  By 1929, the couple had moved to Washington, D.C., and appear in city directories thereafter. Odell worked as a Pullman porter. [Lizzie Olivia Diggs Artis was a first cousin to Minnie Diggs Artis.]

Napoleon seems to have been skipped in the 1930 census. In Saulston township, Wayne County: farmer Lesley Artis, 37, wife Minnie, 35, and children Gurtie, 15, Alberta, 14, Mallie V., 13, Katheleen, 8, Sallie, 6, Russel, 4, and Marvin Artis, 2.

In the 1940 census of Saulston township, Wayne County: on Saulston and Snow Hill Road, Leslie Artis, 48, wife Minnie, 48, and children Mallie V., 21, Sally May, 15, Russell, 13, and Marvin, 12, and father Napoleon, 77.

On 16 April 1942, Napoleon Artis died in Saulston township.  His death certificate reports that he was the widowed spouse of Sallie Artis, that he was born 28 Feb 1863 to Adam Artis and Frances Hagans of Wayne County, and that he was buried 18 April 1942 in Shadden Cemetery, Wayne County. Son Leslie Artis was the informant.

Napoleon’s will entered probate in September 1942. Written 17 years earlier, its terms bequeathed one 22-acre parcel in Wayne County [adjacent to Wheeler Thompson, father-in-law of his sister Lillie Beatrice Artis Thompson Whitley Pridgen] to son Odell and his remaining property in Wayne and Greene Counties to son Leslie. The explanation: Odell “has not lived with me, and has not assisted me in the payment of my indebtedness.”

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Leslie Artis died 10 March 1974 at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro. His death certificate notes that he was a retired farmer born 5 February 1892 to Napoleon Artis and Sallie Taylor.  He was buried 13 March 1974 in Diggs cemetery, Wayne County. Informant was his daughter Gertie M. Best.

[The Francis Diggs Cemetery is located at 168 Watery Branch Road, Stantonsburg (but in Wayne County.) This was originally the family cemetery of Leslie’s wife Minnie Diggs Artis, who was descended from Celia Artis. Leslie’s family members buried there include wife Minnie D. Artis  (1894-1970), daughter Alberta Artis Suggs (1916-2000), daughter Mallie V. Artis Hobbs (1918-2014), son-in-law Alonzo Shackleford (1921-1996), son Russell Lee Artis (1926-1963), and son Marvin “Doc” Artis (1927-1998).]

Leslie Artis

Leslie Artis

Minnie Diggs Artis

Minnie Diggs Artis

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com; photos courtesy of user James Diggs at http://www. ancestry.com.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, Paternal Kin

Indiana Chronicles, no. 2: To pay respects.

Ten A.M. After some nervous indecision, I’d parked in the driveway of a nearby farmhouse and was hustling up the road toward a tiny cemetery. The odor of cow dung was large. The crack of thunder at the horizon was larger. I arrived in Kokomo three days after catastrophic F3 tornadoes had ripped through, and I was not anxious to get caught out in the new storms racing across central Indiana. But I’d come 600 miles for this, and I wasn’t leaving before I got what I came for.

With his wife dead and nothing to hold them in Onslow County, North Carolina, James Henderson gathered up his children and pushed 60 miles northwest to Sampson County. There, James married Eliza Armwood and, about 1852, their first child was born. It does not take a great leap of imagination to picture my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis, oldest of James’ first bunch, cradling his baby sister Anna Jane in his arms or hoisting her to his shoulders in the years before his own children were born. Nor is it hard to conjecture his sense of loss when Anna left with her new husband Montraville Simmons to join his family in impossibly faraway Canada. She was the only one of James’ children to leave North Carolina, and she did so in a big way. The Simmonses eventually quit Ontario for Indiana, but, practically speaking, the Midwest was no closer to home. It’s not clear when Anna last saw any of her people, but it’s a sure bet that none ever visited Cass County, and not a one has ever visited her grave.

Thus, I found myself navigating the grid of backroads between Logansport and Kokomo, one eye on the western sky as bands of rain lashed my windshield. Properly speaking, I was not headed to Anna’s actual grave, for it is unmarked. But to stand in Bassett cemetery would be close enough.

 

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Friend or family?

I was reminded of this cohabitation:

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In the 1850 census of South Side of Neuse, Wayne County, North Carolina: farmer Calvin Simmons, 42, wife Hepsey, 46, and children Harriet, 13, Susan, 11, Montrival, 9, Jno. R., 7, Margaret, 5, Dixon, 3, and Geo. W., 1, plus Robt. Aldridge, 26, who worked as a hireling.  Calvin was born in Sampson County, Robert in Duplin; the others in Wayne.

This, of course, is the family of Montraville Simmons, recorded in the last census before they emigrated to Kent County, Ontario. Who was my great-great-great-grandfather Robert Aldridge to John Calvin Simmons and his wife Hepsie Dixon Simmons? A farmhand? A boarder? A poor relative? At this point, I know nothing of Robert’s parents, so I am intrigued.

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Free People of Color, Land, Migration, Paternal Kin

Indiana Chronicles, no. 1: East half and Northwest quarter of Section 29, Township 27 North, Range 1 East.

On 10 April 1900, Montraville Simmons and Dock Simmons of Howard County, Indiana, paid $6000 to the heirs of Israel Watts for this real estate:

Beginning at the North-west corner of said Section; thence West Twenty-eight -28- chains and Eighty-two -82- links to a stone; thence South Twenty-eight -28- chains and Seventy-one -71-links to a stone on the North Bank of the Wabash and Erie Canal; thence Westwardly along the North line of the Wabash and Erie Canal Eighteen -18- chains and Sixty-three -63- links to the East line of the Public Highway; thence South eastwardly along the East line of the Public Highway to the North Bank of the Wabash River; thence Eastwardly along the North line or meanderings of said Wabash River to the East line of said Section Twenty-nine -29-; thence North along the East line of said Section to the place of beginning, containing in said tract One Hundred and thirty-eight -138- acres, more or less.

Excepting from the Warranty the Wabash and Erie Canal and the P.C.C. and St.L.R.R. Co. right-of-way.

The decade that the family held the “Old Watts Farm” was a non-stop circus of squabbling with neighbors, domestic abuse and ruinous mortgages. (More on all that later.) In the middle of it all, Anna Henderson Simmons lay her burden down. After a few years tied up in Anna’s probate, and the deaths of Montraville Sr. and Jr., the property passed out of the Simmonses’ hands.

Astonishingly, though, the parcel is largely intact. Here it is in an undated (but perhaps mid 1930s) Cass County, Indiana Plat Book and Atlas, found at the Cass County Public Library:

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And a 1951 map of Cass County prepared by Charles D. Murphy, Cass County surveyor (also found at the library):

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And an up-to-date county plat map hanging in the Cass County Recorder’s Office:

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And in a screen-capture from Google Maps:

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Highway 24 cuts across the bottom of the property running alongside the railroad (formerly owned by Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & Saint Louis Railroad.) It’s difficult to tell where the canal once ran. Presently, there’s no road off 24 leading into the Simmons farm. However, if, headed west, you hang a sharp left onto Georgetown Road, you’ll pass under the railroad trestle and, on the left as the road curves to follow the Wabash River, you’ll see a private driveway that leads into what was Montreville’s riverfront. (Now occupied by Morels on the Wabash, offering cabins and campsites.)

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Looking across Highway 24 to the trestle over Georgetown Road. The land stretching away to the left (east) was Montreville Simmons’.

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The Wabash River looking west.

Metes and bounds set forth in deed (that I copied, but neglected to write down the book and page numbers for), Cass County Recorder’s Office; photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2016.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

The last will and testament of Anna Henderson Simmons.

STATE OF INDIANA, CASS COUNTY, SS:

BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the 10th day of July, 1906, the following proceedings were had in the Cass Circuit of Indiana, in the matter of the Estate of Anna Simmons, deceased, as entered of record in Probate Order Book No. 31, page 589, which proceedings are in the words and figures as Follows, to-wit:

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF ANNA SIMMONS, DECEASED         PROBATE OF WILL, July 10, 1906.

Comes now on this 10th day of July 1906, John W. Markley, one of the subscribing witnesses and presents to the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court, for probate the will of Anna Simmons, deceased, dated May 14th of May [sic] 1906, and shows by the affidavit of John W. Markley one of the subscribing witnesses to said will in proof thereof, that at the time of execution of said will the said Anna Simmons was a person over twenty one years of age, of sound disposing Mind and Memory and not under any coercion or restraint, and that said decedent departed this life testate in Cass County in the State of Indiana, on the 16th day of June, 1906. And thereupon said will is admitted to probate by the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court as the last will and testament of Anna Simmons, deceased, And said will and the affidavit of John W. Markley in proof thereof are now spread of record by the Clerk of the Cass Circuit Court, in the Will records of Cass County Indiana, as the last will and testament of Anna Simmons, deceased, which will and affidavit in proof thereof are in these words

In the name of the benevolent Father of all

I Anna Simmons wife of Montraville Simmons being of sound and disposing mind and memory do hereby make and publish this as my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking and making void any and all wills by me at any time heretofore made.

First: I direct that all my just debts be paid out of the first moneys coming to the hands of my executor hereinafter named.

Second. I will devise and bequeath to my children, Moncy A. Bassett, Doctor T. Simmons, Susan Bassett, Montraville Simmons Jr. and Edward Simmons, a certain mortgage and debt secured thereby, which mortgage is executed by Montraville Simmons March 23rd 1903, to me to secure money advanced to said Montraville Simmons by me of funds received from my father, as a portion of my interest in his estate. Said mortgage is recorded in the Recorders office in Cass County Indiana in mortgage record No. 49 page 314, but the devisees aforesaid are not to compel a collection of said debt as long as the interest on said debt is paid by the said Montraville Simmons.

In the event that said Montraville Simmons becomes incapacitated for work and has no income so he is able to pay any interest on said mortgage & it becomes necessary to foreclose said mortgage to preserve the property and debt, it is my desire that the children above named look after the comfort of their father and to such end that they use such p[art of the prcoeeds said mortgage as is necessary to provide for his subsistence and comfort.

I hereby appoint Doctor T. Simmons my son to act as Executor of this my last will.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 14 day of May 1906.  Anna (X) Simmons

Witness Benjamin D. Bradfield

Subscribed by the testator in our presence as his last will and testament and at her request, subscribed by us in her presence and in the presence and in the presence of such other as witnesses to said last will.     John W. Markley, Benjamin D. Bradfield

——

Beyond the gobsmackedness of finding that Anna Henderson Simmons had a will at all, there is this:

  • The will is dated just a month before Anna died on 16 June 1906. Her mind was sound, but she knew her body was failing.
  • All she left to her children was the mortgage she held on her husband Montraville Simmons’ property. She had secured the mortgage to ensure that Montraville repaid a loan she made him.
  • Incredibly, she cites as the source of the money lent “funds received from my father, as a portion of my interest in his estate.” Funds received from her father’s estate???? Anna’s father, James Henderson — my great-great-great-great-grandfather — died about 1890 in Wayne County, North Carolina. I have found no probate records for him there or anywhere.
  • Montraville executed the mortgage on 23 March 1903. According to a lawsuit Anna filed in December 1905 — which had the effect of stalling claims by Montraville’s many and exasperated creditors — Montraville was in debt to her for $3500. While some small portion of that may have been inherited from her father, it is hard to believe that James Henderson’s estate totaled $3500, much less that his estate remitted that amount to the one child (of his dozen or so then living children) that he had not seen in 30 years.
  • Even if their father defaulted on the mortgage — and despite his abuse of his family, about which more later — Anna wanted her children to care for him. She could not have known, of course, that her compassion would be wasted, as he would remarry within the year and set off a new wave of scandal.
  • To wit, from the 9 April 1907 Logansport Pharos-Tribune: “Married [to Emily Langford] March 11 and separated March 16, and in the meantime to have another darky come along and love his wife right in his presence is the ‘terrible’  experience which Montraville Simmons was ‘his’ during this short but eventful honeymoon.” Montraville (described as a “darky of large proportions”) claimed that Emily allowed William Wilson to “hug, kiss, caress and fondle” her in his presence and, when he protested tried to kill him with a flatiron. Montraville filed for divorce, but on 9 July 1907, the Pharos-Tribune reported that the Monticello, Indiana, paper had reported that Montraville “is gathering up the ragged remains of his matrimonial venture in our local colored colony” and had dropped the divorce action. This dysfunction roiled on into 1908, when the Logansport Daily Reporter alerted Cass County that Montraville had beaten Emily badly for breaking a mug and spilling his beer.
  • Witness Benjamin D. Bradfield was an Irish-born doctor who practiced for decades in Cass County. John W. Markley owned a title company.
  • Dock Simmons did not prove to be a worthy steward of his mother’s estate. (To be fair, the “more notoriety” label was probably more applicable to his father than to him.) From the 9 February 1909 edition of the Logansport Times:

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  • Anna’s legacy disappeared under a flurry of lawsuits. Later newspaper reports show that by 1909 Montraville and the children were under siege by various creditors holding judgments totaling hundreds of dollars. Montraville Jr. died in 1910 at the tender age of 28; his father followed two years later.
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