Agriculture, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

I would be glad if you would wait a few days.

The second in an occasional series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908. Paragraph breaks inserted for better readability.

Plaintiff introduces H.S. REID who being duly sworn testifies as follows:

I know the Defendant Tom Artis. I had a conversation with him in reference to payment of cotton to [William S.] Hagans. This last fall I was on the road with Hagans and met Tom Artis carrying a bale of cotton. Heard conversation between Artis and Hagans. When we met in the road Tom said, “You are leaving home, and I have started to your house with a bale of lint cotton.” Hagans told Tom to carry it on as quick as he could, for he needed it about as bad as he ever saw anyone. He said that in a joking way. Hagans started off, and he said, “Hold on Captain!” He told him that he understood that he was going to sell the land down there. Hagans said yes, that it was for sale. Tom said, “I would be glad if you would wait a few days Captain, I think I can raise the money for that place, didn’t say what place just then. Hagans said he had rather sell it altogether. Tom said if he would give him a few days until he could see his boys, he thought he could raise the money for it all. Hagans said alright, it was all for sale. That was about the end of the conversation and we parted. Later then that one day, at Eureka, Artis asked me if I knew when Hagans would be out at his place. I told him about the day Hagans told me he would be out there. Artis said I wish I would deliver a message to Hagans for him, “ask him not to sell that place to Mr. Wright Cook. Said if he did, he would be out of house and home. He said he would rather Hagans sell it to Coley, for he thought he could get along better with Mr. Coley. I delivered the message to Hagans when he came out home. I think this is about the substance. That last conversation was a short while before the sale I think. Am not real sure when it was.


I told this conversation about Tom wanting Hagans to wait before he sold the land. I told several people, I don’t remember all. I am not able to tell. I think Hagans and I talked about Tom Wanting to buy the land. I am not positive. I heard Hagans say that the old man wanted to buy the land from him, as I remember. I think I told the lawyer about the first conversation.

HENRY S. REID recalled by Defendant.

I don’t know that on the occasion I met Tom Artis, that he forbid Hagans selling his land. It wasn’t mentioned that day. I have never admitted to Tom that he forbid Hagans selling that land.

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

Where we lived: Adam Artis’ Eureka.

Adam Artis bought and sold hundreds of acres in northeast Wayne County in the last half of the 19th century. Almost 160 years after he filed his first deed, his descendants remain on pockets of his land strung along Highway 222. More enduringly, their family cemeteries cluster east of Eureka toward Stantonsburg — at the heart of his erstwhile empire.

eureka artis

#1 marks the location of Adam Artis’ grave. His many wives and children notwithstanding, until the mid-1980s, his was the only readily identifiable grave in the plot.

#2 is the self-proclaimed “Historic John I. Exum” cemetery. Adam’s kin intermarried considerably with Exums, including his granddaughter Cora Artis, who married John Ed Exum, and his sister Delilah Williams, who married Simon Exum. Delilah and Simon, however, are buried at #3, along with several of their descendants.

Red Hill Road debouches into 222 across from #3. Not a half-mile back up the road, at least two and possibly four of Adam’s sons rest. Noah and June Scott Artis are buried in #4 with several of June’s offspring, as well as their brother Robert‘s wife and their brother Henry J.B.‘s wife and children.

About a half-mile, as the crow flies, south of #3 is #5, which contains the graves of Adam’s son William M. Artis and his descendants, as well a daughter of Adam’s brother Jesse Artis.

The road snaking northwest out of Eureka becomes Turner Swamp Road past the city limits. Just off the edge of this map, perhaps a mile up the road, stands Turner Swamp Baptist Church, once led by Jonah Williams, brother of  Adam Artis, Jesse Artis and Delilah Williams Exum. A sizeable cemetery lies behind the church, and it contains the graves of Magnolia Artis Reid, daughter of Loumiza Artis Artis, who was another Artis sibling, as well as descendants of Zilpha Artis Reid and Richard Artis, yet more siblings. Turner Swamp itself appears as a dark green curve bracketing the upper left corner of the photo. It is likely that the original location of the church was north along the banks of the waterway, at the site where the overgrown graves of Jonah Williams and his family lie.

Back in the other direction, east on 222 toward Stantonsburg, lies Watery Branch Road. (The branch itself is the dark green sword piercing more than halfway into the frame from the right.) Perhaps a quarter-mile, if that far, down the road on the right lies the Diggs cemetery, another small family graveyard. Celia Artis, born about 1800, the wealthiest free woman of color in Wayne County, was the Diggs’ matriarch. She and Adam Artis’ kinship, if any, was unknown even to them. Two of Celia’s great-granddaughters married a son and a grandson of Adam Artis. Leslie Artis, his wife Minnie Diggs Artis, and some of their descendants are buried here.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 6: another Artis brother.

Just south of Eureka, I crunch slowly up a gravel driveway toward a large, modern house. Three dirty-blond boys, alike enough to be brothers, stop their play in the garage to stare. I halt and ask permission to cross a small field to a cemetery marooned on a little island in its midst. They nod assent and return to their pastime, hip-hop blaring behind them. A lounging Rottweiler pays me no attention; a beagle mix wags greetings and accepts a head pat. I traverse perhaps 75 feet of damp soil to reach the hammock that holds the remains of William M. Artis and his family.

William Artis family William and Etta Diggs Artis and children Doris, Tom and Elmer, mid-1930s.

William, son of Adam T. Artis and Frances Seaberry Artis, was in his 30s when he married Etta Diggs (1888-1988), daughter of Margaret Diggs and an unknown white man. Margaret Diggs was the daughter of Frances Artis, born free around 1842, and William Diggs. Frances Artis’ parents were Celia Artis, a wealthy free colored woman, and, reportedly, James Yelverton, a white man. Celia Artis was not related, at least in an immediate way, to William’s father, Adam.

It’s hard to tell below, but the William Artis graveyard is completely encircled by plowed land.


It’s in tolerable condition. Weedy, but it’s clear that it is periodically mowed.


Up close, one finds William and Etta,



and several of their ten children, including:





Others buried here include Frances Artis Edmundson‘s husband John H. Edmundson; Beulah Artis Best‘s husbands Leslie E. Exum and George Best; Leslie Exum’s mother, Ada Artis Exum Rowe, who, as the daughter of Jesse Artis and Lucinda Hobbs, was William Artis’ first cousin; and William and Etta’s daughter Margaret Artis Thompson (1910-1981) and her husband, J. Leslie Thompson.


This house stands in front the graveyard, facing the road. Was it William Artis’?

Artis Cousins 001

Beulah and Margaret Artis on either side of their cousin, Helen Carter, probably 1930s. Helen’s mother, Beulah Aldridge Carter, was their first cousin.

Copies of old photos courtesy of the late Dorothy Carter Blackman; others taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2013.

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

Family cemeteries, no. 4: the Exums.

Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis‘ youngest daughter, Delilah Williams, married Simon Exum around 1870. The couple settled on a farm near both of their families and reared seven children: Ora Exum Artis (1871-1933), Patrick Exum (1873-??), Mollie (1875-??), Alice Exum Finlayson (1877-1961), Alice Exum (1879-??), Loumiza Exum (1879), William Exum (1881-??), and Simon Exum Jr. (1884-1963).

Last summer, I drove up and down Highway 222 searching unsuccessfully for this family’s graveyard, which should have been just up the road from both Delilah’s brother Adam Artis’ grave and the larger Exum cemetery containing the remains of Simon’s parents, John and Sophronia Exum. Later, using GPS coordinates, I found it in the backyard, more or less, of a house whose occupants erected a six-foot fence to block the view. I returned yesterday and, across a plowed-under field, immediately spotted several stones, including:


Delilah Williams Exum (1851-1939), and


Simon Exum (1842-1915).

Other kin buried in this cemetery: grandson John Brogdus Artis (1903-1979), son of Ora Exum Artis; Emma E. Exum (1884-1978), wife of son Simon Exum Jr.; Estelle Exum (1910-1988), daughter of son Simon Jr.; Simon Exum Jr. (1884-1963); and daughter Alice Finlayson (1875-1961).


P.S. After posting this, I found this obituary in the 10 July 2009 edition of the Goldsboro News-Argus:

WASHINGTON D.C. — Simon Devon Exum, 59, formerly of Wayne County, died Tuesday at Washington Center Hospital.

His life will be celebrated Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. James Christian Church in Fremont, with minister James Earl Bunch officiating. His mortal remains will be laid to rest in the historic John C. Exum I Cemetery in Eureka.

Warm memories are cherished by his siblings, Larry Exum and Timothy Exum of Upper Marlboro, Md., Ray Exum and Brenda Mills of Goldsboro, Diane Exum of Chicago, Carol Packer of Eureka, Sherla Exum of Fremont and Gloria Exum of Wilson.

He will lie in state Saturday from 10:15 a.m. until the funeral hour at the church.

The family will receive friends at the home place, 3073 NC 222 East in Stantonsburg, where they will also assemble in preparation for the funeral procession.

John C. Exum was Simon Exum Sr.’s father. John and “Fraunie” Exum’s gravestones note that they were born free, but I’ve found no evidence of either pre-Civil War.  3073 NC 222 East is directly across the street from the house in front of the Simon Exum cemetery (which is probably now closed to burials,) and Simon Devon Exum was a son of M.R. Cornell Exum, son of Simon Exum Jr.  3073 caught my attention as I pulled my car off the road; it has recently been reduced to a pile of rubble.

Births Deaths Marriages, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 2: Artis & Bunch.


The small “Artis & Bunch” cemetery is located on Highway 222 East in Wayne County between Stantonsburg and Eureka NC on land still owned and occupied by Adam’s descendants. There are several graves, including those of Adam T. Artis (9 July 1831-11 February 1919) and his granddaughters Odessa Artis Baker and Esther Artis Bunch. (Apparently, none of Adam’s wives are buried with him.)



Photographs taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2010.