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, 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.