1 grubing hoe, 1 irone Square, 1 saw & drawing knife

by Lisa Y. Henderson

The “Account of the Sale of the property of Ablassom [sic] Artis decest Sold by Jesse Hollowell Admr for Confederate money this March 9th 1864” chronicled the disposal of Absalom Artis‘ possessions.  His estate included household goods, farm implements, carpenter’s tools, a cow and calf, and 5 “chickings.”  Most of the buyers were Absalom’s free colored neighbors and kin: Green Simmons, Jacob Artis, Patrick Artis, Joseph Artis, John Artis, Edwin Artis, Oliver Guy, Edmond Artis, Charity Hagans and Levi Winn.

Records of Wills and Estates, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

[Sidenote: The Civil War is raging. Absalom Artis has died of old age. Folk gather at the sale of his estate, hoping for a good deal on a harness or maybe a hammer. The crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder to peer at each item, is unusually mixed. Of the 21 buyers listed in the account, only ten were white. The others, 10 men and a woman, were members of Wayne County’s resilient little free colored community. Most were desperately poor, clinging to their precarious toehold on liberty. Others, like Absalom Artis and many of his kin, had managed to achieve a measure of comfort (material, anyway) that equalled or bested that of their white neighbors. They stepped up and laid down their Confederate dollars like the next man. 

I am an Artis, but not descended from Absalom. The connection between him and my Artis forebear is lost to time, but the Artises collectively comprised one of the largest free colored families in antebellum North Carolina. They had been freed generations before in southside Virginia. — LYH]