You snooze, you lose.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
William Hooks v. William T. Perkins, 44 NC 21 (1852).
This case arose in Wayne County. Rufus Artis and Thomas Artis were bound to William Hooks in 1845 to apprentices until age 21. At the time, Rufus’ age was reported as 7 and Thomas’ as 18. In 1849, after a determination that Thomas was, in fact, only 15 when indentured, the court ordered his indenture amended. It never happened. Perkins hired Thomas and helped him resist Hooks’ efforts to enforce the order. Arguing that Thomas was bound to serve him until his actual age was 21, regardless of the age listed on his indenture, Hooks sued Perkins for damages for the period November 1848 to February 1849 during which Perkins would not turn Thomas over. The state supreme court held that Hooks should have amended Thomas’ term at the time it expired, per the court order, to reflect his true age. Having failed to do so, Hooks was not Thomas’ master when Perkins hired him and was not entitled to damages.
Notwithstanding, in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County: Rufus, 11, and Thomas Artis, 20, are listed in the household of farmer William Hooks, along with another apprentice, W.H. Hagins, 15. William Perkins does not appear in the county’s census. In the 1860 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, Rufus Artis has lost more ground, as he is listed as a 17 year-old, along with Polly Hagans, 15, and Ezekiel Hagans, 13, in Wm. Hooks’ household. [In other words, Hooks learned his lesson well. — LYH]