ROLE and SCOTT/SCOTTE.
At the heart of Wayne County Superior Court proceedings stemming from the suit in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis (1908) was a dispute over 30 acres of land. Thomas “Tom Pig” Artis began renting the property in 1881 from W.J. Exum. In 1892, Exum’s widow Mary sold it to Napoleon “Pole” Hagans. In 1896, after Napoleon’s death, the land passed to his sons Henry and William S. Hagans, and in 1899 Henry sold his interest to his brother. In 1908, William S. Hagans sold the 30 acres to J.F. Coley. Coley filed suit when Tom Artis laid claim to it, arguing that Napoleon had sold it to him. Tom claimed that the 800 lbs. of cotton he tendered to Napoleon Hagans (and later, his son William) was interest on a mortgage, but William Hagans and other witnesses maintained that the payment was rent. (Tom also testified that he rented the “Adam Artis place.”) William testified that his father was in feeble health in 1896 when he called him and his brother Henry together “under the cart shelter” to tell them he would not live long and did not know to whom the land would fall. William testified that Pole asked them to let “Pig” stay on as long as he paid rent, and they promised to do so. Tom Franks testified that “Pole was a first-rate business man.” Jonah Williams, Adam Artis’ brother, testified that he borrowed money from Napoleon to open a brickyard in the spring of 1893 and had preached his funeral. He also noted that “Tom married my sister [Loumiza Artis]. He is not a member of my church. I turned him out. He is a Primitive Baptist. I preached Napoleon Hagans’ funeral.”) Jesse Artis, another of Adam Artis’ brothers, testified that he had worked on Napoleon’s property as a carpenter for 18 years and noted, “I don’t know that Tom and I are any kin, just by marriage.” John Rountree testified that he was a tenant renting on thirds. Simon Exum, Delilah Artis‘ husband, testified: “I am no kin to Tom [Artis] as far as I know, except by Adam. His first wife was my wife’s sister.” H.S. Reid testified that he was Tom Artis’ son-in-law. The court found for Coley and against Artis.
[Sidenote: The Artises, Haganses and Reids were neighbors in the Eureka area of Wayne County for generations. Tom Artis’ mother Celia Artis and Henry S. Reid’s grandmother Rhoda Reid were the wealthiest free women of color in the county. Adam Artis married Napoleon Hagans’ half-sister Frances Seaberry. Adam’s sister Loumiza married Tom Artis. Henry S. Reid, son of Washington and Penninah Reid, married Tom Artis’ daughter. Henry’s first cousin Henry Reid, son of John and Mozana Hall Reid, married Adam Artis’ daughter Georgianna Artis. Adam Artis’ son William Marshall Artis and grandson Leslie Artis married Tom Artis’ neices, Etta and Minnie Diggs. And on and on. — LYH]
WAS committed to Wayne County Jail, on the 31st Oct. last, a negro man who calls his name Billy Holmes, and says he is free. He is about 6 feet high, dark complexion, good teeth, and weighs about 170 lbs., his age is about 24 years. He further says that he was bound to Judge Sanders at 10 years of age, and remained with him until he was 21; after which he went to Wilmington and had a fight with one Charles Hamburg, a white man, for which he was imprisoned; that Mr. John Cowan paid the cost, that he agreed to work with Mr. Cowan until he was paid, and from whom he eventually hired his time; he then worked on the Light Boat two months; then as Fireman on the Petersburg Railroad two months; and thence came to Goldsboro’, where, after committing several acts of Larceny, he was committed to Jail. It is generally believed that he is a runaway slave. The owner is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges, and take him away, or he will be dealt with as the law directs.
Said Billy says his mother’s name is Amy Hays, and his father is Billy Holmes (the Barber) – born and raised in Wake county. OLLIN COOR, Sheriff.
Goldsboro’, Nov. 29, 1853.
New Era, Goldsboro, 15 March 1854.
To the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina
The Petition of Lewis Tombereau most humbly sheweth
That your Petitioner is a native of France and a shoemaker by trade and that being from his youth attached to a government founded on Just and liberal principles such as guarantees the enjoyment of rational liberty, and an equal participation in the administration of its laws to every citizen however humble. He emigrated to the United States, and settled himself therein, near Williamston in Martin County in this state, where without a care beyond his lap stone, he worked at his trade with such assiduity and industry as to have been considered eminently useful in his line in that neighbourhood, so that he was enabled to make both ends meet with comfort, which he still hopes to do and thereby to his last, eat the bread of independence.
That to lighten the cares, and sweeten the toils of life, and make his share of its burthens sit easy, He intermarried with a young woman of the neighbourhood, named Nancy Jolly of whom he became enamoured of, to whom he was determined to stick as close as wax; and to exert the powers given to him by God, and nature, to satisfy her desire, supply her wants, administer to her necessities, and provide for her support in a manner befitting his humble, but independent sphere in life.
That with the most pungent and heart felt sorrow, your Petitioner feels himself compelled to state, that his sunshine gleam of felicity was evanescent; and he too soon with heart rending horror found, that in his indulging in the best passion incident to humanity, he linked his fortunes with, and intrusted his happiness to, one of the most frail, lewd, and depraved, daughters of Eve, for without either cause or provocation she shortly after her said marriage withdrew herself from your Petitioner, and from the discharge of her conjugal duties, and forsook both his board and bed, to cohabit with a certain mulatto Barber named Roland Colanche then living in Williamston by whom she had a coloured child, and became, and continues to be, a public and notorious prostitute in the most unlimited sense of that word. She indulging in an unreserved, and promiscuous intercourse with men of every colour, age, class and description she meets, sufficiently dissolute, licentious, and sensual, to gratify their passions, and her lust, and desire of variety.
That your Petitioners hopes of happiness being thus early blasted, in a way, and by persons whose abject stations in life, precludes his obtaining any redress for the injuries this done him, without making him obnoxious to that portion of ridicule, that most inconsistently follows matters of this nature, because the butt of such ridicule, is more an object for the balm of pity, than for the gall of unfeeling mirth, to avoid which, he moved from thence, and is now seated in Raleigh in Wake County, where his demeanour has been such, he feels himself authorized to say, as to gain for him the good will of his neighbours notwithstanding his poverty.
That from his imperfect knowledge of the English language, he being a foreigner, and the consequent difficulty of making himself understood, as well as from a reluctance to make public, what without any fault of his own might by mean and illiberal minds be thought disgraceful to him, he has hitherto brooded over his wrongs in agonising silence, and his poverty precluding the possibility of his engaging a lawyer to file a petition for a divorce in a court of law, or if he has found a lawyer kind enough to befriend him therein, he was, and is, unable to give the security for the accruing costs which is require by act of assembly: which costs he would be compelled to pay, tho successful in the suit, as neither the unhappy woman complained against, not her paramour, have any visible means of paying them: and as your Petitioner is able to substantiate the facts herein set forth, as well as by several members of your Body, as by other respectable witnesses; and being advised, that the acting upon it, so as to release him from the unhallowed bonds he in an evil hour entered into, is a matter wholly within the discretion of your Body.
He earnestly prays that you will take his case into consideration that he is a foreigner, and poor, and the woman complained against, an open and notorious prostitute, and that you will either divorce him from the said woman, or make such order as to your collective wisdom shall seem commensurate with the affording him adequate relief in the premises and He will ever gratefully pray &c. /s/ L Tombereau
Raleigh Wake County November 19th A.D. 1824 }
General Assembly Session Records, November 1824, North Carolina State Archives.
Jacob S. Read, 6, was bound to David Barden in 1841.
In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Tabitha Read, 38, with children Jacob, 16, Nancy, 14, Rachell, 11, David, 5, and Margarett, 3.
John Hagans, 4, was bound to Elias Barnes in 1841.
John G. Hall, 8, was bound to James Hall in 1841.
Mary Jones, 4, was bound to William Sauls in 1841.
Hillary Jones, 7, was bound to Bardin Jones in 1841.
Briley Lane, 16, was bound to Jesse Lane in 1841.
John Artis, 19, was bound to Sarah Davis in 1841.
Mancy Seaberry, 8, was bound to William T. Williams in 1841.
In the 1860 census of Saulston, Wayne County: Manse Seberry, 27, cook, with sons James, 2, and Joseph, 9 months, in the household of David Barden, farmer. [Next door, the household of Th.o Seaberry, 50, farmer.]
Jim Carroll was bound to William C. Bryan in 1842.
In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: James Carroll, 20, farmhand, is listed in the household of Wm. C. Bryan, 38, clerk of Superior Court.
Jim Carroll, Willie Carroll and Henry Carroll were bound to Samuel Smith in 1842.
Andrew Mitchell, 3, and Jacob Mitchell, [no age listed], were bound to Absalom Sauls in 1842.
Betsey Morris, 9, was bound to Thomas Horn in 1842.
In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Elizabeth Morris, 17, is listed in the household of Thomas Horn, farmer.
Nancy Lucas was bound to William Thomson in 1842.
John Hagans, 5 months, was bound to Lemuel Edmundson in 1842.
In the 1850 census of North Side of Neuse, Wayne County: John Hagins, 8, is listed in the household of Lemon Edmonson, farmer. In the 1860 census of Davis, Wayne County: John Hagans, 18, in the household of Leml. Edmundson.
Henderson Gandy, 15, was bound to Rob Williams in 1842.
Rigdon Wise, 17, and Marenda Wise, 13, were bound to Asher Pipkin in 1842.
In the 1850 census of South Side of Neuse, Wayne County: Marenda Wise, 50, with Sally, 20, Rigdon, 26, and Zilpha Wise, 5 months. Sally and Zilpha were described as mulatto; the others, white. Next door: Betsey Wise, 28, with Sarah, 4, Dury, 10 months, and Rebecca Wise, 65; all white. In the 1860 census of Cross Roads, Wayne County: Sally Wise, 45, with Elizabeth, 28, Sarah, 15, Dary, 9, Marenda, 27, Zilpha, 8, and Edmund Wise, 3; all white. [It appears that Sally and Marenda’s names are reversed in the 1850 census.] In the 1870 census of Grantham, Wayne County: Sallie Wise, 60, Renda, 38, Zilpha, 20, Edmond, 15, and Monroe Wise, 6; with Ann Brown, 75, and Susan Lewis, 45. Renda’s color was initially described as M, then a W was superimposed.
Apprentice Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal censuses.
Edward Austin Johnson (23 Nov. 1860-24 July 1944), educator, historian, attorney, and politician, was one of eleven children of Columbus and Eliza Johnson, slaves belonging to a large slaveholder in Wake County. Johnson acquired his earliest education from a free black, Nancy Walton, and after emancipation attended a school in Raleigh directed by two white teachers from New England. These “Yankee” teachers introduced him to the Congregational church, in which he was active for the rest of his life. …
Excerpt from biography of Edward A. Johnson, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/johnson/bio.html
The bond of Doctor Nesbitt and his letter to Mr Jonah Clark, (concerning a certain mulatto woman called Hannah, who formerly belonged to said Clark) having lately been put into my hands, and understanding that Dr Nesbitt still threatens to make another attempt to carry her off in a clandestine manner, I have thought proper to lay them before the public through the medium of the Wilmington Gazette.
Wilmington, April 16, 1805
Know all men by these presents that I, Robert Nesbitt, of the State of South Carolina, Physician, am held and firmly bound to Jonah Clark, of North Carolina, planter, in the sum of four hundred pounds, current money of the state of North Carolina, for the payment of which sum to the said Jonah Clark, his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns, I, the said Robert Nesbitt, do hereby bind myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators firmly by these presents sealed with my seal and dated this 24th day of April, 1797. The condition of the above obligation is such, that whereas I, the said Robert Nesbitt, have purchased and possessed myself of a certain Mulatto Female slave, named Hannah, late the property of the said Clark, which said mulatto slave I, the said Nesbitt have agreed with the said Clark, to manumit and set free, free, whensoever he, the said Clark, or any person for him or his representatives, or any person for them shall pay, or cause to be paid to the said Nesbitt, the sum of three hundred and forty Spanish milled dollars, or in case of my death, to my representatives; now, therefore, if I, the said Robert Nesbitt, or my representatives, shall at any time after the date of these presents on application of said Clark or his representatives, and the payment by him or them as aforesaid, or the sum of three hundred and forty dollars aforesaid, manumit, emancipate and set free agreeably to law, the said mulatto slave Hannah, so that she shall not be thereafter subject to the control, or command, or debt, or demand of any person whatever as a slave. Then the above obligation to be void, otherwise to to remain and abide in full force and virtue.
In witness whereof, the said Robert have hereunto set his hand and seal, the day and year aforesaid.
Robert Nesbitt (Seal)
Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of G Hooper
Mr Jonah Clark,
It surprised me not a little at the return of my boy, without Hannah, after you had promised me so faithfully that she should be sent whenever called for, now after being with you near one twelve month, immediately upon sending for Hannah, down comes Sye with a letter from you mentioning Hannah’s unwillingness to come, likewise that Sye would deliver me three hundred and forty dollars at the same time, putting me in mind of justice and honor in the nature of the contract between yourself and me. Gods know if any justice or honor were thought of either by yourself or me when that penal bond was given you by me, as you well know I was obliged to do so, to get my property delivered to me by you — but again Sye never delivered this money as your letter to me specifies, no it is sent down to an Allston with a letter to them to see this business done and should I refuse to emancipate your daughter Hannah, to commence an action against me immediately for the recovery of the Penalty — but you were too fast, you thought you had things to your wishes, not knowing it was necessary that the wench must be down on the occasion as the law requires.
I would notwithstanding have sent Hannah up for her cloths not Sye and being apprehensive of the consequence would not venture as you have deceived me more than once, you will deliver the clothes to my servant or cause them to be delivered at the request of Hannah and myself.
You may conceive a great deal of honor in my penal bond, but there is really none except what the laws of my country will make me comply with, which is either to emancipate Hannah or pay the penalty of eight hundred dollars which when paid will be no more than four hundred and sixty out of my pocket, and believe me, should you push, and I expect nothing else and indeed it is my wish, will and shall exert myself to pay you in your own coin, that is, will endeavour to procure your antique mouldy papers wherever they may be procured either below or above the value, for am not a little irritated at your conduct after my handsome behaviour to you and yours. But on the contrary if you will leave it in my breast to emancipate, which I promise you I shall on these conditions — that she continue with me my life, I will return you the money that I have received from you by Mr Allston whatever intent it might have been given for. I wish you to consider the business maturely as it concerns Hannah’s welfare much, like consider if you have any bonds still out unpaid, if you have, be assured I will endeavour to purchase them, likewise consider what an enormous price negroes sell at in So. Carolina, a likely young handsome female with good qualities and disposition will bring a price extraordinary. I have been offered for Hannah 1290 by one 1730 dollars by another but Sir, that and twice as much more will not tempt me to part with her, unless am provoked and find it not safe to keep her (that is to say people of bad stamp should put notions in her head to abscond from me, which I am certain she will never do otherwise.
However to come to a conclusion whatever has been said above is really from a candid mind, that never meant to injure you nor yours, but rather were it in my power would assist if occasion wanted and I request you to write me as candidly by my servant, whatever you think on the subject and what you wish to be at, whether you will accede to my proposals or what you first intended, am prepared for either, Hannah says she is satisfied with my offer.
I remain Sir, expecting to hear from you by my servant, your most obedient
Waccamaw, 15 Nov 1801
Mr Jonah Clark, North Carolina
N.B. I have been just now inform in bringing the horse across the river to the main, he has got staked and he being the only horse I can spare, the other being rode down, Sye will deliver this to you, unless I change my mind.
Send the clothes belonging to Hannah over to Mr Howes so that when my boy should come he may not be detained unnecessarily.
Wilmington Gazette, 23 April 1805.
[Sidenote: This is not, strictly speaking, a document about a free person of color, as I don’t know whether Hannah was ever emancipated. It is, however, a fascinating — and appalling — glimpse behind a curtain.
In a nutshell, Clark sold (or, in effect, mortgaged) his own daughter Hannah to Nesbitt for $340, and Nesbitt agreed to free her upon reimbursement of payment. The girl, however, apparently remained with Clark for a year. When Nesbitt sent for her, Clark’s slave Sye delivered a message that Hannah was unwilling to come, and Clark was ready to pay the $340. The girl eventually went to Nesbitt’s, but Clark did not pay Nesbitt directly. Instead, he sent the money to an intermediary with a threat to sue Nesbitt if he did not free the girl. Nesbitt was outraged and threatened to sell Hannah in South Carolina if Clark did not let him keep her his lifetime (with money refunded.) John McFarlane submitted Nesbitt’s letters in a Wilmington newspaper to expose Nesbitt’s threats to the public. – LYH]