Daniel Artis’ will and estate.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Daniel Artis was born about 1820, probably in Greene County, and died in early 1905. He married an enslaved woman (or women) whose name is unknown, and his children were born in slavery. Daniel recorded two wills in short succession in Greene County. The first, dated 15 January 1905, was recorded in Will Book 1 at page 514; the second, dated two days later, at page 524. The legatees are the same, but the gifts are packaged differently:

Item 1. Page 514 — to daughter Clary Edwards, wife of Henry Edwards, his interest valued at $172 in the tract of land on which Clary and Henry live. The tract was purchased from Debro Cobb with money advanced from Henry Artis. If $172 is more than the other’s children’s share, Clary is to make them even, and vice versa. Page 524 — to daughter Clara Edwards, wife of Henry Edwards, his interest valued at $172 in the tract of land purchased from Debro Cobb. His agreement with Henry Edwards has not been recorded.

Item 2. Page 514 — to son Henry Artis, 1/4 interest in his real estate. Page 524 — to son Henry Artis, 40 acres, including the house in which Daniel then lived.

Item 3. Page 514 — to the children of his son Lodrick Artis (Anna Randolph, Frank Artis, Lula Forbes, Madison Artis, Marcellus Artis, Ernest Artis, Dicey Batts and Hannah Artis) 1/4 of his estate. Page 524 — to the children of Lodrick Artis and his wife Mandy, 40 acres (land Lodrick resided on at the time of his death) and all buildings thereon.

Item 4. Page 514 — to the children of his daughter Prior An Thompson (Isaac Sauls, C.D. Sauls, Maria Edwards and Clara Lane), 1/4 of his estate. Page 524 — to Prior An Thompson’s children and their heirs, 40 acres that Willis Thompson lives on.

Item 5. Page 514 — $50 to daughter Mariah Swinson, wife of Jesse Swinson, to be paid from the shares of the others in the amount of $12.50 each. Page 524 — a committee to be appointed to assess value of shares and make Clara Edwards’ share equal to the others, difference to be paid within seven years.

Item 6. Page 514 — none. Page 524 — Each lot to be taxed $12.50 to pay daughter Mariah Swinson, wife of Jesse Swinson.

Grandson Isaac Sauls was appointed executor in both, Daniel Artis signed each with an X, and both were proved on 21 March 1905.

Whatever his intent at clarification, things did not go well with Daniel’s estate. A Notice of Sale ran four weeks from December 1923-January 1924 in the Greene County weekly The Standard-Laconic announcing the sale of “a certain tract or parcel of land devised to Henry Artis by Daniel Artis by his last will and testament, … containing 40 acres.” The sale was advertised pursuant to a judgment in Greene County Superior Court in the matter of Frances Hall; Bennett Hall; Bessie Woodard, infant; and Alice Woodard, infant, by their next friend Amos Woodard v. J. Settle Artis and Roumania Artis. Settle Artis, who was Henry Artis’ son, had purchased the parcel at a courthouse sale the previous July. Frances and Bennett Hall were Settle’s sister and brother-in-law, and Amos Woodard was another brother-in-law, widower of Settle’s sister Dillie.

The next suit over Daniel’s estate — filed in 1930 — was Isaac Sauls; Walter Sauls; Luby Sauls; Edward Sauls; Hattie Speight and her husband Walter Speight; Mariah Thompson; Lillie May Sauls, minor, George Sauls, minor, Sarah Sauls, minor, Lillie Lee Sauls, minor, Walter Sauls, minor, appearing by their next friend, Luby Sauls; and Nettie Sauls; Henry B. Lane; Lillie Maud Best and her husband Alex Best; John H. Lane and Carrie D. Lane, a minor, children and heirs at law of Clara Thompson; Penny Edwards, Silas Edwards, Prior Edwards and the Henry Pettaway children as follows: Hadie Pettaway, minor, Willie Harrison Pettaway, Georgia May Pettaway, minor, Minnie Clyde Pettaway, minor, grandchildren of Mariah Edwards, by their next friend Henry Pettaway v. C.D. Sauls and Duffrey Edwards. In other words, a fight among the heirs of Daniel’s daughter Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson. The crux of the matter is set out in paragraph 10:

10. That the plaintiffs, heirs at law of Isaac Sauls, Mariah Edwards and Clara Thompson are the owners of three fifths of the land devised by Daniel Artis in Item 4 of his will to the children of his daughter Prior Ann and are entitled to have the defendant Cain D. Sauls declared to have the same held in trust for them and are entitled to an accounting of the rents and profits of the same from the date of his purchase in 1908.

Instead, they alleged, C.D. Sauls had been keeping hundreds of dollars of rent for himself and, in 1928, had sold the parcel to Duffrey Edwards for $3000, with full knowledge by Edwards that Sauls was trustee for his relatives. C.D. denied all, of course. In 1937, his daughter and son-in-law, Willie Sauls Burgess and W.D. Burgess, were added as defendants after C.D. and his wife Ada allegedly tried to fraudulently transfer the disputed property to her. In 1939, the clerk of court entered a non-suit judgment noting that the parties had reached an amicable settlement. No details were included. The matter was over.