Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Family Histories


Artis Family

Artis Family Part 1 – From North Carolina to Colchester

Did you know a branch of the Artis family originated in North Carolina and later settled in Colchester? Read more below.

Last month we highlighted the Harris family and among those mentioned was Tempia Marinda “Tempy May” Artis, the mother of Sadie Allen (wife of David Leonze Harris) and wife of Arthur Allen. With this edition of the family history series we are going to look at the members of the Artis family. We will begin with Charles and Jane Artis who had at least four children: Elijah (1814), Lewis (born circa 1811-1816), Henrietta (1817) and Matthew (1818). A branch of the Artis family who later settled in Colchester, originated in the Lost Creek area near Goldsboro, North Carolina, but escaped oppressive conditions and travelled to a Quaker community in Parke County, Indiana. According to Milo Johnson, a land deed dated 1848 indicates that Lewis Artis, the son of Charles and Jane Artis, and other members of the family bought land for a Church and school there. This settlement was known as the Bassette-Lewis Settlement, but it was sadly subject to continuous raids by bounty hunters. This, along with the enforcement of oppressive laws, caused the Artis families to relocate in 1860.

As mentioned, Lewis was part of the Artis family relocation to Indiana, later to Colchester. After coming to Canada, Lewis and his wife Henrietta established a farm on South Malden Road and they had at least two children: Henrietta (1858) and George (1862).

Following Henrietta’s passing, Lewis Artis married Catherine Pearl-Read-Smith, in 1880, who was the daughter of John and Catherine Smith. In the May 21, 1897 edition of the Amherstburg Echo, it talks about the wedding of someone close to Lewis and Catherine. It says, “On Sunday of last week a very pretty event occurred at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Artis, it being the marriage of their adopted daughter to Isaac Chavis, son of John Chavis of New Canaan.” According to the marriage record for Isaac Chavis, son of John and Mary Chavis, the unnamed bride from the article is actually a woman named Mary Ann North, who was 21, a widow and living in Colchester North. Under “name of parents” it lists Lewis and Catherine Artis, but the 1891 Census lists Mary A. North and her husband, Edwin North, as living with Lewis and Catherine as lodgers which is indicated by an “L” where it asks relationship to head of household. This helps to confirm, as mentioned in the Echo, that Mary is their adopted daughter. At the time, Mary Ann was 19 years old, while Edwin, a minister, was 29. It seems that after Edwin North passed away, Lewis and Catherine took in Mary Ann until she married Isaac Chavis.

Lewis’ older brother Elijah Artis came to Colchester in roughly 1839 and his thoughts are recorded in Benjamin Drew’s book, A Northside View of Slavery. In it he says “I have twenty-five acres of land, bought and paid for, — about eight acres cleared. I am often hired out, and never refuse to work where I can get my pay, and have often worked when I got no pay. The colored people are industrious, and if any say they are not willing to work, it is a lie, and I’ll say so, and sign my name to it. I suffered from mean, oppressive laws in my native State, Ohio, or I would not have been in this country. I have lived here fourteen years.”

Elijah married Cynthia Crosby in Ohio and their children included E. Matthew (born in Ohio, 1837), Susana (Ohio, 1839), Christina (born in Colchester, 1849), Elijah Jr. (Elia -Colchester, 1856), and Richard (Colchester, 1860). The 1881 Census also lists an Eli and Sintha Artis with their daughter Christina and two little girls, likely Christina’s daughters, Harriett (10) and Annie (5). The 1891 Census does not list Eli, but Sintha with Christa (Christina), Harriet E, and Alice A. (likely Annie from the 1881 census). Their son Elijah Jr. married Catherine Jackson in 1872 and they lived in the Pleasant Valley Settlement where he was a farmer, later moving to Pontiac, Michigan where he became a barber. Following Catherine’s passing in 1903, Elijah Jr. married Angeline Smith-Bailey on January 10, 1910 in Windsor. Angeline was the daughter of Charles and Catherine Bailey. Elijah married a third time to Isabella Johnson-Harris in 1915, after Angeline passed away.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 2.

Artis Family Part 2 – Family Physician

Did you know Matthew Artis married Amanda Pearson, whose father established a successful medical practice on George Street in Amherstburg? Read more below.

The family of Matthew Artis, the son of John and Prudence Artis, was among those who relocated from North Carolina and settled in Parke County, Indiana, establishing farms there, but later came to Canada. In 1850, Matthew Artis married Amanda Pearson who was the daughter of Roxanna Jackson and Daniel Pearson. Daniel and Roxanna married in 1841 and in addition to Amanda, the couple had at least three other children: Charles, Lewis, and Jane. Lewis and Charles ran a barber shop in Indianapolis, while Jane married a Mr. Clarke and lived in Indiana.

Amanda’s father Daniel Pearson was born circa 1807 in Shelby County, Kentucky and was the son of his “master” Meshack Pearson and an enslaved woman named Charlotte. Charlotte and her son Daniel were manumitted on April 11, 1836 in Shelby, Kentucky. According to Milo Johnson, Daniel had half-siblings and, even after being freed, lived near them, even moving with the Pearson family from Kentucky to Indiana. According to the 1850 census, Daniel is listed as an Innkeeper. Unfortunately, laws in Indiana were becoming even more restrictive forcing African Americans to pay a fee and register themselves with the county clerk in order to control the number of people escaping slavery and settling in Indiana. They even had to have a white person to sponsor them and sign as a witness. Daniel was among this group. He registered as a freeman on November 30, 1854. At this time, he was roughly 50 years old. Daniel did not stop there as he also became a doctor. There are a few explanations as to how he became a physician. The first is that he worked during the Civil War as a surgeon’s assistant. The second is that he worked as a coachman for a doctor in Louisville, Kentucky and acquired the knowledge from him.

While living in Amherstburg, Daniel “Doc” Pearson is listed as a nurse and although he was not a legally qualified practitioner, he was able to establish a successful practice on George Street in Amherstburg, after a lot of hard work and study. After Daniel’s passing in 1894, The Amherstburg Echo paid tribute to him with the following words: “He was a leading representative of his race and had the respect and esteem of all classes. He took a great interest in everything tending towards the advancement of his own people and has attended every First of August celebration held in the county since he has lived here, and at many was the chairman or principal speaker of the day. He possessed a retentive memory and, being of jovial, kind hearted disposition, was loved by all that knew him.”

Matthew and Amanda Artis had at least four children: Nancy, Cornelius (1855), Joseph (1856), and Henrietta (1858). Matthew and Amanda’s first son, Cornelius, moved with his family to the Colchester area and established himself as a farmer, according to the 1881 census, but in 1910 and 1920 he is listed as a teamster. On October 22, 1878, Cornelius married Theresa A. Bruce, the daughter of Shedrick and Elizabeth Bruce. Cornelius and Theresa had two daughters named Annie and Emma. Sadly, Matthew and Amanda’s next child, Joseph, passed away in 1883 in London, Ontario, while his sister Henrietta married William Hurst, the son of Ransom and Ellen Hurst, in June 1877 in Amherstburg. William and Henrietta had at least two children: Daniel and Maude. There is also a birth record available for an Alonzo Hurst, who was born on August 27, 1885 in Ann Arbor, which lists William and Henrietta Hurst as his parents.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 3 where we will share more about Matthew and his second wife Martha.

Artis Family Part 3 – Family Connections

Did you know Alfred Artis had assets totaling $1,400? Read more below.

Sadly, Amanda Pearson Artis passed away circa 1860, which was just a short time before the Artis families moved from Parke, Indiana, to Colchester Township. After a few years, Matthew purchased land in New Canaan and in the early 1870s married his second wife, Martha Kersey.

Before discussing Martha and Matthew’s union, a few details about Martha’s mother, Tempy. Tempy Acoch/Artis/Kersey was married twice. She first married Alfred Artis who owned significant property in Indiana. According to the 1850 US Census, Alfred had assets totaling $1,400. Alfred and Tempy Acoch had several children including Thomas (1830), Archibald (1832), Elijah (183?), Louisa (1840), Caroline (1846), Mary J. (1850) and Martha (1852). A note about Martha. Some documents state that her maiden name is Kersey (after Ephraim Dennis Kersey -see below), while Milo Johnson’s book New Canaan lists her as being the daughter of Alfred Artis. Alfred is among those who relocated to the New Canaan area with other members of the Artis family in the 1850s, as discussed earlier. With him, he brought his wife Tempy and their children. Sadly, Alfred passed away shortly after they settled in New Canaan, circa 1854-1855.

It was following Alfred’s passing that Tempy married Ephraim Dennis Kersey. Ephraim Dennis Kersey was the son of Dennis Kersey Sr. and Kiser “Kessiah” Kersey and was born circa 1819. He was also previously married to Parmelia Harris while living in Tennesee. Ephraim Dennis and Parmelia had the following children: Alexander, Mary A., Amanda, Margaret, Agness, Rebecca A., George, Nathaniel and Mary E. Parmelia passed sometime before 1854.

Ephraim and his second wife Tempy also had several children: Almeda, Thomas George and James Henry. Almeda was born circa 1855 and similar to Martha was, according to Milo Johnson, the stepdaughter of Ephraim Kersey and biological daughter of Alfred Artis. Almeda married Robert Henry Morton Jr., the son of Robert Morton and Annie Higgins-Morton. Almeda and Robert had six children.

Almeda’s brother Thomas George was born circa 1856 and married Sarah Elizabeth Jones, the daughter of Samuel and Charlotte Jones. Thomas and Sarah had at least six children: Maria, Charlotte, Berthia, Jerome, Charles Samuel and Irene. James Henry was born circa 1859 and married Mary Ann Emanuel, the daughter of Joshua Emanuel and Lucinda Travis. James and Mary Ann had nine children: Herman, Oscar, Ernest, Harrison, Bernice, Arden, Nina, Leonard, and Winand. Following Tempy’s passing in 1871, Ephraim and some of the children moved to Raleigh (Chatham-Kent) and later to Ypsilanti, Michigan, including Archibald, Louisa, Elijah, Almeda, and James, who became a respected carpenter and builder who helped construct several buildings in Ypsilanti.

We’ve discussed Martha Kersey’s mother Tempy Acoch and can return to discussing Martha. Matthew and Martha also had several children: Tempia Marinda (1872), Alfred (1875), John Randall (1877), Adeline (1880), Matthew (1882), Elwood (1884), and William (1884).

Matthew and Martha’s daughter Tempia Marinda ‘Tempy May’ Artis was born in 1872 in Colchester and married Arthur Allen. They had at least three daughters named Sadie (See Harris family history for more information), Elba, born on May 15, 1900, and Norma, born on March 27, 1904, but a 1907 birth record for Leva Allen also lists Tempy Artis and Arthur Allen as parents, but no other documents were available for Leva.

According to the Harris family history, Tempia’s brother Alfred was born on January 10, 1875 in Colchester, but sadly passed away at 19 years of age on November 9, 1894. John Randall Artis was born on November 10, 1877 in Colchester North, while Adline was born on January 22, 1880, but sadly passed away on July 3, 1893 at the age of 13. Adline’s brother, Matthew Artis jr., was born on March 20, 1882, but also sadly passed away in infancy on December 9, 1883. Elwood Artis was born on July 8, 1884.

Martha married a second time to Ryal Thompson and then to George Turner. In Martha’s 1926 obituary it says she “was a native of Terre Haute, Indiana. Her maiden name was Martha Kersey. She came to Canada with her parents when a child. They first settled in Colchester North, and there she married Matthew Artis. Only one daughter was born to that marriage who survives – Mrs. Arthur Allen (Tempia), of Amherstburg. By a former marriage Mr. Artis leaves two sons, Cornelius Artis, of Colchester, and William Artis, of Toledo. Sometime after Mr. Artis’ death his widow moved to Amherstburg and was here married to Ryal Thompson … By his former marriage he leaves a daughter, Mrs. Annie Williams. Her third marriage was to George Turner, of Windsor on November 2, 1919. He survives her along with his family of his former marriage.”

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 4.

Artis Family Part 4 – Museum Connection

Did you know the Reverend W.T. Artis was a pastor at the Nazrey A.M.E. Church? Read more below.

Another member of the Artis family has a direct connection to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum because, according to the April 20, 1900 edition of the Amherstburg Echo, it was the Reverend W.T. Artis who was pastor at the Nazrey A.M.E. Church, where he held Sunday services at 10:30am and 7pm, in addition to Sabbath School at 3pm. In the May 6, 1898 edition of the Amherstburg Echo, The Reverend Artis is referred to as “the silver tongued orator” and on separate occasions spoke on subjects such as “Take the little book and eat it up,” “A Risen Saviour” and “Wants and Needs of the Mind.” The church also had the Young People’s Social Club on Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm and prayer meetings every Thursday evening at 8pm.

Interestingly, it was not just the Young People’s Social Club that organized at the A.M.E. Church; other groups gathered, and they have a further connection to the Artis family. For example, Martha Artis was a committee member for the Open Hand Society which hosted events such as Thanksgiving dinners to raise funds for the church and picnics to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. Members of the organization dressed in their uniforms and the program included speeches from J.H. Alexander and W.D. Balfour (MPP). In 1894, Elwood Artis also performed a recitation at the A.M.E. Church on New Year’s night which included a tree and entertainment such as a “duet by little Miss Mabel and Master Georgie McCurdy, Miss Almeida Johnson sang ‘O Food Dove’ very acceptably, and was encored again and again. D.R. Davis gave a short appropriate address, and a duet by Miss Johnson and Miss Bertha Wesley closed the programme. Proceeds $7.25.”

In 1898, the Amherstburg Echo reported that the Frederick Douglas Self Improvement Club was established by Mrs. Mary Roberts Tate for the young ladies of Amherstburg. Their motto was “Lifting As We Climb” and among its officers were: Miss Lena Anderson, President; Miss Ella Holt, Vice President; Miss Dora Artis, Secretary; Miss Amy Goodrich, Treasurer; Misses Emma Holt and Lucretia Anderson. Programme Committee: Mrs. E.J. Artis, Instructor. The club alternated residences for their meetings on Tuesday evenings and occasionally met at the residence of the Rev. W.F. Artis. Their programs consisted of activities such as singing and instrumental music, recitation, composition and debate on topics such as “Which is the most attractive to the eye, paint and powder or human nature?” A few weeks later it was reported that nature won the debate.

Members of the Frederic Douglass Self-Improvement Club performed these activities because they were expected to advance themselves in both moral and academic pursuits. For example, at one meeting on November 15, 1898, Dora Artis, the club secretary, recited an essay that asked “How shall we raise the standard of morality among our young ladies?” On separate occasions she wrote “A Sketch of Shakespeare’s life,” “Gladstone’s favourite Hymns,” and “General Rules to Govern Conduct.” Dora Artis was active in this group until January 24, 1899 when she resigned with the following letter: “To the members of the Frederic Douglass Self-Improvement Club. I the undersigned wish to tender my resignation as secretary & member of the Club. Yours respectively [sic], Dora Artis.”

The Frederic Douglass Self-Improvement Club also offered those in attendance a respectable form of entertainment in an appropriate environment. At one of their receptions the guest list included attendees such as Tempy Artis and David Artis, and they along with other participants were, no doubt, under the watchful eye of their guest speakers, Deacon Jones and the Reverend W.J. Artis.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for another amazing family history.