A Second Look: Josiah Askew and Artis Clark

In May of 1815 Edgecombe County court records recorded Artis Clark (Clark Artis), an eight-year-old “girl of color” as being bound as an Apprentice to Josiah Askew.  He entered into a bond of $500.

What exactly does it mean to be bound as an apprentice?  Was this another way of saying that Josiah Askew purchased Artis Clark for $500?  I sought advice from Tom McCarrier.  He is much more experienced in genealogy research than I am.  He directed me to  NCpedia’s article on Apprenticeship.  Tom’s interpretation of the article was that “Artis Clark’s parents were not able to support her, so Josiah put up a $500 bond and agreed to provide for her so she wouldn’t become a ward of the county. But that didn’t necessarily mean that Artis was actually an apprentice. She may have been an indentured servant or slave.”

After reading the article myself, I came away with three possible conclusions:

  1. Her parents were free, and no longer able to support her.
  2. Her parents were free and deceased, making Artis an orphan.
  3. Artis was the illegitimate daughter of the slave owner and sold into “apprenticeship.”

My third conclusion is the most plausible, in my opinion.  After all, this was decades before the Emancipation Proclamation and slave owners fathering children with their slaves is no secret.

I’d love to know what happened to Artis Clark.  Especially since Josiah Askew died about three years after “acquiring” Artis and there is no mention of her in his last will and testament.  Is it possible that Josiah Askew could have changed her name after entering the bond?  Could Artis Clark actually be either the Sarah or the Millie that was bequeathed to his children, Eli and Polly?

It’s frustrating.  Just when I think I’ve found something concrete, it only leads to more questions.  My dear H. G. Wells, if only you’d invented an actual time machine instead of writing a book about it.