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Alfred Artis

Alfred Artis, former Randolph slave and brother of Elias Artis (Civil War veteran), was disliked by his 400 neighbors in the Shelby County village of Rumley because of his mistreatment of his daughter Emma. He reputedly chained her in a woodshed outside his cabin and depriving her of sufficient food and clothing, caused concern in the community for her safety.

On February 17, 1854, those concerns were validated when the hapless 12 year old girl’s body was discovered in a shallow grave 4 1/2 miles west of Rumley. Artis was arrested for her murder, and the trial for his life began in Sidney on July 6, 1854. Evidence showed that he also deprived her of water, placed an iron collar around her neck, subjected her to beatings and sub-zero temperatures. On one of these occasions she suffered frost bite to her hands and feet, and was reported to have attempted to escape her father’s cruelty.

After reviewing the evidence, the jury shocked area residents with its declaration that they could not reach a verdict. To some, the evidence supported his guilt while others were apparently unsure. Did some of the jurors have an insight into what may have possessed this man who would subject his own daughter to a sustained cruelty that lasted from Nov. 10, 1853, through the winter, to her death in February, 1854? Was he, a former slave, the object of scorn and inhumane punishment as a child, causing him to perpetrate such cruelty on his own child? Is it possible that some of the jurors considered both the father and daughter victims in this case? Perverse actions toward others can never be condoned, however, in the context of today’s understanding of the human mind, one is reminded that earlier experiences can often influence later actions, whether charitable or despicable.

On November 15, 1854, a new jury was impaneled that eventually produced a guilty verdict that led to the hanging of Alfred Artis, for the murder of his daughter Emma, on February 23, 1855. Barnett Cemetery, located on Lucas-Geib Road northwest of McCartyville is Emma’s final resting place, while her father’s body, after being denied proper interment, lies buried somewhere on his original property.

sheriffjamesdryden.gif (10944 bytes)

Shelby County Sheriff James Dryden served as executioner
at the hanging of Alfred Artis on the courtsquare in Sidney, Ohio.

'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge

 

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