320 Morton-Artis

The northwest corner lot of Buffalo and Adams that was the long-time home of the Morton family is now a parking lot for the next door Seeventh Day Adventist Church.

The northwest corner lot of Buffalo and Adams that was the long-time home of the Morton family. It is now parking lot for the next door Seventh Day Adventist Church (2013).

Next door to the Yorks is another family with deep roots in Ypsilanti. Living on the northwest corner lot of Buffalo and Adams in 1900 were Robert H. Morton Jr., his wife Almeda Artis, two grown children, Willie and Mammie, and a son John, 5. In addition, a niece, 19 year old Gurtis Dhur (the spelling on the 1900 Census is indecipherable) from Indiana.

Almeda was born in 1854 in Canada to Alfred Artis and Tempe Acock . The Artis’ were a large family of free blacks from an area around Goldsboro, North Carolina. By 1850, the Artis family had moved to Parke, Indiana. Alemda’s mother, Tempe, married Dennis Kersey after the death of Alford in the 1850s. Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the family, like many other free families of color, fled to Canada.

In 1861 the Artis/Kersey family was in Amhertsburg, just across the river from Detroit. Louise’s brothers, Archibald and Elijah, and sister Lucy (who lived at 115 South Adams) also settled in Ypsilanti. By 1871, Almeda’s mother and step-father were in Colchester, a town on Lake Erie with a large fugitive population. Here Alemda’s mother Tempe died in 1871. Almeda was a cook, with her sister Louise at Ypsilanti hotels.

Plaindealer, February, 1892.

Plaindealer, February, 1892.


August, 1891. Plaindealer.

Robert Jr. was born in 1849 in Ypsilanti, to Robert Morton, from Kentucky, and Anne Higgins, of Prince George County, Maryland. His parents are among the first blacks in Ypsilanti and were founding members of the AME Church. According to Michigan State School Superintendent Reports, early black residents Robert Morton Sr., Charles Higgins and HP Jacobs were janitors at the Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University, in the late 1850s. In the 1860 Census, Morton Sr.is listed as a grocer. He died in 1867.

Robert Jr.’s mother, born Anne Higgins or Anne Higdin died in 1893. Her obituary card at the Ypsilanti Historical Society states that “Mrs. Morton was a slave until aged 25 when she was set free. She attended the Dawn Institute in Canada and came to Ypsilanti in 1841.”  The Dawn Institute was located near Dresden, Ontario. Her arrival in 1841 makes her one of the earliest African American’s to settle permanently in Ypsilanti.


Robert Married Almeda Artis in or around 1872. Together they had at least six children. Robert Jr. Was a carpenter and probably built his own house. Robert Jr. died in 1912, Almeda in 1913, both Robert and Almeda are buried in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Ypsilanti.

Robert Morton leads Sunday School. March, 1892. Plaindealer.

Robert Morton leads Sunday School. March, 1892. Plaindealer.

2 thoughts on “320 Morton-Artis

  1. Thank you so much for this information. These are my relatives! My Grandfather was Robert Brooks Morton, son of William Morton.

  2. I am descended from Wayne County Artises who remained in North Carolina and maintain a blog devoted to NC’s free people of color, http://www.ncfp.org. I’m always looking for information on families that migrated out-of-state in the antebellum era and, based on your post, will search for more re Almeda Artis Morton’s parents. Thanks!

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