The Arterberry family first came to Smith County, Texas around the late 1870’s. Sam and Nancy Arterberry are listed on the 1880 Smith County Census with their 6 sons: Jeff, James, Aaron, J William, Sam, and Henry.
John Henry Arterberry was born May 17, 1896 in Overton, Texas to Jefferson A Arterberry and Lula Whishant. His parents were blessed with a large family; John was the 4th child born of 12 total to the couple. Unfortunately, the family was no stranger to loss, and by around 1903, the Arterberry’s lost their 2nd oldest daughter, Alma (born 1892). Although we don’t know the cause of death, Alma was buried at Asbury Cemetery in Smith County, Texas where she would later be joined by her family. By August 1916, Jefferson Arterberry had passed away and only a few short months later, Jefferson and Lula’s oldest child, Callie (born 1891), would also be buried in Asbury along with her father and sister.
With the loss of beloved father and oldest sisters, John and his older brother Sam were left to help the family carry on. With the start of World War I, there were exceptions made with respect to what men would be brought into service; when looking at Sam and John’s WWI registration cards side-by-side, it is important to note that Sam claimed his mother as a dependent and that he was working “on Lula Arterberry’s farm” while John didn’t. It is safe to work under the assumption that Sam was granted an exemption from service while John was not.
Inducted Date and Location: July 31, 1918- Tyler, Texas
Army Serial Number: 3,974,510
Discharge: December 23, 1918
Unit: 812 Pioneers Co L (at discharge)
When John was first inducted into the service he was placed in the 165 Depot Brig Co 19, where he remained until August 22, 1918. These Depot Brigades were staging areas for incoming men into the service. While in these Depot Brigades, they would begin their basic training, gather their necessary equipment and uniforms, and would wait to be placed into another more permanent unit. After August 22nd he was placed into the 801 Pioneer Infantry Co K where he remained until November 10, 1918. Again, he was transferred to the 812 Pioneer Infantry Co L until his discharge on December 23, 1918.
African American men were typically assigned roles with Stevedore Regiments, Pioneer Infantry Regiments, or Labor Battalions. Each of these regiments were responsible for the labor of the war– building roads, digging trenches, building and designing cemeteries overseas, etc. In The Story of The First Pioneer Infantry U.S.A by Chester W. Davis (1919), he provides the military’s definition of a “Pioneer”. He writes “Pioneers march at the head of each battalion to clear a passage for it through woods or other obstructions, improve roads, make bridges and generally do any minor engineering or construction work that may be necessary.” Although John and his unit didn’t travel overseas, he still would have been performing these same duties and responsibilities on the homefront.
The images below are representative of his service:
John was discharged from his service on December 23, 1918, and when he returned home he resumed his previous life and maintained the family farm with his siblings. Sometime after his father’s death in 1916 his mother, Lula, remarried to James Jackson. The 1920 census for Smith County, Texas shows John, his brothers and sister, along with his mother, step-father, and his step-siblings all living together. It is important to note, on this 1920 census, John is listed as single.
I mention this marital status due to the lack of marriage date or license date for John and his wife, Ada Brown. The 1930 census shows John marrying at the age of 24 which means he could be marrying as early as 1921; however, I question if this is correct due to the glaringly obvious mismatching of ages and dates provided on the same census. More than likely, John and Ada did marry sometime between 1920 and 1924. I use these dates as my bookends by working under the assumption that they would have married before the birth of their first child. In total, John and Ada had 6 living children: Johnnie Mae born in 1924, Imogene born in 1925, Henry L born in 1927, Loyce J born in 1929, Robert Jr. born in 1933, and Carrie Lue born in 1935.
From our available records, it seems that John continued on with what he knew. He was a farmer at heart, and through census records we can see his hard work in action. Both the 1930 and 1940 census show him living next door to members of his family, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the family as a tight knit unit.
In the 1930 census, it shows that he was renting his home and worked farmland elsewhere, but by the 1940 census that had changed. The next census showed: that by 1935, John and his family had purchased their home and farm; John had worked a total of 50 weeks in 1939; and that his land was valued at $700– each of these remarks provides insight into the work ethic of/and the kind of man John was.
By the time World War II rolled around, John registered in the “Old Man’s” draft along with his older brother Sam, while at least one of his younger brothers, Reuben, did serve during the conflict. However, John’s life continued on: he farmed; his family worked hard; and his children grew up, went to war, and got married.
Unfortunately, the only other information I was readily able to find deals with more loss for John. His wife of over 40 years died on August 28, 1971 of a massive cerebral hemorrhage due to cerebral arteriosclerosis. She was buried in Asbury Cemetery where John’s family rested and would wait another 9 years before being joined by her husband.
However, before that could happen, John suffered the loss of his son, Loyce (born June 2, 1929). His death certificate states that at approximately 12:30 a.m., on January 11, 1976, he was shot with a .38 cal. gun in the front yard of 3119 West Jackson. A local African American newspaper, The Tyler Leader, published a statement in their Vol. 13, No. 4, Ed. 1 on Thursday, February 19, 1976 (to view click here); however, it fails to provide additional details surrounding his death. It would be another 4 years after Loyce’s death before John would finally pass away on August 31, 1980. John’s death certificate lists cause of death due to a “rectal carcinoma with widespread intra-abdominal metastases”. After 84 years, and an incredibly full life, John would finally be laid to rest with his family in the Asbury Cemetery in Arp, Texas.
Listed below are the different records and collections that John Henry Arterberry can be found in.
Census Records: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940
U.S. Find A Grave: Click here to view this page.
Fold3 Memorial Page: Click here to view this page.
Ancestry.com: The majority of information gathered for this sponsorship page can be found in the documents collected by Ancestry.com. A selection of these documents can be found throughout this page and are sourced from this site.
We have been unable to find him listed in the Chronicles of Smith County, Texas or the City Directories.
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