HENRY PROCTOR’S EMPIRE, 1902 – 1950
By Nathan Alonzo Price, Jr. called “N.A.” by the family and known to others as “Bill”, grandson of William Henry Proctor; son of World War I veteran Nathan Alonzo Price, Sr. and Bertha Virginia Proctor. Nathan Alonzo Price, Sr. received sever permanent damage to his nervous system from mustard gas in World War I. Henry Proctor’s oldest son Homer Stonewall Proctor, b. 2 October 1894 in Nash County, NC and died on 10 October 1918 in France from pneumonia during World War I. Henry blamed Woodrow Wilson personally for his son’s death and switched political parties from Democrat to Republican. During the period, he was one of the few elected Republican officials in the South. He was a farmer, saw mill owner and politican in Nash County, NC. Both Nathan Alonzo Price, Sr. and Homer Stonewall Proctor are buried with Henry and his wife Minnie Moore Proctor in Forest Hill Cemetery in Nashville, Nash County, North Carolina.
edited by: Earl P. Bell, Jr.
posted: 27 September 2009
comments, questions and corrections to: email@example.com
WILLIAM HENRY PROCTOR
Born: 9 September 1867. Where: between Barnes Hill Church and Sandy Cross, Nash County, NC. Married: 27 December 1893 to Mary Jane [Minnie] Moore. Where: Nash County, NC. Died: 1 September 1951. Oak Level Township, Nash County, NC. Both buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Nashville, Nash County, North Carolina.
THE CHILDREN OF HENRY AND MINNIE MOORE PROCTOR WERE:
HOMER STONEWALL PROCTOR. b. 2 October 1894. d. 10 October 1918.
JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR. b. 17 February 1897. m. Gertrude Joyner on 25 December 1926. d. November 1982. Scotland Neck, Halifax County, NC.
HENRY CLAY PROCTOR. b. 6 July 1899. m. Lucille Farmer on 15 March 1924. d. 24 April 1965.
BERTHA VIRGINIA PROCTOR. b. 21 September 1901. m. Nathan Alonzo Price on 18 January 1922. d. May, 1985. w. Greenville, SC
MAMIE LEE PROCTOR. b. 30 April 1905. m. Oscar Sermons on 29 April 1927. d. 10 June 1993. w. Craven County, NC
MINNIE MOORE PROCTOR. b. 31 July 1912. m. Eddie Strickland on 12 July 1944. d. November, 1993. w. Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina.
[SOURCE: all information from John Hansel Proctor, Scotland Neck, North Carolina, except the dates for the death of a family member listed in the Social Security Index]
This farm is located in Nash County, North Carolina near Sandy Run. Henry Proctor was the brother of my grandfather, my mother’s father, John Sidney Proctor; N. A. Price’s mother was the daughter of Henry Proctor; my grandfather John Sidney [Sid] Proctor owned a country store at Westry’s Siding [typed by Earl P. Bell, Jr., 6 August 1998 from a personal correspondence from Bill Price, now deceased.]
MY GRANDFATHER’S EMPIRE
written by N. A. “Bill” Price of Greenville, South Carolina. It describes his grandfather’s farm in the first decades of the twentieth century.
When I refer to my grandfather, I always mean my maternal grandfather. My paternal grandfather died when I was barely four, and I have no memories of him.
My maternal grandfather whom I called “Papa’ owned a tobacco farm of some forty acres. This spot was his world, his wealth and his capital. All he owned excepting a bank balance and a cemetery lot was here within sight of his front porch.
Although forty acres is a small farm, it was adequate for him and his family in his lifetime. He was already in his mid-thirties with four children when he acquired the property and built his home in 1902.
My purpose here is to record a description of his empire for myself for when my memory dims. For small farm though it was, it comprised a large part of my childhood world. My parents lived nearby (nearby by present definitions although two miles was not so near then). Hardly a day passed that I did not spend some time at “Papa’s” farm.
It was a fascinating place for a youngster with all kinds of novel and intriguing buildings and areas. The house started as a square four room structure with a central hall with front and back doors at the ends. It was built of choice lumber from my grandfather’s sawmill, and I expect he personally selected each board.
There were two rooms on each side of the hall with chimneys centered on the common wall of each pair of rooms. There was originally fireplaces in each room.
The roof was of tin and slanted upward from each side pyramid fashion ending with a small spire. This point, as was fashion then, mounted a lighting rod with a blue glass ornament. Each chimney also had a less attractive lightning rod.
The house faced due east. The southeast room was the living room or parlor, and was seldom used. The southwest room was Papa’s room during most of my memory although he later moved into and died in the northeast room. The northwest room was my grandmother’s bedroom and also a “sitting” room. This room had a closet on the north or outside of its chimney. The northeast room had a closet on the inside of the house both closets opened into the southwest room.
The hall was fairly [eds. note: I believe he left out the word “long” here] with doors at each end that were relatively formal with sidelights. All of these rooms and the hall were wainscoted with vertical planks topped with ledge molding. The walls were constructed of horizontal boards with decorative grooves about an inch and a half apart.
An ornate but comfortable porch spanned most of the front of the house complete with the banjo and scroll work rails, posts, and trimmings of the age in which it was built.
The exterior of the house was of clapboard or horizontally applied “weatherboarding” as it was known locally. It was painted white with dark green roof and trim.
At the back of the house two more rooms had been added with time. A dining room, the largest room in the house and a kitchen. The dining room went straight back westward from the northwest room, the same width as the northwest room but about twice as long.
A porch the width of the hall ran along the south side of the dining room and terminated the southwest corner of the whole house with a small pantry (which ultimately became a bathroom). At the west end of the dining room was a fireplace, at the east end a door led into the northwest room. The back hall door opened onto the sideporch which had ornate rails, posts and trimmings matching the front porch. The dining room had side doors about midway. The south one leading to the porch, the north one to a set of steps outdoors. Both these doors were plate glass from the waist up. There was also a window on the north side of the dining room chimney. The dining room had at one time been [the] kitchin and dining room. A lightning rod was mounted on the dining room chimney also.
Later, before my memory, a small kitchin was added at the northewestern corner. It was entered through a door just west of the north side dining roon door. On the west side of the kitching there was an outside door leading to a small back porch containing a well. There were windows in the eastern and northern walls of the kitchin.
A huge pear tree was just a few feet from the north side of the house about even with the chimney. In autumn pears as large as softballs would drop onto the roof and roll to the ground. It was along this side that my grandfather grew roses in his later years. Also, along the drip line of the roof of this side, there was an extremely fine sand deposit of peculiar texture that ‘scrunched’ when a barefooted lad walked in it.
The outside steps from the dining room were in the corner or angle formed by the kitchin and dining room. These steps were unused except for kids at play. Eventhough that door was opened for ventilation in summer, a screen door barred exit, and I don’t ever remember the screen door being opened.
A few feet further north of the pear tree a fence ran parallel to the house. Since the kitchin jutted out on this side, there was only two or three feet clearance between it and the fence. This fence was the south perimeter line of enclosed gardens and chicken yards or “lots’ that extended to the property lines in the other three directions, the east and north fences lying parallel to roads and the west lyin along a large drainage ditch which marked the western property boundary.
Enclosed in this area were fine, distinct and separate areas. To the extreme east there was an area that was sometimes pasture and sometimes melon patch, but always an orchard. Just west of this, two enclosures lay side by side, with my grandmother’s chicken yard closest to the house and the main vegetable garden beside it next to the road.
My grandmother and grandfather liked different kinds of chickens, so each had a chicken lot. My grandmother favored Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Domineckers. My grandfather raised only Leghorns.
His chicken lot came next in the series and stretched from the house side fence to the road. Beyond this was another orchard-vineyard- cornfield. The grapevines were located here next to the fence along the drainage ditch. There was a scuppernong, a large “James’ grape (big, black, cultivated muscadines), a Catawba pink grape, and a Niagara white grape. The latter vine had climbed a small persimmon tree next to it. The James grapevine surrounded and climbed into a large wild cherry tree. Both the scuppenong and James grape vines had been framed up and both were huge. The other two were summer grapes strung on wires between poles. Underneath the two large vines were cool dark canes six or seven feet in height. Except for the hazard of bees these spots were great for kids to play. Between the house and the grape vines there were apple, peach, plum and cherry trees.
Needless to say the grapevines were one of the favorite locales for youngsters in late summer and early autumn. Another favorite spot in summer was a huge Carolina June apple tree in the vegetable garden near the road on the north edge. I doubt if this apple is grown now. I read in 1970 that where there used to be over three hundred kinds of apples grown, there are now only about a dozen, one half of the apples marketed in this country are delicious, both red and golden.
The Carolina June was a firm white fleshed apple with a dark red peel. As I recall it was a sweet not very acid tasting apple.
The entrance to all of the fenced area except the very easter or front (section) was through gates at the northern end of an alley formed by the back porch and a “smoke house.”
The ‘smoke house’ was about the size of the kitchin, was windowless, had a single door opening to the south and was the storage place for cured pork raised on the farm.
The huge drainage ditch already mentioned was well-kept and dry most of the time, forming a wonderful trench for kids to play war.
At the front of the house were two medium size magnolias and an umbrella mulberry. The mulberry was eight or ten feet tall with branches drooping from the top to the ground. This formed a marvelous tent some five or six feet in inside height. The berries that appeared in late summer were considerably larger than borne by the common mulberry trees about the farm. My grandfather must have liked mulberries for there were several large trees around. Or maybe he just liked the birds attracted by the mulberries.
In front of the magnolias and about midway between the house and the road were two huge pecan trees. These trees bore small spherical nuts in great qantitites. In the back were more pecan trees which had larger oblong nuts.
The drive to the house from the road was along the southern side. To the south of this drive lay cultivated farm land. A front parking area and lane ran between the magnolias and the pecan trees at the front of the house. This land also led to the gate of the very front fenced-in lot previously mentioned. At the other end of this lane between the main drive and the farm land was a large hickory tree. There were always a couple of bricks on the ground beside the trunk for cracking hickory nuts. Did you ever eat hickory nuts sprinkled with brick dust?
The drive continued on beyond the land turn-off, and about opposite the rear of the southwest room there was another parking turn-off. This latter parking area was right at the side porch and was separated into two spaces by a gigantic maple tree. The above ground roots at the base of this maple formed another great play area for children.
In the right angle formed between the lane and the back turn-off there was a well house. It was a square structure about fifteen feet by fifteen feet. The east and south sides were enclosed to a height of about three feet, the enclosing wall topped by a wide shelf or seat. The other two sides wre open. The well house roof copied the pyramidal style of the main house, ending in a smaller spire. The well itself was in the very center of the well house, and had a terra cotta well pipe. A bucket fastened to a hemp rope which ran through a pulley or tackle suspended from the ceiling provided “running water.” Just east of the well house was a large iron wsh pot or kettle. Tin or wood tubs placed on the seat-shelf on this side constituted a wash house where the family laundry was done weekly. I remember a clump of bright red blossomed cannap planted just east of the wsah pot.
The main driveway continued on in a westerly direction to the stable area. On the north side of this drive beyond the rear parking area was first a steel corn crib then a wooden barn equipped on each side with connected open fronted shelters. Finally, the driveway terminated at a mule lot and a stable and hay loft building. A well was located near the lot.
The steel corn crib was most unusual. It was called “the steel crib and was patented. It was cylincrical in shape, about ten feet in diameter and eight feet high with a conical roof. The galvanized sheet steel sides had small sheilded perforations for ventilation. The idea was a rat proof storage area for corn. I guess it worked with rats, but it didn’t keep out mice.
The wooden barn known just as “the crib” was a general store at one time and was furnished with counters and shelves. Behind it on the north were several large Brunswick fig bushes. These bore large brown sweet figs that my grandfather liked so well.
The back of “the crib” and the previously described fence on the north side of the house, enclosed a rectangular garden area devoted to vegetable and flowers. This garden was bisected in an east-west direction by a dirt foot path which terminated on the west end of a privy located right on the western boundary of the property. The privy was a typical early farm shallow open privy and was later replaced with a pit type privy nearer the house.
Just to the west of the back parking area was an above ground carbide light tank and a coal house. Behind the coal house was a stone wood pile and a kindling chopping area.
In front of “the crib” and across the driveway were two large pecan trees beneath which farm machinery was usually stored. The left hand or western shelter of the crib was also used to house farm implements such as small plows and hand tools like hoes and rakes. The right hand shelter housed the family automobile. Beyond the pecan trees to the south was a potato storage house built in later years. It also had a shelter which housed the farm wagon.
A bell tower rose near the steel crib in the juncture of the main drive and the back parking area. This bell was used to waken and summons tenants on the farm, to toll the lunch hour, to signal work resumption after lunch and to end the work day. All the mules and dogs in the neighborhood brayed and yelped when the bell was rung.
The bulk of the farm lay across the road in front of the house. This road was of sand while my grandfather lived, later it was black-topped. Directly opposite the driveway to the house was a farm patch leading to the cow and pig lots located in the edge of a woods about a hundred yards from the road.
On either side of this path were farm building and an occasional tree. Beginning at the road, on the right side was a huge persimmon tree, then a tobacco barn and shed on the left , another barn and shed on the right, a dry well on the left, a third barn on the left, a large “pack house” on the left, a sweet potato house on the left, a tall hickory tree and another potato house and the right and finally a combination “tobacco stick” shed, feed room and cow shed on the left. The path ended here in a turn around area. The cow pasture was straight ahead at the end of the path and right at the gate stood a large mulberry tree, the trunk worn smooth by cows rubbing their coat
I remember getting a splinter deep in my hand from the gate when I was little. My grandfather whittled the splinter out with a pocket knive. Any other time I would have screamed my head off but with him I didn’t even whimper. The knife blade wasn’t even sterilized by flame because my grandfather didn’t smoke and didn’t carry matches.
There was a hawthorne tree near the gate that attracted countless bees in the summer. There was also a well in this location. My grandfather believed in a lot of wells around the place.
An eternally muddy hog pen was to the right where springs originated a small stream which later became Polecat Branch.
Beyond this section lay several acres of woodland dividing the farmland into a north field and a south field. The north field was bounded on the north side by another farm path leading to a tenant house. An enormous crepe myrtle grew in the north field near the tenant house.
A second tenant house was on the main road in the south field. In the field back of this house there was an apple orchard containing another persimmon tree also. The only kind of apple I remember was a flat tart York.
The woods between the fields contained mostly hardwoods such as oaks, hickories, populars and hollies. There was a marshy boggy area in the part fartherest east.
As a youngster I visited these woods with my grandmother and later alone. On my last visit, I killed a single squirrel with a new .22 rifle.
The next summer my grandfather died and the farm was sold. I haven’t been back there.