Sid Proctor’s Country Store, 1915 – Westry’s Siding

JOHN SIDNEY [SID] PROCTOR’S COUNTRY STORE, 1915

b.  23 September 1872

w.  Nash County, North Carolina, near Sandy Cross, Cooper’s Township, Nash County, NC

m.  1 February 1899 to Mary Elizabeth Jones [1882 – 1957]

w.  Nash County, North Carolina

d.  4 May 1934

w.  412 Thomas Street, Rocky Mount, NC

both buried:  Pineview Cemetery, Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County, North Carolina


JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR – EARL P. BELL, JR. CONVERSATION

ABOUT

THE PROCTOR AND RELATED FAMILIES OF NASH COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA

This conversation took place in Aulander, Bertie County, North Carolina on

28 December 1975 in the home of Earl P. Bell, Sr. [1910 – 1971] and Alice Proctor Bell [1909 – 1994], both born and raised in Nash County, NC.

[corrected version by EARL P. BELL, JR., 22 November 2008]

The following conversation took place on the 28th of December 1975 in Aulander, Bertie County, North Carolina between JOHN PROCTOR, age 82 , son of WILLIAM HENRY PROCTOR and MINNIE MOORE PROCTOR, grandson of HANSEL HARRISTON (HARRY) PROCTOR, JR. AND SARAH JANE VAUGHN and EARL P. BELL, JR., age 37, son of EARL P. BELL, SR. and ALICE LEIGH PROCTOR.  HARRY PROCTOR and SARAH JANE VAUGHN PROCTOR are the grandparents of JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR and the great grandparents of EARL P. BELL, JR..  HARRY PROCTOR served in the Second North Carolina Calvary, buying and selling horses, during the Civil War.  ALICE PROCTOR, the mother of EARL P. BELL, JR, was the daughter of JOHN SIDNEY PROCTOR, the brother of JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR’S father WILLIAM HENRY PROCTOR.  SID PROCTOR’S wife, MARY ELIZABETH JONES was the daughter of JOHN [JACK] DANIEL JONES and BEDIE TREVATHAN JONES.  The summary of the conversation is provided by EARL P. BELL, JR. [current address (as of November, 2003) is: 741 Brookwood Drive, Terrace 5, Olympia Fields, Illinois 60461 email: earl.bell3@gmail.com] My grandfather JOHN SIDNEY PROCTOR, born in rural Nash County, North Carolina, owned two country stores in the Nash County, North Carolina during his life time [1872 – 1934].  He died in 1934 in Rocky Mount, NC in his home at 412 Thomas Street, Edgecombe County, North Carolina and is buried with his wife in Pineview Cemetery, Rocky Mount, NC.

COUNTRY STORES OF SID PROCTOR [1872 - 1934] IN COOPER’S AND OAK LEVEL TOWNSHIPS, NASH COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA

The first country store owned by SID PROCTOR, and the one in which JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR worked as a young man, was located at Westry’s Siding between old Highway 64, today Sunset Avenue, and Oak Level Road on what is now Old Carriage Road in Nash County, NC.  My mother’s childhood home was located just north of my grandfather’s country store at Westry’s Siding.  HIs second country store was located at the intersection of old Highway 64 [Sunset Avenue] and Old Carriage Road, Nash County, NC.

The Proctor family, when living near Westry’s Siding attended the Methodist Church in Nashville.  When they lived near Sandy Cross they attended the Methodist Church at that crossroads.  The relevant genealogy of the PROCTOR Family of which JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR, born in 1893, and myself, born 1938, were members is:

HANSEL HARRISON PROCTOR, SR    =  SALLY [BOON]

HANSEL HARRISON PROCTOR, JR.    =    SARAH JANE VAUGHN

ISAAC PROCTOR married Lou Bottoms.    WM HENRY PROCTOR married Minnie Moore.   JOSEPH PROCTOR died in the 1870s at about ten years old.  JOHN SIDNEY PROCTOR married Mary Elizabeth Jones of Cooper’s Township, Nash County, North Carolina

JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR was born and reared in Nash County, North Carolina between Westry and Barnes Hill Missionary Baptist Church.  He knew all the PROCTORS as well as the JOHN (JACK) DANIEL JONES Family.  JACK JONES is the father of MARY ELIZABETH JONES PROCTOR.  According to JOHN PROCTOR, his grandfather HANSEL HARRISON [HARRY] PROCTOR, JR. and his three sons – ISAAC, HENRY, AND SID attended the Methodist Church in Nashville, North Carolina.  JOHN PROCTOR said that as an adult he was a member of the Oak Level Baptist Church as was the ALBERT TURNER BELL Family.  ALBERT T. BELL is the grandfather of EARL P. BELL, JR.  JOHN (JACK) DANIEL JONES and his first wife BEDIE TREVATHAN JONES, his second wife was MARTHA PEEBLES, attended Barnes Hill Missionary Baptist Church in rural Nash County.  In 1882, JACK JONES’ first wife BEDIE TREVATHAN JONES died in childbirth with my grandmother.  His daughter MARY ELIZABETH JONES PROCTOR, my grandmother, attended the Falls Free-Will Baptist Church after 1930. [JOHN PROCTOR and his wife GERTRUDE JOYNER PROCTOR lived in their later years in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, which was their home at the time of this 1975 conversation].  As a boy I attended the all-day Sunday church services at the Falls Free-Will Baptist Church with my grandmother.  My clearest memory is of all the food that was placed on the tables outside the church while services were in progress.  The children, like myself, mostly played outside the church during these all-day marathon services.  Furthur, I remember clearly their powerful singing of one hymn “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”  Their rendition of it impressed me, even at a very early age, They sang this haunting hymn in a slow, mournful way, heavy on the nasal emphasis.  It was almost like a primitive chant they sang it so slowly and mournfully.    Also, I would tease her about being “Miss Sappony Creek” a beauty title, of course, that was exclusively a product of my imagination.  As a young man, I chewed her snuff brushes for her, she was partial to Tube Rose, and she would used the coupons to buy me gifts.  She held a preference for short snuff brushes so she could take one into her mouth when company appeared and she would slide her peach can spit “cup” behind her chair.  In the 1890s, as a eleven year old, she learned to dip snuff from her Uncle CALVIN JONES.

SID PROCTOR’S COUNTRY STORE in 1915 as described by his nephew JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR

In about 1915, JOHN HANSEL PROCTOR [1897 - 1982], when he was 18 years of age, worked in the county store of JOHN SIDNEY PROCTOR [1872 - 1934], his uncle, at Westry’s Siding in Nash County, North Carolina.  Also, he lived with Sid Proctor’s family including my mother.  In November, 2003 there are a few people left, mostly in their 80s, who remember my grandfather’s store.  According to one man, the store had a covered front porch.  When a person entered from the front, which faced east, the ice box for cold drinks was on the left and a poker room existed in the northwest corner of the store.  I am not sure if that poker room existed when SID PROCTOR owned it.  Undoubtably, chairs were on the front porch and pop crades encircled the store’s wood stove.  His oldest two boys, WILLIAM [Bill] HANSEL PROCTOR and JOHN SIDNEY PROCTOR, my mother’s surviving brothers, often worked with their father in the Westry’s Siding country store.  The daughters of SID PROCTOR did not work in the store.  My mother ALICE was the daughter who helped her mother cook the food for the family.

The work in my grandfather’s store was a sunrise to sunset, and after enterprise for him and all of his help.  SID PROCTOR would borrow money from the local banks for stocking the store.  Then he would run a credit business for the area farmers and their families.  The only records kept were on tickets, no record books were used, and the balance from old tickets would be carried forward as each new ticket was started.  Everyone was borrowing against their yearly crop.  The bad years, in this rural economy, destroyed everyone financially, the farmers and businesses that depend on their income.  Bad crops meant no payment of the money owed to SID PROCTOR and debts were carried over to the next growing season.  While a businessman, like SID PROCTOR, could have won a lien against a farmer’s crop, such a remedy was not a realistic option.  Such legal actions would have been destroying his customer base that was comprised of overwhelmingly honest people who did not have the money to pay their debts and who would, once good times returned, pay all that they owed.  Despite the sizable volume of credit business sustained by SID PROCTOR and the hard times that inevitably visit all farm families, especially tenant farmers, the people living in the most vunerable way without a safety net,  almost everyone paid off their debts.  During this time, it was a matter of family pride and honor.  At the turn of the twentieth century, in rural Nash County, North Carolina a person’s word was almost always reliable and pride in the surname a person bore ran deep.  [Eds. note:  I remember from the 1940s and 1950s in rural Bertie County, North Carolina where I was raised, a person's word, especially for males, was view by the overwhelming majority of people as a bond.  My father always emphasized "a man is no better than his word.  In fact, his word is the man"]

The physical layout of the store was conventional with a counter and shelves to the ceiling heavily laden with goods needed by farm families.  The stock of SID PROCTOR’S country store was extensive.  They served the local population in much the same way that chain stores will after World War II.  The stock included an impressive diversity of farm implements and tools.  Cloth of all types was sold; calico, outing, poplin (the most expensive cloth), and muslin.  Outing flannel cloth was a warm cotton fabric in either a plain or twill weave with a nap on both sides.  It was all sold by the yard.  Molasses came in 800 to 900 pound barrels.  Crackers came loose in 20 pound boxes.  Cracker boxes were highly valued by local people and Sid Proctor maintained a written waiting list of people who wanted used cracker boxes as they became available.  Also, the round boxes in which cheese came were highly valued.  John recalled how many people would use the cracker boxes for carrying food to various functions, especially to school on a daily basis and church events, especially on God’s Day.  A few individuals used the boxes for carrying clothes.  Cider was a big seller.  John remembered drawing several barrels (four or five barrels) of cider on a typical Saturday.  One Negro man, YANK ZIMMERMAN, a tenant of Sid Proctor, stood out in JOHN PROCTOR’S memory.  Yank had perfected a the skill of hanging around the store on Saturdays in order to get free glasses of cider as various men, who observed a local tradition, by offering a free drink of it, to all people in the store when they came in to shop.  This behavior was especially upsetting to SID PROCTOR.  One incident that John related occurred on a Saturday, when Sid Proctor told Yank that he had freeloaded enough cider for one day.  Yank did not respond in a fashion suitable to Sid, so Sid hit Yank on the head and in the struggle Sid’s thumb got caught in Yank’s mouth.  John said that he picked up a Coke bottle and hit Yank several times until he released Sid Proctor’s thumb.

There were a number of local characters that frequented Sid Proctor’s store.  The two most notorious, according to John, were TURNER WHITNEY and a Mr. EDWARDS.  Both men were called “conservative” by local people, a better term, John offered, would have been “mizer.”  Both men were known for going barefooted from frost to frost.  According to John, the bottoms of their feet were as tough as shoe leather.  Mr. Whitney was infamous for coming into the store late in the afternoon and staying until ten or eleven o’clock at night.  This practice was especially hard on John, who usually closed up, because he was anxious to get home, eat and go to bed.  John was paid $20 a month plus room and board at SID PROCTOR’S home.  His next job was in Rocky Mount selling cars, a job that paid the incredible salary of $120 a month.

The store had a pot-belly stove around which a number of pop crates sat.  There was usually a collection of black laborers in the store.  Often John would measure out a small portion of kerosene and throw it in the stove, with an obvious explosive effect, to run them out of the store.  Some of the favorite purchases by local people included sausage, cheese, sardines, and crackers with everything.

Also, John told about going to Oak Level School as a boy.  Each family carried food to school for their children.  John carried his lunch in a five pound lard pail.  The larger the family, the Bells were one of the largest in the area, the larger the food basket.  A favorite lunch was a sausage biscuit.  The basket would be placed on a fallen tree log or such and the kids from each family would come by for food, usually dispersed by the most responsible child in a family.  This task most often fell to the oldest child in the family, especially the oldest daughter.  Fights were common during the lunch hour over turn over lunch baskets or pails as well as just plain meanness.  In this category, my cousin John recalled the behavior of LUTHER BELL, half brother of my grandfather ALBERT TURNER BELL.  My Uncle SIDNEY PROCTOR always told me about the mischief that the Bells created around the school.  According to my mother, and her brothers and sisters, if there was an academic competition at Oak Level School one of them always won it.  Once my mother was telling me in grand Proctor style about her Trevathan ancestors and my father EARL P. BELL, SR., offered in his dry way, “The only Trevathans I ever knew sold pencils on the street in Rocky Mount.”  This comment, of course, produced an intense denial from my mother.

In the second decade of the twentieth century, a train provided transportation to local people each day between Nashville, North Carolina and Rocky Mount, North Carolina arrived in Westrys each day at 12 o’clock noon, and then returned at 4 P. M.  Farmers would leave their wagons at SID PROCTOR’S store for loading with fertilizer, feed, etc. while they traveled on the train to Rocky Mount and back for the day.  The merchandise in the store was stocked by traveling salesmen.  Delivery of all goods to the store was by wagon and train.  The work day was extremely long with SID PROCTOR often eating supper and returning at night.  Everyone worked until the last customer left the store regardless of the hour.  My mother, ALICE PROCTOR BELL, told me that all her brothers and sisters were frequently in the store and that, invariably, her dad, during the day, would give them straw hats to wear back home to protect them from the rays of the sun.  When she first told me this story, I imagined him as being very eccentric and I am confident that he was from other information I know.  However, regardless of his knowledge, we now know that over time exposure to the sun does incrementally cause skin cancer.  In fact, MARY ELIZABETH JONES PROCTOR, SID PROCTOR’s wife, did have skin cancer.  This fact may have motivated him to be obsessive about exposure to the sun.

John remembered that SID PROCTOR for a short while was providing people in the Westry’s Siding area with fresh fish that came by train from Norfolk, Virginia.  At first it made a good profit.  Then the locals caught on to how to buy the fish at the cheapest possible price.  They would just wait as late in the day as possible knowing that price would drop due to the fact that no process existed to keep the fish from spoiling over night.  Finally, my grandfather dropped the daily fish business because of this local practice.

John stated that SID PROCTOR was quite a handsome man and that MARY ELIZABETH JONES, my grandmother, was easily the prettiest girl-woman, she married at 16, in the county.  Yet her beauty was not sufficient to keep Sid from having a roving eye for other women.  In fact cousin John said, “You know your grandmother was the prettiest woman in the county.  But that was not quite enough for your grandfather.”   He was 26 years old when they were married in 1899 and she was 17.

The family’s hard times brought on by the Great Depression of 1929 destroyed SID PROCTOR financially.  By 1929, he was a sick man (he died in 1934).  In his last years he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and, in 1934, died the shape of his wheelchair.  A mysterious fire destroyed the second country store owned by JOHN SIDNEY PROCTOR, the one located at Sandy Cross in either 1929 or 1930, burning all of his credit records.  My grandmother, MARY ELIZABETH JONES PROCTOR, told me once that there were many people that lived in her section, after that fire, who would cross over the street in Rocky Mount, the Proctor Family had moved to Rocky Mount on Thomas Street in the about 1930, to keep from having to look her in the eye.  JOHN PROCTOR said that if SID PROCTOR had been a healthy man, with all his business acumen, he would have surely not only survived the Depression financially,  but he would have prospered.

One additional story told about my grandfather’s country store at Westry’s Siding was that it had one of the first telephones in Nash County.  RAYMOND BELL, grandson of JOHN LINDSEY BELL, my great-grandfather, remembers that a subsequent country store of SID PROCTOR’s at the crossroads of Old Carriage Road and old Highway 64, undoubtably under different ownership when Raymond was a boy, had a hand-cranked phone, with a four digit number, that a user would give to the operator in Rocky Mount when they called.  Also, he remembers that in those days it was the only phone between Nashville and Rocky Mount.  A story that has been passed down in my family about the phone in my grandfather’s country stores focused on the use of the phone, probably at the Sandy Cross store, by my great grandfather JOHN [JACK] DANIEL JONES, father of my maternal grandmother MARY ELIZABETH JONES, wife of SID PROCTOR.  My great-grandfather JACK JONES was shouting into the phone because he thought it would take some volume to get your voice down that narrow wire.  Men in the store told him, “Jack, Jack talk normally, you do not need to shout.”  The home of SID and MARY PROCTOR, just north of their store at Westry’s Siding, was one of the first battery lighted houses in Nash county, with a big old Delco.  According to the family, SID PROCTOR owned one of the first cars in Nash County.  My father’s brother WILLIAM HOYT BELL, born in 1917, remembers, he is now [2004] some 86 years young, when old Highway 64, now Sunset Avenue, was a dirt road.  Also, he remembers, as a boy, watching the paving of old Highway 64 and the electrification of the area east of the town of Nashville during the 1930s.  He said that in those days, the young men living on farms east of the town would go down on Sunday afternoons and sit by the road waiting for the attractive young women to pass.  Also, my great grandfather’s house on old Highway 64, the home of BUCHANAN [BUCK] HARPER and his wife SALLIE GRIFFIN HARPER, that sat some two miles east of the town of Nashville on the north side of the road, had electricity once original electrification occurred in that part of Nash County.  However, the farm house of my grandparents, the home of ALBERT TURNER BELL and MARY WILLIAM HARPER, that was located just to the west of BUCK and SALLIE HARPER’s place and two miles east of Nashville, did not have electricity until 1946 because it sat about one half of a mile north of old Highway 64.  In the 1930s and into the mid-1940s, it seems that, in this section, only the houses located right on old Highway 64 had electricity until after World War II.  My Dad’s brothers, WILLIAM HOYT BELL and HORACE ALBERT BELL, wired their father’s house in 1946 when both their families lived in the house.  Also, Uncle Hoyt remembers that one of the most patriotic and festive days of the year for people in the area during the 1920s and 1930s was the annual July 4 Klan Parade in the town of Nashville.  Today a housing development is located on the 53 acres of land that was my grandfather’s farm.  The homeplace of BUCK and SALLIE HARPER, now on Sunset Avenue, still stands [it was recently torn down in 2009].  The building that at one time was my grandfather’s country at the crossroads of Old Carriage Road and old Highway 64 was torn down on the 10th of November 2003.

submitted by: Earl P. Bell, Jr.

comments or questions to:  earl.bell3@gmail.com

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