Jonathan S. Proctor

Jonathan S. Proctor

Place of birth: 
Orange County, North Carolina
Date of birth: 
Place of death: 
Durham, Durham County, North Carolina
Date of death: 

Jonathan S. Proctor, also known as John S. and J.S., owned 73 acres of land which is now part of the City of Durham in the Lakewood area along the Chapel Hill Road.

John S. Proctor was born in 1819 in Orange County, NC.  His father, Richard Anthony Proctor, was the recipient of a North Carolina land grant and was one of the early settlers of Orange County, NC, in the area that is now the City of Durham.

John S. married Mary “Polly” Cooke (1808-1891) in 1840, and they probably lived with his parents initially.  There is only one land deed showing John S. Proctor as the grantee (buyer).  In 1850 he purchased 98 acres of land adjacent to his father’s land on the waters of New Hope Creek.  He immediately sold 25 acres of this land to his brother William B. Proctor.  The remaining land was his farm for the rest of his life.  His land was on both sides of Chapel Hill Road. 

John S.’s house was located at 2101 Chapel Hill Road, and his family burial ground is located across the street at the northwest corner of the intersection of Chapel Hill Road and Prince Street. 

When his father, Richard Proctor, died in 1864, leaving an estate of 362 acres, his heirs decided to sell the land instead of dividing it up because the land had poor soil quality and many of the heirs were too young to own land. Richard’s executor, William Gaston Vickers, put the land up for sale, and it was auctioned in 1870.  Richard’s son John S. Proctor was the highest bidder for the western portion of his land of 168 acres.  This additional land touched the south east corner of John S.’s home place near the corner of Ward St. and James St. 

John S. Proctor was one of the Patriarchs of the City Of Durham.  He was very interested in education.  In 1891 he sold to the Durham School Committee a one acre tract of his land on Chapel Hill Road for a school house site for School District #33.  (Durham Deed Book 11 page 161.)  This was the site for the original Lakewood School.  Based on the information in this deed and in other land deeds of John S., the location of the original Lakewood School was the north eastern corner at the intersection of Ward St. and Chapel Hill Road.  

John S. and his wife had 3 sons, and 5 daughters.  Their two younger sons, Richard J. Proctor (1854-?) and Josiah Proctor (1843-?), died young.  There are no Census records for them after 1870.

John S.’s eldest son, John Wesley Proctor (1842-1914), is an important person in Durham history.  John Wesley was trained to be a school teacher, and that was his profession in his listing in the 1880 Census for Durham Township.  In the 1886 Branson’s NC Directory, page 265, he is listed as one of Durham’s school teachers.  He lived in the house at 2207 Chapel Hill Road, and his back yard was next door to the school yard of the original Lakewood School.  John Wesley Proctor married Julia A. Crabtree (1851-1924) in 1869, and they had 9 children.  John Wesley and Julia both worked at the school.  In a remodeling project on the house at 2207 Chapel Hill Road in 2009, a picture was found stuffed into the walls as insulation.  The picture showed John Wesley and his wife Julia standing on the front porch of the school with their students.  See the Open Durham site for more information:

John S.’s  daughters all married Durham farmers.  Nancy Jane “Nannie” (1840-1894) married James Newton Christian (1842-1918) in 1868, and they had 8 children.  Their farm was on Chapel Hill Road.  Mary E. Proctor (1845-1905) married Archibald Laws (1852-1925) in 1873, and they had 2 children.  In the 1900 Census his occupation was listed as a miller at a grist mill in Durham County’s Lebanon Township.  Martha Proctor (1848-1875) married William Perris Hailey (1842-1926) in 1868, and they had 3 children.  Their farm was in East Durham. Henrietta Frances Proctor (1851-1915) married John Alexander Vickers (1846-1925) in 1870, and they had 2 daughters.  They lived in Durham County’s Patterson Township in the 1900 Census.  John S.’s daughter Malinda Helen Proctor (1850-1897) married William Washington Davis (1847-1916) in 1885, and they had 5 children.  They purchased the land for their farm from John S.  It was located on the west side of Chapel Hill Road near Prince St. 

John S. continued to farm, even as the town of Durham started to spread out toward him from downtown Durham along Chapel Hill Street and Chapel Hill Road.  In Charles Emerson’s Tobacco Belt Directory of 1886, John S. is listed as a Durham County landowner with 263 acres.   He is listed in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 Census records as a farmer, with real estate valued between $750 and $1200.

John S. Proctor’s name shows up as the grantor (seller) in 8 land deeds in Orange County and in Durham County, and in all of these deeds he is selling his land to family members.  In addition to his own land deeds, his name is mentioned in scores of deeds and plats of his heirs.  Shortly before his death in 1891, John S. started selling parcels of his land to his children.  He sold all of the land that had originally belonged to his father, and he sold some of the land of his own farm.  He sold the northern portion of his father’s land to his son John Wesley containing 56 acres.  He sold to his daughter Nancy J. Christian another 56 acre parcel which was the central portion of his father’s land. The southern portion of his father’s land containing 50 acres he sold to his daughter Henrietta F. Vickers.  To his daughter Malinda H. Davis he sold his land on the west side of Chapel Hill Road at Prince Street containing 35 acres with the exception of the one acre of his family burial ground.  After this sell-off he had only about 40 acres left, including his home place.

John S. Proctor died in July, 1891.  In his will (Durham Will Book A, page 222) he left all of his real estate and personal property to be sold and divided equally among 3 of his children, J. W. Proctor, Henrietta F. Vickers, and Nancy J. Christian.  He appointed William Gaston Vickers as his executor.  The land deeds show that John S.’s son, John Wesley Proctor, ultimately acquired part of the land left to the heirs in his father’s will, and his cousin William Haynes Proctor acquired the rest of it.       

These historic Durham Landmarks were located on the original farmland of John S. Proctor:

  • Lakewood Amusement Park was on land that was part of John S. Proctor’s farm.  After John S.’s death, Richard H. Wright of the Durham Traction Company purchased all of the land that John S. had owned on the west side of Chapel Hill Road from John S.’s nephew William Haynes Proctor  and John S.’s son-in-law William Washington Davis.    (See Durham Deed Book 24 page 148, 26/489, 25/483 and 12/25 and 30/130.)
  • Lakewood School:  The original Lakewood School was established on the land that John S. Proctor sold to the  Durham School Committee School District #33, (Durham Deed Book 11 page 161), located at  the north eastern corner of the intersection of Ward St. and Chapel Hill Road.   See this site for a picture of the frame school building as it looked when John S.’s son John Wesley was teaching there and a picture of the brick school building that replaced it in 1918.  This new brick building was located at 2119 Chapel Hill Road, where the Lakewood YMCA stands today, on land that also belonged to John S. Proctor. 
  • The Lakewood Park Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Much of the land in this district was owned by John S. Proctor and his brother William B. Proctor.

The following is a list of the land deeds and plats associated with John S. Proctor’s land:

Orange County Deed Book 5 page 562, 35/60, 47/33.

Durham County Deed Book 1 page 588, 5/564, 6/486, 11/161, 11/230, 11/413, 12/25, 12/120, 12/126, 16/347, 17/158, 23/107, 23/212, 24/148, 25/483, 26/12-13, 26/459, 32/91, 33/596, 35/510, 35/511, 37/556, 38/231, 38/240, 39/195, 40/365, 42/28, 42/48, 42/224, 42/477, 42/491, 42/662, 43/541, 64/275, 68/71, 80/135.

Durham Plat Book 3 page 55 J.W. Proctor Home Place, 5A/69 Wright’s Lakewood Park Place, including the Proctor Family Cemetery, 30/196 Fred Ward Estate, 9/83 Fred Ward Estate, 13/129, 16/166, 16/199, 30/196.


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