Oswell Kinion Proctor


Oswell Kinion Proctor

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

Oswell Kinion Proctor, also known as O.K., owned 200 acres of land in Orange County, NC, in the early 1860’s, located in what is now East Durham. 

Oswell Kinion Proctor was born in 1827 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.

There are only two land deeds showing O.K. Proctor as the grantee (buyer), and they occur after his marriage in 1848 to Sarah Jane Barbee (1831-1901).  Some land may also have been given to him as part of his father’s farm at the time of his marriage. He is listed as an Orange County landowner in the 1850 and 1860 Census records.  His name is mentioned in scores of deeds and land plats of his heirs.

O.K.’s story came to an abrupt end in 1863.  He fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  He enlisted as a private on 4 Feb 1863 in Company G, NC 3rd Light Artillery Regiment, and he died only 3 months later at the age of 36.  He has a Confederate soldier’s tombstone in Willow Dale Cemetery in Goldsboro, NC. 

His death was devastating for his family.  He died intestate, leaving his 32 year old wife Sarah with 6 children and one on the way and a 200 acre farm to manage.  Sarah had to ask that a writ of dower for her rights as a widow be issued on her behalf for O.K.’s land, and all of his personal property was valued by the court at $547.  Her children, all under the age of 12, were declared to be under the guardianship of the Clerk of Court.  O.K.’s son James Sidney Harris was born 10 Sep 1863, 5 months after O.K.’s death.

O.K. and Sarah had 3 daughters and 5 sons.  All of their children stayed in Durham.  Two of their daughters, Sarah (1850-1860) and Frances Henrietta (1852-1865), died young, and their daughter Malinda E. (1851-1882) married Jonathan M. Watts in 1866.  She had 8 children and died at only 31 years of age.  The sons of O.K. and Sarah were John Richard (1856-1917), Francis Marion “Frank” (1857-1888), Oswell Kinion  “O.K. Jr.” (1859-1923), William Wesley Henry  “W.W.H.” (1861-1933) and James Sidney Harris “J.S.H.” (1863-1933). 

O.K.’s legacy in Durham lives on because of the hard work and contributions of his family.  His wife Sarah never remarried, and she continued to farm the land with the help of her sons.  The family is listed as one of only 70 farm owners in the Durham Post Office area on page 1707 of Branson's Business Directory in 1867, and they are also listed in the 1870 and 1880 Census records.  They grew tobacco.  The Tobacco Plant newspaper dated Mar 16, 1887, states that O.K. Proctor Jr. made $30.05 per pound when he sold his tobacco at the Banner Tobacco Warehouse in Durham.

In 1881, when Sarah was 50 years old and 3 of her sons were over 21, they asked the court to have O.K.’s land re-surveyed and divided into 6 lots for his heirs.  This land on today’s map was bounded on the northwest by Proctor Road, which is called Harvard Ave. today.  The western boundary was S. Briggs St. between Harvard Ave. and the NC Railroad.  The southern boundary was the NC RR and the Seaboard RR as it curves north along with S. Hoover Road to Ashe St.  The eastern boundary was the old Wake County Line, which ran parallel to the Seaboard RR about a quarter mile to the east.  Highway 70 cut through the northeastern part of their land.  In the past both Harvard and Hoover continued farther to the north, but on today’s map they have been cut by Highway 70. The plat of the O.K. heirs’ land is in Durham Deed Book 6 page 333, and it shows where O.K.’s original farm house was located, as well as a barn and a cotton gin.  O.K.’s house was located between Hoover Road and the Seaboard Railroad at Highway 70, just northeast of S. Miami Blvd. on today’s map.  Note that Hoover Road does not cross Highway 70 today.  His family cemetery was located near his house, and it still exists today.

After O.K.’s land was divided, the heirs negotiated ownership of the 6 lots until the northern half of the heirs’ land was all owned by J.S.H., and the southern half was owned by John R.  W.W. H. did not live on his father’s land.  His farm was across the Wake County Line, which was about a quarter of a mile east of their land at that time.  O.K. Jr. did not live on his father’s land, but he purchased 200 acres of land nearby, bordering his father’s land on the north.  Frank purchased 191 acres from his mother, which was land that she had inherited from her father John Barbee, but he sold it a year later and did not appear to live on it.    

In the 1880’s the sons of O.K. and Sarah started their “non-farming” careers.  In 1884, John R. purchased some land at the corner of Broadway and Mangum streets in downtown Durham, preparing to open a grocery store.  In 1887 John R., Frank and W.W. H. Proctor entered into a partnership with W.T. Redmond and created a company called Redmond and Proctor Brothers.  The 1887 Durham Directory listed their grocery store called Redmond & Proctor Bros., located at 122 E. Main St. in downtown Durham.  The Tobacco Plant Newspaper of 17 Aug 1887 had their advertisement:  “For the best teas, coffees and sugar at the lowest price, call at Redmond & Proctor Bros.”

Frank married Mollie E. Russell (1859-1883) in 1881, and they had one daughter.  They lived in downtown Durham on Ramseur St.  His first wife died in 1883, and he married Mollie E. Norwood (1862-1900) in 1884.  He died in 1888 of heart disease at age 30, according to a notice in the Durham Morning Herald on Feb 22, 1888.  He was the first person to be buried in the O.K. Proctor family cemetery.  Frank’s daughter was raised by his brother O.K. Jr. and his wife Mary Ellen Barbee.

In 1886 John R. married Malissa Mangum (1867-1953), and they had 4 children.  By 1909 John R. was a success and had built a fine house at 311 Oakwood in Durham.  This house is still standing, and it is mentioned in the Open Durham web site: http://www.opendurham.org/buildings/311-oakwood-proctor-house   The 1913 Durham Directory says that he worked in real estate.  John R. died in 1917.  His obituary, which was printed in the Durham Morning Herald, said that he had been identified with the business interests of Durham for 40 years and had served as a Durham Alderman.  He is buried in Maplewood Cemetery.

W.W.H. is listed in the Census records and the Durham Directories as living in downtown Durham at 315 Mangum St, and also farming in Cedar Fork, Wake County.  He was married 3 times and had 4 children.  He died in 1933 in Middle Creek Township in Wake County.  His place of burial is unknown.

O.K. Jr. married Mary Ellen Barbee (1864-1930) in 1883.  They had no children, but they raised their niece Sarah, daughter of Frank.  O.K. Jr. was the Vice President and Director of People's Bank, located at 463 S. Driver St.  See the Open Durham web site for a picture of this bank building: http://www.opendurham.org/buildings/318-south-driver-street-fidelity-bank-east-durham-branch   He was listed as the VP of People’s Bank in the Durham Directories from 1911 until his death in 1923.  He is buried in the O.K. Proctor Family Cemetery.  His land was bounded on the south by Highway 70, on the east by the old Wake County Line from Highway 70 as far north as Mansfield.  On the west its boundary was just west of Hoover Road.  His house was probably located at 2306 Holloway St. near the Joyland Shopping Center.

J.S.H. continued farming on his father’s land all his life.  He married Margaret Ann Barbee (1967-1938)  in 1887 at age 24, and they had 4 sons.  He continued to live in his father’s original house.  His mother Sarah lived with him and his wife or with O.K. Jr. and his wife until her death in 1901.  J.S.H. sent his 4 sons to college.  One of them, Jesse Harris Proctor, attended Trinity College in 1920, before it became Duke University.  J.S.H. died in 1933.  He is buried in the O.K. Proctor family cemetery, near his house.   His mother Sarah is also buried there.

These Durham Landmarks now sit on the original farm land of Oswell Kinion Proctor Sr.:

  • East Durham:

In this map of East Durham in 1914, the residence of O.K. Proctor Jr. is shown on what is now Holloway St. and the residence of J.S.H. Proctor is shown on what is now S. Hoover Rd.  Note that the Seaboard Railroad went through their property in 1887. The heavy dotted line east of their land is the old Wake County Line which is mentioned as a boundary in many of their land deeds.

  • Joyland:  O.K. Proctor Jr. sold to the N.C. Children’s Home Society for only $10 a lot of land to be used to build the Joyland Orphanage in 1910.  The site was 15 acres located just west of the Seaboard RR and north of Rochelle St. on today’s map.  Sadly, construction of the building was started but never completed.  The Durham Morning Herald dated Mar 10, 1917 said that it would take $25,000 to complete the project and $20,000 annually to run the facility.  Durham was never able to come up with the funding.  O.K. Jr. bought the land back from the N.C. Children’s Home Society in 1921.  The Open Durham web site has a picture of the impressive building that had been planned for the site: http://www.opendurham.org/buildings/joyland   Even though the orphanage called “Joyland” was never built, the name lives on as an area of East Durham.
  • East Durham Post Office:  According to the Durham Morning Herald dated 18 Mar 1917, O.K. Proctor Jr. built a new East Durham Post Office building, “a handsome two-story structure”.
  • Proctor Road:  Provide a link to the Proctor Street story.

The following is a list of the land deeds and plats associated with the land of O.K. Proctor and his family.

Orange County Deed Book 35 page 63, 45/379.

Durham County Deed Book 1 page 371, 2/133, 2/247, 2/599, 3/414, 3/225, 4/235, 4/577, 4/578, 4/580, 5/252, 6/262, 6/268, 6/269, 6 /333, 6/334, 6/337, 6/571, 7/ 91, 7/232, 7/538, 8/357, 8/583, 10/141, 10/143, 10/228, 10/286, 11/373, 11/375, 11/377, 13/154, 17/295, 21/119, 21/474, 21/536, 26/470, 34/414, 41/511, 65/32, 70/567.

Durham County Plat Book 1A page 15, 5/11, 5A/66, 6A/80, 8/91, 9/86, 9/87, 9/97, 10/37, 11/67, 12/89, 13/12, 31A/51, 31A/54, 32/85, 33/166, 57/75, 94/3.


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