A half century’s residence within the boundaries of a single county and a half century of active endeavor devoted to its material development marks, in a sense, the distinction of James A. Proctor of this review as a citizen of Wise county. From the year 1854, when he entered a piece of the public domain upon which the country seat now stands, to the closing months of 1905, either in the saddle, behind the counter or following the plow, he has been a factor, a quiet force in pushing Wise county up the scale of progress form an unorganized and unsettled wilderness to a municipality filled with the arteries of commerce, thriving towns and comfortable homes.
As a young man of twenty-five he took legal possession of the high point of land which marks the site of Decatur, intending it for this homestead, and he had gathered about him some of the prime evidences of civilization when proposals to locate the chief town of the county there came to him, and he set aside sixty acres of his tract, gratuitously, for the laying out of the town. Being limited as to means from the start, and having now the responsibilities of a young family, he disposed of the remnant of his quarter section at sale and, with the proceeds, started life as a cow man nearby.
Without special incident Mr. Proctor was engaged in the cattle business, with residence near Decatur, for seventeen years, when he changed his location to old Bridgeport and began the opening out of a farm. His cattle interests still held his attention and he ranged his stuff clear to the Brazos river and out into Knox county, having still an interest in a pasture in Foard county with a son. In 1884 the cow business subsided, largely, as a business and the cultivation of his Bridgeport farm has since occupied his time. He owns a half section of valley land and three sides of which coal has been developed, and much of it is now being tunneled for the product on a royalty of five center per ton. It was upon his farm, some eighteen years ago, that coal was first discovered, a piece of good fortune not only to him but to the community in which he lives.
A few of the first years of his life in the old town of Bridgeport Mr. Proctor passed in selling goods, at which time the village was situated about two miles southwest of the present town. But merchandising was not his forte and he resumed his former active outdoor life.
While the war was in progress he joined a regiment of state rangers under Colonel Morris and Lieutenant Colonel Buck Barry and served on the frontier for more than three months. The regiment was in camp at Buffalo Springs, at Belknap and passed three years and three months of the time in scouting the country for Indians. A few fights with them were indulged in and on one occasion, on the Big Wichita river, the command lost all its horses and pack mules at the hands of the wary Comanche. The last few months of the war our subject was on detail to gather up beef cattle for the Confederate army and drive them to East Texas and was so employed when the “breakup” came.
Mr. Proctor was an emigrant to Texas from Rockcastle county, Kentucky, where his birth occurred July 3, 1829. He is descended from Revolutionary stock, his great-grandfather having served in the war for American independence. The latter died in Rockcastle county, Kentucky, when our subject was a child, having migrated there from some point in Pennsylvania soon after the termination of the war. His lineage can be traced to the Scotch-Irish, and one of his sons, James, was a young man w hen the family took up its home in the state of Daniel Boone. James Proctor married Polly Brannaman, a German lady, and passed away in Rockcastle county, being nearly one hundred years of age. Of his children, David, our subject’s father, was the first born. Then came George, William, John, Sidney and Elisha, twins, Anderson, Green, Alfred. The daughters were Frankie, wife of John Forsythe; Betsy; and Susan, who became the wife of Sebe Seary.
David Proctor took up the vocation of his ancestors and brought up his family to know the pursuits of agriculture. He left Kentucky about 1850 and located in Morgan county, Indiana. He afterward moved to Jasper county, Missouri, where his wife died, but he returned to Indiana and passed his remaining years. He was born in Rockcastle county, Kentucky, married Miss Lucy, a daughter of Rev. John Quinn, a Christian preacher. His children were: John, of Council Bluffs, Iowa; James A., of this sketch; Melvina, widow of John Palmer, of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Frances, wife of Ratliff Long, of Indiana, died in Morgan county; Mary, married Frank Wilson, of Iowa; and George, who died in the state of Iowa. On the farm of his father in Kentucky James A. Proctor grew up and in the old-time log house, with slab benches, he was schooled and ruled three months in the year. In 1853 he joined three families for the trip to Texas and drove a team for William Perrian, of the party, the journey requiring forty days’ time. They stopped first in Dallas county and made a crop, but the next year our subject left Joe’s branch and began his career in the unorganized county of Wise. He and his wife were the first couple married in the county, and February 8, 1856, he wedded Polly Hunt, a daughter of William Perrian’s wife, with whom he had made the trip from Kentucky. Mr. and Mrs. Proctor’s children are: Lucy, wife of Virginius Gale, of Indian Territory; Mollie, a widow, in Bridgeport, Texas; Laura, wife of Charles Woods, of Wise county; William D., of Bridgeport; James, of Dimmit county, Texas; John, of Foard county, Texas; Artemissa, wife of James Stanfield, of Indian Territory; Ella, wife of Charles Selanger, of Bridgeport; and Maud, who married A. L. Hutchison, of Bridgeport, Texas.
While Mr. Proctor has resided in Wise county longer than most of its citizens can remember, and has occupied a positive place among the every-day affairs of men, he has shown no interest in its political life and beyond voting the Democratic ticket he has not been politically known. He is a Master Mason and is a m ember of the Christian church. He has ever maintained an untarnished reputation and a character above suspicion and the confidence of his friends everywhere constantly abides with him.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 570-571.