The Tracy Family History
the Proctor Line
In the historic Richmond Cemetery in Richmond, KY, there stands a 22-foot monument to Captain James Estill. At the base of the monument there is a relief which depicts a scene from one of the famous battles on the Kentucky frontier. In the relief a fallen Captain Estill is depicted with an Indian about to scalp him. If you look closely at the upper right hand corner you can make out the figure of Joseph Proctor aiming his rifle at the Indian. Joseph Proctor did indeed kill the Indian before he could scalp Captain Estill.
The Proctor Clan
You will remember that I started the Tracy Family History by telling you that Thomas Moon was my 3rd great grandfather. His wife was Lusany Proctor. Lusany's father was Benjamin Proctor, my 4th great grandfather. His father was Nicholas Proctor Senior, who would have been my 5th great grandfather. It is believed that Nicholas was married twice. More information comes later.
Nicholas had 8 sons and one daughter. It is believed that there was one more son, of which there is no record, because family tradition says there were 9 sons.
The 9 known children are as follows:
Our Proctors came from Brunswick County,
Virginia to Rowan County, North Carolina around 1760-1762. But the story of our
Proctors is not about the years they spent in Virginia or North Carolina. The
real story is the years they spent fighting Indians in "that dark and bloody
ground" known as Kentucky.
However, to understand the story of our Proctors you first must understand the history of Kentucky. And to understand the history of Kentucky you must first know the story of Daniel Boone, for the lives of our Proctors and Daniel Boone would be intertwined for many years.
In 1763, the French and Indian War ended. The French gave to England their claim to the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. From the Mississippi westward the land was given to Spain.
There lay a natural barrier between the Southern colonies and the Kentucky. That barrier was the Appalachian Mountains. The British passed a law forbidding the white colonists to cross these mountains and settle in the Kentucky. The land that lay west of this mountain range was designated as “Indian Territory.”
The law was ignored. Occasionally small bands of "long hunters," including Daniel Boone, would find their way through the Cumberland Gap and hunt in this Indian Territory. The "long hunters" found this land of Kentucky to be amazingly fertile and filled with game.
Strangely, the Indians did not live in the Kentucky. Various tribes lived to the North and South. They would enter the Kentucky only to hunt game and do war with their traditional enemies, the other tribes.
There are many good quality photos of the Cumberland Gap. I have chosen this old, blurry, one from the book, The Woods-McAfee Memorial, by Rev. Neander Woods, published 1905. The author is an eminent genealogist/historian. He is also one of our people.
In April of 1775, Daniel Boone, with a
party of pioneers, started constructing Fort Boonesborough. (Reconstructed, it
lies just a few miles Southeast of present day Lexington.) A month later there
were four small settlements in central Kentucky with a smattering of settlers to
the north and east. All total there were about 300 settlers in the Kentucky.
Within a few weeks, the Revolutionary War would begin. The British decided to pressure the colonies by fighting the war on two fronts. Lord Germain ordered British commanders in America to arm the Indians and set them against the Western settlements. At very little expense they gave the Indians military supplies and provided them with leadership. The war on the frontier would not be between organized armies but would pit the Indians against the white man for years to come.
In January 1778, 30 men made their way from Fort Boonesborough to the Lower Blue Licks to make salt. Salt was essential for preserving meat and the settlers could not survive without this precious element. It was a long process to boil down the spring water to make salt. It would take at least a month. To make a long story short, the Indians captured almost all of the white men including Daniel Boone. They were kept prisoners in the Indian camp.
In June, Daniel Boone learned that the Indians, under Frenchmen trained by and loyal to England, planned to attack Fort Boonesborough. Boone escaped and made his way back to the Fort and warned the settlers of the impending attack.
The capture of these salt makers left the three small garrisons of Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and Logan's Station desperately short of manpower. Sometime between the settlers going to the salt licks and Daniel Boone's famous escape, a small band of volunteers, Virginia militia, made their way to Fort Boonesborough to reinforce the garrison.
It is at this point that the story of our Proctors begins. The governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry, sends this military force. At that time, Virginia considered its territory to extend westward as far as the eye could see, then into infinity, and beyond. Thus, Kentucky was considered Virginia territory.
Among the military force were Nicholas Proctor, Sr., and his 5 eldest sons. This was in March 1778. This would have included my 4th great grandfather, Benjamin. They came through the Cumberland Gap, which was then merely a deer trail.
An old illustration from the book, History of Kentucky, by Lewis Collins, 1882. From the collection of the Filson Club, Louisville, KY. I have seen this illustration reproduced many times in histories of Daniel Boone. I suspect that the Filson Club people are our cousins.
Joseph Proctor, undoubtedly with his brothers, formed raiding
parties, crossed the Ohio River and attempted to rescue Daniel Boone and the
other captives. They were unsuccessful. Then Daniel Boone made his famous
In his pension application, Benjamin Proctor tells of his first meeting with Daniel Boone:
"When I first came to Boonesboro Col Dan'l Boon was a prisoner in the Townes of the Shawnee Indians, when Col Calloway commanded in his absence - On learning that the Indians were making reparations to attack Boonsboro Col Boon made his escape from them and….gave the alarm and made necessary preparations for the attack….I was present and heard Boon telling his narrative when he first arrived."
I have to make two comments:
First, the Proctors and Daniel Boone both lived in Rowan County, North Carolina, at the same time. It is possible that they knew one another before their adventures in Kentucky.
Second, when doing research one often finds terrible spelling. What most people do not know is that prior to the Civil War in 1861, all spelling was done phonetically. Standardized spelling did not come into existence until after the Civil War. Prior to 1861, any spelling, no matter how atrocious, is considered correct.
These intrepid men, the early settlers of
Kentucky, were the first real frontiersmen in America. They never knew or
expected security. Their lives were full of struggle and violence. Their women
were fully as brave and resourceful as the men. Despite all the dangers,
settlers grew in numbers at an amazing rate. But people were killed at an
amazing rate, too.
In six years, 860 men were killed by the Indians. This number does not include the women and children also killed. Nor does it tell the number of settlers who were captured by the Indians. The captives would be held for ransom, or exchanged, or even adopted into the tribe.
Daniel Boone arrived at the Fort Boonesborough on a Saturday, June 20, 1778, after his escape. He had been held in captivity for four and a half months.
He found the fort in deplorable condition as far as defending against an attack. Hastily he set everyone to work putting the fort into shape. One side of the fort had to be finished in palisades. Two more blockhouses were erected. The gate had to be made stronger. They started digging a second well. The land outside had to be cleared to make the Indians a clear target. The defenders hastily repaired their guns, molded bullets, harvested vegetables, and stored water.
During the preparations, a few more riflemen came from Harrodsburg Fort and Logan's Fort. Another settler escaped the Indian camp, bringing with him news that the Indians delayed their attack for three weeks so they could send the news of Daniel Boone's escape to the British officers in Detroit.
The Indian army showed up in front of the fort on the morning of September 7. Boone estimated the enemy at 444 Indians and 12 French Canadian leaders. The fort was defended with 30 men and 20 boys old enough to fight, and a few women and small children.
More reinforcement soldiers from Virginia were already on their march. They were to arrive at any time. Stalling for time Daniel Boone entered into negotiations with the Indian chief.
The Indian chief, with British approval, gave liberal surrender terms. (The Indian chief also happened to be Daniel Boone’s adopted Indian father.) The settlers would be not be harmed. They would be taken to Detroit and be given British citizenship and given military rank equal to that they presently held. There was every reason to believe that the Indians were truthful about the surrender terms as the salt makers were well treated when they were captured.
The settlers decided to fight. Daniel Boone knew the chances of survival better than anyone else. He gave the odds in one sentence; "I'll die with the rest." If the fort fell, the Indian chief told them what to expect: "I will put all the other prisoners to death, and reserve the young squaws for wives."
A recently captured settler had convinced the British authorities that the three forts had been reinforced with 70 men each. Daniel Boone made his soldiers appear to be twice what he actually had. The women were dressed in hats and hunting shirts, given rifles, and walked around the open gate. Then the women prepared a feast for the Indian negotiators to show what vast quantities of food they had inside the fort. The Indians fell for the ruse.
Daniel Boone stalled for two days with false negotiations. On the first day of negotiations the Indians asked for what must be the strangest terms in the history of warfare. The young Indian braves had heard that Daniel Boone had a pretty daughter, and asked to look at her. Daniel Boone had his daughter, Jemima, brought to the gate so the Indians could look at her. Then the negotiations continued.
During the negotiations Daniel Boone discovered that the Indian army did not have any cannons. Just one small cannon would have demolished the walls of the fort.
After a few more days of negotiations, the battle began with the Indians giving their wild war whoop, which caused the women and children inside the fort to scream and cry in terror.
The battle was a terrifying ordeal for the settlers. The Indians attacked day and night, shooting fire arrows into the fort during the day, and running up to the walls and throwing torches inside during the night.
The Indians fired thousands of bullets at the fort. Most would hit the walls and fall to the ground. At night the women would rush out of the fort, grab the spent bullets from the ground, and mold them into new bullets. They even melted down their pewter kitchen ware to mold bullets.
At one point, there were so many fires inside the fort that it was said you could literally see a pin anywhere. It was at this moment, when the fort seemed totally on fire, with the women and children screaming with terror, that a settler who had been trapped outside the fort at the time of the attack thought that the fort had fallen. Upon seeing this disaster he rushed to Logan's Fort with the news.
The enemy tried digging a tunnel underneath the fort. But rains would come at the right time putting out the fires and causing the wet ground to collapse the tunnel.
The rains, which always came at the right time for the Americans and the wrong time for the Indians, convinced the Indians that the Great White Spirit favored the other side. The Indians do not fight against the Great White Spirit.
The battle would last for 10 days, 9 days, or some say 11 days. The confusion was so great that none of the defenders could remember for sure. Finally, the Indians had enough. Attacking a fort over clear ground against riflemen who could bark a squirrel was not the Indian way of fighting. (When hunting squirrel it was important that the bullet not go through the skin so as to ruin the pelt. So the rifleman would shoot the bark next to the squirrel which would stun the animal and cause it to fall to the ground.) Digging tunnels, also, was not an Indian tactic.
What saved the defenders is the fact that it rained every night of the siege, which put out the fires. As the battle ended, the settlers figured they could have lasted one more day, two at the most.
If the fort had fallen, then the other, smaller, less defended forts would also have fallen, and America would have been out of the Kentucky. The successful defense of Fort Boonesborough, by our Proctors, would assure that the American settlers were in the Kentucky permanently.
It was one of the most famous Indian battles in American history.
As we shall see, in the future generations, their story yet to be told, these frontiers settlers were strongly intermarried.
Nicholas Proctor tells us that two defenders
inside the fort were killed and four were wounded. Apparently all of our
Proctors survived the battle with minor, if any, wounds.
To this day the battle is known as the "Great Siege."
In the history of the Indian battles on the Kentucky frontier, forts would fall, there would be massacres, and hundreds of settlers, men, women, and children would be taken into Indian captivity living in near starvation until their release years later.
In Anne Crabb's book on the famous siege of Fort Boonesborough, And the Battle Began Like Claps of Thunder, she lists 13 of our Proctors as being present:
Benjamine, age about 25? (actually he was 18)
Elizabeth, age about 10
James, age about 20?
John, age about 20? (10?)
Joseph, age about 30? (34)
Littlepage, age about 25? (18)
Nannie, age 34?
Nicholas Sr., age about 54?
Nicholas Jr., age about 30?
Polly, age 19?
Reuben, age about 30 (24)
William, age 5
Mary Ann, age 1
(There were 10 Boone’s.)
It is believed that this is the first time our Proctors had been into the Kentucky, then still Virginia Territory. More than 20% of the inhabitants of the fort were our Proctors. This does not include our people who were intermarried and carried different names. So, our people may have made up more than 20% of the defenders.
What brought our Proctors to Kentucky was land, lots of free land. Virginia provided that if a person went to Kentucky for the purpose of settling, built a cabin, raised 10 acres of corn within one year, then they would receive 400 acres of free land. That was a lot of land for one family.
Also, at this time in history everyone and I mean everyone, was involved in land speculation. Our people intended to use part of the land grant for their own farm, then subdivide and sell off the rest.
It didn't really bother the Indians when the "Long Hunters" came into the Kentucky to hunt. This involved very few whites and really didn't interfere with the Indians way of life. What bothered the Indians was when the white men went back to their homes, gathered their families, returned to the Kentucky and started settling the land. The Indians now realized that the white men were intending taking over their land permanently.
Family tradition tells us that our Proctors came to Kentucky in company with the Horn family. Again, family tradition tells us that both families took part in the "Great Siege." There was also intermarriage between these two families.
What was life like at Fort Boonesborough? Nicholas Proctor tells us, "The people in Boonesborough lived in friendship and harmony and what one had they nearly all had, and what one knew, they mainly all knew and in a word they were a large family."
The Indian wars would continue until 1794 and it is believed that our Proctors were in the thick of it until the very end.
The reconstructed Fort Boonesborough is about a quarter of a mile from the original site. If you wish to visit you can go to their web site for information.
(Sometimes spelled Fort Boones Boro and Fort Boonesboro.)
Note: The story of this Proctor family continues on the next chapter.
My family history web site has 79 chapters. If you would like to
know more about the other chapters then go to my
Home Page www.thetracyfamilyhistory.net