His Connection to Zeke Proctor

After many years of looking for accurate and complete information on James Kesterson, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to find all of it. We will have to go with what we know, what we think we know, and the rest will be just plain old guess work and maybe!

James Kesterson was the son of John & Nancy (Cadwell) Kesterson of Caldwell Co KY. James was born in Caldwell Co KY about 1828 and was counted in the 1830 & 1840 Census of Caldwell County KY with his parents. In 1850 I tracked this family to Pike Co IL. James was listed as age 17, living with his widowed mother and his siblings who were Porterfield, George, Mary and William. His brother Harvey Kesterson had married by this time and had already moved to Arkansas, also referred to the Cherokee Nation.

The father of James, John Kesterson, had died in 1835 in Caldwell Co KY., leaving his wife Nancy a young widow, with 7 children to raise. This she did, by herself with the ever present help of her brother-in-law William Kesterson.

William Kesterson, and other members of the family, moved to Pike Co IL by 1850. Nancy and her young family made the move along with her husbands brothers, William and Peter, taking all of her children with her except the oldest daughter Louisa, who was already married.

By 1860 William Kesterson moved his family westward to Lawrence Co MO. Nancy, who already had a son Harvey living there, also made the move to MO. In the 1860 Census of Lawrence County MO., Nancy was living alone with her youngest daughter Mary. In the 1860 Census of Benton AR, Flint Twp, I found James Kesterson living with is brothers Derias Porterfield and George, along with a cousin John Kesterson (son of William) and his soon to be brother-in-law James Cross who would marry Mary by the end of the year.

At this point in time James is 30 years old. He is a Merchant in the town of Double Springs AR., still apparently unmarried.

Nothing more is known about James until April of 1872 when he suddenly made the headlines, across the nation, by being the target of a very angry Ezekial "Zeke" Proctor.

The story is that James Kesterson was married to Zeke Proctors sister Elizabeth (another source says Susan but Zeke didn't have a sister named Susan). Supposedly Zeke had gone to visit his sister and found that her husband (James) had left her and the children. This angered Zeke very much, so he took his sister and the children to another sisters home and went looking for James.

He found him at the Hildebrandt Mill, called out to him, raised his gun and fired on him. At the last second Pauline "Polly" (Beck) Hildbrand stepped in front of James and took the bullet that was meant for him. Polly died instantly and Zeke ran away. Zeke soon came to trial but all the Beck family was out to get him and so chaos broke out at the trial and some accounts say up to 11 people were killed - many of them Federal Marshalls.

Following are several versions and accounts of the day, the trial, and the outcome. I had hoped to find some information about James' wife and his children for there must be descendants out there somewhere. I've found nothing else on James since that time. So where did he go? What happened to his wife and children?

The Atlanta Constitution - April 25, 1872

New York Times - April 29, 1872

Marian Daily Star (Ohio) - December 4, 1897

Benton County Democrat March 7, 1907

George T. Candy Interview 8 March 8, 1937

Henry Downing Interview - 31 Jul 1937

Martha Jane (Horn) Mitchell - August 13, 1938

Robert Barr Smith - The Blood Bath Continues 2004

Eli H. Whitmire Interview / Stanley Clark - 1937