By Amanda Oien / Experience Arizona
Charles Anthony Proctor was found dead 50 yards from his home, with blood coming from his mouth and a revolver in his hand on the Sopori Ranch on May 15, 1913. While the coroner reported that Charles died from unknown causes, the secrets of the Proctor family may tell otherwise.
Kristin ‘KK’ Proctor has spent the last 10 years deciphering letters, photographs, documents and family stories. Depending on who you ask in KK’s family, the tragedy of her great grandfather, Charles A. Proctor, was either murder or suicide, fueled by a love triangle.
“It was just all very suspicious,” KK said. “He had actually written his will less than six months before that. He knew something was up. He was counting his days, I guess.”
Charles A. Proctor was born in Guildhall, Vermont in 1857. In 1858, he and his family moved from Vermont to California. Eighteen years later, Charles and his brother Frank, left for Arizona to make a living. Charles, who was married to Jesusita Salazar, had four boys and two girls.
Charles bought a parcel of land on the Sopori Ranch from Tomas Elias Sr in 1898. While living on the Sopori Ranch, a love triangle began to form between Charles, Jesusita and Tomas Elias Jr. KK recalled family stories of Jesusita and Tomas Jr. during their affair.
“My great grandfather would see them sneaking off into the pasture,” KK said. “He would be up on a hill and would see them frolicking.”
The barbed wire fencing that lined the pastures would often have rocks underneath the wiring, keeping the animals from going under the barbed wire, KK said.
“Jesusita and Tomas Jr. would tie notes underneath the rocks,” KK said. “They knew that at this certain rock, they would find their secrets. She was madly in love with him.”
Becoming paranoid, Charles told his sons that if something happened to him, to look at Tomas Jr. as a possible suspect.
When Charles wound up dead, KK said the boys believed Tomas and even her great grandmother, Jesusita, had a hand in the murder.
“They believed Jesusita had let Tomas into the home, and Tomas snuck underneath Charles’ bed that night and they smothered him with a pillow,” KK said. “None can be proved, but the boys believed it and they held that grudge.”
For the past 10 years, KK has spent many sleepless nights and long hours researching her family’s rich history, including a Hollywood-like love affair and countless tales of mining and ranching throughout Arizona.
“I get obsessive,” KK said. “If it’s something that night, I could spend eight hours just trying to find that piece of information.”
On other days, KK said she won’t do any research, which helps her not get burned out. KK said her biggest motivation is the information she doesn’t know. “I would love to, at some point, try to prove that my great grandfather was murdered,” KK said.
The grudge, as KK mentioned earlier, that the two Proctor brothers, George Manuel Proctor and Frank Martin Proctor, held against the Elias family, eventually led to another murder. After Charles A. Proctor’s death, Tomas Elias Jr. took over the Proctor’s parcel of land on the Sopori Ranch, which was against Charles’ will, KK said. Two years pass and the Proctor sons beg their mother, Jesusita, to not marry Tomas Elias Jr.
Jesusita and Tomas get married in Nogales, Arizona and two days later Tomas Elias Jr. is killed by the Proctor boys. “Complete revenge killing,” KK Said.
George Manuel Proctor, one of 17 football players on the University of Arizona’s football team in 1914, walked seven miles to Amado, Arizona after the murder of Tomas Jr. and called the sheriff, admitting he shot Tomas and didn’t know if he was dead or alive, KK said.
George and his littlest brother, Frank Martin Proctor, were both put on trial for the murder. According to KK, Jesusita took the Elias’ side and hired attorneys against her two sons, George and Frank.
“She’s completely flipped,” KK said. “At this point, they’ve crossed the line and she wants nothing to do with them.”
Jesusita worked to keep her two daughters separate from her sons, even the boys who were not involved in the murder. Charles A. Proctor’s brother, Frank Louis Proctor, who had become quite wealthy over the years through mining, hired attorneys to get the Proctor sons set free under a self-defense case. Eventually, the Proctor boys were acquitted under self-defense and were released.
“They walked,” KK said. “After that, there was always this big riff in between that side of the family. All of the boys and their further generations never talked to the girls.”
While the motivation to find new information or hunt for missing pieces of her family history keep KK always researching, it was her dad that started it all. When KK’s grandfather was forced to sell the Box Canyon Ranch in 1958, KK’s father, who was 17 at the time, regretted not being able to run it for another generation.
“We would take family trips to the Santa Ritas and make sure to point out the ranch house,” KK said. “I spent more time than my sisters down in the Santa Ritas because I didn’t mind the sun, dirt and most of all, the nature. He would tell me stories in the Jeep as we crawled trails”.
At 12 years old, KK found herself working near the Madera Canyon Ranch with her uncle, building a water-runoff system for the road. KK said while learning about water erosion and culverts on dirt roads at a young age, she began imagining what the area would like 10, 100, or even 500 years ago.
“My imagination ran wild from visiting mines to Hohokam sites to old army fort ruins,” KK said. “I needed to know more.”
As KK continues to investigate her great grandfather’s history and murder, she may never know how exactly Charles A. Proctor died. Yet she continues to search for clues and learn more about her family’s rich Arizona history.
For more information on the Proctor family history, visit http://proctorpioneer.com/
Story is published here with the permission of Amanda Oien and Experience Arizona.
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