Friday, August 19, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Emily Dutton Proctor

On May 26, 1858, Emily Jane Dutton of Cavendish, the granddaughter of Salmon Dutton (the founder of Duttonsville) married Redfield Proctor. This marriage joined the leading families of the two villages and promised to put an end to the former rivalry, which was over a turnpike (Proctor) versus a shunpike (Dutton). As Redfield said of his first son, Fletcher Dutton Proctor, "if the old names and blood had the old inclination left to stir up strife, it would have created a fearful internal commotion." In fact, the merger of these families proved to be a propitious event for Vermont, since three governors and a United States Senator came from this Dutton-Proctor line.

A great deal is known about Redfield Proctor, who was the owner of the Vermont Marble Company, the founder of Proctor, VT, the Secretary of War during the Harrison administration and a US Senator. Much less is known about his wife.

Emily Dutton Proctor was considered a “quiet, but firm character,” raising five children, two of whom died before her own death in 1915 at 80 years of age. She moved to Boston at one point so her daughter could attend a small private school for young girls. When Redfield was in Washington, D. C., she attended balls, teas and dinners at the White House. These were the days of the Gay 90’s and the golden era of American millionaires.

Involved with many charity organizations and benevolent work, among them were the Vermont Tuberculosis Sanatorium and the Preventorium at Pittsford, VT. The Proctors were among the earliest supporters of cancer research at Harvard University. Redfield Proctor was a generous contributor to Booker T. Washington and his work at Tuskegee University, established in 1881 as training school for black teachers.

Emily died in Proctor in February 1915 and is buried there. She left $1,250 in trust, the interest to be used for the Cavendish Baptist Church “towards paying the salary of a minister as long as preaching is kept up regularly.”

In the upcoming Cavendish Chronicles, Martha Mott will play the role of Emily Dutton Proctor.

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