Ezekiel Procter was a full blood Cherokee, an ex-Union soldier, and a pretty good with a long gun or a Colt's revolver. Arrow straight, tree tall, and battle hardened he was not one to be trifled with.
This incident got its genesis from a gunfight involving Jim Kesterson and Zeke at the old mill home of Kesterson (Hildebrand-Beck Mill) on February 13, 1872. The hatred that sparked the gunfight has multiple stories as to its origin. Kesterson was married to a woman known as Aunt Polly she was originally a Beck. Polly had married a man named Kesterson who been been killed in the Civil War. She came from a proud Cherokee family like Procter.
One account says that the Procter and Beck families hated each other over Civil War allegiances. The Becks being strongly southern in their allegiance and the Procters were unionists. Another has Zeke with very strong and proud Indian "nationalist" ties and vehemently disapproving of Polly's marriage to Kesterson, a white man. Another has it that their cattle (stock) issues between Kesterson and Procter. What follows is likely accurate, one should realize that "Mary" and "Aunt Polly" are the same person.
"One day Zeke dropped by to visit his sister Elizabeth. He was surprised to find her and her children alone and hungry with not much of anything in the house to eat. He learned that her husband, James Kesterson, had deserted her and their children. He took Elizabeth and her children to live with other family members. There is no record of why James left his family and moved out. Ezekiel Proctor was very angry with James for leaving his sister in this condition. After leaving Elizabeth, James had found a job with Mary Hildebrand and later married her.
Story has it that on Tuesday, 13 February 1872, Zeke with his wife and children while possibly visiting other family or friends in the area, may have thought it to be a good time to have a talk with Mr. Kesterson and decided to visit the mill. He dropped by the local watering hole and had a few drinks to help fortify him before he reached the mill. Also some people say Zeke had received complaints that Mary and James had been letting their cattle run loose and they were destroying crops of nearby farmers.
When Zeke arrived at the mill it didn't take long before he and James were in a heated argument. James reached for his gun but Zeke, being faster, beat him to the draw. Mary, who was trying to stop the men from fighting jumped in front of her husband, James, placing herself between the two men just as Zeke's finger pulled the trigger and discharged the 45. Mary caught the bullet in the chest and fell between the two mortally wounded leaving James a widower. Zeke fired off two more shots at James putting two holes in his coat as he fled to the second floor of the mill not knowing if Mary was dead or alive. He was also wounded by one of those two bullets.
Zeke knowing he had committed a crime went to the neighbor's house and confessed to his family what he had done. He then went to the home of Jack Wright the current Sheriff of the Goingsnake District to turn himself in. Being there were no jails Zeke was sent home with guards until his trial. "
This mill is the Hildebrand-Beck Mill replacement. It was built around 1900 as the original had been washed away in floods. It stood many years, obviously in disrepair.
The Massacre. . .