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Early History of the Area

This area began, as did most of Ontario, as a wild and wooded region, best traveled by water. The first known settler in the Brighton area arrived in 1796; a gentleman named Obediah Simpson. By 1831 there were 19 official families in the area, as well as a number of unregistered settlers. By 1851 there were 500 people and 10 mills in Brighton. As did most small towns of the area, Brighton reached its peak in population and prosperity between 1830 and 1875. Each of the settler families had their own specialty and their own importance to the community. Since our subject is Proctor House we try to concentrate on that particular family, but you will find references to many of the others who helped to build the town of Brighton.

Proctor House

As with so many older houses, this house has grown over the years. We know that John E. Proctor was operating a store in 1853, and the store journals show the cost of materials for the house. Starting as Brick Salt Box construction, it was later enlarged to its present form and size. Two other Proctor brothers, Pelltiah and Dr. Josiah Herman also bought some of the material for the house. We think that Pelltiah had an office off the kitchen (door with frosted glass). The front half of the house was probably added by John E. Proctor after the American Civil War, around 1867.

Proctor House from southeast. Click for full image.

This house has some unusual features compared with others of the time. While others used horsehair to bind and strengthen the plaster, the Proctor family used the hair from their prize herd of purebred cattle.

Another feature is the use of pine that has been grained to resemble oak in most of the woodwork. The hall doors slide and fold back (pocket doors), turning the area into a large room with enough space for a Grand Ball. This was frequently used to host church fundraisers. The front doors and banister are made of oak. There is a circular stairway that was probably added after the original construction was completed. It is believed the Proctors saw circular staircases on a trip south and remodelled the house to accommodate this feature when they returned. Detail of part of door and frame. Click for full image.

In 2003, a five-bay Carriage Shed was added, where the original one once stood. An old well cover was replaced by an old-fashioned wishing well type of structure. There is a paved parking lot and a paved laneway to the Barn.

We have tried to maintain our gardens to look as they would have during an earlier period. Enjoy the grounds and take advantage of The Lower Trent Conservation Authority's path to the creek. This path extends north through the woods and makes for a great afternoon walk.

The Proctor Family

From Josiah Proctor (1757-1850) to the present day, this family has been involved in a wide variety of lifestyles and professions. Farming was a more or less common thread until lately, but some were in the military, one was a prospector, another was a doctor, others were merchants and John E. was the owner of a shipping line. They were active in local politics and, like many other families, always gravitated back to the area. Perhaps you may see some similarities to your family history...

A Local Ghost Story?

Around 1900 there were many sightings of a fiery ball in the immediate vicinity of Proctor House. The Fire Ball has been written about extensively through the years, but never explained nor disproved conclusively. In three of the six common stories it is supposed to be the ghost of John Nix Jr., haunting John E. Proctor's residence as payback for some financial deals. In another, it was due to luminous methane phosphorus gas. Another legend says that it was caused by the bright lights of rum runners during the Prohibition Era. Or was it, as the sixth story goes, just some local children flying a kite with a lamp at night as a prank? We'll let you decide which story you want to believe, if any...