Henniker New Hampshire Poet: Edna Dean Proctor (1827-1923)

Edna Dean Proctor. Photograph from Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, NYPL Digital Collections.

Edna Dean Proctor. Photograph from Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, NYPL Digital Collections.

Edna Dean Proctor was born in Henniker NH in 1827, on Proctor’s Hill overlooking the Contoocook River. She was educated in early years at home by her mother, later at Mt. Holyoke Seminary and at Concord NH.  Her life’s professions included a teacher in Woodstock CT, a governess in Brooklyn NY, a poet, and a teacher in Framingham MA. Beginning in the 1850s she contributed frequent articles and poems to various national papers and periodicals.

In 1858 she published a volume entitled, “Life Thoughts,” containing excerpts from the sermons of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, which was widely circulated in the United States and England. Inspired by events leading up to the Civil War, she became well known for her patriotic poetry supporting the Union cause. The first volume of her collected poems was published in 1866.

Photograph of Edna Dean Proctor taken on her 94th anniversary; from The Granite Monthly.

Photograph of Edna Dean Proctor taken on her 94th anniversary; from The Granite Monthly.

In 1867 she published a volume of “Poems, National and Miscellaneous.” Shortly afterward she accompanied a party of friends on an extensive foreign tour, visiting Egypt and the Holy Land, traversing every country in Europe except Portugal. In Russia she traveled by routes not usually taken, by tourists; of this portion of her tour she gave a poetical account in her “Russian Journey” (1873). In 1888 she compiled “A Genealogy of the Storrs Family.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow showed his appreciation of her poetry by including many of her productions in his “Poems of Places.” She was friends with John Greenleaf Whittier, and told him, “I have always been impressed by the mingled volcano and iceberg of your character.”

In 1893 she wrote the poem, “Columbia’s Banner,” which was the official program of Columbus Day programs throughout the United States. In 1899 Old Home Week was first observed in New Hampshire and she penned the official poem for the event.  She wrote countless poems, including several about New Hampshire locations that will be posted in future blog articles.  A sampling of some of her poetry can be found at the links below.

Edna Dean Proctor Bridge

View northeast, west elevation, showing underside of arches – Edna Dean Proctor Bridge, Spanning Contoacook River at State Route 114, Henniker, Merrimack County, NH; Reproduction Number: HAER NH,7-HEN,3–5; Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Edna never married. She died in December 1923 at the age of 95.  While living in S. Framingham she had belonged to the Boston Authors’ Club and was considered a part of literary Boston. She was described as “a charming woman of great beauty and a winning friendliness of manner.”

In her will she established the John Proctor and Family Trust Fund which in addition to funding the construction of a fountain in Proctor Square in Henniker NH, provided for the repair or replacement of the stone arch bridge that cross the Contoocook River.  When this bridge was destroyed by a hurricane in 1938, this fund provided for its being rebuilt.  The township residents decided then to rename the bridge after Edna.


*Additional Reading*

Edna Dean Proctor, from Representative Women of New England.

The Mountain Maid and other Poems of NH, by Edna Dean Proctor; 1900- Internet Archive

Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections: Edna Dean Proctor

Photograph of Edna Dean Proctor from The Granite Monthly, January 1924

Photograph of Edna Dean Proctor from The Granite Monthly, January 1924


John Proctor, b. abt 1595 in Groton, Suffolk Co England and d. bef 11 Oct 1672 in Ipswich, Essex Co MA. He married 1 June 1630 in Groton, Suffolk Co England to Martha Harper. She b. abt 1607 in Groton England and d. aft 1672 in Salem, Essex Co MA. He came in 1635 from London in the ship “Susan and Anne,” at the age of forty, with his wife Martha, aged 28, and two children–John aged three years and Mary aged one year. He settled in Ipswich and later removed to Salem MA. He died, probably in 1672, as his will was proved November of that year. He left seven children.
Children of John & Martha (Harper) Proctor:
1. John Proctor Jr., b. bef 9 Oct 1631 in Assington, Suffolk Co England; m. 1662 to widow Elizabeth (Thorndike) Bassett. They had nine children. He d. 19 Aug 1692 in Salem, Essex Co MA. He was executed for witchcraft (wizardry) by hanging. (his wife had previously been accused, tried and condemned, but was reprieved on account of her pregnancy, and was never executed).
2. Martha Proctor, b. bef 17 Oct 1633 in Assington England
3. Mary Proctor, b. abt 1634
4. Sarah Proctor, b. bet 1636-1640
5. Abigail Proctor, b. bet 1639-1640
6. Hannah Proctor, of Salem MA
7. +Joseph Proctor, b. Ipswich MA
8. Benjamin Proctor, b. abt 1651 Ipswich MA

Joseph Proctor, son of John & Martha (Harper) Proctor, b. Ipswich, Essex Co MA; m. Martha Wainwright, dau of Francis & Phillipa (Sewall) Wainwright. She b. 24 Jan 1659 in Ipswich MA.
Child of Joseph & Martha (Wainwright) Proctor:
1. +Jacob Proctor, born 25 Jan 1680 in Ipswich MA [per Ipswich recs]
2. Abigail Proctor, born 13 Apr 1685 in Ipswich MA
3. Frances Proctor, b. 8 Jan 1686

Jacob Proctor, son of Joseph & Martha (Wainwright) Proctor, b. 25 Jan 1680 in Ipswich, Essex Co MA. m. abt Nov 1709 (intention 29 Oct 1709 in Ipswich MA) to Mary Perkins, dau of Isaac & Hannah (Knight) Perkins. She b. 1684 in Ipswich MA.
Children of Jacob & Mary (Perkins) Proctor:
1. +Isaac Proctor, baptized 23 Jan 1725/26 in Ipswich MA
2. Mary Proctor, baptized Aug 1829 in Ipswich MA

Isaac Proctor, son of Jacob & Mary (Perkins) Proctor/Procter, b. abt Jan 1725/26 in Ipswich MA, baptized 23 Jan 1725/26 (Chebacco parish) Ipswich MA. He died in Manchester MA 29 May 1799 at the age of seventy-three. He married 8 Jan 1746-1748 in Ispwich MA to Lucy Goodhue, dau of John & Anna (Cogswell) Goodhue.
Children of Isaac & Lucy (Goodhue) Proctor:
1. Jonathan Proctor, b. 1747 Ipswich MA, bapt 26 March 1749 Ipswich MA
2. Isaac Proctor, b. 1750, bapt 7 Jan 1749/50 Ipswich MA
3. +John Proctor, b. 1757, baptized 14 Aug 1757 Ipswich MA recs
4. Francis Proctor, b. 1759, bapt. 4 March 1759 Ipswich MA
5. Lucy Proctor, b. 1764
6. Mary Proctor, b. 1767
7. Nathaniel Proctor, b. 1770
8. (dau) Proctor, b. abt May 1753 Ipswich MA

Lieut. John Proctor, son of Isaac & Lucy (Goodhue) Proctor, b. 1757 in Manchester MA and d. 3 Feb 1821 in Henniker NH of typhoid. He was baptized 14 Aug 1757 in Ipswich, Essex Co MA. He served as a lieutenant during the American Revolution. He married  3 May 1783 to Hannah Cogswell. She b. 12 Aug 1762 and d. 3 Feb 1796. He m2nd) 18 Feb 1792 to Sally Gardner of Gloucester. He married 3rd) 19 Jan 1797 to Mrs. Ednah (Dodge) Dane, at Hamilton [recorded Ipswich MA].  She was b. abt 1769 and died 31 Jul 1846 in Henniker NH.  He is buried in Center Cemetery, in Henniker NH.
Children of John & Hannah (Cogswell) Proctor:
1. Hannah Proctor, b 5 March 1784; m. — Fink [or Pitman]
2. +Capt. John Proctor, b. 7 July 1788
3. Mary Proctor, b. 30 March 1791; d. 24 Oct 1793
4. David Choate Proctor, b. 28 Sep 1794; d. 1864; m. 1828 to ?
Children of John & Ednah (Dane) Proctor:
5. Israel Proctor, b. Dec 1797; d. 2 Nov 1798
6. Mary Proctor, b. Aug 1798; d. 19 July 1876; m. 9 Feb 1818 to Enoch Darling

Capt John Proctor, Son of Lieut. John & Hannah (Cogswell) Proctor was born 7 July 1788 in Manchester MA, baptized 13 July 1788, and died 8 Dec 1836 in Henniker NH; he married 1st) 20 Jan 1803 in Londonderry NH to Lucy Proctor who d. 21 Sep 1825; he m2d) 1826 to Mary Crocker of Derry/Londonderry NH, she d. 15 Apr 1827. He m3rd) 31 Dec 1827 in Henniker NH to Lucinda Gould, dau of Elias & Sally (Hilton) Gould of Henniker. She b. 15 Dec 1802 and d. 15 Nov 1878 in South Framingham MA.  She married 2d) Joseph Calef Thompson of Andover NH, son of Benjamin & Miriam (Brown) Thompson. He b. 21 Dec 1794 in Andover NH and d. 12 March 1861 in Andover NH. He had married 1st) 1821 Mary Eastman of Henniker who d. 1841.
1850 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Merrimack > Andover
Joseph Thompson, 55  M Farmer NH
Lucinda Thompson 48 F NH
Mary Thompson 16 F NH
John Thompson 5 M NH
1860 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Merrimack > Andover
Joseph C. Thompson 65 M Farmer 4000/100 NH
Lucinda G. Thompson 57 F NH [Mrs. Lucinda (Gould) Proctor]
John P. Thompson 14 M NH
Lucinda G. Proctor 26 F Music Teacher
Children of John &  Lucy (Proctor) Proctor:
1. Isaac D. Proctor, b. 26 July 1812; a physician who d. in Mississippi in 1842
2. Hannah Proctor, b. 30 June 1814, d. 17 Apr 1837
3. Israel F. Proctor, b. 31 July 1817 NH; d. 30 Aug. 1904 Peoria IL ; m. Sorilla –; resided Peoria IL; children Henry F. (b 1843 IL) and Ednah D. (b 1851 IL).  [my thanks to Betsy Christison, 3rd great-granddaughter of Ezekiel Proctor (below) for correcting Israel’s birth date for me]
4. Ezekiel A. Proctor, b. 5 Oct 1819, resided Peoria IL
5. John Cleveland Proctor, b. 11 Oct 1822; resided Peoria IL
Child of John & Mary (Crocker) Proctor:
6. Edna Dean Proctor, b. 15 Apr 1827, d. 15 Apr 1827
Children of John & Lucinda (Gould) Proctor:
7. +Edna Dean Proctor (2nd), b. 1 Sep 1829 in Henniker NH
8. Mary C. Proctor, b. 1831, d. 3 March 1838
9. David Choate Proctor, b. 1833; d. 17 Dec 1880; m. Sarah “Sally Storrs,” of Brooklyn NY, daughter of Charles Storrs; had children Charles S. & Judith.
4. Lucinda Gould Proctor, b. 9 June 1834 in Henniker NH, d. 25 April 1905 in S. Framingham MA; m. Charles W. Coolidge and resided in Framingham MA; in 1860 living with her mother and step father in Andover NH

Edna Dean Proctor, daughter of John and Lucinda (Gould) Proctor, was born 18 September 1829 in Henniker NH, on Proctor Hill overlooking the Contoocook River. She was educated in early years at home by her mother, later at Mt. Holyoke Seminary and at Concord NH. [see biography above] She taught drawing and music at Woodstock CT, and then in 1866 became governess in the family of Henry C. Bowen at Brooklyn. While there she became acquainted with Henry Ward Beecher. In 1905 she was a teacher in Somerville MA at the Benj. G. Brown school, while boarding in Boston MA. She died in December 1923 in Framingham MA.
St. Alban’s Messenger, St. Albans Vermont, December 27, 1923: “WAS FRIEND OF WHITTIER. Edna Dean Proctor is Dead at the Age of Ninety-Five. Boston. Dec. 20. — Edna Dean Proctor, poet of a generation ago, whose circle of friends included Henry Ward Beecher and John Greenleaf Whittier, is dead in Farmington in her ninety-fifth year. She had never regained her strength after breaking her ankle last winter in Atlantic City. Edna Dean Proctor was born in Henniker, NH September 18, 1829, on a hill overlooking the Contoocook river. Although after the years of her life took her far from New Hampshire, she considered that state her own. In 1899 she wrote on the occasion of its first Old Home Week, “The Hills Are Home.”

Boston Herald, December 21, 1923: Funeral Notice of Edna Dean Proctor

Boston Herald, December 21, 1923: Funeral Notice of Edna Dean Proctor

The Boston Herald of December 21, 1923 reported: “FUNERALS. Miss Edna D. Proctor. FRAMINGHAM, Dec. 20 — Funeral services for Miss Edna Dean Proctor, the widely known poet, who died on Tuesday in her 95th year were held this afternoon at the home of her niece, Mrs. Mary Fitts, 336 Union avenue.  The services were simple and there was no music.  The Rev. Theodore B. Lathrop, pastor of Grace Congregational Church, officiated. Burial followed in Edgell Grove cemetery here.  The bearers were David G. Proctor of New York, Samuel French of Everett, George N. Fitts of Framingham and Joe Mitchel Chapple of Boston.
December 23, 1923, Boston Herald, page 11
$20,000 TO TOWN IN PROCTOR WILL. Henniker, NH Gets Bequest in Memory of Father of Poet. The will of Miss Edna Dean Proctor, poetess of Framingham, who died Dec. 13, was filed in East Cambridge probate court yesterday, showing many public bequests, including one of $20,000 to her native town, Henniker, N.H. This gift is in memory of her father, John Proctor, and is to be used to replace the iron drinking fountain in the public square and erect a granite fountain, and also to replace the old stone bridge over the Contoocook river about a mile from her birthplace. The iron fountain to be removed was also her gift to the town. Other bequests include $5000 to the New England Conservatory of Music, to be called “The Lucinda Gould Fund” in memory of her deceased sister; $1000 to the Congregational Church in Henniker, in memory of her grandparents, Elias and Sally Hilton Gould; $5000 to charities in Peoria Ill in memory of her deceased brother, David Choate Proctor, who lived there many years.


Editor’s note: article updated in July of 2014.

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9 Responses to Henniker New Hampshire Poet: Edna Dean Proctor (1827-1923)

  1. susan cook says:

    I am trying to determine the parents of a Charlotte Proctor who married Nathan Goldsmith in Manchester Mass. I saw on their marriage certificate and also on her death certificate that she was the daughter of John and Lucy Proctor. I believe that Charlotte was born in Derry NH and died in Manchester, Mass in 1849. I was hoping that someone may be able to tell me if she was the daughter of John and Lucy Proctor who were married in 1803 in Londonderry, NH.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    susan cook/gloucester, ma

    • James Frye says:

      Hello Susan,
      Her birth is listed as Manchester, NH in “Vital records of Manchester, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849”, on page 106.
      Cannot find a record of Lucy’s surname…yet.
      Also found this:

      “Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA on 18 Feb 1808 to John Proctor and Lucy. Charlotte Allen married Nathan B Goldsmith and had 8 children. She passed away on 27 Jul 1849 in Manchester, Essex, Massachusetts, USA”

  2. Charlene says:

    I am trying to figure out if my Proctor line from Pa 1700’s came from the Proctors of Mass

  3. Walter T. Crean says:

    I was wondering the date of death (mm/dd/yyyy)for the third wife of Lieut. John Proctor (1757-1821), Edna (Dodge) Dane Proctor?

  4. Jan Corley says:

    John Proctor and Martha Harper were my 11th g grandparents through their daughter, Marie Proctor who married George Hadley. I would like to know more about Martha Harper and also connect with any living relatives. I live in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada and can be contacted at jcorley1@hotmail.com


  5. Pingback: Poem: “Star Island Church,” by Edna Dean Proctor | Cow Hampshire

  6. Dean Proctor says:

    Must be a relative.

  7. Pingback: Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History | Cow Hampshire

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