Nashville Pryor Names in A 1836 Chancery Sale in Williamson County, TN

This Chancery Sale notice was published in The Tennessean on December 13, 1836. It refers to Pryors in Franklin, TN. Williamson County was formed from Davidson County, so it doesn’t surprise me that the names in the notice were commonly associated with the Nashville Pryors.  The sale involved the sale of 3 slaves: Nancy and her children Reuben and Henderson.

bannister-pryor-nashville-tn

Banister L. Pryor (was the “L” sometimes transcribed as a “S” or vice versa?) was the postmaster in Prince Edward County, VA in 1831 and was recorded again as postmaster in Charlotte County, VA in 1840 and also on the 1840 Census in the same county. Were there two Banisters who separated themselves by using middle initials? Was there one Banister Pryor who was in VA and a defendant in a suit in TN?

I’ve seen Lancaster S. Pryor noted in online family trees as Banister’s brother, yet I’ve never seen his name mentioned in print before. I’ve tried to tackle the siblings in this family before (see post)

The sale wasn’t probably for Bannister’s brother Zachariah B Pryor because his will was signed on 19th September 1837, after this estate sale.

 

Prior Family Acting Their Way Through the 19th Century

actorI started off looking at a Prior below the Mason-Dixon line and when I “pulled the thread” I ended up following a long string of leads to a noted acting family in New York.

Between 1844 – 1849 there are several theater notices in New Orleans newspapers for plays starring an actor named Mr. PRIOR. I was hooked once I saw he performed at the American Theater in a play titled Brutus, Or The Fall of Tarquis with a Mr. Booth (relative of John Wilkes Booth?) who played Burtus.

There was also a Mrs. J Prior who performed in plays in New Orleans. A Mr. J Prior of the St. Charles and Mobile Theaters was touted as a writer or scene designer (not sure because of the flowery language).

By 1849 there are notices of performances in May and June of a Mr. J PRIOR in Pittsburgh, PA. Later notices in northern papers refer to an actor and actress named Mr. J J Prior and Mrs. J J. Prior. I’m convinced that all of these notices refer to the same husband and wife acting team.

Mrs. Prior died at age 53 in 1883 and several obituaries were published. The New-York Times reported she was the widow of an actor, the mother of actress Lulu Prior, and that she had acted in Barnum’s old museum. These bits of information assisted me in locating her photograph. (see photo).  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that although she died in Boston, she was buried at Greenwood cemetery (a very large cemetery in Brooklyn with 376,000 burials on Find A Grave). The same article also noted that Walter Prior attended the funeral.

Walter became the clue to lead to finding Mr. and Mrs. Prior– and their first names, on the 1870 Census.

1870 Census
Brooklyn Ward 11, Kings Co., NY
James J PRIOR 47 actor b. England, Louise 38 actress b. NJ. Walter R. 22 photographer NY, Alfred J 18 clerk in store MA, Anna L. 15 actress NY.

And then earlier

1850 Census
Boston Ward 3, Suffolk Co., MA
J. J. PRIOR 28 theatre Eng., “ditto” female 27 Eng., Walter 3 MA.

Such typical hard-to-track-down Priors! Did anyone really know where they were born or where their children were born? I found a birth record for Walter Richard Prior which nicely ties his parents to the theater listings in New Orleans. Born in New Orleans or New York— guess either of them start with “new” so just tell the census worker anything!

Walter Richard PRIOR born 13 Dc 1846 in New Orleans, LA to James Junius Prior and Louisa Young.

There’s a christening record from England that appears to be for James

James Junius Prior b. 20 May 1820, christened at St. James Westminster London on 21 Jan 1821. Father James Prior, mother Violetta (nee Roberts).

James Junius Prior was already performing in England before immigrating to the US and showing up in New Orleans theaters

1841 Census
Swansea, Wales, UK
Wind Street
James Prior 43 artist born out of county. James Prior 20 comedian born out of county. Violetta Prior 37 born out of county.

A funny thing though, I don’t know who is the Walter Prior who attended Mrs. Prior’s funeral because their son, Walter, had died long before Mrs. Prior. The Evening Star in Washington DC carried a story on 20 July, 1871 (12 years before Mrs. Prior’s death– “Mrs Prior, the actress, and mother of the deceased, and many theatrical people attended.” Walter, her son, was shot during a riot.

Zachariah B Pryor of Nashville and Virginia

Nashville, TN Pryor
Zach. B. PRIOR has long been grouped by researchers with the Nashville Pryors who are thought to be children of David Pryor of Buckingham County, VA.  The earliest record of Zachariah is a 1809 VA Chancery Court Case filed in Prince Edward County by Murphy Brown — Zachariah Pryor and Banister L. Pryor of Buckingham County were summoned to appear in court. One of the last records was the 1830 Census in Davidson County, TN — he was 50-59 years old.

Zachariah died around 1838. His will names his nephews, children of Mitchie Pryor: John Jefferson son of Randolph Jefferson and Muno Johnson, son of Josiah Johnson who was Mitchie’s second husband and executor of Zachariah’s estate.

Zachariah B Prior dec’d will.
Recorded Aug’t 4th 1838

19 Sept. 1837– In the name of God Amen. I Zach B Pryor being of sound mind but weak of body, do make and establish this my last will and Testament. I desire that all my just debts be paid. I afterwards wish the whole of my present crop, all the stock of every description household, Kitchen furniture and farming utensils, my one cart and a oxen to belong to Ann Wright, except my small cart which I gave to Thornton Wright and my bay colt which I give to Ben Wright Junr. The balance of my property I will to be equally divided between my two nephews: John Jefferson and Munro Johnson. If after the payment of my debts and (etc.) my Executor should have sufficient means arising from my estate then I will that he proceed to buy for the said Ann Wright and her three children now living a good house to be held by them on common forever. All my negroes shall have the privilege to choosing their masters or mistress. I desire and request Josiah Johnson of Williamson County to act as my Executor.
Test. Ben F. Foster, John Maxey
(signed) Zach. B Pryor {seal}

The following year Zach’s brother-in-law and executor conducted a sale of two child slaves. I guess Johnson decided not to stand on Zachariah’s will that the slaves should be able to choose their masters or mistress. Not exactly freedom any way you look at it.
zachariah-pryor-1

Charles Ballow Connected to John Pryor of Campbell County, VA

charles-ballowI know I come back to the same documents over and over, but I love finding new ways to crunch the information. In 1785 John Pryor witnessed James Karr’s will in Campbell County, VA. Karr was holding a judgement against Charles Ballow:

1785 Will: “I, James Karr of Campbell, of sound and disposing mind and memory First, all my debts and funeral expenses to be paid. To my trusty friend, Charles Rork – 55 (pounds), “which the bonds is in the hands of George Hearon, being the price of my land on Pigg River”. Also, 25 (pounds) which I obtained [in a] judgment against Charles Bellue (Ballew/Ballow/Ballou). To my wife – one half of my still, which is now at my brother, Robert Carr’s. To the said Charles Rork – the other half of the still, and half the accounts “of papers and Thomas James now in the hands of David Ross“. To my wife – the other half of said accounts, that is, the accounts in said Ross’ hands. To Charles Rork – all accounts and debts due me that were not before mentioned. Also to Charles Rork Jr, my bay horse. At Campbell Court of Dec 7, 1786, the will of James Karr dec’d was proved by the oaths of witnesses Wright and Pryor, and OR.” – wits. John Pryor along with Robert Wright and James Rock (or Rork)

I’ve found more information on Charles Bellue. Charles Ballow is named in a 1780 Chancery Court case (Thomas Ballow vs heirs of Charles Ballow, Edward Haskins executor) in Cumberland County, VA. The suit names Charles Ballow (Jr.)* as an heir of Charles Ballow (Sr.), deceased and also names “infant” sons and daughters Jesse Ballow, Mary Ballow, John Ballow, Thomas Ballow. The suit was filed on behalf of the minors by their “friend” Frederick Hatcher. The suit made a division of slaves named Patt, Abba, Bob, Harry, Amos, Fanny, Judy, Greenoch, Sarah, Lucy, Skelton, and Arthur. The suit also refers to the elder Charles Ballow’s will dated 18 May 1767. It states that Charles has a considerable estate and he had appointed in his will Charles Ballow, Thomas Proper, Edward Haskins and Alexander Trent as executors, but only Edward Haskins took on the “burden” in probate.

Another suit filed in the Chancery Court in Cumberland County in 1793 is titled William Taylor and Rebecca his wife vs. Thomas Ballew, administrator of Charles Ballew, deceased and the children of Charles Ballew: Elizabeth, William H, Sarah, Charles, William Ballew their guardian. It states Charles died intestate and doesn’t name his wife, so she may have died before him.  The case file contains a division of Charles’ real estate and describes parcels bordered by Nelson Patterson, William Ballow, and slaves Jack and Candass.

An online family tree has a Charles Ballow married to Mary Crews. Remember Wrenny Crews from Campbell County went to Sumner County, TN and witnessed the will of Thomas Taylor formerly of Cumberland County, VA (see post). Also David Pryor of Cumberland County and later Buckingham County was married to Susannah Ballow (Ballew?).

So Charles Ballow is an interesting guy to look at for connections between Campbell County and Cumberland County.

* Note: I’ve used Jr. and Sr. to identify the older and younger Charles Ballows. This designation is not used in the original document.