Not a Pryor Signature

william-tryon-signature

Beware of the signature that’s not a Pryor. I’ve stumbled upon NC governor William Tryon’s signature several times and misread it as Pryor. An important signature to check against other signatures on documents.

Sam Pryor: Sharing A Swig From General Santa Anna’s Bottle

General Santa Anna c 1853

A Pryor researcher brought up an old newspaper article that mentioned a Ketucky Pryor and General Santa Anna. I admit I have a very limited knowledge of Santa Anna – mostly that he led the Mexican troops against the Texans at The Alamo. When I turned to Wikipedia for more information I was surprised to see him in a photo 20 years post-Alamo looking like quite an affable fellow. Guess if you involved in the death of Davy Crockett you’re going down in the American history books as the villain!

The article they referred to was found in Newspapers.com: Bourbon News, Paris, Kentucy on 19 October 1883:

John Mooreland visited Sam Pryor last week, and both drank out of the same bottle that Henry Clay and Gen. Santa Anna once drank from, while guests of Mr. Mooreland’s father at the old stage stand at Mooreland’s on the pike near Houston’s.  Henry Clay and Santa Anna were en route for Washington City, by stage.

When would this drink have happened? The battle at the Alamo was in 1836 and Santa Anna was returned to Mexico in 1837, so we have a time range.

This is a pretty interesting tid bit! Wikipedia tells that after Santa Anna was eventually defeated he was sent into exile in the US and in 1837 was transported by ship back o Veracruz, Mexico. There are some chunks of information missing– How did he get from Texas to Washington, DC? Did the USS Pioneer take him all the way from Washington, DC to Veracruz? Some time ago I read how during the Mexican War (10 years later) ships from New Orleans took troops to embark on the east coast of Mexico (Veracruz is on the same coast). So, perhaps Santa Anna passed through Kentucky on his way to or on his way back from Washington, DC.

Texas A&M University’s website (TAMU.edu) provides an explanation that fits in with this article, filling-in answers to these questions. It describes Santa Anna’s trek included a steamboat up the Mississippi River to the Ohio River and on to Louisville (reached on Christmas Day 1836). He was treated well

…when the party stopped at Lexington, they were accorded marked attention, and many members of the Kentucky legislature came over from Frankfort to pay their respects.

Senator Henry Clay

In 1836 Henry Clay was a US Senator and a Lexington native.  It’s interesting to note that the Pike is the road connecting Paris, KY with Lexington, KY, so stopping along this road may have been possible as well as the possibility that Clay and Santa Anna met over a bottle.

“The Lexington (Kentucky) Gazette of the 5th inst. speaks of the departure of Santa Anna from that city. He was well treated there, and the editor thinks, that as a “distinguished” stranger in  a neutral country, he is entitled to the hospitality of every citizen.”
— North-Carolina Standard, 25 January 1837

Was it just a passing comment in the 1883 article that Santa Anna stopped on the pike near Houston’s? Was it a stab at irony? Santa Anna had surrendered to General Sam Houston, the same Houston who had been made President of the Republic of Texas, and had agreed to send Santa Anna off to Washington, DC. I’m not the only one wondering about a Houston connection between the families in Bourbon county and the man in Texas. A 1998 post asks, “Is anyone researching the HOUSTON family of Bourbon County? We are trying to find a connection between Sam HOUSTON, of Texas fame…” (see post)

I’m just impressed that someone held onto a bottle of hooch for almost 50 years. It must have been an honored meeting between Mooreland and Sam Pryor!

Captain Prior at Fort Defiance (OH) in 1794

mystery-pryor-manReported in The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis, MD on 2 October 1794). This report is of a battle between Americans and British/Native-American forces. Fort Defiance is where the town of Defiance, OH now sits.

LEXINGTON, September 8.
An express arrived here on Saturday evening about 8 o’clock, with letters from the army, from which we have collected the following particulars:–
On the 20th ult. about 146 miles advanced of Greenville, the advance guard, consisting of two companies, were attached by about 1100 Indians and Canadian militia; the attack being sudden and unexpected, the advance guard fell back on the main army and threw them into confusion, which occasioned a retreat of about one hundred paces before they formed again; after forming, not more than two heavy fires were exchanged before they were ordered to charge the enemy, which was instantly done; upon which the enemy immediately gave ground, and our men rushing forward with such imperosity, the enemy were dislodged from their coverts, and the cavalry taking advantage of that event, pursued them about two miles, when they dispersed. The action continued about an hour and a quarter; we had about 30 men killed, and 80 wounded; among the former are captain Campbell of the cavalry, and lieutenant Towles of the infantry. Among the latter are captain Slough, captain Vanransalear, Captain PRIOR and lieutenant Campbell Smith, of the federal army; –Seven of the volunteers were killed, and fourteen wounded. One hundred and twenty seven scalps were taken, and a number killed in the river that were not scalped. The army remained three days on the ground, and returned to Fort Defiance, at the mount of the Auglaize, where they were on the 24th ultimo.

The action happened within sight of a strong British fort, regularly built, and garrisoned with three hundred men, between forty and fifty miles below Fort Defiance, on the Maumee or the lakes. The commander in chief, sent a flag to major Campbell, commander of the British garrison, to march his men out to the nearest British post, and give up the fort, both of which he positively refused. The Indians had 5000 acres of land in corn, all in excellent order on the bottoms of the Miumee river, a considerable quantity of which the army have destroyed.

The following list of the names of the killed and wounded of the Kentucky volunteers, was received this day.
KILLED. John Jackson, Alexander Innes, William Mitchell, Thomas Moore, William Steel, Benjamin Bell, and James Wiley. WOUNDED. Captain Rawlings, lieutenant McKinney, ensign Duncan. Privates George McCullock, John Howard, Robert Scott, John Hinkston, Isaac Rankins, James Cost, James Stewart, Benjamin Bantle, John Montgomery, and William Woodrow.

I hate the use of “former” and “latter” as much as anyone else. In this article the word “killed” is the former event, indicating that Captain Prior was killed in action. Of course another newspaper account didn’t mention Captain Prior as one of the men killed:

Killed by Indians and Canadian Militia near Ft. Defiance, Ky on 20 Aug. 1794: Capt. Robert CAMPBELL (of the dragoons), Lt. Henry B. Towles (of the 4th Sub-Legion) and the following Ky. Volunteers: John JACKSON, Alexander INNES, William MITCHELL, Thomas MOORE, William STEELE, Benjamin BELL, And James WILEY (BVCG 29 Sept. 94, VCGA 6 Oct 94, VGRMA 6, 13 Oct 94, VGRC 3 Oct 94, HNPA 4, 7, Oct 94)
— Genealogical Abstracts from 18th-century Virginia Newspapers by Robert Kirk Headley

So who was Captain Prior and what really happened to him? Alan D. Gaff in his book Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest also was interested in what happened to this Prior:

“Although Captain Prior of the First Sub-Legion was listed as wounded in Wayne’s report, his injury must have been minor since General Wilkinson* failed to mention it in his two surviving accounts of the fight.”

Captain Prior was Abner Prior who I wrote about in Abner Prior, A CT Yankee Among the Wabash Indians — Captain Solomon Van Rensalear, Captain Campbell Smith, and Captain Jacob Slough who were named in the newspaper report and were all also named and reported as “wounded” on the company roster.

* General James Wilkinson is the same man who was entangled with Aaron Burr (see post)

Pryor Slave Master on the Mississippi River

Landscape

I’ve been looking at slave stories for insights into Pryors and where they were living and working. An account of Allen Sidney (born 1805 in NC) gives his account of slavery which entailed a time working on a riverboat for a Captain Pryor.

My master was ambitious. He built a flat-boat, bought a lot of cattle, wild hogs, apples and truck, went to New Orleans and sold at a fair profit. Then he anted more capital to do a bigger business, and borrowed $500 from a planter and negro trader named John Brown, and gave me as security. I was taken to Brown’s place, where he had 400 to 500 slaves. I worked in his cotton field till next spring, when along came a speculator with 200 to 300 slaves all chained together. Brown bought the whole lot, and next morning I was chained with the rest and we were marched to Memphis, Tenn., some 400 miles away, through the Chickasaw nation.** Here Brown sold me with other slaves to a rich man named Capt. Pryor, who lived in Memphis and owned a big farm nine miles out of the city.

In 1825, when I was twenty-one years of age, Capt. Pryor bought a steamboat at Pittsburgh, and brought it down to Memphis. I believe it was the first steamboat on the Lower Mississippi. It was called the Hard Times. I was what is a likely boy, and he thought a good deal of me. He said to me: “Allen, you go to Memphis, go on the steamer and watch her.” So I went there and stayed on her night and day. Then he sent North and got an engineer named Parker, and he ran the boat that winter back and forward between New Orleans. I helped Parker, and by Capt. Pryor’s orders he showed me how to work the engine.

After running on the river that winter Capt. Pryor built a machine shop at Memphis, put Parker in charge of it, and I worked under him there. I was on the boat in winter and in the machine shop in summer for seven years.

No, I can not say that I was very much abused when I was a slave, but I have seen many slaves treated very cruelly. One time two of Capt. Pryor’s slaves ran away. He took bloodhounds and hunted them down. When they were brought back to the plantation they were stripped naked and tied to logs face down. The colored overseer gave them each 100 lashes on the back…

Three months afterward Perry fixed it all up, and came back with papers which he shewed to Capt. Pryor. I went away with him, and found he had moved to a little town called Amsterdam, Tenn.

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, 12 August 1894

It would be interesting to know which Pryor he was talking about. I set about to see if I could find documentation to show what was real in his story.

The article started out identifying Allen as a well-known figure in Detroit, that he was about 90 and that he lived in Windsor since 1856 (just across the river from Detroit in Ontario, Canada). I located a death record for an Allen Sidney aged 95 who died in Essex County, Canada and was born in Kentucky. On the 1891 Census there was an Allen Sidney aged 86, born in the US living in Windsor. Back further, there’s an Allen Sidney age 73, origin African, counted with a Cassey Sidney age 62, living in Windsor. An 1889 death record from Windsor for Cassa Sidney born in the US identifies her as the wife of Allen Sidney. I think this is the subject of the article.

frost-woodenware-detroit

The 1894 article also stated Sidney was employed by Frost’s Woodenware Works  in Detroit for 37 years. I found an 1870 US Census entry in Wayne County, MI for Milton Frost, a wooden ware manufacturer.

There’s a Simeon Perry age 67 born in NC living in Kenton County, KY on the 1850 Census.

Since Allen Sidney claimed to have worked on a boat named Hard Times I looked and found some references to a barge by that name.

For New Orleans: Will leave on Monday, 4th inst., the barge NATCHEZ and HARD TIMES, which offers cheap and desirable conveyance for 100 to 150 horses and cattle. Shippers will find it their interest to call on bard, opposite Pearl st. or to R. BALDWIN Jr. & Co., No 5 Com. row.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, 4 Mar 1839

FOR SALE. The superior cotton barges “Hard Times” and “Natchez” are offered for sale on accommodating terms having both undergone thoro’ repair last fall’ they draw 24 inches light, and will carry 250 tons or 1200 bales on 4 1/2 feet water; for further particulars apply to GLOVER & BRENHAM, 38 Camp street.
The Times Picayune, New Orleans, 23 Jan 1839

Who do I think was Captain Pryor? I was hoping that the big clue in the article that he lived on a big farm on the outskirts of Memphis would pan-out. There are no Pryors on Census records that seem to match. It could mean that he was missed on the census or perhaps we’re dealing with a location issue. Did Sidney mean Capt. Pryor was 9 miles up or down river? If off by a few miles it could be a location in Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Arkansas, or even Kentucky.

I think Joseph E Pryor of Pope County, IL is an excellent possibility. I know you’re probably thinking that Illinois isn’t Tennessee and it isn’t mentioned in Sidney’s account. This Pryor was recorded as a “pilot” on the 1850 Census.

1850 Census, Pope Co., IL
Page 283A, 513/513 Joseph PRYOR 64 pilot VA, Elizabeth 52 VA, Joseph 26 stone cutter KY, Tabitha Magu 16 KY

It appears that Joseph Pryor of Pope County may have been doing business in Memphis, TN because after his death probate was filed in Shelby County.

1852 Estate – Robert L Smith and B. A. Massey appointed special administrator for estate of Joseph E PRYOR, deceased. Dated 1 December 1852.

There’s also a possibility that Allen Sidney was affiliated with a Kentucky Pryor. The riverboat would stay-over in Covington, KY (Kenton county).  A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891, Volume 1, by Marion Brunson Lucas discusses the activities of Tom Dorum, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Sidney’s own account and this book mentions Dorum’s assistance with Kentucky slaves escaping to freedom in Canada through Pittsburgh, PA.

Well, I’m open to ideas as to the identity of this Captain Pryor.

** Chickasaw Nation – In 1825 the Chickasaw nation was an area in the northern most area of Mississippi (see map and be sure to click on the year 1825).