Elizabeth Prior, Death At The Hands of A Serial Killer (1919)

gillam

James P Watson, serial bigamist and serial killer. Mug shot courtesy of Ancestry.com

It looks like we may have some information on another Pryor who disappeared from records. I’m not sure if she was a Prior by marriage or birth, however there’s an Elizabeth Prior who is reported to have been murdered.  She was murdered by J. P. Watson who The Oregon Daily Journal described as an “arch-murderer” and “super-bigamist”. The article published on 11 May 1920 states he was known by many aliases and was accused of killing 9 wives and many more.  His real name was reported to be Joseph Gillman, yet his record from San Quentin (see image above) stated his surname as Gillian. Included in the long list of multiple wives and murders was Elizabeth Prior who was killed with a hammer near Plum Station, WA.

This nasty convict died almost 20 years later at San Quentin, CA and is buried in the “Boot Hill” cemetery on the premises. There’s a post on Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=112945633). Which quotes the Idaho Post from 1919:

Elizabeth Prior of Wallace, Idaho, married March 15, 1919, at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, skull crushed with a sledge hammer and body buried near Plum station, Wash., where it was found.

There’s a marriage for an Elizabeth Prior on 25 March 1919 in Kootenai, ID to a Milton Lewis.  There were no ages on the marriage record, however the record states that both the bride and groom were from Sacarmento, CA. Did we just find another alias for J.P. Watson? Appears so. Crimezzz.net has an article on J. P. Watson (yes, under the section “Serial Killers”). It also gives this same marriage date. 

Got any ideas of who this Elizabeth Pryor might be?

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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Atlanta Property Surveyed by Allen W. Pryor in 1845

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, GA)

15 August 1910

LAND WORTH MILLIONS NOW SOLD FOR $41, MAY 3, 1832

A lot fronting 49 1/2 feet on Whitehall street, with 181 6-10 feet on Brotherton Street, has just changed hands, the consideration being $23,500

The lot is a small fraction of land lot 77 in the Fourteenth district of Henry county, now Fulton county, the same parcel of ground in which are located the old union depot, the Kimball House, the Atlanta National Bank Building, the Fourth National Bank, the Peters building, the Temple Court building, the Kiser building, the Fulton county courthouse, the state capitol, the St. Philip’s Cathedral, the Fulton county jail, police headquarters, the Gould building, the Inman building and the Constitution building.

LAND LOT SHOWN MANY CHANGES.

Land lot 77, either as a whole or parts of it has shown many changes since its metes and bounds were first traced by a civil engineer.  It was back in the early years of 1800 a surveyor made for record the first lines indicating the old land lot which has since figured in the land history of Henry, then De Kalb, and then Fulton county.

The original land lot had for its northern boundary line a straight shoot from a point in Edgewood avenue,  in an alley in rear of the Equitable building.  The line on the north ran directly west through the Western and Atlantic yards to Elliot street, where it turned at right angles to the south and ran straight south to Fair street, where it right-angled east to Capitol avenue, whence it ran north to point of beginning in the alley behind the Equitable building.

In the early part of 1800 the state of Georgia acquired from the Creek nation of Indians many thousands acres of land in what is now recorded as the counties of Dooly, Houston, Monroe, Fayette and Henry counties.  Subsequently an act of the state legislature authorized the governor of the state to convey in fee simple any parts of the land in the section of the country indicated to residents for homes and improvement.  In 1821, May 15, George M. Troup, then governor of the state, did “give and grand unto Benjamin Beckman, of Putnam county, his heirs and assigns forever in fee simple” the land lot indicated, then located in Henry county, and recorded as land lot 77 of the Fourteenth district of Henry county, containing 203 1/2 acres.  In the deed the land lot is fully described and its description conforms fully with the plat here shown.

SOLD FOR $41.

On May 7, 1832, Benjamin Beckman sold the full land lot to Samuel Mitchell, of Henry county, $41 being the consideration.  In the meantime DeKalb county was laid  out and after Samuel Mitchell bought it the county courthouse in Decatur was destroyed by fire and among the records burned were Samuel Mitchell’s deeds.  Mitchell was then a resident of Pike county, and through the inferior court of that county he had his title in the full land lot set up.

In 1845 Samuel Mitchell had the full land lot divided into blocks and city lots, the surveying being done by Allen W. Pryor, a civil engineer. As the surveyor was dividing the land lot into blocks Samuel Mitchell gave the railroads entering the city a right-of-way through it and deeded to the state of Georgia the city lots on which the present union station is located for depot purposes.   That portion of the old land lot given for depot purposes consisted of four city lots, each to be 210 feet square.  Before dying Mitchell sold many of the city lots.

Shortly after the death of Mitchell, Allen E. Johnson set up a claim to the property, asserting that Mitchell had never had any title to the land lot recorded as land lot 77 in Henry county, Johnson then secured letters of administration on the estate of Benjamin Beckman, to whom the state gave the original land, and from whom Samuel Mitchell claimed title.  The letters of administration were granted in Putnam county, and from the inferior court of the county, Johnson, as administrator of the Beckman estate, was given the right to sell land lot 77 as a part of the estate of Benjamin Beckman.  The Mitchell heirs fought the order of sale in DeKalb courts and the legal controversy was adjusted when Johnson, administrator of the Beckman estate, passed, by deed the title to Jane Mitchell, administratrix of Samuel Mitchell, the consideration being $500.

SOLD TO DOONIN.

In 1849 the Mitchell estate, by Jane L. Mitchell, administratix, deeded city lots 1, 2 and 4, in block 29, in land lot 77 to Terrance Doonin, from whom it came to Jane Sullivan for $3,660.  In 1862 the title to the city lot, fronting Whitehall street 150 feet and a fraction was in Willis P. Chisholm and his wife, M. B. Chisholm by whom it was transferred to the late W. H. Brotherton.  In 1856 the lot was sold at public sale by John H. Jones, administrator of Mrs. Emilie C. Caldwell, to Aaron Haas, the frontage then being 49 feet and a fraction for $3,475.  In 1891 it went from Aaron Haas to Solomon Haas and Isaac G. Haas for $14,000.  In 1908 Isaac G. Haas sold the lot to J. J. and J. W. Mangham of Griffin, for $16,000.  Last week Charles S. Robinson, of Atlanta, well-known furniture dealer, bought the lot from J.J. and J. W. Mangham for $23,000.

Mr. Robinson is at present holding the property and may later improve it.  On the lot there is a brick store and a residence.

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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Isaac Pryor of Pike County, IL – Who’s Your Daddy?

diggingforrootsAnother Pryor researcher sent me this link to a family tree that includes Isaac Pryor of Pike County, IL
http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/f/i/n/Art-Wilson-Finch/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0748.html. It conflicts with my own research, so I feel we need to do a bit of exploration on Isaac and his family.

The tree posted on Genealogy.com purports that William B Pryor was the son of John Pleasant Pryor born in Granville Co., NC and Elizabeth Palmer, and that William B. Pryor married Jane B. Atkinson and they were the parents of Isaac Pryor b. 1806 who lived in Pike Co., IL.

Let’s start with Isaac and work out way back.

Portrait Biographical Album, Pike and Calhoun Counties, Illinois, published 1891, page 400 (The book is available online https://archive.org/details/portraitbiograph00biogra). In an article on William H. Pryor (son of Isaac Pryor) it states:

The Pryors are of English origin, and Tennessee has been the home of the family for several generations.  In that State Isaac Pryor, the father of our subject, was born in 1807.  About 1838 he came to Pike County, ILL., making the journey according to the common custom– with a horse and wagon, camping out by the way.

The article also states that Isaac bought land in Pike County in the township where his son (William H) “now lives,” which is also stated as Derry. William stated that his father lived on the land until his death.

William’s date of birth is stated in the article as 12 November 1832 in eastern Tennessee. This date and place corresponds with his age on the 1850 Census in Pike Co.

Shortly before the 1850 Census Isaac married Mrs. Nancy Neely, 14 Jan 1847 in Pike County (see Illinois Marriage Records).

The dates of this history and the marriage record correspond with the information recorded on the 1850 Census in Pike County:

Isaac PRYOR 44 TN farmer, Nancy 38 OH, William 17 TN, Samuel 15 TN, Lucy 13 TN, Thomas 11 IL, Sarah 9 IL, Catherine 2 IL, Martha 1 IL

If Isaac and Mrs. Nancy Neely had no relationship prior to their marriage in 1847, it’s likely that daughters Catherine and Martha are from this marriage and the other children, including William H. Pryor are from an earlier marriage.

The 1838 date contained in the above article appears to be a good date for Isaac’s entrance to Pike County as there are two Pryor marriages in 1837 and one in 1840, helping to earmark his move to the area.

Noting the 1838 date, it’s then highly likely that he is the Isaac Pryor counted on the 1840 Census in Pike County.  Isaac’s age was reported as 30 to 39 years (born 1801 to 1810), which corresponds to his reported age on the 1850 Census (born 1806).

On the 1840 Census there is a woman in Isaac’s household who was age 20-29 (born 1811-1820). This may be Isaac’s wife before his marriage to Nancy in Pike County.  If this woman was also William H. Pryor’s mother she would have been about age 12-21 at the time of William’s birth which would not be out of the norm for the time for the age of a first time mother.

There’s a hint of the name of this possible mother of William H. Pryor. A tombstone in the Hornbeck Cemetery in Pike Co. states Nancy, “daughter of Isaac and Sarah Pryor,” died Sept. 30 1858, aged 15 yrs, 3 mos., 15 days.  The article cited above confirms that William’s mother was Sarah Harris who was born in Tennessee and died in 1840 at age 32. So, I think we have the possible first marriage for Isaac confirmed. (see Nancy’s gravemarker http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Pryor&GSiman=1&GScid=106248&GRid=76102683&)

The researcher who posted the family tree which started this search cites records from WFT (World Family Tree), stating that Isaac was the son of William B. Pryor and Jane B. Atkinson.  So we need to flesh out the family of William B. Pryor.

William B. (Bland) Pryor is believed to the son of Richard Pryor and Ann Bland. Richard was a son of John Pryor and Mary Dennis –Richard is mentioned in his father’s 1785 will and on records in Dinwiddie County, VA.  Much has been written on the line of Richard Pryor and Ann Bland’s line because they were the parents of the minister Theodorick Pryor, and the grandparents of the Civil War general and later New York judge, Roger Atkinson Pryor. A lot has been written, but that doesn’t make it all correct so read what you find with a questioning eye.

The first record I have of William B. Pryor was his service in the War of 1812. If his age on the 1850 Census was correct, he was born about 1793, making him about 19 years old in 1812. Jane B. Pryor applied for a widow’s pension. Orig. 15639, Certf. 7021, stating  her husband served in Capt. Philip Pryor’s Co., VA Militia. The War of 1812 Records on Ancestry.com state Philip, Luke, and William B. Pryor served in 1st Reg, Byrne’s Co., Virginia Militia—Philip was identified as the rank of Captain.

William B. Pryor married Jane B. Atkinson on 12 Oct 1818 in Chesterfield County, VA. Some research is needed to find out if there was an Atkinson or Pryor connection to this county. His brother Theodorick Pryor married Lucy C. Atkinson on 22 Sept 1827 in the same county.

In 1820 both William B. Pryor and Philip Pryor were counted on the census in St. Andrew’s Parish, Brunswick County, VA. There was one male child under the age of 5 in William B’s household in 1820. William B. Pryor was recorded as age 16 to 26 years old (born 1794-1804).  Philip Pryor is likely William B’s uncle – the Philip named as his son in John Pryor’s 1785 will.  Philip’s age was recorded in 1820 as 26 to 45 years (born 1775 – 1794). I suspect Philip was born closer to 1775 as he married Susan Cordle Wilkes on 5 Jul 1802 in Brunswick County and Susan who was a head of household in 1830 and recorded as born 1770-1780.

By 1830 William B. Pryor was in Tipton Co., TN (Middle TN) with his brother Richard Pryor. Unfortunately only William B’s name was recorded and no tallies of males and females in the household were posted on the census.

Willam B. was in Warren County, MS by the 1840 Census. A younger Richard Pryor was also record, his son b. 1820.  Other known children of William B. were Agnes b. 1822 in VA who married William B. Creasy in Warren Co. in 1838, and Mary b. 1824 in VA counted in William B’s household in 1850.

1850 Census, Madison Co., LA
Page 376, house 234 W. B. PRYOR 57 planting $1800 VA, Jane B. 51 VA, Richard 30 $400 VA, Agnes D. Creasy 28 VA, Mary A. Pryor 26 VA, William P. Creasy 10 MS.

To play out the scenario of William B. as the father of Isaac Pryor b. 1807 in East TN, William B. at about age 14 would have to have been in East TN and either married or have been involved in a relationship that produced young Isaac, only to return to Virginia to serve in the War of 1812, marry Jane B Atkinson and then move to Middle TN and onward. Another scenario would be a web of half-truths and misinformation—Isaac could have fibbed and really be much younger than he stated on census records.

I am unable to find any record of William B. Pryor having a son named Isaac.

Isaac Pryor’s place of birth is stated as TN on the 1850 Census and East Tennessee in the Pike County history—however I am unable to find any record of William B Pryor in East TN.

If Jane B. Atkinson Pryor’s age was stated correctly on the 1820 and 1850 Census she would have been 8 years old when Isaac was born in 1807. Possible. But is it probable?

I think what is more likely, at least from the paper research and until a descendant of either Isaac or his son William H. steps forward and takes a Y-DNA test, that Isaac may be one of the sons of John Pryor b. 1757 who was in Sullivan County, TN because of these salient points. And just because this theory isn’t written in stone… or proved with DNA, I’ve added an opposing comment in brackets:

  1. Sullivan County is in East Tennessee (But then so are several other counties).
  2. The article on the Pike County Pryor states that Isaac was a Methodist (well, so were thousands of other people). The Pryors in Sullivan County were a VERY Methodist family—James Pryor b. 1790 who is also likely John’s son was a Methodist minister as was his son John Pryor who married Ann Trigg and settled in AR (see History of Methodism in Arkansas, by Horace Jewell, published 1892, http://books.google.com/books?id=XnUC6WfycoQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=History+of+Methodism+in+Arkansas&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uM6zUJ6iCqTq0QH-u4G4BQ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=pryor&f=false Sarah, possibly a daughter of John b. 1757, married Stephen Paxson who was a traveling Methodist evangelist –see A Fruitful Life: The Missionary Labors of Stephen Paxson by Belle Paxson Drury
    http://books.google.com/books?id=cyUMAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=stephen+paxson+methodist&source=bl&ots=EhPvApAJ7k&sig=Cn5XUVN2s4qd6dVj59-VfTaYGZ4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=KOAiU_mINpTI2wWTi4CQCA&ved=0CFQQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=methodist&f=false
  3. Isaac resided near other Pryors from Sullivan Co., TN. While proximity between families isn’t always a positive indicator of kinship (yup, we’re finding that out about the Pryors!), in this case Isaac and his other Pryor relations can be found near each other on census and tax records in Sullivan County, Hawkins County, and in Pike County.
    a) 1830 Census Isaac Pryor and John Sr. were in Sullivan Co., TN
    b) 1830 Census John (Jr.) Pryor, James Pryor, and George Morrison (husband of Mary Pryor were in Hawkins County, TN (next to Sullivan Co.) – sons and son in law of John Sr.
    c) 1836 Isaac Pryor is on the tax list in Hawkins Co.
    d) 1836 in Sullivan Co. John Pryor Sr. signed a deed of trust for mortgage of George Morrison’s furniture.
    e) 1840 John (Jr.) and Isaac Pryor are on the census in Pike County.
    f) John (Jr.) b. 1797 married Hannah Hornbeck. A photo of Isaac’s gravemarker on Ancestry.com states it is located in Hornbeck Cemetery. It is believed that John and Isaac were brothers due to their proximity, birth years, and place of birth. (view gravemarker http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Pryor&GSiman=1&GScid=106248&GRid=76100643&)

Of course I’m willing to change my mind– if a researcher has documents or a compelling theory.  It still disturbs me at how easy it is to use WFT and Ancestry leaf hints to build an unlikely family tree. Just because the information is there, it doesn’t mean that it fits.  So be careful adopting a tree as your own or adopting others’ work to prove your tree (including mine!). Keep up the work of digging out your Pryor line.

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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