VA & NC Pryors: Making Connections on Beaver Dam Creek in Goochland County


I know Beaver Dam Creek does sound as posh as maybe- let’s say Polo Pony Drive– but this may have been the place to be in Henrico County, later Goochland County.  The above list of deeds is from Remember the Perkins who shadowed the Pryors from Pittsylvania County, VA into Rockingham and other Counties in NC, and then into Hawkins/Greene County, TN and finally into Williamson County?  It looks like they may have been  neighbors (and probably kin) back into the 1720′s, long before the Revolutionary War. There was John Pryor on Beaver Dam Creek (see my post) and it looks like Constantine Perkins was right there too.

Another neighbor to look at is John Pleasant. Do you see him above? Isn’t it interesting that when the Pryors moved into NC there’s a John Pleasant Pryor among them? He also ended up in Tennessee with the migration to middle TN in the 1790′s.

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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Finding Dick Pryor’s Nashville Race Track & Tracking Pryors


Part I: Dick Pryor’s Race Track

The Normal College, later known as the Peabody Normal College was located at 614 Broad St., Nashville. In my previous post (see post) Miss Jane H Thomas stated this was where Dick Pryor and Patton Anderson used to run their race track.

We know the track was a VERY long time ago because Patton Anderson was murdered in 1811. How long the racing went on after his death — I don’t know.

I attempted to find the College using Google Maps, however the address doesn’t appear to exist anymore.  I tried street view to see if I could spot this building on the current site the Peabody buildings associated with Vanderbilt University. No Luck.

Any suggestions for an old map that shows the location?

There’s a Richard Pryor in Capt James Bennings Company on the 1811 Tax List for Davidson County. Nicholas B. Pryor was in another Company clearly designated as the town of Nashville, although the Captain’s name is illegible. That’s about the right time-frame for the Dick Pryor we’re looking for.

In Wallace’s Monthly, a horse magazine published in February 1878, there’s a memoir that recounts meeting General Jackson and Patton Anderson in 1805 while Jackson was racing Truxton. You know you’ve been doing too much Pryor research when you remember the names of their horses!– Jackson bought Truxton from Thornton and Samuel Pryor of Bourbon County, KY (read post about Truxton).

If I were a betting woman… my wager would be that Dick is Richard Pryor a relation of the Bourbon County Pryors.

Part II: Tracking Pryors

I got curious about Miss Jane H. Thomas. Where the heck was she living in 1850 — was she living near any of the Pryors or their kin? I about fell off my seat when I found her on the census. Miss Jane was aged 50, born in VA, living in house 669 with the family of John M. Bass. Bass was the “Prest. U. B. Tenn” with an estate valued at $100,000. Next to them was house 668— James W. McCullough age 25, a carpenter, born in TN with an Elizabeth Pryor age 13 in the household!

This may be a stretch, but it may also be a lead. James W. McCullough married Mildred Yandle in 1846. There’s a Miles Yandle family in house 744 in Rusk County, TX in 1850. In house 766 is Solomon Coates and family who were on the same page with John Bernard and wife Laura Pryor in 1840 in Tipton Co., TN. I’ve always suspected that Laura Pryor was connected to Benjamin W. Pryor b. 1788 in VA and on the 1850 Census in Ellis Co., TX.

I wonder if John Bass was living in the spot in 1840? J. M. Bass is on the census in Ward 4 of Nashville, however there isn’t a woman the age of Miss Jane in the household. A few lines down is the Nashville Female Academy with 225 students.  Is this the school that Miss Jane discussed in her memoir?

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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First-hand Account of Pryor Line (and Ballew and Childress) in Nashville


Miss Jane H. Thomas is my favorite lady of the week! Her memoir published in 1897 is titled Old Days in Nashville, TN Reminiscences. And of course, there’s some gold nuggets of Pryor information!

I have a method of examining personal histories. I want to know when the person lived, if they had a relationship to the people they wrote about. I also like to know how old they were when they were recounting the information (Did they have a clear recollection?) and also the age they were when the reported events occurred (Is it reasonable to expect they would have a memory of something that happened when they were two years old? Or were they told the story so it’s second-hand information? ). The person who wrote the book’s introduction states that Miss Jane was in possession of all her mental faculties. That’s a good start!

The introduction states that Miss Jane H Thomas was born in 1800 in Cumberland County, VA. That makes me interested in her since my own suspected Pryor line (and the Talley family of Gallatin they married into) has connections to Cumberland County! It states “her great-great grandfather on her mother’s side of the family, William Ballew, a Huguenot refugee, came to Virginia to live, and there he married Dorothy Parker.” Remember David Pryor and his wife Susannah Ballow (Balieu/Ballew) of Buckingham County, VA who moved to Nashville? Also of note, David owned land in Cumberland County.

It also states that Thomas Ballew married Jane Thomas who came to the Colonies from England in a ship with Isham Randolph. AND Miss Jane’s father was Jesse Thomas who married Micah Ballew.  There’s almost too much juicy information in her family line! David and Susannah’s daughter, Mitchie Pryor, married into the Jefferson family who were connected to the Randolphs. David and Susannah’s son, Nicholas Ballow Pryor, married Sally Thomas. More to research: Was Sally Thomas related to Miss Jane H. Thomas?

Now, it also sounds like her Thomas family didn’t step off the boat in Virginia: “Job Thomas the great-grandfather of Jane H. Thomas on her father’s side of the family, came from Pennsylvania to Virginia.”

Miss Jane came to Nashville in 1804 when she was a four year old. Some of her reminiscences state events at that time. While I’m doubtful she is drawing from her own personal memory of that time, she is still discussing people and events that occurred in Nashville and may have been from stories passed around her family and community. The tough part of Miss Jane’s book is that it doesn’t put into a clear context the timeframe of her memories.

So, here are the excerpts of the Pryors.

About the corner of Spruce and Cedar Streets a man by the name of Pryor, a carpenter, had a frame house.

She mentions some of his neighbors: Thomas Kirkman, James Irvin, John Beard. I wonder if this has a connection to a McCullough family who were living in Nashville at the time of the 1850 Census with an Elizabeth Pryor in their household. . McCullough was a carpenter.  House #663 was Rachel Irvin 62 born in VA — the McCullough household was #668.

Where the Normal College grounds now are Pryor, Anderson, & Rutherford had a race-track. Old Mr. Rains had a farm just beyond this. He used to come to town, and sometimes stay very late at night. When he went home he had to pass the race-track, and he always said he saw Dick Pryor, Patton Anderson, and the devil killing race-horses.

Isn’t this fun? Are you asking the same questions as me? Who was Dick Pryor or Richard Pryor? Where was the Normal College in the 1890′s? Who was Patton Anderson? When Miss Jane says he stayed late at night, does that imply some drinking was involved?

I found that Patton Anderson was shot dead at the Bedford County Courthouse in 1811 (see news article). The shooters were let off the hook and it’s noted in the James K Polk, A Political Biography (Yes, the Polk who was President) that Anderson was a personal friend of Andrew Jackson (also a President) and when the suspects were let free Jackson pointed at a juror and said, “I’ll mark you young man!”**

There an interesting story about The Belmont Domestic Academy, a school that opened in 1815, started by French immigrant Mr. Ambercrombie and his wife. It was a girls’ school where they learned French, music, dancing and literature. This sounds very high-brow, not a place that was teaching frontier girls homemaking skills like soap making and canning. She seems to have a great memory because she came up with the names of numerous classmates, like Harriet Overton who was General Overton’s daughter. The names that piqued my interest were the numerous Childress girls:

Maria Childress, and also Elizabeth Childress, Sarah and Susan Childress, of Murfeesboro… Lucy Tally from Gallatin*… They married as follows: Jane Childress and Sam Marshall; Matilda Childress and Judge Catron; Minerva Childress and Ben Litton, a brother of Mrs. Jesse Thomas; Maria Childress and Judge Brown; Elizabeth Childress and V. K. Stevenson; Sarah Childress and Dr. Rucker; Susan Childress and James K. Polk, President of the United States.

Why are the Childress girls so important? David Pryor (husband of Susannah Ballow)– his mother was a Miss Childress, daughter of Abraham Childress. Were these his cousins?

I think we got some good family researching fodder from this book!

* NOTE: I included Lucy Tally because my ancestor Allen L. Pryor of Gallatin married Elizabeth Talley also of Gallatin. Sumner County Pryors may wish to figure out Lucy’s relationship to the Elizabeth as her Talley family was from Cumberland Co., VA — same  place as Jane H. Thomas.

** NOTE:  If you want to read more about President Jackson and Patton Anderson, I found an article published in Sports Illustrated on 16 Jul 1956 (see article) that discusses their involvement in horse racing.

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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