Criminal Cases: John/Jonathan Pryor of Sumner County

sheriff-badgeMurder Conviction, 1860

In 1860 JOHN PRYOR was counted on the Davidson Co., TN Census. He was 30 year old, born in TN, and in the State Penitentiary in Nashville. The book “Tennessee Convicts: Early Records of the State Penitentiary by Chuck Sherrill states “Jonathan Pryor was received on March 12, 1860. Convicted of “malicious stabbing” in Sumner Co. and sentenced to 3 years. Age 30. Occupation none. Birthplace Tennessee. Discharged January 2, 1863. Released under the Act of 1863.

In prison ledger 86, number 2128. Additional information for prison ledger 87: Born and raised in Overton Co. Father dead. Mother and one sister, wife and three children live in Sumner Co. One sister and three brothers in Overton County.

Additional records obtained on this John Pryor has caused me to look again and the possibilities of who were his kin.

John’s wife and children are the easiest kin to explain. The divorce record for this John Pryor reveals that his wife was Eliza Beasley and that she filed for divorce in 1860 (Sumner County) because he was incarcerated.. Eliza was counted on the 1860 Census in Sumner Co. The divorce record states that Eliza and John only had one child. Two more children appear to be from John’s first marriage to Ellen Lee: William E. Pryor and Mary Pryor. These children were living with the Mays family in 1860.

An additional suit that names this John Pryor confirms he was AKA Jonathan Pryor, confirm the identity of his first wife, and it confirms his children (see post Sumner County: Jonathan Pryor Who Was in Nashville Penitentiary)

A far as other kin, first let me explain who I think aren’t his parents. I don’t think this is John Pryor, son of James and Nancy Pryor of Overton County.  This other John Pryor was the father of Mary Ellen Pryor born September 1862 to Candis Malone–since this was well into John Pryor’s prison term it probably rules him out.  The children of James and Nancy had no known connections to Sumner County, which also helps to rule them out.

Why don’t I think this John Pryor was a son of John and Massey Pryor? A Jonathan Pryor age 25 was living with Massey Pryor on the 1850 Census at the same time that this John/Jonathan was counted as a head of household with wife Ellen Lee. There’s always the possibility that John/Jonathan was counted twice, however I have to think the census is correct unless there is evidence otherwise.

One scenario, and it’s the one I’ve thought to be correct for some time,  John Pryor is a son of Spicy and William Pryor of Overton Co., TN. This kinship can be explained by census records and the relationships stated in the prison record. First if William was his father, he was deceased by 1860 (he was not counted on the 1850 Census). His mother, Spicy, was counted in 1850 in Overton Co. with a Phereba Pryor in the household. Phereba may be the sister referred to in the prison record as she is counted in 1860 living close to Massy Taylor Pryor in Sumner Co. The sister and three brothers living in Overton Co. were probably Mary Pryor, wife of Loderick Garrett; Edward Pryor, Overton Pryor, and Chesley Pryor.

But wait a minute…

I’m keeping an open mind because as we discovered in 2014 (PRYOR DNA RESULTS: Part 2 William Pryor and Spicy Taylor of Overton County, TN), Chesley Pryor is likely not a genetic child of William and Spicy Pryor. Would John have counted him as a brother? I think because Chesley was integrated into the family as a brother, whether he was adopted or the product of an affair, John would have counted him as a brother.

 

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