Category Archives: Virginia Pryors

Can We ID the Father of Thomas Pryor of Amherst County, VA?

March 5, 1849: Amherst County, VA Legislative Petition asking for the repeal of the charter of the Lynchburg & Buffalo Springs Turnpike Company. The first Pryor signature on the petition was Hartwell T Pryor. His VA death record states he was born in 1807 in Amherst County to William Pryor and Sarah (was this Sarah Tucker?). He died 2 Aug 1881 in Bedford County, VA. His presence in Amherst county was also confirmed on the 1850 Census.

1850 Census, Amherst Co., VA
Page 78a, The Eastern Dist., house 75 H. T. PRYOR 45, Susannah 50, John W. 18, M. A. 13, Margaret 11

The second Pryor on the petition (on another page) was Thomas Pryor. It is clearly written next to the signature “son of Hartwell.” Sweet! I don’t know why it was necessary to write that. Did it prove residency to be able to sign the petition? Was clarification needed to determine WHICH Thomas Pryor had signed the petition?

Can we ID Thomas Pryor on other records?

  • There is a Thomas M. Pryor who was appointed post master of Pryors Vale, Amherst County in 1844.
  • There is a Thomas M. Pryor who was counted on the 1860 Census in Chariton County, MO. Thomas, his wife and children were all born in VA (except the youngest child).
  • Thomas M. Pryor and his family were counted in 1870 still in Mo.
  • In 1880 Thomas M. Pryor was counted in Amherst County. Living in his household was a child born in MO. This child, William, was also counted on Chariton County, MO census records.

There was no Thomas Pryor or Thomas M Pryor recorded in Amherst County in Hartwell’s household in 1850, nor in Amherst County. Perhaps he was missed from the count or he was elsewhere? However, the evidence is strong that there was a Thomas M. Pryor in the county in 1844, who went to MO, and returned to VA by 1880. I just wished he had locked down his ID by adding his middle initial to his signature on the petition..

1860 Census, Chariton Co., MO
Clark Twp., page 289, House 862 Thomas M. PRYOR 42 farmer VA, Elizabeth H. 39 VA, Mary E. 15 VA, Thomas 13 VA, Junius C. 9 VA, Samuel 6 VA, Sarah 3 VA, John H. 1/2 MO

1880 Census Amherst Co., VA
Elon Dist, Page 2 Thomas M. PRYOR 63 VA VA VA, Samuel B. son 21 VA VA VA, William S. son 17 MO VA VA.

Have we answered “Who’s your daddy?” I don’t think so. On all census records Thomas M Pryor stated an age that place his year of birth at about 1818. Hartwell’s age on census records placed his year of birth at about 1805-1808. He was 10 years old when Thomas M. Pryor was born? It’s even worse when using Susannah’s age at his birth… about age 7 or 8? If Thomas M is the same man who signed the petition, then it’s almost impossible for Hartwell and Susannah to have been his birth parents. UGH! So, did Hartwell have a son named Thomas adding ANOTHER Thomas to the Amherst County mix?

Christopher Pryor of Gloucester County: 1787 Signature

We now have a signature of Christopher Pryor of Gloucester County, VA. He signed a 1787 legislative petition concerning the taxation of slaves.

And an earlier signature from 1786. I noticed that he signed near John Whiting on both petitions. (see post that explores Whiting connection)

And yet another signature from 1785 and again near John Whiting. Under Whiting is James Baytop– Col Thomas Baytop was master of Botetourt Masonic Lodge and the executor of Christopher Pryor’s estate.

1788: Pryor Signatures from Botetourt County, VA

I’m sharing 3 samples of Pryors from Botetourt County, VA: Joseph Pryor, Thornton Pryor, and John Pryor.

The signature above for Joseph Pryor is from a petition of “sundry inhabitants” of the county of Botetourt… requesting obstructions to navigation of James River at the Blue Ridge to be removed (dated about 1788). I think this is the signature of Joseph Pryor Sr as it doesn’t look like the samples we  have of Joseph Jr.(see post).

And another signature of Joseph Pryor Sr. from a 1790 petition.

And another signature a bit later… Joseph Pryor on a 1806 petition in Botetourt County. It’s wild how one person’s signature can vary (Perhaps it style depended upon the type of quill pen and the texture of the paper). His “p” and “h” looks about the same, but the “s” had a different flourish in 1806.

Joseph Pryor, 1806 Petition from Botetourt County

 

Thornton Pryor: A petition signature from 1801. Compare his signature with the 1829 sample from a previous post… it looks a bit different but I think the curly-cue on the “T” shows up in the “P” in the later signature. The “h” has a similar tilt and shape. The final “r” in Pryor looks more like an “n” in both signatures.

1801: Botetourt County Petition

1829: Thornton Pryor Signature on KY Marriage Bond

There was also a John Pryor signature on an 1802 Petition in Botetourt County. I think this is the signature of John, son of Joseph Pryor as it’s very similar to the writing of John Pryor who signed the 1829 KY marriage bond with Thornton Pryor. The way the “o” joins the “h” and the top of the “h” isn’t a loop but a “up and down” slash — the same on both samples.

1802: John Pryor on Botetourt County Petition

1829: John Pryor on KY Marriage Bond

Pryor Slave Story: Anthony Pryor Free Man During Civil War

pryor slaveI’ve got another story from the Civil War that reveals the name of a slave named Pryor and their former master. I would think if anyone is tracing this Pryor line they would become stumped because this man named Pryor wasn’t last enslaved by a Pryor family. It’s an interesting letter from The Liberator, the famed abolitionist newspaper in Boston.

“Can’t Take Care of Themselves — Would Starve if They were Set Free.” Here is one of the keenest retorts to this ridiculous outcry in the shape of a letter written to Anthony Pryor, one of the colored people at Fortress Monroe, by his late mistress. Rev. Mr. Lockwood certifies to its authenticity.

ANTHONY — I have heard that you were making a great deal of money, and as we are in Williamsburg and have no support, and William is away and I cannot hear from him, I send you this to let you know that we are in need of everything. I have no meat, no money of any kind that will pass. I want you to send me some bacon, and sugar, and coffee, and any other things you can get that I need. I have no money to buy a thing with. You have had twelve months’ freedom to make money in. It is time to do something for me and my children. They are in want of clothes, and the winter is coming on. If you do not send me some money, they will perish with cold, for wood is very high, and I am not able to buy any now to cook with. We have done all in our power for you until you left us, and can you hear of your master’s children starving, and you able to work and help them? No, I cannot think it. I should like to see you. If you can give ma a little help every month, it would keep us from want. Send what you can get for me by John King. He will bring it safe. He is doing all he can for his mistress. He does not let them want for anything. I never should have sent this if I had not been in want, as you have not done any thing for me all this time. If you consider yourself free, it is your duty to do what you can for me and my two children. I shall expect you to do all you can. If John King does not come up soon, you can send them by Sam Simpkins. He belongs to Miss Eliza Jones. Tell him to bring them to Mrs. Tilford. We are there now. Send them as soon as you can.
From your mistress, Hannah D Westwood
(Published in The Liberator, 3 Oct 1862)

The audacity? The white mistress writing to her black slave begging for money during the Civil War.

The location? Fortress Monroe is likely Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA.

It would be interesting to know the circumstances that led to Anthony Pryor’s freedom because this article was written DURING the Civil War and BEFORE the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.

There’s an Anthony Pryor (born about 1841) on the 1870, 1880, and 1900 Census schedules, living in Elizabeth City, VA. He was recorded as black at times and as mulatto at other times. He was living with with Lucy Ann Pryor, identified as Lucy Whitlock on their son Joseph Andrew Pryor‘s social security record. Anthony and his son took on the occupation of plasterers.

In 1870, Hannah D. Westwood and her husband William T. Westwood were counted living in Isle of Wight, VA. Two children born before and during the Civil War were living in the household: Mary E 11 and Hannah D 9. The value of William’s personal property was $100. Military records reveal that before this letter was published in The Liberator, Hannah’s husband William Thompson Westwood had enlisted as a Confederate soldier. Perhaps the Westwoods were feeling the shortages of the War or the loss of income from her husband being away from home with the military. Or perhaps both.

It takes desperation and gall to write to your ex-slave asking for financial assistance.