Tag Archives: African-American

George L Pryor, black attorney and politician

george-pryor-black-lawyer

George L Pryor is on the 1900 Census in Norfolk. He was recorded as born May 1857 and “black” which means he was an African American born before the end of slavery. He and both of his parents were born in Virginia and his profession is recorded as “lawyer”.

He married Mary Sewell in Norfolk in 1888. His parents were recorded as P Pryor and L. A. Pryor.

George L is on the 1880 census in Elizabeth City, VA in the household of Peter Pryor and Lucy A. Pryor. George’s occupation at that time was “school teacher.” Both Peter and Lucy were recorded as “black” and Peter’s profession was recorded as carpenter and Lucy was a seamstress.

The 1870 Census was the first census after the end of slavery. Peter Pryor and his family, including George, were recorded in Elizabeth City. Peter was a carpenter and owned a house worth $1200 and had a personal estate valued at $200. Peter was recorded as a mulatto at this time, indicating he was part white.

George L Pryor appears to have been a prominent African-American engaged in politics.

  • 1880 speaker at Republican gathering in Hampton, VA (Richmond Dispatch, 28 August 1880)
  • 1881 appointed clerk in the pension office (Baltimore Sun, 9 April 1881)
  • 1884 represented Norfolk, VA at the Republican National Convention.
  • 1888 represented Norfolk, VA at the Republican National Convention.
  • 1896 second vice president of Republicans in Norfolk, 4th Ward.
  • 1897 secretary for the development of the first colored beach resort
  • 1898 recognized by the Federal government as an agent to prosecute cases before the Department of Interior. He was disbarred from this practice in 1898 without explanation. (National Archives)
  • 1900 he was the president of the Central Republican League. (Virginian-Pilot, March, 15, 1900)

1901 appears to have been a rough year for George L Pryor. The Times in Richmond reported that he was also a clerk at the Navy Yard and was fined for charging illegal fees in a pension case as a government employee.

My curiosity is piqued on how out of slavery George L Pryor became a lawyer. How did he get from point A to point C?

Kansas Runaway Slaves — Dick Pryor Remained

pryor slaveH H Hart was 66 years old when The Wichita Daily Eagle published an article titled “Saw Slaves At Work in This State” 6 April 1913. The article included an account of his encounters with a slave named Dick Pryor.

Mr. Hart came to Kansas with his father, Thomas Hart, and wife. They settled in Linn county, near the present town of Paris. Close by was a large farm owned by a man named Pryor. This Pryor’s slaves ran away until only one remained, Dick Pryor. In April 1858, this slave escaped with the aid of several anti-slave men. In 1859, Thomas Hart died after casting his vote at the Lecompton election against slavery.

Hart and the former slave met up again during the Civil War.

In 1863, when H. H. Hart was 16 years old, he enlisted in Company 1 of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry. He served with this company until the war was over. During the war he again met Dick Pryor, the slave who escaped in 1858. He had enlisted in the First Kansas colored infantry, and was fighting for the Union.

I took a quick look through the census records to see if I could find these people. I think I can trace H H Hart to Linn County, KS

1925 – Harvey H Hart died and is buried in Sedgwick County, KS.
1920 – Harvey H Hart born 1847 in IA is on the census in Baca Co. with wife Elizabeth and children Ivan and Cecil.
1910 – Harvey H Hart with wife Elizabeth and children was working in a soldiers hospital in Wyoming. John W. Hart who appears to be a brother of Harvey’s was also counted on the census – Harvey and John had parents born in the same states (OH and TN).
1900 – H H Hart with wife Elizabeth and son Ivan were counted in Chautauqua County, KS. Again his parents were born in OH and TN.
1880 – H H Hart was in Greenwood Co., KY with wife Mattie, who appears to be a first wife. Again his parents were born in OH and TN.
1870 – Harvey Hart born 1847 in IA, counted on the census in Labette Co., KS
1860 – This is when the info takes a curve… I can find an Absalom Hart born about 1848 in IA living with a woman who is possibly is mother E Hart born in MO. The family was living in Linn County, KS. There’s a John Hart in the household that matches up with the John who was counted with Harvey in 1910.
1850 – The census in Keokuk County seems to straighten out the kinks in the 1860 census: Thomas Heart (sic) b. 1823 OH, Elizabeth E Hart b. 1827 TN, John W. Hart b. 1844 in MO, and Absalom H Hart b. 1847 in IA. So it looks like Harvey, for part of his life went by the name Absalom.

I haven’t found Dick Pryor in any records.

Nashville Pryor Names in A 1836 Chancery Sale in Williamson County, TN

This Chancery Sale notice was published in The Tennessean on December 13, 1836. It refers to Pryors in Franklin, TN. Williamson County was formed from Davidson County, so it doesn’t surprise me that the names in the notice were commonly associated with the Nashville Pryors.  The sale involved the sale of 3 slaves: Nancy and her children Reuben and Henderson.

bannister-pryor-nashville-tn

Banister L. Pryor (was the “L” sometimes transcribed as a “S” or vice versa?) was the postmaster in Prince Edward County, VA in 1831 and was recorded again as postmaster in Charlotte County, VA in 1840 and also on the 1840 Census in the same county. Were there two Banisters who separated themselves by using middle initials? Was there one Banister Pryor who was in VA and a defendant in a suit in TN?

I’ve seen Lancaster S. Pryor noted in online family trees as Banister’s brother, yet I’ve never seen his name mentioned in print before. I’ve tried to tackle the siblings in this family before (see post)

The sale wasn’t probably for Bannister’s brother Zachariah B Pryor because his will was signed on 19th September 1837, after this estate sale.

 

A Pryor Slave Story in Roane County and Anderson County TN

slave-houseSy Prior was a free African American living in Anderson County, TN. It’s an interesting slave story because he died 5 years before the end of slavery and he left a will. The will is like Hansel and Gretel dropping a cookie trail in the forest — he not only names his 4 children, but also who held his children in slavery.

Last Will and Testatment of Sy Prior. In the name of God Amen. Owing to the uncertainty of Life and the certainty of death and being —- to dispose of such worldly goods as it has pleased God to help me with and being of sound mind and disposing memory do make and publish this my last will and testament. 1st I give and bequeath to my daughter PELESA ANN the servant of RHODA WILSON out of my estate one hundered and forty dollars and her child PATSY SHIRLEY the sum of ten dollars. I give and bequeath to my son CHARLES the servant of RICHARD OLIVER one hundred and forty dollars. I give and bequeath to BETTY also a servant of RHODA WILSON the sum of five dollars for her attention to me in my sickness. I give and bequeat to REV JAMES BLAIR the sum of five dollars to preach my funeral sermon. I give and bequeath to my daughter MARGARET servant girl of RICHARD OLIVER my feather bed and furniture. She paying to her sister PELESA ANN six dollars I wish and desire that my watch and saddle be sold and equally divided amongst my four children Pelesa Ann, Isaac, Margaret and Charles. I wish and direct that all my just debts be paid as soon after my death as possible as well as my funeral expenses. I wish and request that my remains be directly buried. All the balance of my estate of what kind — I give and bequeath to my son ISAAC dn my daughter MARGARET servants of RICHARD OLIVER to be equally divided between them. I hereby appoint my friend SAMUEL TUNNELL executor of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former will by me made this 25th day of January 1860.
Sy PRIOR (his Mark) (or Sig)
Signed in presence of
RICHARD OLIVER
J. J. BUTLER
E. B. HUDSON

Sy Prior was on the 1850 Census:

1850 Census Anderson Co., TN. Subdivision 16, page 19b, house 274
Drury L. Bradley 39 farmer VA, Nancy 39 TN, William 16 TN, John T. 13 TN, Margaret E. 9 TN, Samuel 7 TN, Andrew 6 TN, Drury 3 TN, Timothy R. 4/12 TN, Martha Thompson 74 VA, Sir PRIOR 42 mu farmer male TN. (Sir is probably Sy Prior. House 273 is Samuel Tunnell who witnessed Sy’s will. House 269 is Kesiah Oglesby Butler b. 1780 from Campbell Co., VA. House 275 is Caleb Butler.)

Not only is an African-American will recorded before the Civil War remarkable, but there’s also a will that explains how Sy became a free man. Harris Pryor of Roane County died in 1846. Harris’ will states:

Item 2nd. It is my will that my negro man Sy shall be emancipated and set at liberty as a free man at my death and I also direct that my executor shall give him to with Sye of my property one horse worth forty dollars and one plough (sic) and gear.

Sy was born about 1808 and was a contemporary of Harris Pryor who was born 1801-1810. It may not sound like much, but Sy took a 40 horse and turned it into an estate of $300 cash and property that consisted of a watch, horse, saddle and furniture. I think that’s pretty amazing.

I also took a look at Richard Oliver on the 1850 Census in Anderson County (#3 on the image below). Not only does Sy Prior connect him with Harris Pryor, Richard Oliver was living near Rector households (1 & 2 below) and a Butler family (4).

richard-oliver-1850