I’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.