1829 Newspaper Account of Nathaniel Miguel Pryor Capture

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Nathaniel Pryor coon skin cap

This news story is perhaps the only “contemporary” report I’ve seen of Nathaniel “Miguel” Pryor‘s capture in Mexico…

From the Boston Daily Advertiser.
Mr. Topliff has received a copy of a letter from several Americans, prisoners at San Diego, California, to Mr. Jones, American Consul at the Sandwich Islands, asking the intercession of the gentlemen in their behalf, signed by James O. Pattie, Richard Lochlyn and Nathaniel Pryor of Kentucky, Isaac Stover of Santa Fe, William Pope of Indiana, Jesse Furguson of Missouri, and Edmund Russell of Pennsylvania, all of whom belonged to a party of twenty, which started from Santa Fe in New Mexico, in August, 1828, with the intention of trapping beaver. This party was commanded by Sylvanus Pattie of Lexington, Kentucky, who died in prison at San Diego on the 24th May, 1828. The above individuals were made prisoners in March, 1828, at St. Satalina in Lower California. From this place they were carried to the prison in San Diego. Application was made to the authorities of the place for the release of the prisoners, but without success. On the 19th of July they were allowed to go about the Presidio, being obliged every night to be counted with the rest of the prisoners, until the 12th November, when the Governor permitted all but one of them to proceed to the place where they had deposited their furs, for the purpose of bringing them in. The reason assigned by the Governor of California, for detaining these men as prisoners, is their not bringing passports from their native country. The passports they received from the Governor of New Mexico, giving them permission to travel where they pleased, were shown to him, which he tore in pieces, pronouncing them no passports.
The Long-Island Star
June 18, 1829

On June 15, 1829 another article from the Salem Gazette (Massachusetts?) was reprinted in the National Gazette in Philadelphia. It doesn’t mention the letter to the American Counsel, however it states news of their imprisonment had come from a Captain A Williams of the brig Clio who had  been to San Diego and Valparaiso, Chili and had arrived in Boston on Wednesday (the week before). The report again mentioned all the men by name.

I’m not going to comment on all the stuff we already know about his companions, the the arrest, etc. I became interested in why they wrote to the American Consul of the Sandwich Islands? That was the old name for Hawaii!

Why did they write to someone an ocean away in Hawaii?

The American Counsul of the Sandwich Islands was John Coffin Jones from Massachusetts. His father was the Speaker of the House in MA. John was appointed to his position in Hawaii in 1820. By 1838 he had moved to… drum roll… San Diego. Wikipedia has that he moved back to Massachusetts and died there in 1862. So did Jones have some kind of connection to the Spanish in San Diego in the 1820’s?

In 1831 James O. Pattie of Kentucky wrote an account of his adventure which was published in Cincinnati (see Archive.org)

On the 8th, Captain Bradshaw came to my prison… that I should write to the consul at Wahu and inform him of my imprisonment. He seemed to think, I might thus obtain my release. Mr. R Perkins would undertake, he said, to place it in the hands of the consul, as he was acquainted with him.” Then he states “A soldier soon entered with writing materials, and I wrote my letter to Mr. Jones, for that was the name of the consul.”

Captain Williams who may have been one of the first to bring back news of the imprisoned men to the mainland garnered only a small mention in Pattie’s book: “On the 27th of June, Captain Bradshaw’s vessel was seized, on the charge of smuggling. There were other American vessels in this port at the same time, the names of the captain of which, as far as I can recollect, were Seth Rogers, Aaron W. Williams, and H. Cunningham.”