The Patriarch: Tracing Nicholas Pryor

Chickahominy Sunset

Chickahominy River at Sunset

The first record I can find of Nicholas Pryor is dated 20 October 1688. Nicholas was transported in to Virginia by Thomas Cock Sr. At the time his was Verina Parish in Henrico County. The document states 33 persons were transported to the south side of the Chickahominy River. When I looked at the river on a county map I found that south of the river was Henrico County and Charles City; to the north was Hanover County and New Kent County. The record states the land boardered John Woodson, which by the way is a name that pops up again in this line of Pryors.

There are several researchers online who have duplicated entries in their family trees (that’s a nice way of saying they copied others’ entries) that state Nicholas Pryor was a child indentured servant when he entered Virginia. There’s an excellent post by a researcher on an Ancestry Board; it discusses this same 1688 record in relation to their ancestor Lambert Tye. Lambert was in the Colonies prior to landing in Henrico County and was not a child. This researcher suspects that he re-entered the Colony as part of a land or headright arrangement, which opens up the possibility that Nicholas was also older when he first appears in Henrico County.

I’ve pieced together a bit about the life of Nicholas Pryor and his descendants.

The next record of his life in Virginia is in a 1735 entry in the Henrico County Vestry Book.

Charles Cannon and Nicholas Prior, processioned John Woodson’s Land, present himself; processioned the land of Abraham Childers, present.”

I admit I’m weak on deciphering colonial records. The best description of a processioner and processioning I can find is “The business of processioning was initiated by a court order that specified the boundaries of each procession district and appointed individuals as processioners.” Being a processioner appears to have been a trusted post and a respected position of the landed gentry. If we assume Nicholas was a 10 year old (born around 1678) and indentured servant when he arrived in Virginia, he may have been about 45 years old (or older if not a child when he arrived). He was still living near John Woodson and he was living near Abraham Childers which is a name that comes up again in association with this line of Pryors.

An online researcher has posted that they reviewed the estate record of Nicholas Pryor, deceased, dated August 1746 (Henrico County).

Susannah Prior came into court and made oath that Nicholas Prior, dec’d, died without any will so far as she knew or believed and on her motion, certificate was granted her for obtaining Letters of Administration in due form.”

As I’ve worked through the records of Henrico County (and other counties) I’ve been able to piece together the sons of Nicholas (and Susannah). I believe I can connect them to the correct family lines in Virginia.

Sons of Nicholas Pryor (born around 1678)

William Pryor. I found this reference to William Pryor in a query on

“In 1751, William PRIOR/PRYOR (who was then listed as a resident of Albemarle Co., VA) sold 200 acres of land in Henrico County to William HARDING of Henrico Co. This land was noted as “part of a greater tract of land granted to William LAFFOON by patent”.

The researcher was searching for information on their ancestor William Laffoon and had found that William Pryor was an heir of William Lafoon in 1746. I believe we can ID this William Pryor because in 1751 there was only one William Pryor in Albemarle County.

This William is the William (and Margaret Pryor) who resided in Albemarle County in about 1752 when their sons William, John, and Nicholas were born there. Most Pryor researchers have read the sworn statement of this their son, the younger William Pryor — he was applying for a pension for service in Kanawha and later Revolutionary War Service near Richmond. He is clear about being born in Albemarle County and identifies his brothers by name. William and Nicholas, the sons of William from Henrico Co. later settled in Amherst County. William (and Margaret) were also the parents of Susannah Pryor born about 1765, she is the Susannah Pryor who married Shadrack Harriman, a sergeant at the Fort Lee Garrison (Their son was John Harriman whose home is on the National Registry of Historic Places –

David Pryor.David is my new favorite Pryor because I am his direct descendant. David died about the same time as his father. David died in 1746, leaving son John and his minor son David Pryor and we can assume that he was married to one of Abraham Chidress’ daughters who had probably pre-deceased him.

“July Court, 1746, DAVID PRYOR’S INVENTORY, was returned by Phineas Glover, Joseph Hooper and Joseph Price, it was recorded 17 Feb. 1746/7. In these same court records, they show that Abraham Childress was guardian for DAVID PRYOR, JR. There was an accounting on Feb 1753 with Abraham’s signature. David was shown to have schooling and etc.”

Possibly as a result of his father’s death, a land settlement was made with a George Carrington:

George CARRINGTON on Sept 15, 1747 of GOOCHLAND, deeded to JOHN and DAVID PRIOR (PRYOR) of HENRICO CO, VA 250 acres for which their father DAVID had already paid CARRINGTON. The land lay in GOOCHLAND and ALBEMARLE Counties, was part of a tract of 5650 acres granted to GEORGE CARRINGTON and the bounding neighbors were RICHARD TAYLOR (projected father of SAMUEL TAYLOR who married Sophia CHILDRESS) and ABRAHAM CHILDRESS (aka Childers) along with Isaac Bates and Phineas Glover.”

The 1763 will of Abraham Childress identified David Pryor as his grandson. There’s a plethora of documentation online that reference Abraham Childress and his ancestors of the same name, so if you’re interested you can read more on how the Childress line intersects with Cannon, Woodson, and others from this area of Virginia. David Pryor was probably married twice: David Jr’s mother was Miss Childress, and John the older son’s mother is not yet identified.

John Pryor. John appears on Goochland County and Henrico County records. I’ve been aware of this John Pryor for some time and he was a side note in my research: he was in Goochland County about the time William Pryor who married Sarah Wood appears in the records, but he was too old to be William’s brother and William’s brother John Henry Pryor had already been identified by researchers as the John who was residing in Hanover County.

John witnessed the Will of a Samuel Coleman in Goochland County in 1748. Other witnesses were John Right (Wright?), and Robert L. Woodson. John’s own will in 1755 identifies daughters Ann Wright, Rebecca Woodson, grandson John Woodson. I told you the Woodson name would come again! It appears that Nicholas’ grand-daughter married into the Woodson family who we know from earlier records to be landowners near where Nicholas settled in Henrico County.

Possible Other Sons:

Edward Pryor. I found Edward in Henrico County at the time Nicholas was also residing there—the earliest record was in the Vestry Book in 1735. He appears to have owned land as late as 1754 when two deeds noted the sale of property that bordered his property. He was on the 1757 tithe-table where it’s noted that Edward Pryor of Richmond received money for the care of his child. I don’t find any record of Edward after that, although I’m still interested in learning if he’s the same Edward Pryor who was a head of household on the 1784 census of Pittsylvania County, VA.

Nicholas Pryor. In 1756 a Nicholas Pryor served in the militia in Albemarle County under Peter Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s father!). There’s a known Jefferson connection between this line of Pryors: the elder Nicholas’ gr-gr-grand-daughter Mitchie Pryor married the younger brother of President Thomas Jefferson, John Randolph Jefferson. Nicholas who served in 1756 was not Nicholas Sr who had died ten years earlier. It’s unlikely that the Nicholas who served is the Nicholas,  the son of William (and Margaret) Pryor… he would have been too young to serve in the militia. I suspect Nicholas had a son also named Nicholas.