Two Gamblin’ Alabama Pryors in Trouble in the Old Virginia (1835)

Lucky DiceA report of sex, guns, knives, vandalism… and the Pryors. It comes from the Richmond Whig re-published on 11 Sept 1835 in the The People’s Press and Wilmington Advertiser (NC).  This story was also published in the Maryland Gazette and the North Carolina Star. I guess a salacious story made it’s way through all the media outlets even in the 1830’s!

“Superior Court of Law for Henrico County was applied to for a bench warrant for the arrest of two men of the name of Pryor, father and son from Alabama, alleged to be gamblers by profession, (of great wealth) who on a visit to relations in Henrico county had been guilty, as alleged of an enormous offence.”

OK, they’ve got my attention. This is like a little mystery of who is who, so I’ve interjected my thoughts in brackets.

The complaint was brought by a man named Brown who said the older of the Pryor men had married his aunt (Was his aunt a Brown?). This older Pryor had made “overtures” (sexual advances?) toward a Mrs. Anderson, a niece of Pryor’s wife (So, Mrs. Anderson could be the complainant Brown’s sister or his cousin). The woman delayed the advances and when Pryor returned her husband was waiting with a gun. The husband fired, “lodging may shot in his arm.” Sounds like Mr. Pryor got an arm full of buck shot! They complained that both of the Pryors then rushed into the house and stabbed one of their Brown cousins, causing damage to the house by “spitting the furniture from cellar to garret.”

It doesn’t say how much time it took, but there was a warrant issued and a posse sent out to grab the Pryors. They were stopped on their way to “the city” (Richmond?) and they were “in a carriage and four, with a a traveling carriage and a tender.”  I wish I knew what that was… it sounds like they had a carriage pulled by 4 horses and an entourage. It goes on to say that the judge set bail at $5000 and would even consider $10,000 because these guys weren’t going to escape the law because they had a lot of money.

When they were questioned they were represented by attorneys Conway Robinson and Shirley Carter. Now this is really starting to sound like Law and Order!

I’m not sure why the names of the victims and the defendants weren’t published. Maybe because no one was convicted yet. Was it the practice of the time? I consulted the 1830 Census and found in Henrico County there was a William A. Anderson counted on the line above a John D. Browne. On another page there’s a William Browne recorded on the line above Rachel Anderson.

Luke Pryor of Limestone County, AL was the father of John B Pryor, a racehorse trainer. Lots of gambling around the ponies?  Samuel B Pryor, the first mayor of Dallas, plead guilty to gaming in TX, but that was in 1851 and he would have been 15 years old in 1835 and there’s no information to tie his family to AL. I thought of Joseph Pryor in Tuscaloosa, but he was about 68 years old in 1835.

I think we have an Alabama Pryor that we didn’t know connected to these families! I’d like to present an argument that whoever this Pryor is — he’s probably connect to Christopher Pryor of Gloucester.

1. I believe Christopher Pryor was wealthy and probably came from a well-heeled family. It’s recorded that he supplied the Continental Army with 800lbs of beef during the Revolutionary War– that implies that he  had means beyond a subsistence farmer. He had married well into the Clayton family and a daughter named after the Whiting family may indicate ties to that prominent family. His son John C. Pryor was the administrator of the estate of Henry Whiting, the brother of Ann Whiting who married Major John Pryor.

2. I found another document that mentions all 3 names: Pryor, Brown and Anderson. It’s much earlier than the incident but may point to family connections. A notice published in Rind’s Virginia Gazette on 4 November 1774,

The death of Mr. Hugh McMekin, late of Norfolk, renders it absolutely necessary that the bushels carried on by him there, by Mr. Matthew Anderson in King and Queen, end by Mr. Christopher Pryor at Gloucester Courthouse, be discontinued…
(posted by) BENNETT BROWNE, attorney in fact for Mr. John McDowell and Company.

3. Christopher’s grandson: Christopher J D Pryor is a possible candidate. This younger Christopher was born in 1800 so he would have been 35 in 1835. I can’t place a son with him to fit this story in 1835. However, Christopher was a teacher at Hampton Academy in 1833 (read my post on this Pryor), however he assaulted a Dr. Richard Banks. I haven’t found this Pryor on the 1840 Census and by 1850 he’s was on the census in ALABAMA.

Can anyone figure out the relationships? Who are these Pryors? Open to suggestions!