The Death of John Jackson and How A Pryor Relative Got His Money

lorene pryor

I saw this article in the Decatur Review from Decatur, IL published on February 12th 1917. It tells of a young girl named Lorene Pryor coming into an inheritance after she proved she was the grand-daughter of John Jackson, a hermit who had stashed away a small fortune.

I found Lorene Pryor on the 1910 Census in Quincy, Adams county, IL:

1910 Census Adams Co., IL
Quincy Ward 1, page 31a, Henry E PRYOR 42 married twice, married “0” years, IL OH KY, Addie F. wife 42 married twice MO OH NY, Lorene dau 8 IL MO MO, Gertrude Gregory step-dau 19 MO MO MO, Sylvia Gregory 17 MO MO MO, James Matthew boarder 25 OH OH OH

An earlier news story laid out the alleged family relationships. John Jackson who died in Santa Ana, CA may be “the same John Jackson who left his home near Chillicothe, MO nearly forty years ago.” It was explained that Lorene’s “mother’s name was Isabell Wright, and her grandmother name was Jackson.” (Santa Ana Register, Santa Ana, CA 26 Dec 1916). The search for a legal heir must have been going on for some time — an article published February 25, 1916 in the Los Angeles Times states that John Jackson had died a few days before his body was found on June 30, 1913.

OK, I love a mystery. I was wondering how Lorene Pryor proved her relationship to John Jackson in 1916 and if the relationship could be proved with modern access to records. So, here’s what I found.

Looking at the extract from the 1910 Census (above) Henry E Pryor and Addie were married “0” years and they were both married twice. Their union was a second marriage and Lorene Pryor was likely Henry’s child from his first marriage. If Lorene wasn’t Addie’s birth-daughter then her relationship to John Jackson must have originated through Henry’s first wife.

I found Henry Pryor married “Lizzie” Wright on April 10, 1895 in Hancock County, IL. They are on the 1900 Census, where she was recorded as Elizabeth, not Lizzie or Isabel.

1900 Census, Adams Co., IL
Quincy, 4th pct., page 323a, North 6th – Henry E PRYOR b. Sept. 1867 32, md 5 years IL OH IL night watchman. Elizabeth D wife b. Aug 1869 30 no children MO OH KY

Before the marriage, there is a Lizzie L Wright age 1 living in the household of David T Wright age 53 on the 1870 Census.  They were living in Chillicothe, Livingston County, MO. Ah-ha! That’s where John Jackson was supposed to have lived before moving to California.

David T Wright’s will is now available on Ancestry.com. He wrote his will in 1886 and named a grandchild named Lizzie L Wright, stated her parents were deceased, and left her and other grandchildren $1 each.

Now here’s the rub… I’m unable to locate a marriage between any of the Wright’s and a Jackson. I don’t see John Jackson on the Livingston County, MO census records. Lizzie Wright was identified as a “daughter” on the 1880 Census. Is suspect the will is correct and that Lizzie was Wright’s grand-daughter.

A 1917 newspaper article sheds some light on Jackson’s identity: “…claimants from around Chillicothe, Mo., who declared that Jackson must have been a relative of theirs who went West about 1881…They said he had had a row with an uncle, at whose house he lived, and had taken some mules he owned and departed for Arizona.” (Santa Ana Register, February 3, 1917). This same article indicates that Lenore’s family’s memory of Jackson’s old accident wounds were similar to testimony of people who had known Jackson in California.If we believe the newspaper account that Lorene’s grandmother was a Jackson then perhaps one of David T. Wright’s sons married a Jackson.

I wonder what she did with the money because in 1920 she was still living with her parents (possibly because she hadn’t married) and was working as a telephone operator. In 1930 she was working as a servant in a house hold in Yamhill, OR. It looks like things didn’t work out so well for Miss Pryor.