Another Look at Nathaniel Miguel Pryor?

I was contacted by a descendant of Nathaniel Miguel Pryor, the immigrant to Los Angeles, CA. They obtained a photo from the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The man on the far right is identified as Nathaniel Pryor. We’ve gone back and forth via email attempting to determine the age of the photo and which Nathaniel Pryor is in the photo. Is this Nathaniel who was born about 1800 or his son Nathaniel who was born about 1847?

I’m willing to share what I have. Perhaps someone can help out with the dating.

The photo can also be viewed online at the Museum’s Seaver Center (see photo).

The photo has writing on it that gives a date of 1872. I looked up 1870’s men’s fashions online and stumbled upon a website that sells historical clothing (Historical Emporium) with a very cool photo of 5 men that looks very much like the clothing in the Seaver Center portrait. Even the long-heavy fringe on the chairs looks similar to the Seaver Center portrait.

On the Historical Emporium page it describes the fashion of the 1870’s as light colored trousers with an elegant jacket which again resembles them men in the Seaver Center portrait.

The men named with Pryor are Manny Aguilar, James Barton, Frank Mellus and Billy Lander. My brief research turned up men of similar names in Los Angeles who would fit this group if the photo was taken in about 1872.

In 1870 a 17 year old James Barton was recorded in El Monte, Los Angeles Co. Another 19 year old James Barton was recorded on the same census at St Vincent College. My bet is that the latter Barton is the one in the photo because he was recorded at the small school with students named Sepulveda and Yorba which are surnames that connect with the Pryors. Wikipedia states a James R Barton was the first sheriff of Los Angeles County. He died in 1856-1857.The younger Barton may be the man whose death was reported in the Los Angeles Herald on January 6, 1874

James Barton fell from a window in Cubery’s printing establishment, and received injuries that caused his death soon after.

A Francisco Mellus age 6/12 appears on the 1850 Census in the household of Francis Mellus age 30, a merchant from Massachusetts (he was also brother of Henry Mellus, mayor of Los Angeles in 1860). If you want to ponder whether the man in the Seaver image is the younger or older “Frank” Mellus there’s a portrait of Frank Mellus Sr born 1824 on Find A Grave (see portrait). An article in the Los Angeles Times on March 29, 1931 states the older Mellus traveled to CA around Cape Horn with the author Richard Henry Dana (Two Years Before the Mast).

James H Lander age 25, was also in the same household with Mellus in 1850. In 1853 this Lander Married Margareta Johnson at the San Gabriel Mission. Francis Mellus was married to Adelaida Johnson — were the Johnson women sisters? All these people were pretty tightly connected; after Francis died, Adelaida married his business partner David Alexander who was also the head of household in 1850. In 1860 James H Lander and wife Margarita were counted in Los Angeles with a 6 year old son named William. Interesting… Lander was working as a printer. In 1900 Lander was divorced and living in the household of Manuela Johnson Valpe (there’s that Johnson surname again!).

The 1870 has a James H Lander living in Los Angeles with a 16 year old son named William. If this is the same James H. Lander, his year of birth varies from the 1850 Census to the 1870 Census, however the latter census offers another clue. He was living with Charlotte Lander age 69, the “breadcrumb” trail on Ancestry leads to a marriage between a William Lander and Charlotte Holden in 1828. Could William Lander be the Billy Lander in the portrait? Several online family trees state that William died in New Orleans in 1833. Anyone got a source for his death?

We know that Nathaniel Miguel Pryor was probably deceased before the 1850 Census (he wasn’t on the census) so if he is indeed the man in the photo then it was taken in the late 1840’s up to 1850. This looks like a studio portrait (chairs and backdrop), but after going through the 1850 Census entries for Los Angeles County in 1850 I couldn’t find anyone who listed their occupation as photographer.

So I asked Google to ID the first photo of Los Angeles. It came back with an article on the local public broadcasting website (see article) that dates the earliest photo to the late 1850’s.

So who are the men in the Seaver Center Portrait?

Is is a portrait taken before 1850 of Nathaniel Miguel Pryor born about 1806,  Manny Aguilar, James Barton born about 1810 who served as sheriff of Los Angeles and died in 1856, Frank Mellus born 1824 in Massachusetts, and Billy Lander. 

Or are they the next generation of Pryor, Barton, Mellus, and Lander men born in the late 1840’s into the 1850’s?

Your thoughts?