Captain Pryor, Lewis and Clark, and the Welsh Indians

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I need to change a guess I made in an earlier post [see Captain Pryor Among the Wabash Indians?] I still believe I was correct in the conclusion that Major Pryor of Richmond is the Major referred to in the document with Edward Carrington. However, I suspect that Captain Pryor is someone else.

I found a wonderful old diary entry for 14 Mar 1793. It’s the diary of Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale University, published in 1901 [see diary entry].  This is the kind of stuff I get really excited about because it captures a snippet of time and some intriguing pieces from history.

From his entry we can tell it had snowed the day before. A nifty day of the week calculator tells me that the 14th was a Thursday. So, around noon on a snowy day when lectures had been cancelled, Dr. Stiles received 8 Native American visitors who were from tribes along the Mississippi River— the distance between New Haven, CT and the Mississippi is not a day ride! The area west of the Mississippi was still Spanish territory (France gained the land in 1800). He took them on a tour of the college library and museum. They didn’t even speak English so there was an interpreter. What a unique visit. This visit sounds so diplomatic and civilized — a far cry from the feathers and war paint version of history.

The Native visitors were escorted to “Bo” (is that perhaps Boston?) by Captain Pryor. Any ideas of who this Captain Pryor might be?

It’s not Nathaniel Pryor. Nathaniel joined the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 10 years after the diary entry with the rank of sergeant, not a captain.

Could it be Nathaniel’s father? I don’t think so. In 1791 (2 years before the diary entry) Nathaniel was reported in a court document as a orphan of John Pryor, deceased.

Wouldn’t it make sense for Lewis and Clark to take a Pryor with them who knew what to expect? Could this Capt. Pryor be a relative of Nathaniel Pryor?

There is another Captain Pryor to consider. Joseph Pryor of Botetourt County, VA was known as Captain Pryor and commanded troops during the Revolutionary War. Would he be too old to be riding off to the Mississippi River and up to Boston and back to Virginia in the 1790’s? Possibly not. He seemed to have the energy to move his family from VA to KY in about 1800. And of course it could be a northern Pryor from PA or CT.

One very quirky thing I need to point out and it makes me wonder what the conversation entailed on that day in 1793. Stiles wrote, and I’ll clean it up a bit into readable sentences:

These Indian(s) knew nothing of white or Welsh Indians west of the Mississippi (River). The interpreter, a German, told me he had traveled 1200 miles up the Missouri River to where the Spaniards have Gold mines, but never saw white Indians, and knew nothing and believed nothing of the Welsh Indians. I read (to)  them from Williams &co. They believed nothing of it.

If you’ve ever seen the TV show America Unearthed, there was a belief that the Welsh had arrived in America before Columbus. The episode I recall said that when President Jefferson sent off Lewis and Clark in 1803 he wanted to know if they found any evidence of the Welsh or what were known as “White Indians”.  Apparently Gen. George Rogers Clark (uncle of Clark of the Clark in  Lewis and Clark) claimed to have met White Indians in southern Illinois in the late 1770’s (see Footprints of the Welsh Indians)

Welsh Indians sound like one big ol’ tall tale to me, but it is kind of fun to see how this stuff gets all tangled together in history.