Category Archives: California Pryors

Kathleen Pryor: Hollywood Secretary


Kathleen Pryor was mentioned in the biography of Syd Chaplin, Charlie’s half brother written by Lisa K Stein. It was noted that she had studio records going back to 1918. She may not have been working there at that time because she would have been 12 years old in 1918.

1930 Census, Los Angeles, CA – Recorded living on 1211 N Ogden Dr.  Her occupation was listed as secretary at movie studio.

Surprisingly I found Ms. Pryor on The Swedish Film Institute website where she was recorded as the Production Secretary for The Great Dictator (1940) and Limelight (1952), both Chaplin films. It looks like she continued to work in the film industry and with Chaplin long after the 1925 photo above.

January 12, 1987 Death Record in Los Angeles, CA for a Kathleen Ruth Pryor, born in IL in 1906. Her mother’s maiden name was Luby. There’s a 1906 birth record in Cook County, IL for a Kathleen PRIOR born to Thomas Prior and Kitty Laby.

Mexican War: Don Miguel Pryor of Old California

Miguel Pryor (aka Nathaniel Pryor) is mentioned in an account of the defense of Los Angeles in 1846, during the Mexican War. I was surprised to see he played a part in the conflict, and also surprised to see that he was working on the side of Mexico, his new homeland.

In his absence (Governor Pio Pico) news reaching the latter place on the 21st. In his absence news reached Los Angeles that Castro was coming with a force to attach the place, and the citizens at a public meeting tendered their services to the ayuntamiento for defense. Three military companies were at once organized, the foreign residents joining them with alacrity. (see footnote)

Footnote: One artillery company under Michael Pryor, an American; another of riflemen under Benjamin D Wilson, also an american, and a third one of cavalry under Jorge Palomarel, a native Californian. (The Bay of San Francisco : The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and Its Suburban Cities : A History. Published by The Lewis Publishing Company, 1892. Page 132)

An article titled “Further from Mexico” was published in the Times Picayune (New Orleans) on January 6, 1847. It gave an account of the latest happenings of the war in California. It reported that the citizens of Los Angeles had met in September to toss out the American military who had positioned themselves in California during the war. Apparently things had escalated as 150 Americans had been killed. To stop the bloodshed both sides met to agree on conditions of a cease-fire. The Americans were represented by surgeon Edward Gilchrist and the Los Angelenos were represented by Miguel Prior.

I feel I must add my own note to this clipping. The “D” is an abbreviation for “Don”, a polite way of addressing someone of position in Spanish society.  Even the Americans in the article were addressed as “Don” or “Señor Don.”

An interesting turn around for this Pryor. He was arrested upon entering Alta California for being an American, married into the influential and well-heeled Sepulveda family, and within years was fighting for Los Angeles and representing Mexico in negotiations.

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 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.


Elizabeth Prior, Death At The Hands of A Serial Killer (1919)


James P Watson, serial bigamist and serial killer. Mug shot courtesy of

It looks like we may have some information on another Pryor who disappeared from records. I’m not sure if she was a Prior by marriage or birth, however there’s an Elizabeth Prior who is reported to have been murdered.  She was murdered by J. P. Watson who The Oregon Daily Journal described as an “arch-murderer” and “super-bigamist”. The article published on 11 May 1920 states he was known by many aliases and was accused of killing 9 wives and many more.  His real name was reported to be Joseph Gillman, yet his record from San Quentin (see image above) stated his surname as Gillian. Included in the long list of multiple wives and murders was Elizabeth Prior who was killed with a hammer near Plum Station, WA.

This nasty convict died almost 20 years later at San Quentin, CA and is buried in the “Boot Hill” cemetery on the premises. There’s a post on Find A Grave ( Which quotes the Idaho Post from 1919:

Elizabeth Prior of Wallace, Idaho, married March 15, 1919, at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, skull crushed with a sledge hammer and body buried near Plum station, Wash., where it was found.

There’s a marriage for an Elizabeth Prior on 25 March 1919 in Kootenai, ID to a Milton Lewis.  There were no ages on the marriage record, however the record states that both the bride and groom were from Sacarmento, CA. Did we just find another alias for J.P. Watson? Appears so. has an article on J. P. Watson (yes, under the section “Serial Killers”). It also gives this same marriage date. 

Got any ideas of who this Elizabeth Pryor might be?

Another Query About Nathaniel Miguel Pryor

Can you believe it… another question about the legacy of Nathaniel Pryor! I got to while away a lazy weekend pondering a question about the parentage of Nathaniel “Miguel” Pryor born 1805 and lived in Los Angeles, CA. I was asked if this Nathaniel Pryor was born in Louisiana instead of KY and that his father was Daniel Pryor, perhaps a brother of the Nathaniel Pryor of Lewis and Clark fame.

Nathaniel Miguel Pryor’s death was listed by Mrs. Joseph M. Northrop and published by The Historical Society of Southern California in 1961. These death records are those enumerated on the 1850 Death Schedule as part of the 1850 Census. It states Miguel was age 45, a silversmith, born in Louisiana, and had suffered epileptic fits for a year prior to his death. The thing that caught my attention was the parenthesis in the listing; they separate comments from the actual death information enumerated on the schedule: “(According to the marriage record he was called Nathaniel Prior, married last to Maria Paula Romero, born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Daniel Pryor and Mary Davis. Buried May 11, 1850, at the age of 50 years)”. These comments were added by Mrs. Northrop. 

The comments on the extraction of the Death Schedule are partially correct. They refer to the Catholic church record of Nathaniel’s marriage. I was able to see digital records of the old Los Angeles church and San Gabriel Mission which are available through the Huntington Library website. I’m pretty sure these are what Thomas Fiske accessed too when he wrote his article about Nathaniel Miguel Pryor (Last Man Standing). You too can login to view the old California records at — it’s free.

I also searched for Nathaniel’s death or burial record, but I didn’t see any for the church in Los Angeles nor the mission in San Gabriel for that year– maybe I’m missing something in my search or the records for that year did not survive in the those churches. Mrs. Northrop references Nathaniel Miguel Pryor marriage record, however (and this is kind of obvious) the burial date is not on the marriage record, so I have to question her source for the burial date.

I’ve added excerpts of these records to the TN Pryors website.

While obits are great resources they are usually written by someone other than the deceased and can be a couple generations further out from the source. The obit for Ellen Pryor Rojas 1919-2006 states she was the great-great granddaughter of “Nathaniel Pryor, (nephew of Nathaniel Pryor, one of four sergeants for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804.” I know I’m a skeptic and am a stickler for proof, but that’s the best way of advancing the search for our Pryor connections. There’s no indication in the obituary where the information comes from that Nathaniel was a “nephew” of the famed Pryor. I believe the researcher who contacted me was speculating that Nathaniel Miguel was the son of a Daniel Pryor because Nathaniel Miguel Pryor’s marriage record has been read “Dataniel Praya” for his father’s name.

My interpretation of the records?

I suspect the 1836 baptism is correct. I believe Nathaniel Miguel Pryor was born in Louisville, not Louisiana as stated on the Death Schedule.  The Spanish-speaking priest had to really sweat over how to spell the name of the town on the marriage record! I think Thomas Fiske also points out that issue in his article on Nathaniel Pryor. The Louisiana Territory existed from 1805-1812; perhaps Nathaniel Miguel Pryor lived in the Louisiana Territory during his youth which was remembered when someone told the census enumerator he was born in Louisana.

I also think that Nathaniel was born in 1805 or very close to that year. It’s the year of birth he gave on his baptism in 1836. When he died in 1850 someone must have been pretty sure of his age because they gave an age to the enumerator that jives with the birth year derrived from the 1836 record. I wish more of my kin had ages that were that close from record to record!

I’m still siding with Thomas Fiske and believe still that Nathaniel was the son of the Lewis and Clark Explorer.