Category Archives: California Pryors

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.

Old and Young Nathaniel Pryor, Settlers of the Old West and New California

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While there are no links to our Tennessee Pryors, a post on the Ancestry Pryor Mailing List gave me a glimmer of hope in my own search. The Post is from researcher and author Tom Fiske who has been dilligently digging out the connection between Nathaniel Pryor of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the younger Nathaniel Pryor who settled in Los Angeles, Mexico (Yes, Mexico… he arrived before it became California and part of the United States). Read Post

I know I’m not the only one who has been frustrated by a “road block” in my Pryor family research. It’s a pleasure to learn about a Pryor line that like mine came from Virginia, into the frontier (Nathaniel was in Kentucky, while my Pryors went to Tennessee) and then beyond into Indian Territory.  My own genealogy search seems a little more hopeful when you seen that there is still more information to turn over.

I’ve posted census extracts of many of the Pryors in California on the Tennessee Pryor Website. Since I love to see pictures, I’m posting below links to terrific old photos and other information that gives life to the Pryors in California.

PHOTO: Pablo “Paul” Pryor adobe in what is now San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.

MAP: Aerial view of Pryor Adobe on  MS Live Search Maps

PHOTO: Former home of Albert Pryor in San Juan Capistrano

PHOTO: Miguel Pryor and wife Rosa Sepulveda Pryor

PHOTO: Teresa Pryor Yorba

PHOTO: Albert Pryor

PHOTO: Soledad Pryor Landell

PAINTING: Nathaniel Pryor with Sam Houston

COPY: Record of Nathaniel Pryor’s Marriage to Peggy Patton

Newsletter #11

RICHARD & MOURNING PRYOR…I heard from Bill Lindsey, a decendant of Richard Pryor’s son Joseph.  Bill was able to provide much needed documentation of this line. Lots of updates have been added to the Richard and Mourning Pryor pages in the Pryor HISTORIES section of the website!


Who was JOHN PRYOR born 1810 in MO?  John Pryor and wife Martha “Patsy” were on the 1860 Census in Gasconade Co. and in 1870 in Maries Co.  This line of Pryors married in to the Helton family: John’s daughter Charlotte married John Helton and possibly another daughter, Louisa Jane, married Crismon Helton.  In 1850 both Louisa Jane and Crismon Helton were single and living in the household of John J. Hughes. It’s possible that Louisa was some other kinship in that her daughter Mahala Helton married James S. Pryor, a son of John and Patsy Pryor.


ANDREW JACKSON CONNECTION? A new theme appeared this month in the search for the TN Pryors…connections to President Andrew Jackson!  Andrew Jackson was involved in negotiating the sale of land from Norton Pryor to Bedford Co., TN.  Nathaniel Pryor, member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, had served with Andrew Jackson in the 44th Infantry during the War of 1812.


STAGE COACH DRIVER’S PLAQUE… Found a website with photo of a 1931 bronze plaque dedicated to stage coach drivers. Named on the list of drivers was an Alfred L. Pryor.  Any ideas which line of Pryors this Alfred is kin to?


Glen Pryor is searching for the parents of MATTHEW J. PRYOR, the patriarch of the Marion County, TN Pryors. Does anyone have any source documentation of this line? The second-hand accounts are proving to be flawed.  Glen reports that the book “21 Southern Families” states that Matthew Pryor was the son of Green Pryor, but offers no source information.  Genealogies in report that Green Pryor was born 1745 which would make him too young to be the father of Matthew born in 1759. Any ideas that will help solve this line?