Category Archives: In Context of History

1819: Captain Prior Quarantined


Well, while we are all social distancing and spending more time at home, seems fitting to find a Prior who had to endure quarantine in the early 1800’s.

BOSTON, March 27.–Came from quarantine, sch’r Elizabeth & Mary Prior, 182 from Rotterdam, viz Martinique, 33 days where she put in a distress Capt. Prior having had the small pox on the passage, has been landed on the island–he is fast recovering.
The Charleston Daily Courier, 9 April 1819

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Prieur The French Spelling of Pryor

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french-artIn a recent post I referred to a letter from a mid-western tribe to Captain Abner Prior [see post]– it was written in French to Prieur, not Prior. The French established trading posts, engaged in the French-Indian War with the British in the 1750’s, and influenced the language of the Louisiana Territory. It wasn’t until 1803 that the French sold the territory to the United States. When Jefferson sent out the Lewis and Clark Expedition their adopted guide was Sakajawea who was married to Charbonneau. The story goes that when explorer Nathaniel Pryor married an Osage woman her name may have been Angelique. Sounds French to me!

Now I wonder about the other Prieur names in Missouri, Ohio, etc. Who are these men who used the French spelling Prieur?

In 1850 there’s a John Prieur age 58 living in St. Charles, MO. His wife was Julia and their daughter was Angelic (Angelique?). He stated his birth place was OH. On the next line is Francis A. Prieur age 65, born about 1785 in France (the French Revolution started in 1789). Other names surrounding them on the census appear to be of French origin.

There are several families with the Prieur surname living in Louisiana. Only two, Denis Prieur and Alexandre Prieur, were born in LA before the sale of the Louisiana Territory to the US.

The Prieur surname also shows up in Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont– states that are close to the Canadian border. Perhaps these were French Canadian immigrants.  I remember an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (see episode) where actress Rachel McAdams learned her family tree included British loyalists who fled the American colonies for Canada during the Revolutionary War. Yup, immigration isn’t just crossing the Atlantic and moving westward– it goes all different directions!



John Polk Pryor Newspaper Editor

eagleSeveral years ago I wrote about John Polk Pryor‘s Bible (  I spotted his obituary on, so sharing it.

Colonel John Polk Pryor died at Frankfort, KY Friday. He was a near relative of President Polk, and before the war edited The Eagle and Enquirer at Memphis. He was in Forrest’s command in the Confederate army, and wrote “The Life of Forrest.” He had been in Frankfort twenty years as a newspaper writer.
The Evening Bulletin (Maysville, KY. July 20, 1891)

From Memphis in 1865, John Polk Pryor wrote of Confederate President Jefferson Davis just months after the end of the Civil War. It was re-published in a Northern newspaper: read article

John Polk Pryor published in Memphis under the name J. P. Pryor. I had some fun searching for what  he wrote and his activities. He was an interesting, politically active kind of guy.

A stand had been erected outside in front of Exchange Building, fronting the river, whither the crowd repaired, and were address by Judge Brown, E. M. Yerger, Esq., Cols. J.P. Pryor and A. H. Douglas, and other sin eulogistic speches in favor or Douglas and Johnson.

It will be observed that theree out of the four speakers, viz: Messrs. yerger, Pryor and Douglas are but recent converts from Federal Know Nothingism, the two latter never having voted for a Democratic candidate for the Presidency in their lives. The idea of such men counselling and leading the Democracy in an emergency like the present is as ludicrous as it is absurd.
Fayetteville Observer (TN), July 19, 1860

The event referenced was a political speech regarding the presidential race. Lincoln was running against Stephen Douglas and Hershel Johnson was Douglas’ running mate (see a campaign button). It sounds like John Polk Pryor was a Douglas supporter.

Matthew Pryor – Letters to England

Elizabeth Pryor Harper included in her book Twenty-one southern families: Notes and Genealogies the following record that includes a Matthew Pryor as a signer of a British document:

To ye Sheriffs of Middlesex Cy his Deputy– In 1672 and 1673 Gov. Andrus ordered services for the purpose named his proclamation…In 1702 British victories were cause for Thanksgiving…Whitehall Nov. ye 11th 1702. We send you enclosed Her Magisty’s proclamation directing a publick thanksgiving throughout England for the great successes of her Ma’tys arms by sea and land and we do hereby signify–likewise solemnize throughout Virginia and throughout all her plantations in America…Yo’r very loving friends–Robert Cecil, Ph. Meadows, Wm. Blathwayt, John Pollexfen, Mat. Prior.

Hmmm. It sounds like a royal proclamation ordering a holiday to celebrate a British victory. At the time (1672) England was involved in the Anglo-Dutch War (see Wikipedia).

The order to celebrate went out to the colony of Virginia. However, I’m finding no evidence that the men who signed the order lived in Virginia. They were members of the British parliament and lived in England.

John Pollexfen (1636-1715). He was a Member of Parliament involved in the passage of the Tobaccco Act and also a merchant connected with the East India Trade Company.

William Blathwayt (1649-1717). He was a big player in the British government’s organization of trade with the American colonies.

Matthew Prior, from several online sources, was a boy born to simple means (his father was a joiner or carpenter) who on his scholastic merit had an “ivy-league” education. He became a poet and a member of Parliament.

Maybe when the Pryors can get back further in their family trees they’ll re-discover this Pryor on the other side of the the pond.

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California Chrome Pedigree Part of the Pryor Racing Heritage

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Has the hype surrounding the beautiful thorough bread, California Chrome, got you counting the days to the Belmont Steaks? It should be tickling your genealogy bone too because California Chrome pedigree can be traced right back to the Virginia Pryors who were involved in breeding and training.

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