Category Archives: In Context of History

Humorous Census Record

loafer I was looking for Gideon Martin who was on a record with a John Pryor in Virginia in the 1700’s. I naturally went to an Gideon Martin on a later census records. I don’t know if this guy matches the one I’m looking for but the census record is priceless! Lebus L. Martin’s occupation is recorded as “loafer.” Why didn’t I think of that when completing the 2010 census? [1870 Census, Fairfield County, OH]

Nathaniel Pryor Reported Dead in 1812

fortA 1919 article on Nathaniel Pryor in published in the The American Historical Review stating that the “myth-making process has already began…[he was] to be transformed into a personality in every way foreign to the man that he was.” I don’t think the myth-making started in 1919. I think it started with their return from the west in 1806. These guys were as famous as astronauts who had gone to the moon!

For example, on 12 February 1812 the Torch Light Advertiser in Hagerstown, MD published a report that a letter dated 5 February sent to a member of Congress. It stated that the Cherokees had run in to Osage territory and killed white traders, including Nathaniel Pryor. Yes, it specifically stated his name and that he had been on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Another report on 12 March 1812 in the Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) reported that Gen. William Clark had written to his brother in Louisville, KY that there had been an indian raid on the Illinois river and that Nathaniel Pryor had been killed.

This seems to be an erroneous report because Pryor lived into the early 1830’s, however it’s interesting that his connection to the Lewis and Clark expedition was newsworthy even just six years after their return (read about their return in Smithsonian). I think we look at Lewis and Clark as historical figures and not with the same excitement their contemporaries had for their achievement– They had gone head-long into the wilderness, beyond where most of the population dwelled in the original 13 colonies. The members of the Lewis and Clark expedition were the astronauts of their time– maybe akin to Columbus in the eyes of their contemporaries.

How famous were the members of the expedition? Well, Nathaniel Pryor was famous enough to have a “Paul Is dead” story (remember those Beatles rumors?) published about  him. Was he famous enough for a Six Degree of Separation story? Remember that movie where an impostor shows up on a family’s doorstep. In the movie Will Smith’s character claimed to be Sidney Poitier’s son. Every once in a while I consider the Miguel Pryor who showed up in California in the 1820’s and wonder if he was pulling one over on the whole pueblo.

Clifton O. Pryor Buried in Overton County, TN


I recently received a link to the casualties of the Detroit Riots in the 1960’s from a family history researcher. They had stumbled upon a Tennessee Pryor and thought he may be one of our TN Pryors.  He’s listed on the Rutgers University website as Clifton Pryor, a white male from Tennessee. http://www.67riots.rutgers.edu/d_victims.htm.

This poor guy was working in Detroit when he was mistaken for a sniper and shot by the National Guard. I found that he’s buried in Overton County in the Stover Cemetery. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56850519

I don’t have the families of Overton County Pryors researched into the 60’s. Does anyone know which line of the Pryors he was related to? Was he buried in Overton County or related to a family in Overton County?

If you want to read more about this event Google “Clifton pryor sniper.”

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.

Did you catch the Pryor name on Antiques Roadshow tonight?

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A woman on the Antiques Roadshow from El Paso brought in the will of Texas patriot Ben R. Milam. She said she recovered the will from a stack of papers that were about to be burned to make way for new records at the old Nacogdoches Court House. That story got my attention. Makes my stomach sick to think of what records have been destroyed.

BUT… I wouldn’t be writing about this unless there was a Pryor mentioned on the will. Milam named Richard Pryor as one of the executors of his will.

Which Richard Pryor do we think this is?????