Christopher J D Pryor of Hampton’s Syms-Eaton Academy

It’s always funny how little parts of the Pryor mysteries get solved. A while ago I was researching Christopher J D Pryor born 1800 in Charles City, VA. He was an educator– a graduate of William and Mary College, he enjoyed a long teaching career, even serving as the president of Greensboro Female Academy after migrating to Alabama. In my research I found he was appointed the guardian of an orphan named Thomas Allen in 1839 and later was made the guardian of Mary Eliza Allen in 1842. Who were these Allen children and what was their relationshipt to the Pryors?

I found an article1 posted online that explained C J D Pryor was a teacher at the distinguished Syms-Eaton Acadamy in Hampton, VA. This school was established in 1634 and is noted as the first free public school in America. The article describes how in the mid 1800’s the school was embroiled in a controvery:

… And by 1830, residents of the county were complaining that their children living too far outside Hampton to attend the Academy. This was a complete turn-about from the sentiments expressed in 1803 and petitions were again presented asking that “two or more schools be established in the county.

The article goes on to explain C J D Pryor, while a school master, became involved in the controversy, resulting in the murder of one of his supporters, a Thomas Allen:

Hampton Academy, however, enjoyed full use of the Syms and Eaton funds and the Academy trustees were reluctant to endorse new schools which might demand a share of the money. Many meeetings were called and feelings ran high for several years. Indeed, tempers were so frayed that Christopher Pryor, the Academy schoolmaaster, attacked a supporter of the county schools, Dr. Richard Banks “with horse whip and pistol”. Pryor was dismissed from his post but ill-feeling lingered over his dismissal and on July 4, 1837 the expected explosion occured with Major Cooper, who had replaced Pryor, shot and killed one Thomas Allen, a supporter of the ousted schoolmaster.

Another facinating Pryor story!
1 Article published by Syms – Eaton Museum, 416 W Mercury Blvd, Hampton VA 23669