David Ross and the Pryors – Part 4 (Sullivan County, TN)

Back to what I’ve found on David Ross. There’s a David Ross and a John Pryor mentioned as neighbors in Sullivan County, TN.

1787, John PRYOR was living on land James Gaines had sold to James Anderson in 1780. “The large Cloud plantation adjoined the John Pryor plantation, and land owned by David Ross opposite the mouth of the North Fork Holston River. Together these plantations covered today’s Ridgefields area. The Clouds and Pryors, in addition to managing their plantations, worked as flatboard builders and boatmen. and both…”

We know the John Pryor in Sullivan County was born in 1757 because he lived to be counted on the 1850 Census. In 1850 he was quite elderly, living with his son, and his place of birth was recorded as England. The same son he lived with in 1850 lived to 1880 and stated on that census that his father was born in England. Like all things “Pryor” I take John’s place of birth with a smidgen of skepticism.

The David Ross I’ve followed through my searches died in Virginia in 1817/19 and I can’t find anything of him being in Tennessee. David Ross of VA had a son named David who lived to 1857, but that David is on the 1850 Census in Shenandoah Co., VA, not in Tennessee. So, I was ready to write-off this Sullivan County connection as just a coincidence.

Not so fast.

In 1927 the history of Rotherwood Mansion in Kingsport was printed in the Kingsport Times-News (read Famous Rotherwood Is Veiled In Romantic History (Wayback Machine link)). There is a brief history of Frederick Augustus Ross who happens to be the son of David Ross — yes, the same David Ross who keeps popping up with the Virginia Pryors. (Frederick was also mentioned in the Fluvanna deed in my last post- see post)

In the spring of 1818, his father having died in the previous year, 1817, Mr. Ross made his first visit to the large landed estate left to him in Sullivan and Hawkins counties, East Tennessee. There on the North Fork of the Holston, he built “Rotherwood.”

It sounds like his father is the David Ross in Sullivan County who died and left him the land. Once you know who David Ross of VA was then there are several clues on discoverkingsport.com/searchmap/spoden.shtml which help to confirm his identity and what he was doing in Tennessee. He probably wasn’t there himself, but he had his businesses in Sullivan County.

  • 1789, David Ross’ Log Agency and Tavern was occupied and operated by Ross’ agents (Capt. John Hunt by 1792; Thomas Hopkins by 1811; Perley Fairbanks by 1816, among others).
  • 1792, George Roulstone, offered a handsome reward for his high spirited brown mare, lost near Ross Ironworks. (David Ross made his fortune in the Revolution with his foundries in VA and NC.  TN was part of NC until 1796).
  • 1793, David Ross purchased 5 acres of King’s iron bank.
  • 1790, David Ross’ Iron Forge was operated by his agents.
  • 1818, F. A. Ross settled on land inherited from his father (David Ross) and built the first bridge (ruins SS) over North Fork Holston River.

OK, we’ve got David Ross figured out but who’s the John Pryor in Sullivan County? Is it Major John Pryor of Richmond? — Nope, he died in 1823. Is he John Pryor who married Mary Dennis?– Nope, he died in 1785. Is he the John Pryor of Campbell County whose sons John and William settled his property in 1812? — Nope, he was deceased. The list of who he ISN’T seems rather long.

Was John in Sullivan County really from England or are we still missing some Virginia Pryors from the family tree?