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.