Pryor Brothers: Thornton and Samuel

Race Horses Crash Fence

I know… there are alot of Thornton and Samuel Pryors, so I should clarify which brothers.  Thornton born about 1781 and Samuel born between 1760 – 1785 were the sons of Joseph Pryor of Botetourt County, VA and his wife Mary Flemming. They were grandsons of Col. Samuel Pryor and Prudence Thornton.

Recently I spent some time searching and reading through Revolutionary War Pension applications. I didn’t find on filed for Joseph Pryor, however I found that serveral men who had filed for pensions claimed to have served under Capt. Joseph Pryor of Botetourt County. I’ve posted quotes that contain information of where they marched and fought while in his companty (read more).  The last record I found of Joseph Pryor in Virginia was when he sold 3 slaves in 1800. He was recorded that same year in Woodford County, KY.

Based upon the date  of his will, Joseph Pryor died in Bourbon County around 1813. His sons Samuel and Thornton were named in his will.  I’ve found traces of Samuel and Thornton in Tennessee and beyond, slowly piecing together their family trees.

I suspect that Samuel and Thornton traveled to Tennessee as part of their ventures in breading thrououghbread horses. In 1806 there was unclaimed mail for Samuel Pryor and Thornton Pryor at the Nashville Post Office. I found in “The Papers of Henry Clay” (yes, the same Henry Clay who was a politician and a statesman!) “Thornton was the brother of Samuel Pryor, trainer and part owner of the horse, Truxton, which raced under Andrew Jackson’s colors.” And, yes indeed this was the same Jackson who became the hero of New Orleans in the War of 1812, later the seventh president of the United States and the guy on the twenty dollar bill. I did some more searching to when General Andrew Jackson owned Truxton and found a 1832 statement that claimed Truxton was sold to Jackson twenty-five years earlier; in about 1807, by “Samuel Pryor of Kentucky.”

It’s facinating how it all comes together! Gen. Jackson was from Middle Tennessee. 1807 is about the time letters were held in Nashville for Thornton and Samuel.  In 1814 Thornton Pryor was accused in an assault case in Robertson County, TN;  I suspect this is the same Thornton Pryor.

The last known records I’ve found of Thornton Pryor was the petition he filed in 1828 concering his father’s estate and then the 1830 Census in Owen Co., KY.

I suspect that Samuel Pryor, the one who sold Truxton to Jackson, is the Samuel Pryor counted on the 1830 Census in Montgomery County, TN. In 1830 this Samuel was 50 to 59 years old (born between 1771-1780) which makes him the right age to be a son Joseph and Mary Pryor.

The Samuel in Montgomery County had only one known child, although there were several younger peopel recorded in his household on the 1830 census. Samuel’s known child was Edward L. Pryor who married Martha A Ryburn and then in 1845 he settled in Hemstead County, AR.  When Edward arrived in Arkansas there was already a Richard Pryor born in Virginia and living in Hempstead County.   Both men appear to have been literate and prominent in the county: Richard was a postmaster and Edward L. a census taker.  Richard Pryor was the trustee of the Spring Hill Male Academy. I haven’t ruled out that Richard and Edward were brothers, however there was only one male 20-29 years old in Samuel’s house in 1830 and that was most likely Edward L.

If you’ve been reasearching this line, please share by commenting!


American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, Volume 4 by J S Skinner, publ.  September 1832.

The American Race Turf Register, Sportsman’s Herald and General… by Patrick Nisbett Edgar of Granville County, NC in 1833

Making the American Thoroughbred: Especially in Tennessee, 1800-1845, by James Douglas Anderson, Balie Peyton