Revolutionary War Patriot “John Prior”… Who Went By Another Name

I go back through and check Pryors in different ways. This week it was looking at some of the Revolutionary War pensioners. The first I’m posting about is John Prior of Burke county, GA.

John Prior applied for a Revolutionary War pension on September 30, 1820. He was a resident of Burke county. Unlike many of the volunteer troops during the war, Prior served A LONG TIME. He stated he volunteered in 1775 in the 12th Virginia (this was a regiment that formed in Williamsburg). And didn’t leave service until after he was captured by the British and then released in 1781. That’s about six years of service.

He stated he served in the 12th Regiment that was later merged into the 8th Regiment from Virginia under Colonel Wood and Captain Swearingen. He stated he was captured by the British and released in Charleston, SC in 1781– Wikipedia article states most of the 8th Regiment was captured in Charleston in April 1780.

The FindAGrave.com memorial for Capt. Joseph Van Swearingen is interesting because it corroborates Prior’s statement. Apparently Swearingen was also captured at Charleston.

On ancestry.com I was able to locate the regimental records for the 8th Virginia under the command of Swearingen. There was only one Prior serving… JACOB Prior, beginning to appear in records in 1775 through 1779. On every single record he was recorded as Jacob, although the spelling of the surname changes from various spellings such as Prier, Prior, and Pryor.

There was a Jacob Prior from Prior Mills, NJ. He died between 1824-1826 in probably NJ. He was described as an “old” resident. His will was made after 1823 when the John Prior died in GA.

The use of two names raises all kinds of questions. Did Jacob use the name John before his service in the Revolution?

His family is also a bit of a riddle. He states he had a family of a boy of about 14 years old and two girls. He doesn’t state if they were his children, grandchildren or some other relationship. There’s no mention of a living wife.

Was he born about 1760 or earlier?

Where was he between 1781 when he was released by the British and his 1820 application? There are so many possibilities of who this John Prior may have been– from Virginia, from another colony, a recent immigrant who wanted anglicized his name Jacob to John.

If John/Jacob Prior was in Burke County up to his death in 1823 then surely he must be on the 1820 Census. I’m not really sure how much of the census is accurately indexed when so much of it is unreadable black blobs (see above example). Go to FamilySearch.og because the census is easier to read. Sorry, no John Prior found.

There’s another document for this John Prior on Fold3.com. It’s in the Georgia Final Payment Vouchers.

State of Georgia, Chatham County
…The said John Prior being by me duly sworn, saith, soldier in the Army of the Revolution in Captain Sweringham’s Company of Infantry of Colonel Wood’s regiment; that he now resides in the County of Burke and has resided there for twentyfive years past; previously to which he resided in Charleston in the sate South Carolina.
John [his mark] Prior

The Fold3 file is also worth a read because it contains a follow up letter dated 12 August 1822 in which Prior asked for a speedy decision. He mentions that his application was mailed with the application of Jesse Farrow. There’s another document dated 25 April 1822 stating John Prior appeared in front of Judge Jno. H. Montgomery to swear to the statements in his application. At the bottom of this document it states that Jesse Farrow swore in open court that he knew John Prior during the war and was at the Battle of Brandywine.

I took the trip down the rabbit hole… when was the Battle of Brandywine? September 11, 1777. So was Farrow in Prior’s regiment during that month? Prior was on the roster for August and September, but no Farrow. Farrow’s application states he served through South Carolina and there’s no mention of the Battle of Brandywine. Was Farrow’s statement just doing a friend a “solid” or did these men actually know each other during the war? Like Prior, Farrow stated he was taken prisoner by the British at the fall of Charleston, so perhaps the men met in captivity.

Wow. He made his application in Burke county, had some kind of tie to Chatham county (or traveled the 100 miles to this other county!) and lived in Charleston, SC perhaps between 1781 and about 1798 when he arrived in Georgia. That means he could be one of the two John Priors in Charleston on the 1790 Census. I haven’t found any other record of this John Prior in Chatham county.

This doesn’t get any easier to figure out. There was a John Pryor who died intestate in Chatham county in 1790 (before this John arrived and before this John died in 1823). So not the same man, but yet another John Pryor.

I’m wondering. I checked the list of patriots on the DAR website and this John Prior is indexed. I’m wondering why he’s listed as John Prior and not Jacob Prior or under both names.

I love this kind of stuff! I hate this kind of stuff! It’s what makes sorting out the John Pryors so darned difficult!