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Samuel Pryor, President Andrew Jackson, and a Horse Named Truxton

Samuel Pryor Race Horse Trainer

It’s been about 7 years since I wrote about Samuel Pryor and his brother Thornton Pryor and a race horse named Truxton (see https://tennesseepryors.com/pryor-brothers-thornton-and-samuel/) I’ve turned over some new information on this Samuel Pryor and hopefully it clarifies yet another Pryor who was in Tennessee.

Samuel Pryor appears in several contemporary newspapers in association with future President Andrew Jackson. Whether it was truly a military title or a title of respect, he is referred to as Capt. Pryor in some articles. Pryor was the trainer of Jackson’s race horse named Truxton.

(The Impartial Review and Cumberland Repository, Nashville, April 11, 1807)

A letter from Pryor to Jackson in early 1807 reveals some genealogy clues: Samuel Pryor offered greetings from his wife to Jackson’s wife. Samuel was married and she was alive in 1807. Pryor wrote at the top of the letter that he was in Woodford County, KY which would correspond with a Samuel Pryor recorded on that county’s tax list in 1800. The letter also offers a possible example of Pryor’s signature.

Woodford County Kentucky March the 5th 1807
Dr Sir
As I find it will be out of my power to be in Tennessee in time to prepare the horses for the spring races owing to my illness as I am now not able to [rouse?] my self in my bed without assistance nor have I been —-ly able since I was taken which was the first day of February as the manner in which I was taken with a violent puking and dysentery which weakened me so fast, took me of my feet immediately though I think I am now mending a little and am in hopes will be able to be down to the races but shall not be able to give you any assistance must request it as a favor of you to make provision for the people at the Jockey club races and prepare the nags and any part of the profits that you think equitable you shall have as your know General that if the place was not provided with proper accommodations it would loose its credit and would injure me very much must therefore request you to manage it just as your own and take what part you think right for trouble, I wish you to run the filly when and where you please and do with her just as your own believe me my General that as soon as I can get up and be at business I shall — my self to make you restitution and shall not think hard to make any sacrifice to comply with my contract with you. Present my most worshipful compliments to your Lady. Mrs. Pryor presents hers to your Lady. I am with respect. Your —
Saml Pryor
[The envelope states it was posted from Frankfort KY on March 13 to General Andrew Jackson in Tennessee near Nashville.]
Letter is from the Library of Congress website https://www.loc.gov/resource/maj.01007_0310_0312/?sp=1

Saml. Pryor (Samuel Pryor)

“In 1805 a friend of Jackson’s deprecated the manner in which Captain Joseph Erwin had handled a bet with Jackson over a horse race. Erwin’s horse, Ploughboy was scheduled to race Jackson’s horse, Truxton… Erwin’s son-in-law, Charles Dickinson became enraged and started quarreling with Jackson’s friend which led to Jackson becoming involved”…a duel ensued on May 30, 1806. Jackson was hit in the chest and Dickinson was killed. (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickinson_(historical_figure)

I had searched the National Archives website hoping to find another letter that was referred to in the press twenty years later (1827). I didn’t find the letter which would have been dated around 1806 (the time of the duel), so perhaps no letter existed and the 1827 article was meant damage the character of Jackson before his run for the presidency (he became president in 1829). Or perhaps the letter disappeared with Pryor’s effects since the letter was sent to him.

“Soon after the duel, Jackson wrote a letter to Sam. Pryor, a noted gamester, and a crony of the General, then residing in this state, giving him an account of it. In the letter the HERO expressed himself to this effect–‘I reserved my fire, and when I did shoot him, you may be assured I left the damned rascal weltering in his blood.” It is many years since our informant heard the letter read. But the expressions, he says, and we can believe it, made an impression upon his mind which time cannot obliterate while memory endures.”
National Standard, from Middlebury, VT, dated July 10, 1827… from the Richmond Whig (VA) on June 22, 1827

I have a few more bit of information on this Samuel Pryor for the next post.

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