Tag Archives: Arthur Pryor

Another Musical Pryor

Civil War Coronet and Saxohorns - Gettysburg Visitor's Center
Civil War Coronet and Saxohorns – Gettysburg Visitor’s Center

Several years ago I wrote about the Pryors who I’ve seen recorded as musicians [A Musician In Your Family Tree?]. And of course trombonist Arthur Pryor (from a NC Pryor line). There were sure a lot of Pryors who were farmers, so it’s kind of interesting to find a few with other talents. I spotted another musical Pryor, so passing it along.  Henry Prior born 1825 in NY, the son of an Oliver Prior from CT, was recorded in Oneida County, NY in 1850 as “musical instruments.” Not sure if this meant that he made them, sold them, or played them.

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Pryors from Guilford County, NC – Connections to IN and TN and MO

I heard from a researcher who is descended from some of the Pryors from Guilford County, NC who made their way to Dickson County, TN. They have a family story penned by a relative long ago.  It’s a lovely, romantic tale of siblings Tommy Pryor (or Thomas) and his sister Elizabeth who traveled to see another sister named Sinnie who was married and living in Guilford County.  The tale is unclear where the Pryors were traveling from. Elizabeth met and married George Waynick (there are multiple variations of the spelling)– and settled in Guilford County. We know George and Elizabeth “Betsy” married around 1814 (around the time their first child was born) which helps to date the story.

But I take these stories with a hefty dose of skepticism. Do any of the facts match the records? Do any of the facts help to explain the paper records? Well, in this case there’s a little of both.

Part of the story is that on this same trip, brother Tommy Pryor met a beautiful farmer’s daughter and married her shortly thereafter. This is probably an embellishment because there is a marriage record for Thomas Pryor who married Elizabeth Gerringer on December 8, 1820 in Guilford County.

The researcher suspects that these Pryor siblings were related to Denard Pryor (grandfather of famed trombonist Arthur Pryor) and Alson Pryor who were orphans and apprenticed to Andrew Waggonman/Waggoner in Guilford County in 1820. It’s not just a hunch based on the surnames showing up in the same locale — Betsy Pryor Waynick named a son Denard.

Thomas and Denard have a connection. There is a Thomas Pryor and Denard Pryor on the 1840 Census in Clay County, MO. Thomas had died before the 1850 Census and Thomas’ widow was Elizabeth later recorded in Lawrence County, MO.

I decided to play a hunch. What if apprentice-master Andrew Waggonman/Waggoner was not just a master, but a relative? I found an Andrew Waggonman/Waggoner b. 1780 who is ID’d in several family trees as from Guilford County, NC. On the 1850 Census his wife was ID’d as Sinni b. 1789 in NC:

1850 Census – Michigan Twp., Clinton County, Indiana
House 15/15 Samuel Waggoner 27 NC, Malinda 22 IA, David J 5 IA, Andrew V 2 IA, Mary A 4/12 IA.
House 17/17 Andrew Waggoner 70 farmer NC, Sinni 61 NC, Samuel 3 IA, John Burket 11 IA

andrew-waggoner-denard-pryorSinnie in these Family Trees is recorded as Cynthiann Thomas. Does that crush the idea that she may be Sinnie Pryor? Not yet because the family trees are unsourced.  Looks like more homework is needed to figure out if she’s a Pryor or a Thomas, or if she was a Pryor who had married a Thomas. Any Waggonmans out there who want to offer a source for Sinnie’s surname?

Find A Grave has memorials for both Andrew and Sinnie. Sinnie’s doesn’t contain a photo and the birth year is 10 years earlier than the age reported on the 1850 Census, so approach with caution:

S. Waggonman:


The story of the Pryor siblings gave an account that George Waynick and family had stayed in Indiana to grow one crop before moving into TN, so perhaps the Waynicks and Waggonmans both went to IN from NC.

If indeed Sinnie, Tommy, and Betsy are related to Denard and Alson, then we may also know the identity of Tommy.  Denard only shows up on one census records and it’s on the same page in Clay County, MO with Thomas Pryor b. 1791-1800. Thomas’ wife was recorded as Elizabeth and their first known child was David Josiah b. 1825 in NC –  could Thomas be the same man who married Betsy Geringer on 8 Dec 1820 in Guilford County with bondsman Samuel Pryor?

There’s a Guilford County marriage on https://ncgenweb.us :
Andrew Gerinor [Gerringer] + Elisabeth Wyrick ~ 16 Feb 1803 bond ~ Andrew Waggonman [Waggoner]

This marriage brings together the Gerringer, Wyrick, and Waggonman surnames. That certainly helps to tie together the story, the surnames and the Pryors.


Trailing Trombonist Arthur Pryor

Recently I was contacted by DJ and music historian David Richoux who is trying to determine if Arthur Pryor was of African American descent.  He cites the book Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance By Jacqui Malone Published by University of Illinois Press, 1996 ISBN 0252065085, 9780252065088.  “Arthur Pryor, an African American alumnus of the Sousa band, formed a group of his own that featured, as part of its repertoire, ragtime works…” (Page 137).  Ms Malone is an author and currently a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard.  I’ve attempted to contact her through the fellowship program to obtain her source information. I’ve not had a response.

Richoux provided quotes from two books he found online. First,  Vaudeville, Old & New by Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman, Donald McNeilly. Published by Routledge, 2007. On page 503, there is an account of the family history of Winnie Hamlet Hennings: “[Hennings] was one of four children born to Mary Baker Hamlet and Charles Hamlet… Winnie’s cousin was bandmaster Arthur Pryor, son of musician Sam Pryor whom Winnie studied music.”

Another reference provides more background information of where Samuel Pryor (Arthur’s father) lived and traveled, perhaps explaining his absence from the 1850 and 1860 Census in Missouri. Page 671 of the Dietetic and Hygienic Gazette, published in 1902, recounts Samuel Pryor on his death bed revived by music played by his sons. “Arthur W. Pryor the trombone soloist now playing with Sousa’s Band, is the son of the old bandmaster of St. Joseph. Young Pryor first made a favorable impression on General John A. Logan at a reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic1 in Denver when he was a mere boy…”  It also states “Twenty-five years ago the elder Pryor toured the country with a band composed of young women, and his wife played the trombone. She was famous then as a soloist, and her talent in that particular line was transmitted to her son.” The article also mentions “An adopted son, “Harry” Montgomery, known as “Harry” Pryor.” It also places Samuel Pryor working in Denver, CO at one point: “The elder Pryor was at one time an actor, going on the stage in Denver as a comedian.”

I found a “treatise” online written by Joseph William Frye for his Doctor of Music degree in 2008: A Biographical Study of the Trombone Soloists of the John Philip Sousa Band: 1892-1931. Some background of Samuel Pryor is given, “His father, Samuel, was a bandmaster who had previously studied music in Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri. Earlier in his career, Samuel served for three years as music director at the Lincoln Opera House in Lincoln, Nebraska… After leaving the Lincoln Opera House, Samuel Pryor became a bandmaster in St. Joseph and in 1869 organized an ensemble he called Pryor’s Military Band.”  The band was named The Fourth Regiment Band of Missouri and sent to serve in the Spanish American War (about 1898).

I’ve been searching records trying to find support of this new information.

I searched Winnie Hamlet Hennings family on both parents’ sides to 1860. If anyone is related to her and would like these notes, I’ll be happy to pass them along. Unfortunately there is not a Pryor or a Pryor marriage amongst the lot. I’m wondering if Winnie embellished her relationship with her teacher by claiming they were related.

I’d like to find out more about Samuel Pryor’s life in Nebraska, as I’ve Googled him and the Lincoln Opera House and the only reference to this connection is the treatise noted above.  If there is a connection between Winnie Hamlet and the Pryors it may be in Nebraska since her family lived in that state before returning to Washington Twp. in St. Joseph, MO between 1900-1910.

Arthur Pryor’s older brother was named Walter, could he have been named for a long forgotten name associated with his father? I became intrigued with a Walter Pryor who was living in Ohio in the early 1800’s. In 1860 there is a Samuel Pryor in Wyandot Co., OH who is about the age of Arthur’s father. He was living in the Walter Pryor household, but then he’s not there in 1850 or in 1870. I’d like to hear from anyone who has traced this family. Could the line of Samuel Pryor be hard to trace because he was an orphan living in Walter’s household, or possibly not a Pryor at all? Could Arthur’s father have not been from MO as stated in the Census records?

All ideas welcomed.

1 New York Times article dated July 14, 1883 describes the reunion of the GAR in Denver: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B00E4D81230E433A25756C1A9619C94629FD7CF