Tag Archives: California Pryors

Another Look at Nathaniel Miguel Pryor?

I was contacted by a descendant of Nathaniel Miguel Pryor, the immigrant to Los Angeles, CA. They obtained a photo from the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The man on the far right is identified as Nathaniel Pryor. We’ve gone back and forth via email attempting to determine the age of the photo and which Nathaniel Pryor is in the photo. Is this Nathaniel who was born about 1800 or his son Nathaniel who was born about 1847?

I’m willing to share what I have. Perhaps someone can help out with the dating.

The photo can also be viewed online at the Museum’s Seaver Center (see photo).

The photo has writing on it that gives a date of 1872. I looked up 1870’s men’s fashions online and stumbled upon a website that sells historical clothing (Historical Emporium) with a very cool photo of 5 men that looks very much like the clothing in the Seaver Center portrait. Even the long-heavy fringe on the chairs looks similar to the Seaver Center portrait.

On the Historical Emporium page it describes the fashion of the 1870’s as light colored trousers with an elegant jacket which again resembles them men in the Seaver Center portrait.

The men named with Pryor are Manny Aguilar, James Barton, Frank Mellus and Billy Lander. My brief research turned up men of similar names in Los Angeles who would fit this group if the photo was taken in about 1872.

In 1870 a 17 year old James Barton was recorded in El Monte, Los Angeles Co. Another 19 year old James Barton was recorded on the same census at St Vincent College. My bet is that the latter Barton is the one in the photo because he was recorded at the small school with students named Sepulveda and Yorba which are surnames that connect with the Pryors. Wikipedia states a James R Barton was the first sheriff of Los Angeles County. He died in 1856-1857.The younger Barton may be the man whose death was reported in the Los Angeles Herald on January 6, 1874

James Barton fell from a window in Cubery’s printing establishment, and received injuries that caused his death soon after.

A Francisco Mellus age 6/12 appears on the 1850 Census in the household of Francis Mellus age 30, a merchant from Massachusetts (he was also brother of Henry Mellus, mayor of Los Angeles in 1860). If you want to ponder whether the man in the Seaver image is the younger or older “Frank” Mellus there’s a portrait of Frank Mellus Sr born 1824 on Find A Grave (see portrait). An article in the Los Angeles Times on March 29, 1931 states the older Mellus traveled to CA around Cape Horn with the author Richard Henry Dana (Two Years Before the Mast).

James H Lander age 25, was also in the same household with Mellus in 1850. In 1853 this Lander Married Margareta Johnson at the San Gabriel Mission. Francis Mellus was married to Adelaida Johnson — were the Johnson women sisters? All these people were pretty tightly connected; after Francis died, Adelaida married his business partner David Alexander who was also the head of household in 1850. In 1860 James H Lander and wife Margarita were counted in Los Angeles with a 6 year old son named William. Interesting… Lander was working as a printer. In 1900 Lander was divorced and living in the household of Manuela Johnson Valpe (there’s that Johnson surname again!).

The 1870 has a James H Lander living in Los Angeles with a 16 year old son named William. If this is the same James H. Lander, his year of birth varies from the 1850 Census to the 1870 Census, however the latter census offers another clue. He was living with Charlotte Lander age 69, the “breadcrumb” trail on Ancestry leads to a marriage between a William Lander and Charlotte Holden in 1828. Could William Lander be the Billy Lander in the portrait? Several online family trees state that William died in New Orleans in 1833. Anyone got a source for his death?

We know that Nathaniel Miguel Pryor was probably deceased before the 1850 Census (he wasn’t on the census) so if he is indeed the man in the photo then it was taken in the late 1840’s up to 1850. This looks like a studio portrait (chairs and backdrop), but after going through the 1850 Census entries for Los Angeles County in 1850 I couldn’t find anyone who listed their occupation as photographer.

So I asked Google to ID the first photo of Los Angeles. It came back with an article on the local public broadcasting website (see article) that dates the earliest photo to the late 1850’s.

So who are the men in the Seaver Center Portrait?

Is is a portrait taken before 1850 of Nathaniel Miguel Pryor born about 1806,  Manny Aguilar, James Barton born about 1810 who served as sheriff of Los Angeles and died in 1856, Frank Mellus born 1824 in Massachusetts, and Billy Lander. 

Or are they the next generation of Pryor, Barton, Mellus, and Lander men born in the late 1840’s into the 1850’s?

Your thoughts?


Kathleen Pryor: Hollywood Secretary

kathleen pryor at hollywood studio

Kathleen Pryor was mentioned in the biography of Syd Chaplin, Charlie’s half brother written by Lisa K Stein. It was noted that she had studio records going back to 1918. She may not have been working there at that time because she would have been 12 years old in 1918.

1930 Census, Los Angeles, CA – Recorded living on 1211 N Ogden Dr.  Her occupation was listed as secretary at movie studio.

Surprisingly I found Ms. Pryor on The Swedish Film Institute website where she was recorded as the Production Secretary for The Great Dictator (1940) and Limelight (1952), both Chaplin films. It looks like she continued to work in the film industry and with Chaplin long after the 1925 photo above.

January 12, 1987 Death Record in Los Angeles, CA for a Kathleen Ruth Pryor, born in IL in 1906. Her mother’s maiden name was Luby. There’s a 1906 birth record in Cook County, IL for a Kathleen PRIOR born to Thomas Prior and Kitty Laby.

Mexican War: Don Miguel Pryor of Old California

Miguel Pryor (aka Nathaniel Pryor) is mentioned in an account of the defense of Los Angeles in 1846, during the Mexican War. I was surprised to see he played a part in the conflict, and also surprised to see that he was working on the side of Mexico, his new homeland.

In his absence (Governor Pio Pico) news reaching the latter place on the 21st. In his absence news reached Los Angeles that Castro was coming with a force to attach the place, and the citizens at a public meeting tendered their services to the ayuntamiento for defense. Three military companies were at once organized, the foreign residents joining them with alacrity. (see footnote)

Footnote: One artillery company under Michael Pryor, an American; another of riflemen under Benjamin D Wilson, also an american, and a third one of cavalry under Jorge Palomarel, a native Californian. (The Bay of San Francisco : The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and Its Suburban Cities : A History. Published by The Lewis Publishing Company, 1892. Page 132)

An article titled “Further from Mexico” was published in the Times Picayune (New Orleans) on January 6, 1847. It gave an account of the latest happenings of the war in California. It reported that the citizens of Los Angeles had met in September to toss out the American military who had positioned themselves in California during the war. Apparently things had escalated as 150 Americans had been killed. To stop the bloodshed both sides met to agree on conditions of a cease-fire. The Americans were represented by surgeon Edward Gilchrist and the Los Angelenos were represented by Miguel Prior.

I feel I must add my own note to this clipping. The “D” is an abbreviation for “Don”, a polite way of addressing someone of position in Spanish society.  Even the Americans in the article were addressed as “Don” or “Señor Don.”

An interesting turn around for this Pryor. He was arrested upon entering Alta California for being an American, married into the influential and well-heeled Sepulveda family, and within years was fighting for Los Angeles and representing Mexico in negotiations.

The Death of John Jackson and How A Pryor Relative Got His Money

lorene pryor

I saw this article in the Decatur Review from Decatur, IL published on February 12th 1917. It tells of a young girl named Lorene Pryor coming into an inheritance after she proved she was the grand-daughter of John Jackson, a hermit who had stashed away a small fortune.

I found Lorene Pryor on the 1910 Census in Quincy, Adams county, IL:

1910 Census Adams Co., IL
Quincy Ward 1, page 31a, Henry E PRYOR 42 married twice, married “0” years, IL OH KY, Addie F. wife 42 married twice MO OH NY, Lorene dau 8 IL MO MO, Gertrude Gregory step-dau 19 MO MO MO, Sylvia Gregory 17 MO MO MO, James Matthew boarder 25 OH OH OH

An earlier news story laid out the alleged family relationships. John Jackson who died in Santa Ana, CA may be “the same John Jackson who left his home near Chillicothe, MO nearly forty years ago.” It was explained that Lorene’s “mother’s name was Isabell Wright, and her grandmother name was Jackson.” (Santa Ana Register, Santa Ana, CA 26 Dec 1916). The search for a legal heir must have been going on for some time — an article published February 25, 1916 in the Los Angeles Times states that John Jackson had died a few days before his body was found on June 30, 1913.

OK, I love a mystery. I was wondering how Lorene Pryor proved her relationship to John Jackson in 1916 and if the relationship could be proved with modern access to records. So, here’s what I found.

Looking at the extract from the 1910 Census (above) Henry E Pryor and Addie were married “0” years and they were both married twice. Their union was a second marriage and Lorene Pryor was likely Henry’s child from his first marriage. If Lorene wasn’t Addie’s birth-daughter then her relationship to John Jackson must have originated through Henry’s first wife.

I found Henry Pryor married “Lizzie” Wright on April 10, 1895 in Hancock County, IL. They are on the 1900 Census, where she was recorded as Elizabeth, not Lizzie or Isabel.

1900 Census, Adams Co., IL
Quincy, 4th pct., page 323a, North 6th – Henry E PRYOR b. Sept. 1867 32, md 5 years IL OH IL night watchman. Elizabeth D wife b. Aug 1869 30 no children MO OH KY

Before the marriage, there is a Lizzie L Wright age 1 living in the household of David T Wright age 53 on the 1870 Census.  They were living in Chillicothe, Livingston County, MO. Ah-ha! That’s where John Jackson was supposed to have lived before moving to California.

David T Wright’s will is now available on Ancestry.com. He wrote his will in 1886 and named a grandchild named Lizzie L Wright, stated her parents were deceased, and left her and other grandchildren $1 each.

Now here’s the rub… I’m unable to locate a marriage between any of the Wright’s and a Jackson. I don’t see John Jackson on the Livingston County, MO census records. Lizzie Wright was identified as a “daughter” on the 1880 Census. Is suspect the will is correct and that Lizzie was Wright’s grand-daughter.

A 1917 newspaper article sheds some light on Jackson’s identity: “…claimants from around Chillicothe, Mo., who declared that Jackson must have been a relative of theirs who went West about 1881…They said he had had a row with an uncle, at whose house he lived, and had taken some mules he owned and departed for Arizona.” (Santa Ana Register, February 3, 1917). This same article indicates that Lenore’s family’s memory of Jackson’s old accident wounds were similar to testimony of people who had known Jackson in California.If we believe the newspaper account that Lorene’s grandmother was a Jackson then perhaps one of David T. Wright’s sons married a Jackson.

I wonder what she did with the money because in 1920 she was still living with her parents (possibly because she hadn’t married) and was working as a telephone operator. In 1930 she was working as a servant in a house hold in Yamhill, OR. It looks like things didn’t work out so well for Miss Pryor.


Aaron Burr Plot and A Branch of the Pryor Family

aaron-burrCan you believe the “Got Milk” ad that featured the peanut-butter-mumbler who flubbed “Aaron Burr” is now more than 20 years old? You may think of milk when someone says Aaron Burr, but maybe you’ll start thinking “Mr. Pryor.” Continue reading