Tag Archives: captiain pryor

1819: Captain Prior Quarantined


Well, while we are all social distancing and spending more time at home, seems fitting to find a Prior who had to endure quarantine in the early 1800’s.

BOSTON, March 27.–Came from quarantine, sch’r Elizabeth & Mary Prior, 182 from Rotterdam, viz Martinique, 33 days where she put in a distress Capt. Prior having had the small pox on the passage, has been landed on the island–he is fast recovering.
The Charleston Daily Courier, 9 April 1819

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Abner Prior, A CT Yankee Among the Wabash Indians

Capt Abner Prior WoundedI saw this weekend that someone had “liked” an old Pryor post on Facebook– a post about Capt. Pryor and the Wabash Indians.  I realized that I haven’t disclosed the identity of the Captain. I think it was Capt. Abner Prior. It’s always tough to ID a Pryor when we don’t have a first name. OK, you can stop laughing… yes, I know it’s hard to identify Pryors even when we DO have a first name! Continue reading

Captain Pryor in the Revolutionary War?

I read a story online called “Our Grandmother’s Clock,” published in Catholic World, vol 38, October 1883 to March 1884 issue. It’s written by an adult recollecting their childhood when their grandmother told the story of meeting their grandfather during the American Revolution. Grandpa was a Captain Pryor with General George Washington’s army. It’s frustrating because there’s no author credit given and it’s hard to tell if it’s fact or fiction.  I’ve pulled some names and information from the story and I’m wondering if anyone sees any facts that match their ancestor.

  • Grandmother lived in Virginia as a girl and as an elderly widow she moved in with one of her children and grandchildren in Mt. Airy.
  • The story takes place on a plantation named Mount Airy. I looked in Wikipedia and found that it’s still a private mansion near Richmond, VA.  It was built by John Tayloe.
  • A  publication of a horse pedigree in The American Farmer states a horse named Federalist raised on the estate of John Tayloe, deceased, was sold to Major John Pryor by William Beale Jr. (published April 17, 1829, but the sale possibly occurred 10 to 20 years earlier). The America Stud Book, Vol. 1 states Federalist was bred at Mt. Airy.
  • Her mother’s married name was (Charlotte?) Lottie Randolph and she was (Mary?) Polly Randolph.
  • Captain Pryor was wounded and taken prisoner at Yorktown. He impersonated a British soldier to spy for General Lafayette.
  • This quote from the story indicates that the family moved westward: “This old clock was brought with other less sacred household goods when the spirit of adventure had seized upon grandfather and made him leave the honored borders of old Virginia for a home in the far West.” Where was the “far West?”– Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois?

I dug through my database and looked online, but I can’t figure out who this story is about. The frustrating thing is that if its fiction, the author has dusted it with real names to anchor it somewhat in reality.  My first thought was of Major John Pryor who lived in Richmond and who made the horse trade with John Tayloe. Major Pryor even at one point housed Nancy Randolph, a relative of President Thomas Jefferson who had a tarnished reputation. But he lived at Haymarket Gardens and his wife was a Whiting, not a Randolph and there were no children from their union (hence no grandchildren to tell stories to).  Major Pryor’s second wife was his housekeeper, Elizabeth Quarles Graves, but she remarried and moved to Boston also without children from her marriage to the Major.

So who was Captain Pryor? I suspect that the personas of the Captain and the Major have been melded together in history and in the research of some family historians. I did some searching for a captain rather than the major.

“I do certify that John PRYOR was c—–  (commissioned?) in a Captain Lieutenant in the first Regiment of Artillery on Continental —– the 13th of January 1777 —- in the service until the end of the war. Given under my hand this 29th day of June 1807. Samuel COLEMAN.” [from Revolution Bounty Warrants, Library of Virginia – online Catalog.  The back side of this document states that Captain Pryor was given 4000 acres.]**

A Goochland County will dated 1748 for a Samuel Coleman (obviously not the same Samuel Coleman who survived the American Revolution in the 1770’s) was witnessed by John Pryor, John Right, and Robert L. Woodson.

The Colemans, Pryors, and Woodsons were in Goochland County, VA records in the 1730’s onward. Samuel Coleman married at St. James Northam parish in December 1780. I suspect the John Pryor known by Samuel Coleman was John Pryor son of Col. William Pryor and Sarah Wood. This John Pryor was born in 1759 and was alive at the time of his father’s 1777 will. He was born in Goochland County and baptized at St. James Northam parish. He was the right age to be marriage material at the time of the Revolution.

I think that some of the confusion between Captain Pryor and old Major Pryor who married Anne Whiting comes out of them having close family connections. Major Pryor was a member of the Society of Cincinnati as was Samuel Coleman (the guy who knew Captain Pryor). A John Pryor, who I believe to be Major Pryor, is recorded in the board minutes of Hampden Sydney College in 1804 with Samuel Coleman.

Relying on “Twenty-One Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies,” by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, Capt. John Pryor received 4000 acres on Skaggs Creek in Kentucky. There’s a John Pryor on the 1800 Tax List of Barren Co., KY. John isn’t on Barren Co. records after that but it’s been offered that the John Pryor who was also getting large amounts of land near Louisville was the same person.

So is Capt. Pryor who spied on the British the John Pryor who was in Jefferson Co., KY and is believed to be the father of Nathaniel Pryor? Was Nathaniel Pryor’s mother actually a Randolph? That could explain why he was part of Jefferson’s Lewis and Clark Expedition!

To get to the root of Grandmother’s story it would be really helpful to know who Grandmother was and to know who were her grandchildren!

** Since first writing this post the writer has discovered the identity of the John Pryor who received the 4000 acres of bounty land [<<Read More>>]