Tag Archives: civil war

Pryor Slave Story: Anthony Pryor Free Man During Civil War

pryor slaveI’ve got another story from the Civil War that reveals the name of a slave named Pryor and their former master. I would think if anyone is tracing this Pryor line they would become stumped because this man named Pryor wasn’t last enslaved by a Pryor family. It’s an interesting letter from The Liberator, the famed abolitionist newspaper in Boston.

“Can’t Take Care of Themselves — Would Starve if They were Set Free.” Here is one of the keenest retorts to this ridiculous outcry in the shape of a letter written to Anthony Pryor, one of the colored people at Fortress Monroe, by his late mistress. Rev. Mr. Lockwood certifies to its authenticity.

ANTHONY — I have heard that you were making a great deal of money, and as we are in Williamsburg and have no support, and William is away and I cannot hear from him, I send you this to let you know that we are in need of everything. I have no meat, no money of any kind that will pass. I want you to send me some bacon, and sugar, and coffee, and any other things you can get that I need. I have no money to buy a thing with. You have had twelve months’ freedom to make money in. It is time to do something for me and my children. They are in want of clothes, and the winter is coming on. If you do not send me some money, they will perish with cold, for wood is very high, and I am not able to buy any now to cook with. We have done all in our power for you until you left us, and can you hear of your master’s children starving, and you able to work and help them? No, I cannot think it. I should like to see you. If you can give ma a little help every month, it would keep us from want. Send what you can get for me by John King. He will bring it safe. He is doing all he can for his mistress. He does not let them want for anything. I never should have sent this if I had not been in want, as you have not done any thing for me all this time. If you consider yourself free, it is your duty to do what you can for me and my two children. I shall expect you to do all you can. If John King does not come up soon, you can send them by Sam Simpkins. He belongs to Miss Eliza Jones. Tell him to bring them to Mrs. Tilford. We are there now. Send them as soon as you can.
From your mistress, Hannah D Westwood
(Published in The Liberator, 3 Oct 1862)

The audacity? The white mistress writing to her black slave begging for money during the Civil War.

The location? Fortress Monroe is likely Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA.

It would be interesting to know the circumstances that led to Anthony Pryor’s freedom because this article was written DURING the Civil War and BEFORE the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.

There’s an Anthony Pryor (born about 1841) on the 1870, 1880, and 1900 Census schedules, living in Elizabeth City, VA. He was recorded as black at times and as mulatto at other times. He was living with with Lucy Ann Pryor, identified as Lucy Whitlock on their son Joseph Andrew Pryor‘s social security record. Anthony and his son took on the occupation of plasterers.

In 1870, Hannah D. Westwood and her husband William T. Westwood were counted living in Isle of Wight, VA. Two children born before and during the Civil War were living in the household: Mary E 11 and Hannah D 9. The value of William’s personal property was $100. Military records reveal that before this letter was published in The Liberator, Hannah’s husband William Thompson Westwood had enlisted as a Confederate soldier. Perhaps the Westwoods were feeling the shortages of the War or the loss of income from her husband being away from home with the military. Or perhaps both.

It takes desperation and gall to write to your ex-slave asking for financial assistance.

Rebel Colonel Pryor (b. 1798) Imprisoned in Knoxville, TN in 1863

Richmond Dispatch, 28 October 1863.

After these speeches, Colonel Pryor, an old citizen of Knox, who was under arrest, called on Brownlow, in order to induce him to effect his release from prison. Col. Pryor, who is 65 years of age, was led from prison into Brownlow’s house, expecting to secure his assistance in effecting his release from confinement. For many years he and Brownlow have been intimate friends. When the old man was led into Brownlow’s presence, Brownlow, raving like a madman, –? a pistol, declared that he would murder any scoundrel or rebel who dared to ask a favor of his hands. The guard interposed to save Col. Pryor’s life, and led him back to prison.

This story ID’s W. G. Brownlow. If you haven’t yet figured it out, Brownlow was an “intense Unionist” while editing a Tennessee newspaper during the Civil War. (Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis. By Donald E. Reynolds). The Union had recaptured Tennessee in the fall of 1863 which coincides with the October date which describes Brownlow’s meeting with the “rebel” Col. Pryor.

1850 Census Knoxville, page 107b, house 194, William G. Brownlow 43 editor VA, Eliza A 30 TN, Susan 12 TN, John B 10 TN, James P 8 TN, Mary M 1 TN, William O’Brien 21 printer, Francis Small 18 printer, William Neal 19 printer, Daniel Patton? 17 printer, Susan O’Brian 20, Eliza A Brown 20.

I’m wondering if Brownlow became acquainted with one or more of the Pryors in Knox county through the Methodist Church. I found a reference to W. Brownlow attending a Methodist conference in 1836.

The thirteenth session of the Holston Conference was held at Reems’s Creek, North Carolina, commencing on October 12, 1836–Bishop Andrew presiding; Lewis S. Marshall, Secretary…. B.B. Rogers, A. Woodfin, J. L. Sensibaugh, J. Y . Crawford, J. Pryor, and W. G. Brownlow, located. (History of Methodism in Tennessee: From the Year 1818 to the Year 1840. By John Berry M’Ferrin)

James Pryor of Knox county was a known Methodist minister. He was counted on the 1850 Census in Dallas County, AR at age 60. (Brownlow was counted on the 1850 Census in Knox Count and his age was 43). In 1863 James Pryor would have been 73, not 65, and there’s no evidence that he was in TN during the Civil War.

Another book about Methodism mentions a John Pryor from Maryville who represented the Knox District at a conference in 1831. That could be the John Pryor of Pike county, IL whose son Alfred was born in Knox county in 1833. This John was born about 1797 which would make him about 65 in 1863. It’s conjectured by some researchers that John is a brother of Rev James Pryor of Dallas Co., AR.(Life and Times of Rev. S. Patton: And Annals of the Holston Conference. By David Rice McAnally)

Well, something to mull.

A Pryor Who Put A Hit Out On The President

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lincon-wikipediaSometimes I cringe at the antics of our Pryor ancestors. Impassioned by the start of the Civil War in April 1861, Richard Pryor in Mississippi put  a price on Lincoln’s head (see ad). I’d like to know if that was $10,000 US cash or Confederate funny-money. If that was in US dollars that was quite a sum 150 years ago!

Vicksburg, April 20th, 1861.
100,000 REWARD!
I WILL give the above reward for the head of ABRAHAM LINCOLN. If taken a live, or 50,000 if taken dead and delivered to me at Vicksburg , in time for me to hand it over to President Davis, by the 4th of July, next. All the papers please copy.
(Vicksburg Evening Citizen)

Who was this Richard Pryor? Probably this was the Richard S. Pryor, son of William B Pryor, who lived in Madison County. LA (1850) and in Warren County, MS (1860). Vicksburg is in Warren County.

Enjoy your 4th of July!

American Flag

Mary Pryor and Lodrick (or Ludwig?) Garrett of Overton Co.

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mary-pryor-garrett-xI found a terrific record for the Pryors in Overton Co., TN. It’s a Mother’s Application for Army Pension (file number 116383) which was filed by Mary Garrett wife of Loderick Garrett, or in this application it is spelled at times “Ludwig”.  The application was made 9 Oct 1867 for the pension of their son James M Garrett.

To date I didn’t have a James on Mary’s family group sheet. I believe he is the son named “Marion” who was on the 1850 and 1860 Census. If so, James Marion Garrett was born about 1836.

His enlistment date is given as 1Sept. 1861 at Camp Robinson, KY. Their son James M. Garrett served in Co. D, 2nd TN. He was captured in Rogersville, TN on 6 Nov 1863. He died in Richmond, VA on 15 March 1864 (the army paperwork gives his date of death as 18 Feb 1864). The cause of death was listed as “starvation in Rebel Prison.”

Mary Pryor Garrett’s address at the time of the application was “on wagon rode leading from Livingston Tennessee to Albany KY about 15 miles from Livingston.”

We now have a marriage date for Mary Pryor (daughter of Spicy Taylor and William Pryor):  Mary Pryor to Ludwig Garrett, married by Joel Parris, a justice of the peace, on 15 Nov 1831 in Overton Co., TN.  Witnessed by Robert Barnes and Calvin H. Cope. This is from the sworn statement given by Robert Barnes and Calvin H. Cope who state they were at the wedding.

A quick connection… back in 2011 I wrote about William G Pryor in the War of 1812 with Joel Parrish and that he lived near him in Overton County. Is this the same man who performed Mary Pryor’s marriage ceremony?

Other names:

Sarah Taylor and Calvin H Cope completed an affidavit that they were acquainted with Mary Pryor and her family. (Sarah b. 1836, wife of Hezekiah Taylor Jr. She would have been Mary’s cousin)

John Padgett and Elizabeth Rome completed an affidavit that they were acquainted with Mary Pryor and her family.

Elisa Pryor and Tennessee Huddleston completed an affidavit that they were acquainted with Mary Pryor and her family for 15 years. (Eliza Knight Pryor, wife of Edward Pryor, was Mary’s sister-in-law.)

Witnesses on additional documents: Julia Ann Owen, Dolly Taylor, James Amonett, Eliza A Beaty.

Although Loderick Garrett wasn’t on the 1870 Census, he was living at the some of the papers were completed in November 1867. Mary Garrett died about 1899 when the pension was dropped off the rolls on 30 June 1899 due her death.

Denard Pryor: Guilford Co., NC and Clay Co., MO


I found some great stuff in the Fold3 Military Records.  It has been extremely useful for one Pryor line that seemingly evaporated from census records in 1850 and 1860. Last year I wrote about the family of trombonist Arthur Pryor of St. Joseph, MO (see June 9, 2011 post). This year I’ve filled in some of family connections with the help of Fold3 and other researchers.

Arthur’s grandfather , the patriarch of this Pryor line, was Denard Pryor born about 1805. One researcher posted online that they found Denard in “Guilford Co. North Carolina Apprentice Bonds & Papers 1817 – 1870.” On 20 November 1820 Denard was an orphan and was apprenticed to Andrew Waggaman. It doesn’t say if he was apprenticed to learn a trade, however Alson Pryor (possibly a brother) at age 13 was also an orphan and apprenticed to John Waggoner on 5 April 1820. Alson may have been apprenticed as a tailor as that was his stated profession on the 1850 through the 1880 Census.

Denard Pryor is on the 1840 Census in Clay County, Mo. He was probably married (there’s a woman in the household who was about the same age as Denard) and there were 8 children in the household. Denard was the father of bandleader Samuel D. Pryor of St. Joseph, MO (father of trombonist Arthur Pryor). There are accounts of Samuel living in Nebraska and earlier in Texas, however I haven’t found Denard on any other census. If you find him let me know!

There was also a Thomas Pryor on the same page of the 1840 Census of Clay Co., MO. An Ancestry family tree shows Thomas born also in Guilford County, NC, so perhaps there is a relationship between Denard and Thomas. Thomas was deceased by 1850; his widow and children are on the 1850 Census in Lawrence Co., MO.

Death Notices in St. Joseph newspapers also helped to determine which Pryors were children of Denard—they were often clear that the descendent was related to musician Arthur Pryor. Military records were also helpful in determining who were Denard’s children.

1. James T. Pryor b. 1830 in NC, married Julia Ann Lewis and settled in St. Joseph, MO, working as a well digger.
2. Emsley R. Pryor b. 1831 in NC, married Caroline Self and settled in St. Joseph, MO, working as as a well digger. 1890 Census states he served as a bugler during the Civil War.
3. Alfred “Burton” Pryor b. 1835 in MO, married Mary “Polly” Portman and died in Denton Co., TX. His son Frank Hickman Pryor worked as a piano tuner in Denton Co., TX.
4. Robert Pryor b. 1841 in MO, married Mary — ?, living in St. Joseph, MO in 1860 and 1870.
5. Samuel D. Pryor b. 1844 in Clay Co., MO, married Mary Coker, settled in St. Joseph, MO. Musican and father of Arthur Pryor.
6. Alice Pryor b. 1846 in TX, married John J. Hughes, settled in St. Joseph, MO.

Again, there were 8 children in the household in 1840, so there are still a few missing from my list.

Burton Pryor born 1835 is definitely a son and possibly Alson Pryor who registered for the draft in St. Joseph.  I like Alson as a possible son, perhaps named for the brother who was apprenticed with Denard in NC.

Denard’s and his sons’ military service was interesting. In February 1862 Robert, Emsley, and James Pryor enlisted in the Union Army in St. Joseph. A month later their father, Denard, enlisted. Denard fudged his age, stating he was 45, although he was closer to 55 years old. By April 1862, Robert and James had deserted and weren’t arrested until 1864—They were turned in by an informant, arrested in New Jersey and transported to Leavenworth, KS (yes, the federal prison!). Denard was in the army little over a year—in May 1863 he was discharged due to “age and drunkenness.” Burton Pryor registered for the draft in St. Joseph in early 1863, however in May he had been arrested for “disloyalty” and posted $1000 bond and signed an oath of allegiance to resolve his problems. I’m guessing that ID’ing soldiers wasn’t an easy task in the pre-computer age—Burton enlisted in a Colorado company using his own name in December 1863.