Tag Archives: Coleman

Major John Pryor of Richmond, b. 1750

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Musket Smoke

I’ve pulled together everything I can find on the life of Major John Pryor. You’ll see below it’s suggested that he’s connected to the line of Gen. Roger A Pryor and Col. William Pryor and perhaps also John Pryor and Mary New of Goochland County, VA. Any ideas?

1777 – Captain-Lieutenant 1st Continental Artillery, 13th February, 1777 [Richmond During the War of 1812 ,  The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Apr., 1900), pp. 406-418] Note: the 1777 date matches the 1807 sworn statement for Pryor’s Revolutionary War land bounty warrant.

1779-1783 – Major Aid-de-Camp to General Alexander, 9th June, 1779, to 14th January, 1783

1782 – Major Pryor’s mother was still living in 1782? Capt. Pryor’s letter to Col. Davies asking leave to visit his mother “in great distress with the probability of losing her husband, who is my Father in Law (his step father?) by sickness, and wishes much to see me.”  On Oct  10 1782 from Richmond.  [Calendar of Virginia State papers and other manuscripts …, Volume 3  By Virginia, Henry W. Flournoy]

1796 – John Pryor married Anne Beverly Whiting in Richmond.

After Revolution –  Secretary of the Jockey Club. Owned Haymarket, a pleasure park in Richmond, VA

1800 – A Comprehensive Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of James Monroe, Volume 1,  By Daniel Preston. John Pryor was the subject of allegations of misconduct during the Revolution: alleged he did not examine arms thoroughly. Pryor sent a letter on 5 Feb 1800 from Haymarket stating he would refute the charges.  William Preston mentioned in 28 Jan 1800 correspondence. (Is this the William Preston who lead Preston’s Rangers? — See Botetourt County records)

1802 – Samuel Coleman (society’s treasurer) and John Pryor were recorded at a meeting of the Society of Cincinnati in Richmond, VA on 13 Dec 1802 [The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 1,  By Philip Alexander Bruce, Virginia Historical Society, William Glover Stanard] – Note: Samuel Coleman provided a sworn statement in 1807 for John Pryor’s Bounty Warrant. An online family tree shows that Samuel Coleman was married to Nancy Ann Wright a daughter of John Wright and Ann Pryor of Goochland Co., VA– Ann Pryor was the daughter of John Pryor born abt 1689 and Mary New of Goochland Co.

1804 – Board of Hampden Sydney College

1807 – 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. ]

1812 – “I see Major Pryor* frequently; he is now very fat, and still active as military agent.
(Footnote on the same page) John Pryor, Captain-Lieutenant 1st Continental Artillery, 13th February, 1777; Major Aid-de-Camp to General Alexander, 9th June, 1779, to 14th January, 1783; retired on last-named date. After the war Major Pryor resided in Richmond, and was for a time military agent of the State. Like many retired officeers, he was in reduced circumstances, and for a time kept apleasure resort called Pryor’s Garden, situated on the river side near the present Byrd street station. While residing here his wife separated from him, and soon after became the wife of Mons. Fremont, dancing master, and the mother of John C. Fremont. Author John Bigelow, in a campaign life of Fremont, published in 1856, makes a very pretty story of youth and beauty chained in unbearable union to age and decripitude, of separation by mutual consent and a happy second marriage; but the real story, as told by documentary evidence, is of a very different sort.” Richmond During the War of 1812 ,  The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Apr., 1900), pp. 406-418

1815 – John Pryor married  a second time to Elizabeth Quarles Graves (per her statement in Revolutionary War pension application).

1823 – Death notice was in the Richmond Enquirer on 23 Mar 1823.

1823 – John Pryor’s heirs are first listed in an 1800 will that was drawn up while he was still married to Anne Beverly Whiting.  [The Great Catastrophe of My Life: Divorce in the Old Dominion, by Thomas E. Buckley]

“…bequests to two living sisters, Elizabeth Hankins and Mary Quarles, and to the children of his deceased sister, Sally Taylor” (Note: this same book states Robert Quarles of Richmond, VA was married to John Pryor’s sister.  I found a publication Boulder Genealogical Society, Virginia Genealogical Society, published 1977 states that Robert Quarles widow completed a Revolutionary War Pension Application stating that Robert was the son of James Quarles and Mary Pryor. I have reviewed the Pension Application #W9868 and note his mother only recorded as Mary, however their James and Mary’s first born was named Pryor Quarles.  The Pension Application contains information from the Quarles family Bible, stating Mary died 1 December 1816 in her 73rd year – born 1743. Mary would be a contemporary of Maj John Pryor and that agrees with her being the named sister in the will. In Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans by William S. Speer, published 1888— page 163, “…James Quarles, was the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch. He married a Miss Pryor, of the Pryor family of Virginia, from whom Gen. Roger A Pryor, the brilliant criminal lawyer, now of New York, is descended.” Family trees on Ancestry.com place Mary Pryor Quarles as a daughter of Col. William Pryor and Sarah Wood—They are probably not aware that she is the sister of Maj Pryor and other known siblings Elizabeth and Sally/Susan )

After his death in 1823, his final will was filed in Pulaski Co., KY – is that because he owned property there?

“PRYOR, John (of the City of Richmond). Will proved there March 1823. Names wife, Elizabeth Graves; nieces, Dorcas Bryan, Elizabeth Taylor, Rebecca Taylor, Charlotte Morrison (of Williamsburg, Va.), Elizabeth Hazelwood; nephews, Thomas Pryor and Archer, William, Romert, John, and Pryor Hankins. Friend, Lewis Burwell. First wife was named Ann. “ [http://www.newrivernotes.com/va/pulwb.htm]
(Note: I found Pryor and Archer Hankins on the 1800 Tax list of James City, VA and  census records in the same county).

1856 – His widow, Elizabeth Quarles Graves files for a pension from his service during the Revolution.  Pryors ex-sister in law (Susan Lowery, sister of Anne Beverly Whiting) filed an affidavit stating:

  • He was an aid to General Lord Sterling (Note: Stirling was stationed in NJ and NY during the war and was in charge of Washington’s Army in the North and died in Albany in 1783.)
  • He received a “considerable” land bounty for his war service.
  • He had no children – only nieces and nephews in Charles City and James City by the name of Hawkins or Hankins. [see Rev. War application of Edmund Beadles http://revwarapps.org/s17842.pdf.

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>>]