Tag Archives: Elizabeth City

Cincinnatus Pryor of Elizabeth City, VA

88Cincinnatus Pryor signature
It looks like there’s a new Pryor or Prior (it’s spelled both ways on documents) for the family tree. Ancestry.com has added records of applications to the Military Academy at West Point, NY. They include an 1825 application for a cadet named Cincinnatus Prior who is described as the son of General Prior of “the late war”. I think that would make him a son of Brazure Williams Pryor who fought in the War of 1812.

One glowing letter of recommendation in the file states Cincinnatus was a scholar at the Hampton Academy and was accomplished in English, Latin, Mathematics, Geometry (including Euclid’s Elements), trigonometry, and his courses included elementary chemistry and geography.

A letter of application signed by Cincinnatus Pryor states his age and place of birth which fits with Brazure’s marriage to Elizabeth Antoinette DeNeuville in 1807.

January 12, 1827. Addressed to the Secretary of War…  was born in the State of Virginia and now reside in the Borough of Norfolk and State of virginia. My age is Eighteen and my character and qualifications will appear from the recommendations of Wm Thos. Newton, Capt. E. P. Kenedy, Mr. John Tyler, Genl John Floyd, and certificates of my teacher Mr. Wm Ewing which were enclosed to you last year.
{signed}

Cincinnatus Pryor

Brazure Williams Pryor died in April 1827, so it’s possible that Cincinnatus didn’t make it to West Point. However if you do a search of Google books there’s a government publication that states he was dismissed from the Navy in about 1832. Wait a minute… Navy? I though he was applying to West Point!

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.

George L Pryor, black attorney and politician

george-pryor-black-lawyer

George L Pryor is on the 1900 Census in Norfolk. He was recorded as born May 1857 and “black” which means he was an African American born before the end of slavery. He and both of his parents were born in Virginia and his profession is recorded as “lawyer”.

He married Mary Sewell in Norfolk in 1888. His parents were recorded as P Pryor and L. A. Pryor.

George L is on the 1880 census in Elizabeth City, VA in the household of Peter Pryor and Lucy A. Pryor. George’s occupation at that time was “school teacher.” Both Peter and Lucy were recorded as “black” and Peter’s profession was recorded as carpenter and Lucy was a seamstress.

The 1870 Census was the first census after the end of slavery. Peter Pryor and his family, including George, were recorded in Elizabeth City. Peter was a carpenter and owned a house worth $1200 and had a personal estate valued at $200. Peter was recorded as a mulatto at this time, indicating he was part white.

George L Pryor appears to have been a prominent African-American engaged in politics.

  • 1880 speaker at Republican gathering in Hampton, VA (Richmond Dispatch, 28 August 1880)
  • 1881 appointed clerk in the pension office (Baltimore Sun, 9 April 1881)
  • 1884 represented Norfolk, VA at the Republican National Convention.
  • 1888 represented Norfolk, VA at the Republican National Convention.
  • 1896 second vice president of Republicans in Norfolk, 4th Ward.
  • 1897 secretary for the development of the first colored beach resort
  • 1898 recognized by the Federal government as an agent to prosecute cases before the Department of Interior. He was disbarred from this practice in 1898 without explanation. (National Archives)
  • 1900 he was the president of the Central Republican League. (Virginian-Pilot, March, 15, 1900)

1901 appears to have been a rough year for George L Pryor. The Times in Richmond reported that he was also a clerk at the Navy Yard and was fined for charging illegal fees in a pension case as a government employee.

My curiosity is piqued on how out of slavery George L Pryor became a lawyer. How did he get from point A to point C?

More on the Murder of William Pryor (Nashville 1833)

Nashville, TN PryorRemember the account of William Pryor who was murdered in Nashville in 1833? (see post) I can’t resist working on a 180 year old murder mystery. This probably goes beyond a cold case. It’s downright frozen!

I found another report of the murder. There aren’t any more details, but it’s interesting to know where it was reported: The Military and Naval Magazine of the United States, Vol. 1, from March to August 1833. It was reported under Deaths in the General Intelligence section.

At Nashville, Tenn. Mid. WILLIAM PRYOR, murdered.

If William was in the Navy, what was he doing in Nashville? I found in another version of The Military and Naval Magazine of the United States, Volumes 1-2, William Pryor was listed as a midshipman as of 11 Feb 1832 and murdered April 1833. His rank confirms he was in the Navy and the dates firm up that this is the same Pryor I wrote of earlier.

The initial report said he was from Clarksville, TN (Montgomery County). All the twists and turns. It does get to be interesting.

More on the Elizabeth City, VA Pryors: Brazure Williams Pryor Related to Christopher J D Pryor

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a project that is adding valued information to Pryor family trees: Digital Library on American Slavery. This project isn’t just for African Americans tracing their ante-bellum ancestors. Because slaves were considered property, white slave owners are named in petitions and lawsuits that involved ownership disputes.

Brazure Williams Pryor was born in 1775 to 1794, possibly the son of a Samuel Pryor. He probably was born closer to 1775 as he served as an officer in the War of 1812.  He died on 21 April 1827. I’ve suspected that Brazure was related to Christopher J D. Pryor b. 1800, as they both hailed from Elizabeth City, VA.

The American Slavery database contains a petition filed by Christopher in Williamsburg, VA in September 1827, “Christopher J. D. Pryor states that Brazure W. Pryor qualified as his guardian.” The petition contends that Brazure sold slaves that were part of Christopher’s estate and he was petitioning for an accounting of the sale from John A. Deneufville, the estate administrator. The court proceeding lingered, ending in 1839.

While it’s unclear how these two men are related, we now can look at them on one “branch” of the Pryor family tree.