Tag Archives: greenbrier

Mary Prior, Indian Captive on the Kentucky Frontier

fortIt seems like when you start looking at Pryors on Kentucky frontier, really the areas the the west of Virginia, pioneer Pryor tales pop up everywhere. I’ve read in the past this story of Mary Pryor’s capture by Native Americans. It begs a second look.

The maternal grandfather, Thomas Mounts, served for seven years as a spy in the American army during the Revolutionary war, and later in the same capacity among the Indians… The paternal grandmother of Mrs. Stewart was MARY PRIOR, in whose life history occured chapters as exciting and thrilling as any to be found in strange tales of fiction. Her girlhood was mostly passed in her parent’s home on the Kentucky frontier, during a period when the Indians were particularly troublesome and vicious. She was a maiden of fourteen years when she, with her mother and a babe of six months, were stolen by the Indians, who massacred her father, the rest of the family and a number of negro slaves. Later the babe was killed and the mother, because she refused to dance around the body of her infant, was bound to a tree and burned by the infuriated savages. The Indians then crossed the Ohio river with their girl prisoner and for ten days traveled through the timber to their village. When the young braves started upon another raid the maiden was left in charge of the squaws and older Indians, but escaped and , traveling in the night, hid by day in hollow logs, subsisting on roots found in the forest. On the ninth day after her escape the Indians, close in pursuit, passed directly over the hollow log in which she lay, and while there hiding she was bitten by a snake. However, she had learned what roots to use in such emergency, and after applying them was forced to lie still for three days. Once more resuming her journey she came to the Ohio river, across which she was forced to swim. In the meantime the Indians were trying to find her and the United States soldiers from a Kentucky fort had been detailed to search for her, but evading the former and missing the latter, she made her way alone to the fort, where she was adopted by one of the officers, retaining, however her own name.

The Centennial History of Oregon, 1811-1912, Volume 4, page 880. Joseph Gaston, S.J. Clarke publishing Company, 1912. Mary’s son was William Scott, the father of Mary (Scott) Stewart who provided the story for this book. Mrs. Stewart was 91 years old, born in 1821 in Switzerland Co., IN, when she gave this account of Mary Prior.

John Scott and his wife Mary Prior (Pryor) lived in the Greenbrier Area in the 1700’s. Greenbrier County, formerly Montgomery County is now Monroe County in West Virginia.

http://www.themorrisclan.com/GENEALOGY/FAMILY%20STUDIES/SCOTT%20FAMILY%20STUDY.html

If we follow the trail left by folks researching this line and Find A Grave memorials we may be able to derive when Miss Pryor was born and when she was a young girl living on the frontier. Her son Joseph Scott is purported to have been born in 1775 (see his grave marker). If she was a young maiden of 14 when captured then it was probably some time before his birth, which would put her birth perhaps in the late 1750’s.

I’ve seen comments online that there were few people living in this area and it makes her grand-daughter’s story somewhat doubtful. I think there’s some strong rings of truth in the story. If we go back to the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 we know that Virginians were pushing into the frontier. Fort Randolph was built in 1776.

I see that some family history researchers have stated Mary’s father was John Pryor. That may have drawn that conclusion because it parallels the story of the end of John Pryor “saviour of the Greenbrier” with the capture of his wife and baby.  However, the attack involving Mary Pryor was probably decades before the death of frontiersman John Pryor. I recollected another attack– Moses Pryor and his family at Griffin’s Station in Ohio, but that also occurred later (probably in 1792 or 1793).

So if the story of Mary Pryor is a true tale, then it’s describing events in the frontier during the years leading up the Revolutionary War, perhaps shortly before or at about the time of Lord Dunmore’s War.

John Pryor, Brother of William Pryor of Amherst County

log houseI’ve been digging around the frontier, comparing Pryor neighbors.  I’m getting swayed that there was one John Pryor who was recorded at key points in frontier history.

1774 Battle of Point Pleasant

1774 was before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord (MA) in 1775 or the Declaration of Independence in 1776, however this battle in Lord Dunmore’s War is referred to as a battle that ushered in the Revolutionary War. Point Pleasant was the location in Virginia frontier where Fort Randolph was located– it’s now a town in Mason County, WV.  John Pryor served in Col. Andrew Lewis’s brigade, as well as Philip Hammond, Simon Kenton, Thomas Posey, Charles and Robert Clendinin, John and Peter Van Bibber (Virginia County Records, Volume 2. Edited by William Armstrong Crozier. Published by Genealogical Association, 1905. pp. 89-90).

1778 John Pryor Saved Greenbrier

The account of John Pryor and Philip Hammond (or spelled Hamman) warning the residents of Greenbrier of an impending Indian attack is most notably recounted in William Pryor’s (his brother in Amherst Co., VA) Revolutionary War pension in 1832. William stated that John served under General Clark. In 1784 Hammond and Pryor petitioned the Virginia House of Delegates for land as reward for their service in the Greenbrier area in 1778 (see Wikipedia).

1782 Jefferson Co., VA, now KY

I did a nifty comparison of names. First, I took the list of men polled in Jefferson county in 1782 (Early Kentucky Settlers: The Records of Jefferson County, Kentucky, from the Filson Club History Quarterly. Kentucky Adjutant Generals Office, Kentucky Adjutant-General’s Office Genealogical Publishing Co, 1988. pp.40-43). Second, I compared it to men in VA Troops under the command of General George Rogers Clark. This was a very interesting exercise.  The men polled in Jefferson county was a very short list when compared with the longer list of who served under Clark, yet there were several of them who appear on BOTH lists: Aquilla Whitacre, John Martin, George Wilson, John Voress (Vorhies?), Robert George, Isham Floyd, John Campbell (same as Johnson Campbell?).

Initial review of the 1782 poll looks like there may have been a John PRYOR and a John PRIOR in Jefferson County. One who voted for John May and the other who voted for Isaac Morrison. I wish there was greater clarity on how the polling took place. To me, it looks like there were several men running in the Delegates election: John May, Squire Boone, William Shannon, Isaac Morrison. The winners were John May and Squire Boone (A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia. p. 15. see online). My best guess is that there was one John Pryor and he was able to vote for multiple candidates to fill two seats.

jefferson-county-KY

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And a quick aside about Jefferson county. Jefferson county covered a lot of territory when KY was the frontier. Present-day Jefferson county is the small area in the center of the gold boundaries in the map above.

A name conspicuously on the poll, but not on the Clark’s rolls is John Pryor. I think this fits nicely with the John Pryor who was paid by Gen. George Rogers Clark for his service as a spy in 1783 (see post).

pryor-mckee

And John Pryor After 1780?

I know many people have asserted this, but I now feel that I’ve made my way through all the available information to possibly agree that the John Pryor who fought at Point Pleasant, spied for Gen. Clark, polled in Jefferson County in 1782, and signed the Low Dutch Petition in 1783 was likely the same man– the brother of William Pryor of Amherst Co., VA. There are accounts of John’s death at the hands of the Indians; some say in 1780, however two of the earliest mentions of his death don’t say when. His compatriot, Philip Hamman, was celebrated in 1830 when it was mentioned that John Pryor was killed by Indians (this was two years before William Pryor made his application for a pension) — see post. The next mention of John Pryor’s death I found was in Mirror of Olden Time Border Life, Joseph Pritts, Alexander Scott Withers S. S. Miles, pub. 1849:

… John Prior, who with his wife and infant were on their way to the country on the south side of the Big Kenhawa. Prior was shot through the breast, but anxious for the fate of his wife and child, stood still till one of the Indians came up and laid hold on her. Notwithstanding the severe wound which he had received, Prior proved too strong for his opponent, and the other Indians not interfering, forced him at length to disengage himself from the struggle. Prior, then seeing that no violence was offered to Mrs. Prior or the infant, walked off without any attempt being made to stop or otherwise molest him… Prior returned to the settlement, related the above incidents and died that night. His wife and child were never after heard of …

I’m not ready to wrap this up yet.