Tag Archives: Hampton City

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.

Yet Another Look at Brazure W Pryor of Charles City and Hampton City, VA

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Shirley Plantation - Charles City, VA
I’ve written about Brazure Williams Pryor a few times ( February 28, 2011 | March 23, 2011 | April 11, 2011 ). I keep coming back to him because I think he’s a link that can tie together lines of Virginia Pryors.  This weekend was time to look at him again.

I found that an online researcher had posted that Brazure’s  namesake was a Mary Brazure who had married Captain Thomas Cocke of Henrico County. If you’ve been reading my posts on Nicholas Pryor you probably know I (see May 3, 2012 post)– Nicholas Pryor was brought to Henrico County aboard ship by Captain Thomas Cocke in 1688! I didn’t quite spring out of my chair, because the reseacher blew the theory by basing it on bad “genealogy” by assuming there was a connection to Mary Brazure because Brazure Pryor was named “Brazure.”

There could be a connection… we just don’t know yet. For now we know that Brazure was named for his grandfather Brazure Williams and that is proven by his inclusion in his grandfather’s 1790 will.

Brazure Williams’ will is an intriguing thing. I haven’t seen the will or even a transcript. Researchers have posted online that it mentions his son in law Samuel Pryor. Is this the father of Brazure? I found the will indexed in Genealogical Abstracts from 18th-Century Virginia Newspapers, by Robert Kirk Headley:

WILLIAMS — Brazure Williams’ will; names grandson Brazure Williams Pryor , son -in-law Samuel Pryor, granddau. Elizabeth Smallwood, wife Frances Williams. Dated July 20, 1790; proved October 17, 1793.  (view source)

Who was the Samuel Pryor who was connected to Brazure Williams? Brazure died around 1790 or so.  I haven’t found a Samuel Pryor on the 1790 Census in Virginia. That would be too easy! I found a Samuel Pryor and John Williams had witnessed the will of Henry Duke in Charles City in 1795.  Was this this the right Samuel — I’m optomistic because of the Williams connection. Also wondering, was this Samuel Thornton Pryor whose sister Judith Neville Pryor married Fontaine Duke? I’m stuck on that questions because in all the family trees and records Samuel Thornton appears to be of the same generation as Brazure W. Pryor (born in the mid 1770’s), and Samuel Thornton Pryor is not known to have a brother named Brazure.

It looks like there’s were two Samuel Pryors in Charles City.

  • Samuel W Pryor who was perhaps the father of Brazure W Pryor and definitely the son in law of Brazure Williams. He was probably born about 1775 to 1795. He is possibly the Samuel Pryor on the 1830 Census in Charles City, the man who ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1821, but was rejected because he didn’t have enough land,  and last seen in the records in 1835 when he was elected barkeeper by the court. I think he may be the same Samuel Pryor who married Sarah Dudley Graves on 12 Feb 1824 in Charles City.
  • Samuel W. Pryor born 1830 is probably the son of Samuel and Sarah. He was living with George Marabel on the 1860 Census (the older Samuel had witnessed a will for Elizabeth Gill in 1828 where one of the heris was a Judith P. Marable.

I located a marriage for  Brazure W Pryor to Elizabeth Antoinette DeNeuville (William and Mary Quarterly). Yes, her family was French and it may explain why Brazure was part of the delegation that hosted General Lafayette upon his visit to Virginia. Christopher J. D. Pryor of Hampton City sued the estate of Brazure W Pryor in 1827 after his death. The suit claims that Brazure had been Christopher’s guardian and that the estate’s administrator John A. DeNeuville had withheld Christopher’s property and slaves that Brazure had in his posession. (summary on the Digital Library of American Slavery). It also looks like Elizabeth DeNeuville Pryor was alive as late as 1851 when ex-president John Tyler wrote a letter asking that she be given a land grant for her husband’s service in the War of 1812. I haven’t found her on the 1850 Census.

I don’t know the parents of either Brazure or Christopher J D Pryor, but it gives some hope in solving this mystery of a couple of Pryor lines.  I found a reminicence online in 2011 (A New Look at Old Virginia Pryors) that stated Skaife Whiting Pryor was a son of Christopher J D Pryor. This is incorrect because a 1846 lawsuit identified Skaife as the son of John Clayton Pryor and a grandson of Christopher Pryor of Gloucester County, VA.  But isn’t it interesting that a first hand recollection places Skaife in Christopher J D Pryor’s family line? Does this mean that Brazure and his ward Christopher J D are related to John Clayton Pryor and Christopher Pryor of Gloucester? I think we’re on the right track!

Does anyone know where Elizabeth DeNeuville (or DeNeufville) Pryor was in 1850? Can you connect the line of Christopher Pryor with Brazure Williams Pryor? Who are the Samuel Pryors in Charles City and how are they related to Brazure?