Tag Archives: horses

Rodolph: Samuel Pryor of Lexington

I love race horses. Why? Because their owners in their need to brag about breeding tell so much about the owners! The Kentucky race horse Rodolph was such a horse.

About The Racehorse Rodolph

Rodolph was described as “a bright Bay, each of his hind pasterns white; fifteen hands three inches high, handsomely formed and well proportioned for strength and action.” (Kentucky Gazette, April 12 1838). The same article states Rodoph was “bred by me” (Charles Buford) and was 7 years old, foaled on April 15, 1831.

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Samuel Pryor, President Andrew Jackson, and a Horse Named Truxton

Samuel Pryor Race Horse Trainer

It’s been about 7 years since I wrote about Samuel Pryor and his brother Thornton Pryor and a race horse named Truxton (see https://tennesseepryors.com/pryor-brothers-thornton-and-samuel/) I’ve turned over some new information on this Samuel Pryor and hopefully it clarifies yet another Pryor who was in Tennessee.

Samuel Pryor appears in several contemporary newspapers in association with future President Andrew Jackson. Whether it was truly a military title or a title of respect, he is referred to as Capt. Pryor in some articles. Pryor was the trainer of Jackson’s race horse named Truxton.

(The Impartial Review and Cumberland Repository, Nashville, April 11, 1807)

A letter from Pryor to Jackson in early 1807 reveals some genealogy clues: Samuel Pryor offered greetings from his wife to Jackson’s wife. Samuel was married and she was alive in 1807. Pryor wrote at the top of the letter that he was in Woodford County, KY which would correspond with a Samuel Pryor recorded on that county’s tax list in 1800. The letter also offers a possible example of Pryor’s signature.

Woodford County Kentucky March the 5th 1807
Dr Sir
As I find it will be out of my power to be in Tennessee in time to prepare the horses for the spring races owing to my illness as I am now not able to [rouse?] my self in my bed without assistance nor have I been —-ly able since I was taken which was the first day of February as the manner in which I was taken with a violent puking and dysentery which weakened me so fast, took me of my feet immediately though I think I am now mending a little and am in hopes will be able to be down to the races but shall not be able to give you any assistance must request it as a favor of you to make provision for the people at the Jockey club races and prepare the nags and any part of the profits that you think equitable you shall have as your know General that if the place was not provided with proper accommodations it would loose its credit and would injure me very much must therefore request you to manage it just as your own and take what part you think right for trouble, I wish you to run the filly when and where you please and do with her just as your own believe me my General that as soon as I can get up and be at business I shall — my self to make you restitution and shall not think hard to make any sacrifice to comply with my contract with you. Present my most worshipful compliments to your Lady. Mrs. Pryor presents hers to your Lady. I am with respect. Your —
Saml Pryor
[The envelope states it was posted from Frankfort KY on March 13 to General Andrew Jackson in Tennessee near Nashville.]
Letter is from the Library of Congress website https://www.loc.gov/resource/maj.01007_0310_0312/?sp=1

Saml. Pryor (Samuel Pryor)

“In 1805 a friend of Jackson’s deprecated the manner in which Captain Joseph Erwin had handled a bet with Jackson over a horse race. Erwin’s horse, Ploughboy was scheduled to race Jackson’s horse, Truxton… Erwin’s son-in-law, Charles Dickinson became enraged and started quarreling with Jackson’s friend which led to Jackson becoming involved”…a duel ensued on May 30, 1806. Jackson was hit in the chest and Dickinson was killed. (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickinson_(historical_figure)

I had searched the National Archives website hoping to find another letter that was referred to in the press twenty years later (1827). I didn’t find the letter which would have been dated around 1806 (the time of the duel), so perhaps no letter existed and the 1827 article was meant damage the character of Jackson before his run for the presidency (he became president in 1829). Or perhaps the letter disappeared with Pryor’s effects since the letter was sent to him.

“Soon after the duel, Jackson wrote a letter to Sam. Pryor, a noted gamester, and a crony of the General, then residing in this state, giving him an account of it. In the letter the HERO expressed himself to this effect–‘I reserved my fire, and when I did shoot him, you may be assured I left the damned rascal weltering in his blood.” It is many years since our informant heard the letter read. But the expressions, he says, and we can believe it, made an impression upon his mind which time cannot obliterate while memory endures.”
National Standard, from Middlebury, VT, dated July 10, 1827… from the Richmond Whig (VA) on June 22, 1827

I have a few more bit of information on this Samuel Pryor for the next post.

American Pharoah’s Lineage Has A Pryor Sidenote

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I can’t resist posting about American Pharoah’s lineage. When I start posting horse stories you know it must be Triple Crown time again in the world of horse racing. This year’s horse to beat is American Pharoah. I checked out his lineage and found he’s another thoroughbred descended from Lexington b. 1850 (that’s his skeleton pictured above in the Smithsonian Institute). Lexington was trained by John Benjamin Pryor of Natchez, MS. 165 years later it’s still worth a mention because we have a Pryor in the mix. Lexington’s descendant California Chrome was in the run for the Tripple Crown last year (read post).

American Pharoah’s Pedigree (Family Tree)

Lexington b. 1850 (and Bellamira)
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Embrys Lexington b. 1858 (and Carrie D.)
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Kate Walker b. 1868 (and Alarm)
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Ann Fief b. 1876 (and Virgil)
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Tremont b. (and Salina)
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Sara b. 1891 (and Prince of Monaco)
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Fancywood b. 1898 (and Yankee)
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Nonpareil b. 1909 (and Hassock)
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Cushion b. 1917 (and Upset)
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Rude Awakening (and Bull Dog)
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Roused b. 1943 (and Free For All)
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Rough’n Tumble b. 1948 (and Iltis)
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My Dear Girl b. 1957 (and Intentionally)
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In Reality b. 1964 (and Magic)
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Charedi (and Le Fabuleux)
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Gana Facil b. 1981 (and Fappiano)
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Unbridled b. 1987 (and Toussaud)
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Empire Maker b. 2000 (and Star of Goshen)
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Pioneer of the Nile b. 2006 (and Little Princess MMA)
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American Pharoah b. 2012

Connecting Richard Pryor to Dick Pryor’s Racetrack in Nashville

A runaway slave offers our next clue in the identity of Richard Pryor who had a horse track in Nashville.

In 1832 a $100 reward was offered for the return of a runaway slave, a mulatto young man by the name of Warren, aka John. He was 17 or 18 years old and about 4ft. 6in (dang, that’s small by today’s standards!).  He spoke English, French, and Spanish which makes me wonder if he was from the Caribbean or had traveled. The ad placed for his return stated,  “He was in Clarksville, on Cumberland river, Montgomery county, Tenn., and was when a boy owned by Richard Pryor, who employed him as a race-rider in Lexington, Bowling Green, Nashville and other places. He was afterwards sold to Livingston Lewis Leavell of Trenton Christian Co., KY. who brought him to new Orleans, about 4 years and a half ago.”
Wayback Machine link

Yes there’s a Livingston Levell living in Christian County on the 1830 Census, but more importantly it gives us more insight into Richard “Dick” Pryor and his racing activities. One glaring thing is that he was using child slaves as jockeys. The ad also indicates he was traveling between the Kentucky towns named, Nashville and perhaps also in Clarksville.

There was William Pryor, the young naval mid-shipman from Clarksville, who had been gambling in Nashville when killed (read post). I’ve speculated that he was the son of Samuel counted on the census records in Montgomery Co., TN. I’ve also speculated that Samuel was the brother of Thornton Pryor and one of the Bourbon County, KY Pryors who were horse-trading in Nashville. We also know from the truncated will of Joseph Pryor of Bourbon county that he had sons named Samuel, Thornton, and Richard. This is looking like a solid lead toward identifying Richard Pryor and  his racetrack.

 

Murder on the Racetrack – The Death of Beverly Pryor (1836)

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I tell you, I find more deaths of Pryors that take place around gambling and horse racing.  A warm day in the South, the passions of a horse race, probably some  high-stakes gambling, top it off with perhaps a bit of alcohol and what you’ve got is a recipe for disaster. And so goes the story of the death of Beverly Pryor in 1836.

A Mr. Beverly Pryor, a young man from the neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama, suspecting there had been foul play in the race, attacked and knocked down one of the trainers. Mr. Eli Abbott, of this town, the Proprietor of the Race Course, remonstrated with him on such conduct, and told him that a race-ground was not a proper place for such disturbances. Upon this Pryor drew a pistol, pushed the muzzle into the face of Abbott, so violently as to take off the skin, telling him at the same time to draw and defend himself. Abbott declared that he had no pistol. Just at this time, a man by the name of McRhodes, Pryor’s friend, snapped a pistol at Abott, which momentarily drew off the attention of Pryor. Abbott taking advantage of the occasion, instantly drew a large knife, plunged it into the breast of Pryor, turned and severely wounded McRhodes, who made off, and Abbott followed him. Pryor, though mortally wounded, pursued Abbott some fifteen or twenty paces, snapped his pistol repeatedly at him, then fell and expired without a groan.

We saw young Pryor early in the day, riding about town, in all the flesh and pride of youth, and in a few brief hours, we saw him borue (sic) back a corpse, his father attending him, covered with the blood of his son, which he had got on his clothes in supporting him on the ground in his death struggle! What a spectacle! And what a sudden and awful transit from all the gayety and buoyancy of youth to the cold an unrelenting arms of death! The grieved and disconsolate father has had the corpse carried to Alabama, to be buried at his family residence….
— Miss. Free Press, re-published in the Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, PA on 13 June 1836

These stories fascinate me. Which Pryor was involved? What was the story of their lives? How were they all involved in horse racing.  Oh, I would certainly like to know who Beverly Pryor was! Remember the Beverly’s were one of the wealthy tidewater families in VA. Major John Pryor (of Richmond) — his first wife was Anne Beverly Whiting. The Major was a horse breeder (ie. the horse Federalist).

When I searched for more information on Eli Abbott I found an article on a Sumner Co., TN site that reports he owned a horse named Zelina in 1833 with J. B. Jones, Johnson & Tayloe and Henry H. Tayloe of Alabama (see article). Isn’t it interesting that Major Pryor also had a horse/Tayloe connection? (read my post Captain Pryor in the Revolutionary War?)

I haven’t seen it yet, but there’s an obituary for Beverly Pryor in the Huntsville, Democrat published on 17 May 1836, which means that perhaps Pryor died a month or so before the article made it into the Gettysburg newspaper.

There’s only one Pryor family in the Huntsville, AL (Madison County) area in 1830. That’s Richard Pryor. If Richard is the  father of Beverly Pryor, Beverly may have been the only son in his household on the census, making the story more poignant.

And if Richard Pryor is related to Beverly Pryor, the is he the Richard Pryor who had a racetrack in  Nashville?