Tag Archives: horses

American Pharoah’s Lineage Has A Pryor Sidenote

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

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)

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?

California Chrome Pedigree Part of the Pryor Racing Heritage

Has the hype surrounding the beautiful thorough bread, California Chrome, got you counting the days to the Belmont Steaks? It should be tickling your genealogy bone too because California Chrome pedigree can be traced right back to the Virginia Pryors who were involved in breeding and training.

Horse trainer John Benjamin Pryor (see Wikipedia) was the man behind the great race horse Lexington.  He trained the horse that was considered the finest horse of the time and for generations to come. California Chrome’s pedigree leads back through famous horses you may recognize by name – Secretariat and Seattle Slew. Go back further and you’ll find these three Kentucky Derby winners can count Lexington as their long-ago grandpa!john-benjamin-pryor-3The most incredible thing is how well-documented the lineage leading to California Chrome—it goes straight back to immigrant equine ancestors who were the first to arrive from England in the early 1700’s. If you’d like to see the lines there’s a nifty website that has the pedigrees online: http://www.pedigreequery.com/california+chrome

You may see familiar names in the horses’ names: Childers (Childress?), Pryor, Atkinson—or place names like Rockingham and Bedford.

Category: In Context of History | Tags: ,