Tag Archives: Indians

Mary Prior, Indian Captive on the Kentucky Frontier


It 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. (see themorrisclan.com)

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.


CLICK to view larger

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).


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.

The Pocahontas Pryor Girls

Pocahontas Pryor Girls

The photos above are of Miss Epes Fickling daughter of Gerald Pryor Fickling and Miss Carolina Pryor Baker, daughter of Mr. G. L. Baker (published the Washington D.C. Evening Star, June 3, 1922). I wondered which line of Pryors they are from. Continue reading

Identifying the NINE John Pryors Who Were Alive in 1780

I recently had to work though some questions to ID a record and determine which John Pryor it matched to. I realized there were quite a few John Pryors with possible Virginia roots who were all adults in 1780. NINE of them. So during the snowy days this winter I dug in and questioned relationships and questioned where they were and when they died. I’m now ready to share the list.

If you don’t see your John Pryor on the list — test your information to be sure he was an adult and alive in 1780. If he should be on the list let me know!

1. John Pryor of Greene And White Co., TN

Born 1771 – 1775, per 1830 Census
Married Ruth Sherrill, she’s Ruth Prior in her father’s Greene Co., TN will D 1832, estate settlement in Sangamon Co., IL
Parents unknown
Children Rachel, Ellinder, Mary, Sherrill, Sarah, William, Margaret/Peggy, Elizabeth, Jonathan
Resided: 1804/1805 in Greene Co., TN (father in law’s estate)
Resided: 1811-1812 Tax List in White Co., TN
Resided: 1830 Census Sangamon Co., IL
Connection: Linked to “Old” Joseph Pryor of Greene and White Co. through Robert Armstrong.

2. John Pryor of Sullivan Co., TN

Born 1757 in England, per 1850 Census and a son on the 1880 Census
Parents unknown
Married Mary?
Children: James, Nancy, John, Henry, Isaac, Sarah, Mary, Page, Thomas David, Andrew John
Died abt. 1851 in Sullivan Co., TN
Resided: 1787 signed petition in Sullivan Co. when TN was still NC
Connection: Owned land in Sullivan Co. next to David Ross. There’s a John Pryor on a deed with David Ross in Fluvanna Co., VA in 1813. A copy of the deed was made by John Timberlake. Is this the same John Timberlake who married Elizabeth Pryor, daughter of John Pryor and Mary Dennis of Amelia Co., VA.?

3. John Pryor, Son of David Pryor and Miss Childress / Maj John Pryor of Richmond

Born bef. 1738 in VA
Parents David Pryor d. 1747 in Goochland Co and Miss Childress
Married Anne Beverly Whiting, second wife was
Children All reports are that he left no children.
Died abt 1812. Sons John and William settled property in Campbell Co., VA
Resided: 1759 deed in Albemarle Co., VA, and bordered grandfather Abraham Childress
Connection: Inherited land from his father in Cumberland Co., VA with his brother David Pryor, later of Buckingham Co., VA. His niece, Mitchie Pryor, married Thos. Jefferson’s brother.
Heirs: Nieces Dorcas Bryan, Elizabeth Taylor, Rebecca Taylor, Charlotte Morrison, Elizabeth Hazelwood, and nephews Thomas Pryor, Archer Hankins, William Hankins, Romert Hankins, John Hankins, and Pryor Hankins.
Died 1823, Richmond Enquirer obit
Military: Revolutionary War Soldier.

4. John Pryor Possibly Son of Samuel And Prudence

Born abt 1730 in VA
Parents Samuel Pryor and Prudence Thornton
Married 1754 to Mary Dennis in Amelia Co., VA
Children: Richard, Luke, Elizabeth, Mary, Philip, Ann, Samuel
Died 1785, date of will in Amelia Co., VA
Resided: on Leath’s Creek in Amelia County.
Connection: John was in Botetourt Co., VA at the same time as other children and grandchildren of Samuel Pryor and Prudence Thornton.

5. John A. Pryor

Born abt 1750
Parents were probably Samuel and an unknown first wife.  Samuel’s second wife was Frances Morton Meriwether.
Married Martha Vaughn
Children: Samuel W, Sarah, John Alexander, Joseph Everett, Mary, Nicholas M (possibly named for his half brother Nicholas Meriwether), Prudence, Daniel Farley (read more about Daniel Farley’s namesake)
Died unknown date. Last child born 1799 in Kentucky.
Resided: 1795 deed in Harrison Co., KY with Nicholas Meriwether, his half brother.

6. John Pryor, Brother of Capt. William Pryor of Amherst Co.

Born  maybe as early as 1745
Parents possibly William Pryor of Albemarle County, formerly of Henrico County.
Married possibly married a Floyd
Children: Nathaniel, Nancy, Samuel, Robert Lewis, James, Jane, Elizabeth W.
Died abt 1780-ish, deceased per court record that states his children (the two youngest?) were orphans.
Resided: Fought at Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774, 1778 served as a volunteer spy to warn Greebrier settlement of impending Indian attack, 1782 Poll in Louisville, and in 1783 signed Low Dutch Petition.
Connection: Served under George Rogers Clark. Served with Simon Kenton, Thomas Posey.

7. John of Logan Co., KY

Born bef 1760
Married bef 1775, wife unknown.
Children: One known child named John Jr. b. bef. 1775
Resided: 1791 Sumner Co., TN tax list. 1794 owned land in Sumner Co. that bordered William Pryor who was from Botetourt Co., VA.
Connection: 1796 witnessed land survey for Richard Pryor in Logan Co., KY. 1794 on the Tax List for Logan Co., KY. Possibly the father of John Jr. who also witnessed same land survey in 1796. Both disappear from Logan Co. records in 1800.

8. John Pryor Jr., Associate of John Sr. in Logan

Born bef 1775
Married there are 3 John Pryor marriages in Logan County: Rebecca Baily,  Polly Heathman, Elizabeth Crawford (between 1800-1803)
Children: None known.
Resided: Logan County, KY.
Connection: 1796 witnessed land survey for Richard Pryor in Logan Co., KY. 1794 on the Tax List for Logan Co., KY. Possibly the father of John Jr. who also witnessed same land survey in 1796. Both disappear from Logan Co. records in 1800.

9. John Pryor of Edgefield, SC

1790 Census, Edgefield, SC

10. John Pryor of Warren Co., NC

1790 Census, Warren Co., NC

11. John Prior of Charleston, SC

1790 Census, Charleston, SC

Possibly related to Catherine Pryor who married Thomas Dozier possibly in Lunenburg Co., VA, parents of Prior Dozier.

… And the Northern John Pryors

1790 Census, John Pryor, Middlesex Co., CT
1790 Census, John Prior, Lincoln Co., ME
1790 Census, John Prior, Hampshire Co., MA
1790 Census, John Prior, Albany Co., NY
1790 Census, John Prior, Richmond Co., NY
1790 Census, John Prior, Washington Co., PA

I’ve racked my brain over these John Pryors. One of my questions I’ve asked…”Are any of these the same man listed twice?”

I considered that perhaps the John at Fort Donnally was the same John Pryor who was in Louisville (Nathaniel Pryor’s father). John was on the tax list in KY in 1789, so I have a hard time reconciling that this is the same person as the John who to have been killed by Indians in 1780. I don’t know. I have problems with this one.

I’ve considered the John Pryor who was in Logan County. Did he go back and forth in the wilderness? Is he a duplicate of another Pryor?

I also wonder… “Where did they go?” Especially the John Pryor who was in Logan Co., KY with Richard and Mourning Pryor. Are these the Pryors from KY who turn up in Gasconade County, MO? I’ve looked at Pleasant Pryor who was also in Gasconade County. He was from Tennessee and has often been associated with the Pryors from White Co., TN. I just can’t put them together, but they look like they are connected — marriages into the Simpson family, moves to Maries Co., MO and appearances on Bates Co., MO census records.

I hope this helps to keep the Johns separate in our research. If you see an error, please let me know.


Captain Pryor, Lewis and Clark, and the Welsh Indians

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I need to change a guess I made in an earlier post [see Captain Pryor Among the Wabash Indians?] I still believe I was correct in the conclusion that Major Pryor of Richmond is the Major referred to in the document with Edward Carrington. However, I suspect that Captain Pryor is someone else.

I found a wonderful old diary entry for 14 Mar 1793. It’s the diary of Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale University, published in 1901 [see diary entry].  This is the kind of stuff I get really excited about because it captures a snippet of time and some intriguing pieces from history.

From his entry we can tell it had snowed the day before. A nifty day of the week calculator tells me that the 14th was a Thursday. So, around noon on a snowy day when lectures had been cancelled, Dr. Stiles received 8 Native American visitors who were from tribes along the Mississippi River— the distance between New Haven, CT and the Mississippi is not a day ride! The area west of the Mississippi was still Spanish territory (France gained the land in 1800). He took them on a tour of the college library and museum. They didn’t even speak English so there was an interpreter. What a unique visit. This visit sounds so diplomatic and civilized — a far cry from the feathers and war paint version of history.

The Native visitors were escorted to “Bo” (is that perhaps Boston?) by Captain Pryor. Any ideas of who this Captain Pryor might be?

It’s not Nathaniel Pryor. Nathaniel joined the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 10 years after the diary entry with the rank of sergeant, not a captain.

Could it be Nathaniel’s father? I don’t think so. In 1791 (2 years before the diary entry) Nathaniel was reported in a court document as a orphan of John Pryor, deceased.

Wouldn’t it make sense for Lewis and Clark to take a Pryor with them who knew what to expect? Could this Capt. Pryor be a relative of Nathaniel Pryor?

There is another Captain Pryor to consider. Joseph Pryor of Botetourt County, VA was known as Captain Pryor and commanded troops during the Revolutionary War. Would he be too old to be riding off to the Mississippi River and up to Boston and back to Virginia in the 1790’s? Possibly not. He seemed to have the energy to move his family from VA to KY in about 1800. And of course it could be a northern Pryor from PA or CT.

One very quirky thing I need to point out and it makes me wonder what the conversation entailed on that day in 1793. Stiles wrote, and I’ll clean it up a bit into readable sentences:

These Indian(s) knew nothing of white or Welsh Indians west of the Mississippi (River). The interpreter, a German, told me he had traveled 1200 miles up the Missouri River to where the Spaniards have Gold mines, but never saw white Indians, and knew nothing and believed nothing of the Welsh Indians. I read (to)  them from Williams &co. They believed nothing of it.

If you’ve ever seen the TV show America Unearthed, there was a belief that the Welsh had arrived in America before Columbus. The episode I recall said that when President Jefferson sent off Lewis and Clark in 1803 he wanted to know if they found any evidence of the Welsh or what were known as “White Indians”.  Apparently Gen. George Rogers Clark (uncle of Clark of the Clark in  Lewis and Clark) claimed to have met White Indians in southern Illinois in the late 1770’s (see Footprints of the Welsh Indians)

Welsh Indians sound like one big ol’ tall tale to me, but it is kind of fun to see how this stuff gets all tangled together in history.