Tag Archives: john pryor

Major John Pryor of Richmond, VA & John C Fremont Connection

I ran across the explorer John C. Fremont recently and was reminded of his Pryor connection. The article on Wikipedia tells the story of his mother, Ann Beverly Whiting, the first wife Major John Pryor (an older Revolutionary War veteran) of Richmond.  The young Mrs. Pryor fell head-over-heels for her tutor, a Frenchman named Charles Fremon.  Ann left Major Pryor and ran off with Fremon and later gave birth in 1813 to her son who Angelicized his name.

Ancestry.com has the scanned original documents for Revolutionary War pensions and we’re in luck because there’s a pension application for Major John Pryor of Richmond.

The star document is the 1856 affidavit of Susan Lowry of Hampton, VA (Elizabeth City) age 86.  She stated she was the daughter of Thomas Whiting of Gloucester Co., VA.  She recalled becoming acquainted with John Pryor in 1780. Pryor acted as an aid to General Lord Sterling and she remembered he received a considerable amount of land from VA for his service. Lowery’s connection to Pryor was that he was married to her sister. She recounted that after her sister’s death Pryor married Elizabeth Q. Graves in Richmond.  She recalled that Major Pryor died in 1823 (we know that year is accurate because there’s even a statement from a clerk at the Richmond Enquirer that they published his death notice ofn 23 March 1823), and after his death Elizabeth married Alva Lake in Richmond.  Later the Lakes moved to Boston where Alex Lake died shortly before’ Susan Lowery’s 1856 affidavit.  Lowery states that John Pryor didn’t leave any children: only several nieces and nephews in Charles City, James City, and Richmond by the name of Hankins (or Hawkins).

When I searched the census records, I found Susan B. Lowry age 77 born in VA and living in Hampton at the time of the 1850 Census.

Elizabeth Q. Lake was the applicant for the pension.  She provided her affidavit on  August 28, 1856 Elizabeth Q. Lake’s affidavit was given in Boston, MA. She was age 56. She married John Pryor in Richmond on 22 Feb 1815. Her maiden name was Elizabeth Quarles Lake (sic). She married Alva Lake on 10 May 1825 and that her husband died in Vermont on 2 Apr 1856.

I did a search of the census records and found Elizabeth Lake with her husband Alex (sic) on the 1850 Census in Boston, MA.  It appears that Elizabeth outlived both husbands by a considerable amount of time as she is also on the 1860 and 1870 Census in Medford, MA.

Notes on the documents indicate an interesting history of queries, beginning in 1919. A 1933 query was made by Hon. John G. Cooper (19th Ohio Dist.) of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. The pension file contains a letter written by the National Archives as a response to a Mrs. Bert R. Smith of Bowling Green, KY who made a genealogy query in 1937. The writer states that John Pryor married an unknown daughter of Thomas Whiting and then married Elizabeth Quarles Graves at Hay Market, Richmond, VA.  

So, looking at these stories together there’s some insights to be gleaned. If Susan Lowry was the sister of John Pryor’s first wife and a Whiting then she is likely Susan Whiting Lowry.  The Wikipedia tale of John C. Fremont’s mother (and other versions available online) doesn’t end her marriage to Pryor with her death, but with her running off with “another man.”  Another version (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_2700_132/ai_108791284/) states she didn’t wed Fremon until after Pryor died. If Major Pryor died in 1823, then the marriage would have taken place some ten years after her son’s birth. And what about Major Pryor’s marriage to his second wife Elizabeth? If he and his first wife did not divorce, was he able to legally marry?

As usual, there are more questions about the Pryors than answers. I’ve added a new state to the TN Pryor website… Massachusetts! The census extracts of Elizabeth Q. Graves Pryor Lake are now posted online. http://www.tnpryors.com/states_census/massachusetts.html