Tag Archives: lewis and clark

1807 Account of Native Attacks from Nathaniel Pryor.

Posted on by

The DAR held training recently for members on how to use Wikipedia. A shocking statistic is that only 17% of biographies on Wikipedia are about women. I’ve added 5 in the past few weeks, so the opportunity is there. I’ve used Wikipedia for a long time– not just to read, but also to write content. I sometimes correct content or add sources. Sometimes I get corrected and re-edited. That’s how it works. It’s a community of millions writing and editing articles.

Why all this about Wikipedia? I recently went in and did a clean up of the article about Nathaniel Pryor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A Wikipedia moderator had slapped a tag on it that the whole thing was unsourced. I reformatted it and added all the sources I’ve collected. I divided it into sections to make sense out of the segments of his life. I added the portrait of him with Sam Houston that the Oklahoma State Senate put out in a press release. There is still opportunity to “tune up” this article and add references. Maybe someone can reference a document or report of Pryor marrying into the Osages. It’s Wikipedia so go for it!

While pulling out references for Wikipedia I can across two newspaper articles about Nathaniel Pryor and the Mandan Chief.  These are contemporary accounts of events. A second account was published in a London newspaper a year later. I found them fascinating and I know other researchers will enjoy them too…

A letter from a gentleman at the Cantonment, near St Louis, dated October 17th 1807, to his friend in this place, says, the Mandan chief, who accompanied Captain Lewis on a visit to the city of Washington left this place on his return to his nation in April last, escorted by Ensign Prior of the United States Army, and a detachment of 15 men, together with interpreters, Hunters Etc. Mr Chateau with two trading boats and 50 men, accompany them. They proceeded without interruption or molestation about 1,600 miles, and within 100 miles of the Mandan Nation. When they were attacked by the Reccari Indians and defeated with the loss of four men killed, and eight or ten wounded. They return to this place on the 15th instant , and Mr. Prior gives the following account— 

“That they landed at a Riccari Village, and, when unsuspicious of danger, were attacked by a large party of Indians, supposed to be 700, most of them armed with guns, that they returned the fire three times before they retreated to their votes, and it is supposed, Killed 20 of the enemy, and that they were pursued six or eight miles down the river, the Indians keeping up a constant fire on them.

“It is said that the Riccaris are at war with the Mandan’s, and that it was their intention to kill the Mandan chief.

Mr. Prior ads, “That from the best information he could collect, there are about 300 Spanish soldiers with the Indians high up The  Missouri, and a great many more were expected, and that they had built Forts and were endeavoring to sour the minds of the Indians against the United States.”

Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 17 November 1807

By 1808 News of the Indian skirmishes had reached Europe.

A sanguinary war has lately broken out between two tribes of American Indians, who inhabited the banks of the Missouri, called the Riccaris and Mandans. A Mandan chief had come to Washington in the spring, to procure interpreters, Huntsman, etc for his nation, and had returned with an escort, consisting of Ensign Prior, of the United States Army and attachment of about 20 soldiers, besides which, there was a Mr Chateau, with two trading Boats & Company, containing upwards of 30 people. They proceeded without interruption from The Savage tribes, till they got 1,800 miles up the Missouri and within 150 or 200 miles of the Mandan Nation, where they were attacked by the Ricarri nation of Indians, defeated, and driven back, with a few killed and 8 or 10 wounded.

It appears that the intention of the requires was to kill the Mandan Chief. The number of Warriors who collected to attack this small coasting party was upwards of 700, were mostly armed with muskets, but the persons who were in the boats, returned the fire so briskly, that upwards of 20 of the Indians were killed, and the rest having set up their yell, and ran off, were pursued by the fellow soldiers seven or eight miles down the river.

Mr. Prior was informed that the Indians higher up the Missouri had amongst them about 300 Spanish troops, and we’re in daily expectation of more.

This officer details, in his letter, some interesting particulars relative to the Ricarris, from which it appears that they are the most barbarous and uncivilized race on the whole continent, as they have no customs that at all resemble those of human beings. They generally go naked, but the females in particular, as they have no ideas of decency or shame. They are mostly covered with vermin, which they kill between their teeth, they never wash their clothes, but suffer them to rot on their backs, never cut their nails, and eat without repugnance, out of the same dish with their dogs, but what renders them still more disgusting is, that they rub their bodies with the fat of the meat which they eat, and which they mostly consume raw.

These Savages are very vindictive, and they’re chief motive for going to war is the desire of glory or praise which is bestowed on the man which he was any daring exploit. previous to engaging in a war the different Chiefs attend their principal in his cabin, where after arranging their plans, (which are always those of surprise), they feast upon dogs flesh, and set off at break of day to attack their enemy. When defeated, they be well their loss with the deepest sorrow for great lengths of time, but, when victorious, their joy exceeds all bounds. They are very kind to their prisoners, which is not a characteristic with most of the other tribes. In the heat of an action, however, they massacre men, women, and children, indiscriminately.

Mr. Pryor learned that there I’ve been several skirmishes during the summer, between the Ricarris and the Mandan, but they had not come to a general battle.

The Observer, London, England, January 10th 1808.

All was good again at the end of 1808?

From the Louisville Gazette.
Mr Manuel has just arrived from St Louis, from the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, with a very valuable cargo of Furs, informs that the Indians of the Missouri are peaceably inclined. That the Riccari’s are sorry for their behavior to Lieutenant Pryor, went on his way to the Mandan Nation. We learned that a company is forming at New York, with a capital of $100,000, to erect a chain of factories up the Missouri and down the Columbia river is to the Pacific Ocean, and Export their furs to China from the mouth of the latter River.
The Maryland Gazette October 27th 1808

Thomas Rodney And Another Pryor in The Kentucky Wilderness

Point Pleasant Battle

This is not another Lewis and Clark story… for the most part. The Lewis-Clark.org site has an article titled “A Curious Piece of Workmanship” (see the article). It should perhaps be titled “A Curious Piece of History.” The website reports the meeting of Meriwether Lewis, as he set off on the great expedition to the Pacific, and Thomas Rodney who was on his way to Natchez, MS and his own place in history.

Ceasar Rodney Quarter

I first read about Thomas Rodney when I was looking for Abner Pryor, however I stumbled upon Abraham Pryor from Delaware who received a letter from Thomas Rodney giving the account of a vision he had before the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War (see the letter).  I can’t help thinking of “Ancient Aliens” and their recount of George Washington’s visions at Valley Forge as encounters with creatures from outer space. Yes, it’s pretty a far-fetched idea.

I like working with the research desk at my local library. They found that Rodney kept a diary were able to find a copy of the book: “A Journey through the West: Thomas Rodney’s 1803 Journal from Delaware to the Mississippi Territory.” I wanted to  read about Mr. Rodney’s curious meeting with Mr. Lewis, then I found he mentioned some meetings with a Mr. Pryor and possibly a second Mr. Pryor.

OHIO: CINCINNATI TO LOUISVILLE: … As we akord (anchored) in the evening near to a settlement I went on shore while the rest were cooking.  A Mr. Pryor and his wife from near Richmond, Virginia, and their nine children, 4 girls and five boys lived there; and there was a nephew to D. Boon and his wife there and several others who had come to see them.  Pryor told me he had lived there five years, that it is 25 miles below Kentucky river and 35 above Louisville, and that there are but few settlements till we git within ten miles of Louisville…

Falls on the Ohio from Virginiaplaces.org

There’s may be a clue to the ID of this Pryor family — it sounds like Samuel Pryor and Mary “Polly” Curd who settled in Henry County, KY.  I think another clue is in “THE OLD MEN OF CLAY COUNTY, Liberty Weekly Tribune; Date: 1870 Sep 02. We request every citizen in Clay county, over sixty years of age, to send us his name, age, place and date of birth, disfranchised or not, and any prominent circumstances connected with his life.” (https://files.usgwarchives.net/mo/clay/newspapers/theoldme55gnw.txt)

I was born in Henry county, Kentucky, on the 20th day of February, 1804. My father was a native of Goochland county, Va., and emigrated to Kentucky in 1790. My maternal uncle – John Curd, now, if living, in Logan county, KY., – was a soldier in the Continental army and was wounded. My father died when I was so young that I was unable to retain in memory any facts connected with the Revolution. I came to Clay county, Mo., in 1835, and have lived here ever since. I have always been a Democrat. I am a voter. GEORGE M. PRYOR.

It could also be John A. Pryor, Samuel’s step brother. He was in the same area of northern KY with 5 boys and 4 girls, however his children were older and were not likely “boys” or “girls” and some were married before 1803.

There’s another Pryor who shows up in Rodney’s journal in 1803. He refers to him as “A” Mr. Pryor which sounds like he was a different Pryor than the family from VA. Remember, Point Pleasant is on the Ohio side of the river.

This is a noble river in appearance. We saw the Major and Shields on shore at Point Pleasant and the Major requested me to come on shore; and I ordered Buckhanan to throw out the ankor and I went on shore on the point. The Major has several human bones in his hand. A Mr. Pryor was with him and informed us there was 40 ft. water in the Canhawah and a 70 gun ship would go 50 miles up and a boat of 5 turns about a hundred; but beyond that there was so many rocks and falls there was no navigating it.

An interesting side note is that Thomas Rodney also spent his last years in Natchez, as a judge. And how’s this for a little plot twist– in January 1807 Aaron Burr (read post) was brought before Judge Thomas Rodney before he was returned to the east for stand trial for treason (see BelcherFoundation.org).

Nathaniel Pryor Reported Dead in 1812

fortA 1919 article on Nathaniel Pryor in published in the The American Historical Review stating that the “myth-making process has already began…[he was] to be transformed into a personality in every way foreign to the man that he was.” I don’t think the myth-making started in 1919. I think it started with their return from the west in 1806. These guys were as famous as astronauts who had gone to the moon!

For example, on 12 February 1812 the Torch Light Advertiser in Hagerstown, MD published a report that a letter dated 5 February sent to a member of Congress. It stated that the Cherokees had run in to Osage territory and killed white traders, including Nathaniel Pryor. Yes, it specifically stated his name and that he had been on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Another report on 12 March 1812 in the Maryland Gazette (Annapolis) reported that Gen. William Clark had written to his brother in Louisville, KY that there had been an indian raid on the Illinois river and that Nathaniel Pryor had been killed.

This seems to be an erroneous report because Pryor lived into the early 1830’s, however it’s interesting that his connection to the Lewis and Clark expedition was newsworthy even just six years after their return (read about their return in Smithsonian). I think we look at Lewis and Clark as historical figures and not with the same excitement their contemporaries had for their achievement– They had gone head-long into the wilderness, beyond where most of the population dwelled in the original 13 colonies. The members of the Lewis and Clark expedition were the astronauts of their time– maybe akin to Columbus in the eyes of their contemporaries.

How famous were the members of the expedition? Well, Nathaniel Pryor was famous enough to have a “Paul Is dead” story (remember those Beatles rumors?) published about  him. Was he famous enough for a Six Degree of Separation story? Remember that movie where an impostor shows up on a family’s doorstep. In the movie Will Smith’s character claimed to be Sidney Poitier’s son. Every once in a while I consider the Miguel Pryor who showed up in California in the 1820’s and wonder if he was pulling one over on the whole pueblo.

Captain Pryor, Lewis and Clark, and the Welsh Indians

020114 - styles

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.

Looking at Louisville Pryors

Ohio River near Louisville

Ohio River near Louisville, KY

Over the weekend I was searching out some new links to the Pryors in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. I’m still looking for solid connections to the correct John Pryor who was the father of explorer Nathaniel Pryor. I thought I’d share some of my finds in case they help to spur your insights into the family line.

19th Century Louisville Silversmiths

I’ve been intrigued with the story of Nathaniel “Miguel” Pryor, the Kentuckian who settled in California. His trade was recorded as “platero” or silversmith. That’s something that was usually learned by an apprenticeship back in those days. I had never heard of Louisville as a place reknowned for silverwork– I guess Paul Revere and Boston take the forefront in American silversmithing. Apparently there were a few smiths in Louisville. I found the names and working dates for silversmiths in Louisville: Richard E Smith (1827), Smith & Grant (until 1831), William Kendrick (1840), and John Kitts (1838).  A mint julep silver cup made by Kendrick even made it’s way on to the Antiques Road Show.  Pryor could have even learned the trade when he moved west as there were numerous fine silversmiths in St. Louis. (See Missouri’s Silver Age: Silversmiths Of The 1800s By Norman Mack)

Amherst County and Louisville Connection

I still keep coming back to David Crawford’s 1801 Will (See transcript of the will). It was filed in Louisville, mentions land owned Amherst County, VA, and it was witnessed by John and William Pryor. Nelson Crawford who was mentioned in the will witnessed a deed in Amherst County with Jonathan Pryor in 1817, as well as Charles Taliaferro who was also on the will. If you go back a few decades to 1774 when William Pryor and wife Margaret of Amherst County deeded land to Philip Thurmond, David Crawford was a witness.

So the Crawfords lived near William and Margaret Pryor. We know for sure that William and Margaret had sons Nicholas, William and John — William filed for a pension in 1832 and John saved Fort Donnally with Philip Hammon. Was it this William and John Pryor who were witnesses to David Crawford’s will in Louisville?

Pryor Land In Kentucky

In a recent post (Identity of John Pryor – Revolutionary War Bounty Land in Kentucky) I dug in to Revolutionary War land warrants to ID which John Pryor received land in KY.  Wait! There are more KY land grants to solve. Elizabeth Pryor Harper in her book Twenty-One Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies mentions 3 military land grants in 1791. These are a bit of a mystery to me because I didn’t find them on the State of Kentucky website with the other grants.  These grants on Beaver Creek and Skaggs Creek, these locations are in Pulaksi County and Rockcastle County respectively (see State of KY Gazetteer). The grants may have been filed in Jefferson County, but the land wasn’t in that county!

Musing over where these grants were recorded and where the land was at and which John Pryor was the recipient may all be for nothing because Ms. Harper noted next to each grant that they were “withdrawn”. There are no known Pryors in the records near the time in Pulaski or Rockcastle County. Does withdrawn mean that a claim was made without follow through?