Tag Archives: new orleans

Death of Jane Pryor Gilly (1852)

John B. Gilly’s name is found in connection with Nathaniel Pryor (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (See https://tennesseepryors.com/no-john-nathaniel-pryor-in-the-july-25th-1825-louisville-news/ ). I recently spotted a death notice for Jane Pryor, widow of John B. Gilly.

DIED: On Saturday, July 3, at Bay St. Louis, Hancock County, Miss., Mrs. JANE BUCHANAN PRYOR, aged 66 years. relict of the late John Baptiste Gilly, late of the City of New Orleans.
The New Orleans Crescent, July 6 1852

Oh goody, 1852! That means she may be on the 1850 census. Instead of finding a census record of Mrs. Gilly, I found a additional possible referencss to her husband in the press.

A “Scheme” or lottery was set up “for the erection of a college at the Bay of St. Louis. J. B. Gilly was one of the managers
Natchez Gazette, May 30, 1818

Up river, there was a letter held for John B. Gilly at Natchez, MS Post Office
Natchez Gazette, April 7 1821

Jane Pryor Gilly Signature
Signature of Jane B Gilly from her husband’s estate: 1830 New Orleans, LA

Prior Family Acting Their Way Through the 19th Century

actorI started off looking at a Prior below the Mason-Dixon line and when I “pulled the thread” I ended up following a long string of leads to a noted acting family in New York.

Between 1844 – 1849 there are several theater notices in New Orleans newspapers for plays starring an actor named Mr. PRIOR. I was hooked once I saw he performed at the American Theater in a play titled Brutus, Or The Fall of Tarquis with a Mr. Booth (relative of John Wilkes Booth?) who played Burtus.

There was also a Mrs. J Prior who performed in plays in New Orleans. A Mr. J Prior of the St. Charles and Mobile Theaters was touted as a writer or scene designer (not sure because of the flowery language).

By 1849 there are notices of performances in May and June of a Mr. J PRIOR in Pittsburgh, PA. Later notices in northern papers refer to an actor and actress named Mr. J J Prior and Mrs. J J. Prior. I’m convinced that all of these notices refer to the same husband and wife acting team.

Mrs. Prior died at age 53 in 1883 and several obituaries were published. The New-York Times reported she was the widow of an actor, the mother of actress Lulu Prior, and that she had acted in Barnum’s old museum. These bits of information assisted me in locating her photograph. (see photo).  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that although she died in Boston, she was buried at Greenwood cemetery (a very large cemetery in Brooklyn with 376,000 burials on Find A Grave). The same article also noted that Walter Prior attended the funeral.

Walter became the clue to lead to finding Mr. and Mrs. Prior– and their first names, on the 1870 Census.

1870 Census
Brooklyn Ward 11, Kings Co., NY
James J PRIOR 47 actor b. England, Louise 38 actress b. NJ. Walter R. 22 photographer NY, Alfred J 18 clerk in store MA, Anna L. 15 actress NY.

And then earlier

1850 Census
Boston Ward 3, Suffolk Co., MA
J. J. PRIOR 28 theatre Eng., “ditto” female 27 Eng., Walter 3 MA.

Such typical hard-to-track-down Priors! Did anyone really know where they were born or where their children were born? I found a birth record for Walter Richard Prior which nicely ties his parents to the theater listings in New Orleans. Born in New Orleans or New York— guess either of them start with “new” so just tell the census worker anything!

Walter Richard PRIOR born 13 Dc 1846 in New Orleans, LA to James Junius Prior and Louisa Young.

There’s a christening record from England that appears to be for James

James Junius Prior b. 20 May 1820, christened at St. James Westminster London on 21 Jan 1821. Father James Prior, mother Violetta (nee Roberts).

James Junius Prior was already performing in England before immigrating to the US and showing up in New Orleans theaters

1841 Census
Swansea, Wales, UK
Wind Street
James Prior 43 artist born out of county. James Prior 20 comedian born out of county. Violetta Prior 37 born out of county.

A funny thing though, I don’t know who is the Walter Prior who attended Mrs. Prior’s funeral because their son, Walter, had died long before Mrs. Prior. The Evening Star in Washington DC carried a story on 20 July, 1871 (12 years before Mrs. Prior’s death– “Mrs Prior, the actress, and mother of the deceased, and many theatrical people attended.” Walter, her son, was shot during a riot.

John Pryor and Brother Charles Pryor of New Orleans (about 1844)

john-pryor-fox-marriage

Marriage Affidavit of Bridget Fox and John Pryor in New Orleans (click to enlarge)

I came across the 1844 probate file for John Pryor of New Orleans on FamilySearch.org. Philip Canterbury assisted Bridget Fox Pryor (sometimes spelled in documents “Prior”) in filing a petition in the Probate court. There’s a note at the bottom of the petition: “as brother of the deceased I have no objection to the above prayer (signed) Charles Pryor.”

The marriage document was signed by the rector of St. Antony’s Chapel, documenting that John Pryor and Bridget Fox married on 4th October 1843.  Anne Bryne, a  mid-wife, attested that she delivered a son to Bridget Fox Pryor on the 23rd or 24th of August 1844. The baby was large and Bridget had a long labor, and the baby died soon after birth. Another document from Father Flanagan at St. Patrick’s church stated their record was that the baby was buried on 25th of August 1844 in the church cemetery.

The estate wasn’t settled until 24 February 1848 when it was concluded by judgment.

On the 1850 Census Bridget Prior was still in New Orleans and counted in the household of Philip Canterbury:

Dist. 3, page 242b, house 1751 Philip Canterbury 52 soda manufacturing MA, Bridget Prior 34 Ireland

So were John PRYOR and Charles PRYOR from Ireland?