Tag Archives: New York

Prior Family Acting Their Way Through the 19th Century

I 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.  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.

Another Musical Pryor

Civil War Coronet and Saxohorns - Gettysburg Visitor's Center
Civil War Coronet and Saxohorns – Gettysburg Visitor’s Center

Several years ago I wrote about the Pryors who I’ve seen recorded as musicians [A Musician In Your Family Tree?]. And of course trombonist Arthur Pryor (from a NC Pryor line). There were sure a lot of Pryors who were farmers, so it’s kind of interesting to find a few with other talents. I spotted another musical Pryor, so passing it along.  Henry Prior born 1825 in NY, the son of an Oliver Prior from CT, was recorded in Oneida County, NY in 1850 as “musical instruments.” Not sure if this meant that he made them, sold them, or played them.

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Yankee Pryor Men in Mobile, AL – Helps to Figure Out Who is Who in Alabama Records

mobile-cemeteryI was looking for some of the Virginia Pryors from Moblie, AL and stumbled upon the wills of 2 Pryor men who hailed from the North. Both of these men appear to have probably died without male heirs. Mobile must have quite the cosmopolitan port city as I found several wills (not Pryor related) that mentioned connections to other locations, even one that mentioned the deceased’s father in Scotland.

Will of George Pryor of New York City

The People of the state of New York. To all to whom these presents shall come or may concern. Send Greeting: Know ye that we have inspected the records of our Surrogates court in and for the County of New York do find that on the fifteenth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty tow before James Campbell Esq. Surrogate of said County the last Will and Testament of George Pryor of the City of New York deceased was duly proved, approved and registered and the administration of all and singular the goods, Chattels and credits of said deceased or any way concerning his said Will was subsequently granted unto Grice Pryor the Executor and Brigham Howe one of the Executors in said Will named they being first duly Sworn will and faithfully to administer the same and to make and _____ a true and perfect Inventory of all and singular the said goods, chattels and credits and also to render a just and true account there of when there unto required which said Will is in the words and figures following to wit.

In the (missing word “name”?) of God Amen. I George Pryor of the City and State of New York. Merchant being weak in body but of sound mind memory and understanding blessed be Almighty God for the same do make, publish, and declare this my last will and Testament that is to say First I do hereby order and direct that my debts and funeral expenses shall be paid by my executors hereinafter mentioned as soon as the same can conveniently be done after my decease. Secondly I give, divide, and bequeath unto my beloved wife Grice and to her executors, administrators, and assigns forever all my household furniture of every kind and description, beds, bedding, plates, and silver ware I also give to my said wife Grice my gold watch to held and kept by her until my daughter Catharine Jane shall attain the age of twenty one years at which time it is my will and request that my said wife shall give the said gold watch to my said daughter. Thirdly, I give, devise, and bequeath to my said wife Grice the one mostly or half part of all the net income rent issues and profits of all my real Estate for and during her natural life. Fourthly I do hereby give, divide, and bequeath unto my daughter Catharine Jane and to her heirs and assigns forever subject nevertheless the right to my wife Grice to receive and enjoy the one moiety or half part of the nec income rents issues and profits there of during her natural life. Fifthly I do hereby order and direct that the Mortgage executed by me and my said wife Grice and the bond therein described and all other debts and demands due or to become due from my estate shall be paid out of my personal estate as soon as the same can conveniently be done after my decease. Sixthly I do hereby will order and direct that my Brother Jasper Pryor shall have the use of twelve thousand dollars being part of my personal estate for the term of five years from the time of my decease without security and without interest and that my stock of oils and candles shall be taken by him at the cost price thereof as part of said sum of twelve thousand dollars and that at the expiration of the said term of five years the said Jasper shall pay the said sum of twelve thousand dollars to my Executrix and Executors for the use of my estate and I do hereby authorize and empower my Executrix and Executors the survivors or survivor of them if they shall deem it advisable so to do at the expiration of the said term of five years to loan to my said Brother Jasper the said term of five years to loan to my said Brother Jasper the said sum of twelve thousand dollars or a part thereof for the further term of five years to commence at the expiration of the first term of five years without security and at five percent interest per annum. Seventhly, I do hereby give devise and bequeath to my wife and to her executors, administrators and assigns forever the one moiety or half part of all the rest, residue and remainder to my personal estate. Eighthly, I do hereby give, desire, and bequeath unto my daughter Catharine Jane the remaining moiety or half part of all the rest residue and remainder of my personal estate and I do hereby declare that the desires and bequest by me given by this my last Will and testament to my said wife are so given and devised to her and are intended to be in lieu and in bar of her dower or right of dower and thirds(?) in my real and personal estate and in as much as I have provided my brother Jasper with the means of establishing himself in business I do earnestly recommend to him the care and protection of our dear Mother, Sisters, and brother and lastly I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my said wife Grice to be executrix and my said brother Jasper and Brigham Howe to be Executors of this my last will and Testament and also to be the Guardians of the person and estate of my said daughter Catharine Jane and I do hereby revoke all other and former Wills by me made in witness whereof. I have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of May in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two.
George Pryor {seal}
Signed sealed published and declared by the above named George Pryer as and for his last will and Testament in our presence who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses the words executrix and erased and the word Jane added after the word Catharine on this page before the execution here of Floyd T. Ferris residence No. 555 Pearl Street, City of New York. F. Gross residing 207 Henry Street, City of New York. All of which we have caused by these presents to be exemplified and the seal of office of the Surrogate of the County of the New York to be hereto affixed.
Signed by James Campbell of the Surrogate Court on 17 September 1834.
Alabama Probate Records, 1809-1895, Wills 1813-1857, vol. 1, page 204 [familysearch.org, image 119-120]

NOTE: I found Grice Pryor age 70 and daughter Catharine age 39 on the 1870 Census in New York City living on West 27th St, between 6th and Broadway. They were counted twice. The second entry shows and estate of “$40,000 undivided.” Find A Grave indicates Grice and Catharine are buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

Will of Asa Prior (MA) and the Estate of His Wife Sarah H. Cornell/Connell Prior (NJ)

NOTE: More research is needed on Asa Prior. A long time ago I located a death notice for an Asa Pryor in the Huntsville Democrat dated 1832. Since his will was not written until 1835 we may be dealing with 2 Asa Pryors or perhaps the date is incorrect on the death notice.

In the name of God Amen. I Asa Prior of the County of Mobile in the State of Alabama being of sound mind do make this my last will and Testament in manner following to wit. All the personal and real estate I may devised or possessed of I hereby give and bequeath to my beloved wife Sarah H. Prior to have and to hold the same to her the said Sarah H Prior her heirs and assigns forever. Hereby requesting my said wife after my decease so to provide by her will or other wise that any personal or real estate which she may receive under and by virtue of this my last will and testament and which she shall not otherwise have disposed of may be given one thousand dollars to my sister Rhoda Bodfish of West Barnstable, Massachusetts** or to her heirs at law in case my said wife should survive my said sister and the remainder to the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Mobile to be by them invested in the Stock of the Bank of Mobile and dividends of such stock to be by said mayor and aldermen appropriated to make and benefit of the Presbyterian Sunday School in the City of Mobile so long as said school my continue and after its discontinuance to such charitable purposes as they the said Mayor and aldermen may think proper. I hereby nominate and appoint my beloved wife Sarah H Prior and my friend Eward (sic) Dunning to be the Executrix and Executor of this my last will and testament.

In testimony whereof I have here unto set my hand and seal at the county of Mobile this the second day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty five.
Signed sealed declared Asa Prior {seal}
and published by the said testator as his last will and testament on the day and year therein named in our presence and at the request of the said testator we have subscribed our names as witnesses in his presence and in presence of each other also on the day and year therein named.
S. Southworth
L. A. Lewis
H. Lewis
Alabama Probate Records, 1809-1895, Wills 1813-1857, vol. 1, page 239 [familysearch.org, image 136]

**Rhoda Bodfish is on the 1850 Census in Barnstable, MA. Her place of birth is recorded as “Do” among births that are cited as MA. Original hand-written town records for Barnstable state she was the mother of Asa Prior Bodfish born in 1817. Please be aware when looking at the Ancestry records that although she is on the 1850 census there is a link to Find A Grave that states her death was 1847, yet the photo of the marker states 1857 and this year is also stated in the town records.

I also found the Administrator Account for the estate of Sarah H. Prior:

To the Hon. Price Williams Jr., Judge of the Court of Probate for the County of Mobile
The petition of James W. Holmes, Thaddeus Harrison respectfully shows that the late Mrs. Sarah H. Prior who was an inhabitant of this county at the time of her death departed this life on the 5th day of February 1880 in Mobile leaving a last will and testament duly Executed by her and attested by Wm. J. Ledyard, Daniel Wheeler and H. R. Holmes who reside in the County in which petitioners are named as Executors which said will is herewith produced and propounded for probate and record. Petitioners further state that the next of kin of said deceased so far as they have been able to ascertain are the children of Moses Lyon deceased the Brother of Mrs. Sarah H. Prior viz Sarah H. Cornell (or Connell?), Elizabeth W. Kellogg, Mary F. Hoe?, Moses Lyon, Jas. W. Lyon, Martha J. Lyon, Asa P Lyon, Kate L Doggs, and John H. Lyon all of whom reside in the state of New York and in or near the City of New York and the children of Richd. Lyon dec’d the brother of Mrs. Sarah H. Prior who resides in the State of Michigan. But at what point your petitioners have been unable to find___. Petitioners are also informed that descedent had relatives in Elizabeth City New Jersey, But how near, how many, or what are the names or ages of these parties in Michigan and New Jersey Petitioners have not been able to ascertain. Petitioners further state that by the provisions of said will many legacies are created and all of the estate of said deceased is disposed of to parties named in the same. In consideration of which petitioners pray that a day may be set for the hearing of the matter of this petition that subpoenas may issue to the subscribing witnesses that due notice may be given to the next of kin of the deceased that such other proceedings orders and decrees may be made as may be requested proper to effect the due probate record of said will according to law.
Note her estate is recorded and “Receipted for by A or “a” Rog. Pryor att.”
Subscribed and sworn to this 31st day of March 1880. S. Stone Clerk.

J. W. Holmes
T. Harrison

Alabama Probate Records, 1809-1895, Administration Accounts 1872-1880, vol. 62-64, page 270 [familysearch.org, image 279]

NOTE: Sarah Prior age 70 was recorded on the 1870 Census in Mobile County, AL. She is recorded as Sarah Hendrix Prior on a Find A Grave memorial, burial at Church Street Cemetery in Mobile, however the gravemarker has not been photographed.

New York, New York!

A new page of census extractions is now on the TNPryor website. New York! https://tennesseepryors.com/pryor-website/state-records/new-york/. The first entry is John B. Pryor, grandson of John Benjamin Pryor of Natchez, MS and a great newphew of Senator Luke Pryor.

A great source for New York records… the New York Times. Here’s a link to their online archives. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/nytarchive.html. I found an obituary for John Benjamin Pryor on this site. There are lots of news stories in the Times archives for Senator Luke Pryor, Roger A. Pryor, and bandleader Arthur Pryor.