Tag Archives: Racing

Rodolph: Samuel Pryor of Lexington

I love race horses. Why? Because their owners in their need to brag about breeding tell so much about the owners! The Kentucky race horse Rodolph was such a horse.

About The Racehorse Rodolph

Rodolph was described as “a bright Bay, each of his hind pasterns white; fifteen hands three inches high, handsomely formed and well proportioned for strength and action.” (Kentucky Gazette, April 12 1838). The same article states Rodoph was “bred by me” (Charles Buford) and was 7 years old, foaled on April 15, 1831.

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Samuel Pryor, President Andrew Jackson, and a Horse Named Truxton

Samuel Pryor Race Horse Trainer

It’s been about 7 years since I wrote about Samuel Pryor and his brother Thornton Pryor and a race horse named Truxton (see https://tennesseepryors.com/pryor-brothers-thornton-and-samuel/) I’ve turned over some new information on this Samuel Pryor and hopefully it clarifies yet another Pryor who was in Tennessee.

Samuel Pryor appears in several contemporary newspapers in association with future President Andrew Jackson. Whether it was truly a military title or a title of respect, he is referred to as Capt. Pryor in some articles. Pryor was the trainer of Jackson’s race horse named Truxton.

(The Impartial Review and Cumberland Repository, Nashville, April 11, 1807)

A letter from Pryor to Jackson in early 1807 reveals some genealogy clues: Samuel Pryor offered greetings from his wife to Jackson’s wife. Samuel was married and she was alive in 1807. Pryor wrote at the top of the letter that he was in Woodford County, KY which would correspond with a Samuel Pryor recorded on that county’s tax list in 1800. The letter also offers a possible example of Pryor’s signature.

Woodford County Kentucky March the 5th 1807
Dr Sir
As I find it will be out of my power to be in Tennessee in time to prepare the horses for the spring races owing to my illness as I am now not able to [rouse?] my self in my bed without assistance nor have I been —-ly able since I was taken which was the first day of February as the manner in which I was taken with a violent puking and dysentery which weakened me so fast, took me of my feet immediately though I think I am now mending a little and am in hopes will be able to be down to the races but shall not be able to give you any assistance must request it as a favor of you to make provision for the people at the Jockey club races and prepare the nags and any part of the profits that you think equitable you shall have as your know General that if the place was not provided with proper accommodations it would loose its credit and would injure me very much must therefore request you to manage it just as your own and take what part you think right for trouble, I wish you to run the filly when and where you please and do with her just as your own believe me my General that as soon as I can get up and be at business I shall — my self to make you restitution and shall not think hard to make any sacrifice to comply with my contract with you. Present my most worshipful compliments to your Lady. Mrs. Pryor presents hers to your Lady. I am with respect. Your —
Saml Pryor
[The envelope states it was posted from Frankfort KY on March 13 to General Andrew Jackson in Tennessee near Nashville.]
Letter is from the Library of Congress website https://www.loc.gov/resource/maj.01007_0310_0312/?sp=1

Saml. Pryor (Samuel Pryor)

“In 1805 a friend of Jackson’s deprecated the manner in which Captain Joseph Erwin had handled a bet with Jackson over a horse race. Erwin’s horse, Ploughboy was scheduled to race Jackson’s horse, Truxton… Erwin’s son-in-law, Charles Dickinson became enraged and started quarreling with Jackson’s friend which led to Jackson becoming involved”…a duel ensued on May 30, 1806. Jackson was hit in the chest and Dickinson was killed. (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickinson_(historical_figure)

I had searched the National Archives website hoping to find another letter that was referred to in the press twenty years later (1827). I didn’t find the letter which would have been dated around 1806 (the time of the duel), so perhaps no letter existed and the 1827 article was meant damage the character of Jackson before his run for the presidency (he became president in 1829). Or perhaps the letter disappeared with Pryor’s effects since the letter was sent to him.

“Soon after the duel, Jackson wrote a letter to Sam. Pryor, a noted gamester, and a crony of the General, then residing in this state, giving him an account of it. In the letter the HERO expressed himself to this effect–‘I reserved my fire, and when I did shoot him, you may be assured I left the damned rascal weltering in his blood.” It is many years since our informant heard the letter read. But the expressions, he says, and we can believe it, made an impression upon his mind which time cannot obliterate while memory endures.”
National Standard, from Middlebury, VT, dated July 10, 1827… from the Richmond Whig (VA) on June 22, 1827

I have a few more bit of information on this Samuel Pryor for the next post.

Richard Pryor In Richmond, VA and In Madison County, AL


Why on earth are there so many men named Richard Pryor in the 1820-1830’s? While looking at Richard Pryor of Hempstead County, AR I also noted a Richard H. Pryor in Samuel Pryor’s estate in Hardeman County, TN, then there was Richard Pryor the gamble and hothead in Catahoula Parish, LA. So why not look at one more!

Then there was Richard Pryor who was in Madison County AL. Richard was in this county as early as 1822 when he first started appearing as a named party on lawsuits. The first US census of the county wasn’t taken until 1830– his age was recorded between 30-39 years old. His presumed wife, Dolly, was 52 in 1850 so Richard may have been born close to 1798. Richard wasn’t on the 1809 Census of Madison County, so, he must have arrived in the county sometime between 1809 and 1822.

I’ve written a few times about the death of Beverly Pryor (see posts). He was killed on a Mississippi racetrack in 1836 and his father traveled from Alabama to collect his body. In 1837 Richard Pryor (about age 36-45) was appointed the administrator of Beverly’s estate (Madison Co., AL). Was Beverly 21 or older when he was killed in MS? — that would make Richard about 17-27-ish at the time of Beverly’s birth. They could be father and son.

I can’t mention Beverly without mentioning the demise of the man who killed him — he was later beheaded and it was assumed he was killed by one of the Pryors. Involved in horseracing — a revenge killing —  that would possibly describe this Richard Pryor as a “blackleg” or in our contemporary terms, a “bad ass.” I wonder if he was the Richard Pryor who was in Catahoula Parish, LA (see post).

In 1836 an Alabama Legislative act changed the name of Dolly Beverly B Harrel to Dolly Beverly B Pryor and recognized her as the legitimate child of Beverly Pryor. And she was recognized as the rightful heir of Richard Pryor. Dolly B (born 1835) was living in the older Dolly Pryor’s household in 1850. I’ve long suspected that Richard and the older Dolly were kin. An old newspaper clipping helps to ID as husband and wife.

TO RICHARD PRYOR AND DOLLY HIS wife, George W. Turner and Catharine G. his wife, Ursula D. Ragland, John Brown, —-Anderson and Octavia his wife, and A. Cook and Judith his wife.
As you are not residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and have no agent therein known to us, you will hereby take notice that we shall proceed on Thursday, the 28th of February, 1850, and between the hours of 9 o’clock, AM and sunset of that day, at the office of Messrs. Meredith and Young. Attorneys at Law in the City of Richmond, to take the depositions of John Sheppard, Wellington Godin* and others, to be read as evidence on behalf of the defendants in a certain suit now pending in the Superior Court of Chancery for the Richmond Circuit, in which you and others are plaintiffs, and ourselves and William Davis, Hardin Davis, Spotswood G. Waldrop, Alfred Winston, John Clash, and others, are defendants, and which suit is now on the rules docket of said court; and if from any cause the said depositions be not commenced, or being commenced shall not be completed on that day, the taking thereof will be continued from day-to-day at the same place, and between the same hours, until the taking thereof shall be completed.
Executors of John D Brown, deceased.
(Richmond Enquirer, February 08, 1850)

* Wellington Godin was recorded in Richmond in 1850, occupation constable.

In older posts I mused over the first name Beverly as a possibly Beverly surname connection to Major John Pryor of Richmond. Isn’t it interesting that we now know this Richard Pryor had some kind of tie to Richmond?

I’m thinking through all the possibilities. What if Richard was still alive in 1850 and still alive in 1852 to be involved in the feud in Catahoula Parish? Could the Richard in Catahoula Parish and in Madison County, AL be the same Dick Pryor who was racing horses up in Nashville? I don’t think so and will explain in my next post.

“Blackleg” Richard Pryor and A Killing In Catahoula Parish, LA

On 27 July 1852, the Woodville Republican (Woodville is in Wilkinson County, MS) reported on two homicides in Catahoula Parish, LA. These were really nasty killings where a group of men laid wait in the tall grass and behind trees waiting for their intended victims and then when their had them within shooting range, they apparently killed them while they were still seated in the buggy in a one-sided barrage of gun power. Oh yes, there was a Pryor involved!

Reading stories about the murder of these men it brings to mind mountain-men feuds. It started in 1848 between an unidentified woman and Charles Jones who was living on Black River near St. John R. Liddell. The woman shot Jones in the presence of Liddell. Jones went away for 4 years then returned with a man named Richard Pryor. The feud erupted again, leading to the event where Samuel Glenn and Moses Wiggins were waylayed and killed on the road to Trinity– allegedly killed by St. John R. Liddell. It was all a horrible case of mistaken identity because Liddell thought he was killing Charles Jones’ friend Richard Pryor!

Just so you know, these weren’t poor hill folk. Liddell was the owner of a large plantation, he had attended the military academy at West Point, and he was a friend of the future Confederate President, Jefferson Davis (see Wikipedia). Did Liddell’s position reflect later in the damaging testimony about Pryor’s character?

By 1854 the case of the State of Louisiana vs. St. John R. Liddell was in front of a Grand Jury and there’s some interesting testimony about nasty characters, smeared honor, Glen and Wiggins’ buggy was previously owned by Richard Pryor (see report in 14 June 1854 The Independent, Harrisonburg, LA ).

Witness Grant Lincecum stated he “is very well acquainted with the man Dick Pryor; has known him, off and on, for many a year.” Lincecum is on the 1850 Census in Catahoula Parish he was born 1798 in Georgia. His profession was recorded as MD– is that a medical doctor? Wouldn’t be interesting to know how their paths had crossed in the past? Perhaps there would be a clue to the identity to Richard Pryor!  The witness further testified “Pryor was a notoriously bad character–he was a gambler and a horse-racer. Witness believes that he was the worst man that ever went unhung. Witness did not testify before the Grand Jury which found this bill.”

Another witness, Mr. Laningham stated, “Pryor, Sam Smith, Emerson, Glenn and Wiggins were in the habit of coming to Trinity armed, and making threats against Liddell and his friends.”

Why did one newspaper account refer to Pryor as a “blackleg”? Well the testimony of C.C. Waters states “On the same day, Pryor, while standing on the gallery of Mr. Robb’s store, offered to bet one thousand dollars that Maj Liddell would be killed in less than twelve months from that time, and offered to give two hundred dollars to any man that would get him the bet.” He also swore, “Pryor offered to shoot the top off of the head of any of Liddell’s fighting friends who would show themselves.” Then “At one time saw Pryor and Sam Smith get their guns and go up the street towards the Saw-mill , witness believes to hunt Capt. Phillips” (a friend of Liddell’s).

Felix Robb describes Pryor as quite the colorful character: “Pryor had been but a short time in the country**, only a few weeks, and left soon after Glenn and Wiggins were killed. Pryor had no property here: witness understood that Pryor spoke of buying or of having bought some land somewhere in this Parish, but believes it was a a pretense. Pryor was a notoriously bad character, given to gambling, rioting, and fighting.”

I know you may be running login to an online census record to ID Richard Pryor. I’m thinking we can already ID him from other accounts of a hot-headed Dick Pryor.  I really don’t look for all road to lead to Tennessee but I think on this trip we’re going there again! Remember sweet old Miss Jane H. Thomas who had memories of a Dick Pryor who engaged in horse racing in Nashville? (see post). Of course there could be 2 Dick Pryors who were gamblers and horse-racers. What are the odds?

And could he be the same Richard Pryor who was using enslaved boys as jockeys at his racetrack near Nashville and maybe in Montgomery County, TN? (see post). There are just a few Richard Pryors on the 1850 Census who could possibly be the one who showed up in Catahoula Parish.

Now, because it’s always fun to know how things turned out– what ever happened to St. John Liddell? Well the feud between Liddell and Charles Jones reignited in January 1870 over a real estate deal when John Nixon was shot by C W Carmack, a cashier at the Citizens Bank. Carmack had done a slick property sale for Charles Jones without notifying the firm that employed Nixon as an agent. An article published in the Ouachita Telegraph mentions that Nixon had $20,000 in life insurance — that’s quite a chunk of change at that time. It must have been a dangerous area to be doing business.

Liddell was killed a couple weeks later. He had boarded a river boat and had sat down to dinner. Charles Jones boarded the same boat and when he came in Liddell attempted to take a shot at him, but Jones shot first, killing Liddell (read more online). Liddell also had a chunk of life insurance:

NEW ORLEANS, March 22, 1870.
To Gen. Dabnov H. Maury, Agent of Piedmont and
Arlington Life Insurance Company
My Dear Sir:– Accept my thanks for the prompt and agreeable manner in which your company has acknowledged and made payment on the policy taken out by the late Gen. St. John R. Liddell for the benefit of his daughter, Mrs. Louisa Liddell McMillan. Cordially commending your company to the confidence of your people. I remain, very respectfully, yours,
W. P. McMillan, M.D.
The Ouachita Telegraph (Monroe, LA), 30 April 1870

** I read several articles published in Louisiana newspapers which use “country” to denote locale not that some one was from a foreign country.

American Pharoah’s Lineage Has A Pryor Sidenote

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I can’t resist posting about American Pharoah’s lineage. When I start posting horse stories you know it must be Triple Crown time again in the world of horse racing. This year’s horse to beat is American Pharoah. I checked out his lineage and found he’s another thoroughbred descended from Lexington b. 1850 (that’s his skeleton pictured above in the Smithsonian Institute). Lexington was trained by John Benjamin Pryor of Natchez, MS. 165 years later it’s still worth a mention because we have a Pryor in the mix. Lexington’s descendant California Chrome was in the run for the Tripple Crown last year (read post).

American Pharoah’s Pedigree (Family Tree)

Lexington b. 1850 (and Bellamira)
Embrys Lexington b. 1858 (and Carrie D.)
Kate Walker b. 1868 (and Alarm)
Ann Fief b. 1876 (and Virgil)
Tremont b. (and Salina)
Sara b. 1891 (and Prince of Monaco)
Fancywood b. 1898 (and Yankee)
Nonpareil b. 1909 (and Hassock)
Cushion b. 1917 (and Upset)
Rude Awakening (and Bull Dog)
Roused b. 1943 (and Free For All)
Rough’n Tumble b. 1948 (and Iltis)
My Dear Girl b. 1957 (and Intentionally)
In Reality b. 1964 (and Magic)
Charedi (and Le Fabuleux)
Gana Facil b. 1981 (and Fappiano)
Unbridled b. 1987 (and Toussaud)
Empire Maker b. 2000 (and Star of Goshen)
Pioneer of the Nile b. 2006 (and Little Princess MMA)
American Pharoah b. 2012