Tag Archives: richard pryor

Positive ID on Richard Pryor and Son Beverly Pryor

I found a newspaper article that will help to turn up the ID to “positive” for Richard Pryor and son Beverly Pryor in this recent post.


When the tale of their Virginia adventure made it’s way into an Alabama newspaper, the editor chose to ID the Pryor men.

From The Selma Daily Reporter, September 19, 1835

I can’t let go of Richard Pryor of Madison County without some more pondering of his possible connections.

Richard was born in 1798, but I’ve seen the surnames involved in the Richmond “ruckus” that took place in the 1830’s connected to a Pryor line. In 1774 a notice was published in Rind’s Virginia Gazette; it mentioned business conducted by Matthew Anderson of King and Queen County and Christopher Pryor of Gloucester Courthouse. There’s the Anderson surname again.

Hmmm… Christopher Pryor? His Son married Betty Armistead Tyler and his daughter was named Elizabeth Whiting Pryor. Both Armistead and Whiting are names that come up with Richard Pryor of Madison County.

I’m putting Richard and his line again on the the back burner, but considering he may be connected to the Pryors in Gloucester County.

Richard Pryor of Richmond and Madison Co, AL

Back in 2014 I posted about Pryor men from Alabama who returned to their home state of Virginia and were accused of causing a ruckus in their relatives’ household. The complaint was lodged by Brown and it sounds like sexual advances were made against the elder Pryor’s wife’s female Anderson kin.


Then in 2016 I wrote about Richard Pryor of Madison County and wife Dolly who were named in a notice regarding a Richmond, VA suit. Named in the same notice were John Brown, —-Anderson and Octavia his wife. The notice was regarding a Chancery Court case the estate of John D Brown. Perhaps that was the case of John Brown, etc vs. Nancy Brown, widow filed in the Richmond Chancery Court in 1849 (see LVA index).


After doing some searches I found that there’s a William Armistead Anderson who married a Catherine Octavia Ruela Brown. The 1850 notice was addressed to Richard Pryor and his wife and also Mr. Anderson and his wife, stating that they were not residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

So if the Anderson and Brown relations are the same families named in both sources, then the father and son team who were accused of causing havoc in Richmond are probably Richard Pryor and his son Beverly Pryor.

When I was searching out the names in the 1850 notice I found an Ursula Ragland age 82 who was born in VA– she was counted in the household of Samuel Ragland age 44 in Franklin County, AL. Researchers have her as the mother of the Ragland males in the household: Samuel 44 (head of household), John 57, William A 52 and Nathaniel 47. I have to include a TN connection– Ursula D Ragland was on the 1820 Census in Smith County, TN. What really piqued my interest was that Samuel had a son living in the household named Beverly Ragland– a nice tie-in perhaps to Richard and Dolly Pryor’s son named Beverly.Ra

In December of 1850 Dolly Pryor died at the home of S J (Samuel) Ragland. Was Dolly a Ragland?

Mrs. Dolly Pryor of Huntsville on the 15, age 62 years. She died at the residence of S J Ragland. (Tuskegee Republican 5 Dec 1850)

Who was Richard Pryor in Catahoula Parish Feud?

Nothing about the Liddell-Jones feud ended well (see post). After Charles Jones killed St. John R Liddell on the river boat Welcome, mob justice was unleashed on Jones– the mob killed Charles Jones, his son William Jones, and possibly his son Cuthbert Jones. The Ouachita Telegraph describes this a “tragedy”, however I suspect in our time we’d call this a lynching. (see article)

Who was the Richard Pryor involved in the feud? What was his fate? I think the Richard who became involved in the Catahoula Parish feud was the son of William Bland Pryor (born 1793 in VA). This is the Richard Pryor who brashly demanded the head of Abraham Lincoln at the start of the Civil War (see post). The feud was fought near Trinity, LA (#1 on the map below). In 1850 Richard was living with his parents in Madison Parish, LA (#2) and was counted in 1860 in nearby Vicksburg, MS (#3).

catahoula louisiana richard pryor

google maps

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.