Tag Archives: Samuel Pryor and Prudence Thornton

Goochland County Pryors – Family Tree Revisions

I hate how complicated the Pryors become. I work better when I have a chart to follow. I created this chart to show the relationships gleaned from the 3 Chancery Cases in the past posts.


Oh boy, did I have the Pryors all wrong. I had Samuel Pryor who married Frances as the son of William and Sarah. Time to makes some changes in the database.

There’s another Pryor on this chart that needs some attention. I’ve seen several online family trees that include John Pryor, son of William and Sarah. These trees show John moving to Georgia and living long past 1785. Sorry, wrong John. The John who married Lydia Bossier will need to be revisited.


Goochland County Pryors – Transcriptions of Suits

I love reading the old documents and deciphering the quirks in the fussy old handwriting, however I suspect not everyone finds it to be fun. So, I’m posting transcriptions of the key documents from my last post.

The biggest nugget in these documents is revealed by Samuel in his answer to Frances Pryor’s complaint. He reveals that Frances’ deceased husband, Capt. Samuel, was his uncle. This means that Capt. Samuel was William (married to Sarah Wood)’s brother.

FILED 1785
LINK: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=075-1798-002

Transcription Notes: The original document is damaged on each edge, so words are lost. Where words are lost I have used — to indicate what is unreadable.Humbly complaining — unto your worship your orator and oratrix William Smith and Sarah his wife. That in the month of May 1777 William Pryor father to your oratirix departed this — — first made his last will and testament (thereby among other –) devising to your oratrix the one fifth of six negros to be chosen by Sarah the relict of the said William out of his — said William’s whole estate after this and Sarah’s death. — — Sarah departed this life on or about the day of — — persons were appointed by your worshipful Court — your oratrix her proportion of the said slaves who — — said purpose but not finishing the said business on — Samuel Pryor took upon himself the power and authority of — allotment to your oratrix pretending that his own act was the act and dec’d of the said Wm(?) so appointed: That your oratrix –fiding in and depending on the said Samuel received a Negro – as her property who has since come to the possession of your orator William by his intermarriage with your oratrix the said slave being infirm your orator and oratrix think — value than their proportion of the said slaves. That said dec’d by another Clause of his said will divided — oratirx a like proportion of the res– of his — to be allotted to your oratrix immediately on the said — death by assignment in Rund?: That the said — the said Samuel, John, and William Pryor and the — ?Fleming executors of his last will and testament — -alone has taken upon himself the burthen of executor of the said will but has failed to make a division as — by his testators last will and testament. That the said testators — debts due him to considerable amount at his death — crop of grain and tobacco was made on the testors —the year of his death a proportion of — fifth of which your orator and oratrix are entitled to under the residuary clause aforesaid, the said Testator having provided another fund for the payment of his debts — orator and oratrix further show that hey have often said? to the said Samuel in a friendly way to settle adjust the aforesaid promises without a suit and received for answer that he, the said Samuel would come to any settlement til thereto by law compelled– which actings and doings are contrary to equity and — cons– and manifestly tend to injury and opnry? — orator intended consideration where of and for — your orator is without remedy in the pr– the strict rules of the common law and commonly believed in Chancery where fraud or dit–e — performances incurred and justice most amply ad– to the end therefrom that the said Samuel may — singular the promises on his corporal — — name were again to be repeated and interrogates respectfully that he may declare whether the said — did not deport their life about the time of — first made his last will and testament in — ofrm aforesaid? whether your oratrix was not entitled one fifth or to what their proportion of six slaves and claim of by Sarah as aforesaid? whether and —division and by whom her turn been in — of tha- slaves? Was then not debts to a considerable — due to the said de–nt at his death and to what any then not or crop of tobacco and grain made on — the year of the testators death or wh– made and how much? Has a division of the — made agreeable to t he last will and testament — and wherefore — — not been made? [Has]not a fund for the payment of his debt — the said defendant independent of debts du — made in the plantation the year of his — that your worship may made such further — in the promises as are agreeable to equity and god. — may it please your worship to — orator and oratrix a writ for subpoenas.

And in the same Chancery Case file.

FILED 1785
LINK: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=075-1798-002

Amendment to the original complaint?To the worshipful court of Goochland County in Chancery. Humbly complaining shew unto your worships your orator and oratrix William Smith and Sarah his wife That some time about the (blank) day of (blank) 17(blank) John Pryor brother to your Oratrix departed this life having as your orator and oratrix are informed & are assured first made his last will and Testament thereby devising and bequeathing that his whole estate real & personal be equally divided among his brothers and sisters. That the said will fell into the hands of Samuel Pryor another brother of your Oratrix as the said Samuel has been often heard to declare while he the said Samuel supposed that some younger brother or younger brother’s son was heir at Law to the said John and when the said Samuel came to learn that he himself was the legal heir & was entitled to more exclusive of then under the said will he the said Samuel began to prevaricate & say there was a Will executed by the said John but the was illegal & —cupated as being signed by only two witnesses: your orators further shew that the said John also dyed (sic) possessed of a personal estate to some amount to one fifth of which your Orator and Oratrix (they having intermarried) are entitled under the act of Distributions. That the said Samuel — kept posession of the said estate ever since the death of the said John without any legal steps taken ’til your worship’s April Court 1785 when your Orator moving that the administration should be granted in due course of law the said Samuel as a further shift to delay your orator & Oratrix of their just rights first in his claim to the administration as real of –; That the said Samuel previous to taking out letter of administration had actually sold some of the slaves and other property. All which actings and doings are contrary to Equity & good conscience & manifestly tend to injure & oppress your orator. In tender consideration whereof & for as much as your Orator is without remedy in the premises at common law & is only relievable in Equity where deeds cancelled or concealed are compelled to be given up the contents discovered & established & specifically performed & Justice most amply administered. To the end therefore that the said Samuel may answer all …
… This respondent further shews that the said John Pryor died possessed of a tract of land left him by the Will of his father William Pryor and to which…

The following is the complaint filed by Frances Pryor and answer to the complaint made by Samuel Pryor, executor of William Pryor’s estate.


FILED c.1779
LINK: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/full_case_detail.asp?CFN=075-1786-006#imgTo the Worshipful court of Goochland County in Chancery sitting humbly complaining.
Sheweth unto your worships your oratrix Frances Pryor widow and relict of Samuel Pryor dec’d that your oratrix dec’d husband being — possessed in her own right of sundry land and slaves, particularly of an hundred acres of land in the County of Goochland and four hundred and eighty four acres in the County of Dinwiddie and of the following slaves to wit. (blank) departed this life on about the (blank) day of (blank) of 176(blank) leaving his Heir at law (blank) Pryor an infant under the age of twenty one years. That William Pryor another defendant hereto took upon himself the admin. of her said husband’s estate in consequence possessed himself of the slaves aforesaid and all his personal estate that your oratrix by the death of her said Husband became entitled to her Dower in all his land and likewise in all his slaves and personal Estate after payment of his debts. That the debts of her said husband being as she is informed paid, your oratrix well hoped to have her dower in his Estate — and assigned without further trouble. But now said it is, may it please said Worships, that he said defendant confederating together to your said Oratrix refuse to assign her dower either in her deceased husband’s land or slaves. in under consideration whereof and to the end that the said defendants upon their corporal (several words missing due to hole in paper) answer make to all (several words missing due to hole in paper) in repeated and interrogated that more –ally that they may set forth of what land and slaves and of the personal Estate to what amount …
(Note: the handwriting becomes unreadable at the end of the document)


FILED c.1779
LINK: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/full_case_detail.asp?CFN=075-1786-006#imgThe answer of Samuel Pryor executor of William Pryor deceased who was administrator of Samuel Pryor deceased to the bill of complaint exhibited against him by Frances Pryor, widow and relict of the said Samuel Pryor deceased complainant.This defendant saving to himself all benefit of exception to the complaints said bill answer thereto or to so much thereof as he is advised is material for him to answer unto, he answereth and saith that he believes his uncle said Samuel Pryor deceased died seized and possessed of the land in the bill mentioned and sundry slaves an inventory of which is recorded in Goochland court, and to which this defendant for greater certainty refers and prays the same may be taken as part of this his answer. He admits that the said William Pryor deceased took upon himself the administration of the said Samuel Pryor’s estate and by virtue there of possessed himself of the same. That the said William Pryor, the defendant’s father, in the month of (blank) 177(blank) departed this life having duly published his last will and testament and there of appointed this defendant his executor who took upon himself the burthen and execution of the same, and by virtue thereof possessed himself of so much of the said Samuel Pryor’s estate as he could find, consisting of (blank) slaves. That the said William Pryor in  his lifetime paid the debts of the said Samuel Pryor to a large amount, but left many of them unpaid. That this defendant since the death of the said William Pryor hath paid of the said Samuel Pryor’s debts to the amount of (blank) on account of which he is ready to exhibit when called upon, and hath now in his possession (blank) slaves belonging to the said estate to wit (blank).  This defendant is willing that proper persons may be appointed to lay off  and assign to the complainant her dower in the said land and slaves according to law. He denies all combination and hopes to be (illegible) with his costs and without what that (illegible).
Signed Samuel Pryor
Mr. Samuel Pryor came before me and made Oath that the above answer is true. Certified this 18th Oct. 1779
Signed Thomas T. Bates

How do I know that William Smith and wife Sally AND Frances were suing the same Samuel Pryor? One big clue is that Samuel used the same lawyer, Thomas Bates, to answer both suits.

Samuel Pryor's answer to William Smith and wife Sally (Pryor) suit. Samuel's lawyer was Thomas Bates.

Thomas Bates was the magistrate on BOTH suits.

Goochland County Pryors – 3 Suits Reveal Samuel Pryor ID

This week I have several posts all about Goochland County.

I’m excited to say I think we have one less Samuel Pryor to contend with in Goochland County. I feel that I spent a lot of time reading the Chancery Court cases, but I really needed to spend some extra time analyzing them and figuring out how the dates all fit together.

There was a Samuel Pryor in Goochland County. I think most researchers recognize him as the Samuel who married Prudence Thornton. But wait, there’s something interesting in the Chancery cases.

In about 1768 – I’m guessing at the date because the old suits aren’t date stamped like modern suits, however the first continuance was to July 1768–  a suit was filed in the Chancery Court of Goochland County: Reuben Meriwether, et al V. William Pryor the administrator of Samuel Pryor’s estate.  This indicates that Samuel was deceased by that time.


There is an important point to note: William was an “administrator” of the estate, an indicator that Samuel Pryor died without a will. This matches nicely to the Samuel Pryor who died without a will in 1766 resulting in an estate settlement. The suit filed by Reuben Meriwether noted above has a 1770 notice that summons William Pryor to appear before the justices, a strong indicator that William was alive in 1770. I wish there was a complaint in the file so we could know the substance of Reuben’s suit, however I suspect it involved requesting his mother’s dower and an inheritance from his deceased father, Nicholas Meriwether Sr.


William Pryor who was the administrator of Samuel’s estate died sometime between 1770 and 1779. In 1779, ten years after the suit was filed, it was amended to show William Pryor the administrator of Samuel’s estate was now William Pryor deceased. And there’s more… Samuel Pryor the executor of William’s estate was added to the suit. That’s interesting because it indicates that William left a will.

There is a 1777 will for William Pryor in Goochland County. Let’s see how this fits in.


Another Chancery Court case was filed in Goochland County in about 1785: William Smith and wife V. Samuel Pryor.  William Smith was married to Sarah/Sally Pryor who had previously been married to Matthew Payne. The suit states that her father was William Pryor, deceased and her mother had been Sarah (likely Sarah Wood per a 1758 bond William filed with Valentine Wood naming Henry as  his wife’s father). The suit identifies Sally Smith’s brothers as Samuel Pryor (the defendant), John Pryor who was deceased in 1785, and William Pryor. The suit also states that a Mr. Fleming was the executor of William Pryor.

The names in the 1785 Chancery Case all match the will filed in 1777 for William Pryor who appointed Col. William Fleming his executor and named his wife Sarah, children Samuel, William and John, Sally Payne, Patty and Mary and witnesses James Meriwether, Nicholas Meriwether, David Wood Meriwether, Meredith? Price. This certainly sounds like the family members named in the Chancery case.

I re-read another Chancery Court Case: Frances Pryor V. the Executor of William Pryor. The suit must have been filed around 1779 because the defendant’s answer was filed 18 October 1779. Frances states that she was married to Samuel Pryor and that he died in 1760-something (the actual year is blank in the suit). William Pryor took on the position of executor of Samuel’s estate and afterwards died and “his son Samuel” was the representative of his estate. Frances appears to have filed suit against the same Samuel Pryor that William Smith and Sally sued.

An account of the estate in the case of Frances Pryor V. William Pryor. "Capt. Samuel Pryor Estate to Frances Pryor widow and relict of Capt. Samuel Pryor deceased." Dates 1767 and 1768.

An account of the estate in the case of Frances Pryor V. William Pryor. “Capt. Samuel Pryor Estate to Frances Pryor widow and relic of Capt. Samuel Pryor deceased.” Dates 1767 and 1768.

Frances’ suit says she and Samuel had one child who was under twenty-one, who is likely the Samuel Pryor baptized at St. James Northam parish in 1762.  I know I and other researchers have believed Samuel the son of William and Sarah (Wood) Pryor was Frances’ husband– not true because that Samuel was alive well past 1785 and engaged in a lawsuit with William Smith and Sally Pryor. Oh, it does get confusing with all the same names!

Pryor Relationships in 3 Chancery Suits

Generation 1: Samuel and Prudence. Generation 2: Samuel and William Pryor. Generation 3: Children of Samuel and William and their spouses’ children. Orange boxes show the relationship of the 3 Chancery suits.



How Did Col. Samuel Pryor’s Genealogy Get So Messed Up?

Old Goochland Jail

I’ve seen many family trees that rely on the article titled “The Pryor Family” published more than 100 years ago in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 7 (1899)[copy available in Google Books]. I’ve relied on it myself. But how accurate could an article be that begins

On account of the destruction of county records, this account of the Pryors must be at present rather a collection of data than a connected and complete account of the family…

What this tells me is that the author had some data but it was beyond him to connect up the Pryor family. This doesn’t sound too reliable to me!  Alas, it sounds also sounds too familiar!

The Virginia Magazine article speaks of early land grants to Robert Pryor on Craney Creek in Gloucester County in the late l680’s and early 1690’s.  The article quotes a Mitchell family Bible that is inscribed with the story from the 1780’s that Samuel Pryor married Prudence Thornton and had 10 children- William, John, Thornton, Robert, Luke, Frank (Francis?), Joseph, Nancy, Molly, and Samuel. Because Molly Pryor was the direct ancestor of the Bible owner her year of birth was recorded as 1730. The writer then deduced from her year of birth that Robert on Craney Creek was old enough to be her grandfather and therefore the patriarch of this Pryor line.

The author corresponded with Judge R. A. Pryor in New York. This judge is Roger Atkinson Pryor, the Confederate General who went to New York City after the Civil War.  Judge Pryor used his father’s notes to fill in the pieces of Samuel and Prudence line carried on by their son John Pryor. The Judge didn’t state who John married but we now know from the Chancery Court Records that his wife was Mary Dennis.

I question this long-relied upon article– it comes apart on page 206

William Pryor, of Goochland, from comparison of all data, must have been the son of Colonel Samuel Pryor, with whom the account of the family given in the last number begins. Samuel Pryor, of Amelia and Goochland, must also have been another son.  Francis Pryor, of Orange, named in the Louisa deed, another son.  John Pryor of King and Queen, named in the Hanover deed, was probably a brother of Colonel Samuel Pryor.

I encourage family researchers to slow down and ask questions. Questions like,  What’s the evidence that Francis Pryor of Orange County who deeded land in Louisa County is related to William and his father Samuel? And, where did the author find documentation of a relationship between John Pryor in King and Queen and Col. Samuel and his son William?

The 1768 deed in Louisa County that names Francis Pryor and his wife Frances doesn’t name any other Pryors, nor did the author provide the names of other parties to the deed. I’ve done some online searches and can’t find the deed quoted in full, nor am I able to find any information on this Francis Pryor. There’s certainly not enough information to conclude he’s related to either Col. Samuel or his son William Pryor.

A John Pryor from King and Queen County may be pure speculation and a very poor conclusion. There’s a record of a “Major” Pryor in King and Queen County dated 1747 that mentions land in Brunswick County. The John Pryor in King and Queen records shows up in 1780 and that is Major John Pryor born 1750. He wasn’t even born in 1747 so he can’t be the Major Pryor who showed up on the 1747 record. I looked in Brunswick County and found the older Major Pryor there– named with his wife “Anne” on an 1749 indenture. It’s not the John Pryor, son of son of Col. Samuel Pryor because that John Pryor was married to Mary Dennis, not an Anne.

There’s a 1742 indenture filed in Amelia County for Philip Pryor and wife Ann of Hanover County, VA. The indenture deeded land to William Berry, possibly the same William Berry who married Molly Pryor (a daughter of Col. Samuel Pryor).  Was Philip Pryor the same man as Major Pryor? I think these were two different people because there’s an indenture for Philip Pryor that was witnessed by Major Pryor.

Possession obtained by William Berry in presence of Major Pryor & Timothy Murrell on Mar. 18, 1742. Deed ackn. By Philip Pryor & ordered rec. at Court held Mar. 18, 1742, after Ann, his wife, relinquished her Right of Dower.

While these old genealogy articles may contain histories and records that are no longer available, they need to be used with a spoonful of skepticism. Ask questions and lets get our hands on the old documents!

Solving a Samuel Pryor

Charlotte County Court Grounds
Charlotte County Court Grounds

I think we may be able to figure out a stray Samuel Pryor that was floating around Virginia in the early years after the American Revolution.

There’s a Pryor will in Charlotte County, VA.

Will of Robert PRYOR written in Dec 1779, proved Apr 1780. Names wife Mildred Pryor, son Samuel PRYOR (a minor), Martha PRYOR, Prudent PRYOR, Mary PRYOR, and Elizabeth PRYOR daughters of Samuel PRYOR deceased.

Robert Pryor has been referred to as a son of Samuel Pryor and Prudence Thornton by other researchers and I seem to remember J. Gatewood Pryor in his book also states Robert was Samuel’s son.  While I can’t find any documents that name Robert as a son I may be willing to take that leap. Samuel Pryor is supposed to be the son of Robert Pryor and Virginia Betty Green, so it’s not unlikely that he would name a son after his father.

Robert Pryor in his will left his estate to his minor son named Samuel (again, this possibly follows the tradition of naming a child after one’s father).

Robert also included four Pryor women who were the daughters of another Samuel. Could this “other” Samuel in Robert’s will be his brother and the son of Samuel and Prudence? I’ve seen family trees that indicate that Samuel Pryor and Prudence Thornton had a son named Samuel, although I’ve found nothing about him. And again in the book by J. Gatewood Pryor he stated Samuel and Prudence had a son also named Samuel, although he mistakenly stated that it was the Samuel who married Frances Morton.  If this “other” Samuel only had female heirs (Martha, Prudent [sic], Mary, and Elizabeth) and was deceased by 1779, it’s not out of the question that researchers have not focused on his line, nor found out more about him.

And it is intriguing that this “other” Samuel named a daughter Prudent (or Prudence?), possibly after his mother Prudence Thornton Pryor.

I guess as we move forward to solve the Pryor lines in Virginia, we have to ask if other Samuel Pryors in the records are “this” Samuel Pryor.