Tag Archives: tayloe

Murder on the Racetrack – The Death of Beverly Pryor (1836)

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I tell you, I find more deaths of Pryors that take place around gambling and horse racing.  A warm day in the South, the passions of a horse race, probably some  high-stakes gambling, top it off with perhaps a bit of alcohol and what you’ve got is a recipe for disaster. And so goes the story of the death of Beverly Pryor in 1836.

A Mr. Beverly Pryor, a young man from the neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama, suspecting there had been foul play in the race, attacked and knocked down one of the trainers. Mr. Eli Abbott, of this town, the Proprietor of the Race Course, remonstrated with him on such conduct, and told him that a race-ground was not a proper place for such disturbances. Upon this Pryor drew a pistol, pushed the muzzle into the face of Abbott, so violently as to take off the skin, telling him at the same time to draw and defend himself. Abbott declared that he had no pistol. Just at this time, a man by the name of McRhodes, Pryor’s friend, snapped a pistol at Abott, which momentarily drew off the attention of Pryor. Abbott taking advantage of the occasion, instantly drew a large knife, plunged it into the breast of Pryor, turned and severely wounded McRhodes, who made off, and Abbott followed him. Pryor, though mortally wounded, pursued Abbott some fifteen or twenty paces, snapped his pistol repeatedly at him, then fell and expired without a groan.

We saw young Pryor early in the day, riding about town, in all the flesh and pride of youth, and in a few brief hours, we saw him borue (sic) back a corpse, his father attending him, covered with the blood of his son, which he had got on his clothes in supporting him on the ground in his death struggle! What a spectacle! And what a sudden and awful transit from all the gayety and buoyancy of youth to the cold an unrelenting arms of death! The grieved and disconsolate father has had the corpse carried to Alabama, to be buried at his family residence….
— Miss. Free Press, re-published in the Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, PA on 13 June 1836

These stories fascinate me. Which Pryor was involved? What was the story of their lives? How were they all involved in horse racing.  Oh, I would certainly like to know who Beverly Pryor was! Remember the Beverly’s were one of the wealthy tidewater families in VA. Major John Pryor (of Richmond) — his first wife was Anne Beverly Whiting. The Major was a horse breeder (ie. the horse Federalist).

When I searched for more information on Eli Abbott I found an article on a Sumner Co., TN site that reports he owned a horse named Zelina in 1833 with J. B. Jones, Johnson & Tayloe and Henry H. Tayloe of Alabama (see article). Isn’t it interesting that Major Pryor also had a horse/Tayloe connection? (read my post Captain Pryor in the Revolutionary War?)

I haven’t seen it yet, but there’s an obituary for Beverly Pryor in the Huntsville, Democrat published on 17 May 1836, which means that perhaps Pryor died a month or so before the article made it into the Gettysburg newspaper.

There’s only one Pryor family in the Huntsville, AL (Madison County) area in 1830. That’s Richard Pryor. If Richard is the  father of Beverly Pryor, Beverly may have been the only son in his household on the census, making the story more poignant.

And if Richard Pryor is related to Beverly Pryor, the is he the Richard Pryor who had a racetrack in  Nashville?

Nancy Pryor Marriage in York County, VA 1796

Alas there are times when people are lost to the ages. Sometimes it feels like many of our female Pryors are lost. I have an idea of which line this Nancy Pryor belongs to.

There’s a York County, VA marriage…

Thomas Sands to Nancy Pryor
Bondsman: Edward Brook (signed “Brooke”)
Witness: Ben. Waller, Jr.
August 23, 1796,  p. 426

I suspect this Nancy Pryor is related to Major John Pryor of Richmond.

1. Major John Pryor’s sister was Mary Pryor who married James Quarles. When Mary died, James married Dorothy Waller.

2. The Waller’s were a prominent family in Virginia (as were Major Pryor’s family). Benjamin Waller Sr. was the son of a Dorothy King. Was Benjamin Sr. the father of both Benjamin Waller Jr. and Dorothy Waller Quarles?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Waller

3. The will of John Tayloe Corbin was witnessed by Benjamin Waller of Williamsburg in 1793. Major John Pryor was connected to the Tayloes through his horse trading:

A  publication of a horse pedigree in The American Farmer states a horse named Federalist raised on the estate of John Tayloe, deceased, was sold to Major John Pryor by William Beale Jr. (published April 17, 1829, but the sale possibly occurred 10 to 20 years earlier). The America Stud Book, Vol. 1 states Federalist was bred at Mt. Airy.

I’m keeping a note of this Nancy Pryor as a possible niece of Major John Pryor.

Identity of John Pryor – Revolutionary War Bounty Land in Kentucky


Long ago I stumbled upon the data from Elizabeth Pryor Harper’s book Twenty-One Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies. It references a  4000 acre millitary land warrant to John Pryor in Kentucky.  In addition she states the same John Pryor was “Supposed to have been killed by Indians before 1825.” [view online]  It’s time to reveal which John Pryor got the military land and prove Ms. Harper wrong– this is not the John Pryor who was killed by Indians. And this may not be the John Pryor you expect!

It’s Major John Pryor of Richmond, VA.  The aging Revolutionary War vet who was deserted by his first wife, Anne Beverly Whiting. Don’t know who he is? Read more…

The Major’s second wife, Elizabeth Quarles Graves, filed for a widow’s pension for his Revolutionary War Service. There’s a easy-to-read transciption of the pension application online at https://revwarapps.org/w12064.pdf. It’s important to read the application, especially the last paragraph on page 2. This paragraph states that John Pryor held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain-Lieutenant. I don’t think he ever held the rank of Major– it was probably a respectful title like “Colonel” in the South.

The land warrants and the pension application match up. On both records John Pryor is a Captain Lieutenant. The Warrant number matches up to John Pryor’s land grant: The grant number was  0126.0 while the pension states it was 1760 (I think the “2” was misread as a “7”) on the transcription of his pension (above).The actual land warrants can also be viewed online through the state of Kentucky website.  apps.sos.ky.gov/land/military/revwar/Revdetail.asp?Type=w&warrant=0126.0.

There were 4 grants given to John Pryor under this warrant number.

1.  Location: Kentucky – on the Cumberland River, near upper corner of C. Carrington’s survey.
Assignee: John Tayloe Griffin
Grant date 9/17/1785.
Received 1000 acres

2. Location: Kentucky – on the Muddy River
Assignee: John Tayloe Griffin
Grate date (surveyed) 7/15/1786
Received 1000 acres

3. Location: On the east side of the Little Miami, later pencil note on document states “land is in Ohio”
Assignee:  John Tayloe Griffin, assigned to Robert Morris
Grant date: (surveyed) 4/17/1788
Received 1000 acres

4. Location: Cypress Creek
Assignee: John Tayloe Griffin, Robert Morris assignee
Grant Date: (surveyed) 12/28/1786
Received 1000 acres


There’s no indication that Major John Pryor resided anywhere but Richmond, VA and probably never saw his bounty land in Kentucky.  He assigned or sold the land to John Tayloe Griffin who was also from Richmond.  I wonder what Griffin’s connections were to the Tayloe family: Major Pryor bought a race horse named Federalist from the estate of John Tayloe per an 1829 racing journal.

With the mention of “Captain” Pryor and a Tayloe connection, it may be time to read another post again and decipher the mystery of Grandma’s Clock [read the post]. And who is the C. Carrington on the first warrant. Could this be Codrington Carrington, son of George Carrington of Cumberland  Co., VA [see deeds] and Fayette Co., KY?

And it’s time to dig out the July 1825 edition of the Louisville Morning Post to find out which John Pryor that Elizabeth Pryor Harper found had been killed by Indians.

Captain Pryor in the Revolutionary War?

I read a story online called “Our Grandmother’s Clock,” published in Catholic World, vol 38, October 1883 to March 1884 issue. It’s written by an adult recollecting their childhood when their grandmother told the story of meeting their grandfather during the American Revolution. Grandpa was a Captain Pryor with General George Washington’s army. It’s frustrating because there’s no author credit given and it’s hard to tell if it’s fact or fiction.  I’ve pulled some names and information from the story and I’m wondering if anyone sees any facts that match their ancestor.

  • Grandmother lived in Virginia as a girl and as an elderly widow she moved in with one of her children and grandchildren in Mt. Airy.
  • The story takes place on a plantation named Mount Airy. I looked in Wikipedia and found that it’s still a private mansion near Richmond, VA.  It was built by John Tayloe.
  • A  publication of a horse pedigree in The American Farmer states a horse named Federalist raised on the estate of John Tayloe, deceased, was sold to Major John Pryor by William Beale Jr. (published April 17, 1829, but the sale possibly occurred 10 to 20 years earlier). The America Stud Book, Vol. 1 states Federalist was bred at Mt. Airy.
  • Her mother’s married name was (Charlotte?) Lottie Randolph and she was (Mary?) Polly Randolph.
  • Captain Pryor was wounded and taken prisoner at Yorktown. He impersonated a British soldier to spy for General Lafayette.
  • This quote from the story indicates that the family moved westward: “This old clock was brought with other less sacred household goods when the spirit of adventure had seized upon grandfather and made him leave the honored borders of old Virginia for a home in the far West.” Where was the “far West?”– Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois?

I dug through my database and looked online, but I can’t figure out who this story is about. The frustrating thing is that if its fiction, the author has dusted it with real names to anchor it somewhat in reality.  My first thought was of Major John Pryor who lived in Richmond and who made the horse trade with John Tayloe. Major Pryor even at one point housed Nancy Randolph, a relative of President Thomas Jefferson who had a tarnished reputation. But he lived at Haymarket Gardens and his wife was a Whiting, not a Randolph and there were no children from their union (hence no grandchildren to tell stories to).  Major Pryor’s second wife was his housekeeper, Elizabeth Quarles Graves, but she remarried and moved to Boston also without children from her marriage to the Major.

So who was Captain Pryor? I suspect that the personas of the Captain and the Major have been melded together in history and in the research of some family historians. I did some searching for a captain rather than the major.

“I do certify that John PRYOR was c—–  (commissioned?) in a Captain Lieutenant in the first Regiment of Artillery on Continental —– the 13th of January 1777 —- in the service until the end of the war. Given under my hand this 29th day of June 1807. Samuel COLEMAN.” [from Revolution Bounty Warrants, Library of Virginia – online Catalog.  The back side of this document states that Captain Pryor was given 4000 acres.]**

A Goochland County will dated 1748 for a Samuel Coleman (obviously not the same Samuel Coleman who survived the American Revolution in the 1770’s) was witnessed by John Pryor, John Right, and Robert L. Woodson.

The Colemans, Pryors, and Woodsons were in Goochland County, VA records in the 1730’s onward. Samuel Coleman married at St. James Northam parish in December 1780. I suspect the John Pryor known by Samuel Coleman was John Pryor son of Col. William Pryor and Sarah Wood. This John Pryor was born in 1759 and was alive at the time of his father’s 1777 will. He was born in Goochland County and baptized at St. James Northam parish. He was the right age to be marriage material at the time of the Revolution.

I think that some of the confusion between Captain Pryor and old Major Pryor who married Anne Whiting comes out of them having close family connections. Major Pryor was a member of the Society of Cincinnati as was Samuel Coleman (the guy who knew Captain Pryor). A John Pryor, who I believe to be Major Pryor, is recorded in the board minutes of Hampden Sydney College in 1804 with Samuel Coleman.

Relying on “Twenty-One Southern Families: Notes and Genealogies,” by Elizabeth Pryor Harper, Capt. John Pryor received 4000 acres on Skaggs Creek in Kentucky. There’s a John Pryor on the 1800 Tax List of Barren Co., KY. John isn’t on Barren Co. records after that but it’s been offered that the John Pryor who was also getting large amounts of land near Louisville was the same person.

So is Capt. Pryor who spied on the British the John Pryor who was in Jefferson Co., KY and is believed to be the father of Nathaniel Pryor? Was Nathaniel Pryor’s mother actually a Randolph? That could explain why he was part of Jefferson’s Lewis and Clark Expedition!

To get to the root of Grandmother’s story it would be really helpful to know who Grandmother was and to know who were her grandchildren!

** Since first writing this post the writer has discovered the identity of the John Pryor who received the 4000 acres of bounty land [<<Read More>>]