Tag Archives: Virginia

Pryor Slave Story: Anthony Pryor Free Man During Civil War

pryor slaveI’ve got another story from the Civil War that reveals the name of a slave named Pryor and their former master. I would think if anyone is tracing this Pryor line they would become stumped because this man named Pryor wasn’t last enslaved by a Pryor family. It’s an interesting letter from The Liberator, the famed abolitionist newspaper in Boston.

“Can’t Take Care of Themselves — Would Starve if They were Set Free.” Here is one of the keenest retorts to this ridiculous outcry in the shape of a letter written to Anthony Pryor, one of the colored people at Fortress Monroe, by his late mistress. Rev. Mr. Lockwood certifies to its authenticity.

ANTHONY — I have heard that you were making a great deal of money, and as we are in Williamsburg and have no support, and William is away and I cannot hear from him, I send you this to let you know that we are in need of everything. I have no meat, no money of any kind that will pass. I want you to send me some bacon, and sugar, and coffee, and any other things you can get that I need. I have no money to buy a thing with. You have had twelve months’ freedom to make money in. It is time to do something for me and my children. They are in want of clothes, and the winter is coming on. If you do not send me some money, they will perish with cold, for wood is very high, and I am not able to buy any now to cook with. We have done all in our power for you until you left us, and can you hear of your master’s children starving, and you able to work and help them? No, I cannot think it. I should like to see you. If you can give ma a little help every month, it would keep us from want. Send what you can get for me by John King. He will bring it safe. He is doing all he can for his mistress. He does not let them want for anything. I never should have sent this if I had not been in want, as you have not done any thing for me all this time. If you consider yourself free, it is your duty to do what you can for me and my two children. I shall expect you to do all you can. If John King does not come up soon, you can send them by Sam Simpkins. He belongs to Miss Eliza Jones. Tell him to bring them to Mrs. Tilford. We are there now. Send them as soon as you can.
From your mistress, Hannah D Westwood
(Published in The Liberator, 3 Oct 1862)

The audacity? The white mistress writing to her black slave begging for money during the Civil War.

The location? Fortress Monroe is likely Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA.

It would be interesting to know the circumstances that led to Anthony Pryor’s freedom because this article was written DURING the Civil War and BEFORE the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.

There’s an Anthony Pryor (born about 1841) on the 1870, 1880, and 1900 Census schedules, living in Elizabeth City, VA. He was recorded as black at times and as mulatto at other times. He was living with with Lucy Ann Pryor, identified as Lucy Whitlock on their son Joseph Andrew Pryor‘s social security record. Anthony and his son took on the occupation of plasterers.

In 1870, Hannah D. Westwood and her husband William T. Westwood were counted living in Isle of Wight, VA. Two children born before and during the Civil War were living in the household: Mary E 11 and Hannah D 9. The value of William’s personal property was $100. Military records reveal that before this letter was published in The Liberator, Hannah’s husband William Thompson Westwood had enlisted as a Confederate soldier. Perhaps the Westwoods were feeling the shortages of the War or the loss of income from her husband being away from home with the military. Or perhaps both.

It takes desperation and gall to write to your ex-slave asking for financial assistance.

George L Pryor, black attorney and politician

george-pryor-black-lawyer

George L Pryor is on the 1900 Census in Norfolk. He was recorded as born May 1857 and “black” which means he was an African American born before the end of slavery. He and both of his parents were born in Virginia and his profession is recorded as “lawyer”.

He married Mary Sewell in Norfolk in 1888. His parents were recorded as P Pryor and L. A. Pryor.

George L is on the 1880 census in Elizabeth City, VA in the household of Peter Pryor and Lucy A. Pryor. George’s occupation at that time was “school teacher.” Both Peter and Lucy were recorded as “black” and Peter’s profession was recorded as carpenter and Lucy was a seamstress.

The 1870 Census was the first census after the end of slavery. Peter Pryor and his family, including George, were recorded in Elizabeth City. Peter was a carpenter and owned a house worth $1200 and had a personal estate valued at $200. Peter was recorded as a mulatto at this time, indicating he was part white.

George L Pryor appears to have been a prominent African-American engaged in politics.

  • 1880 speaker at Republican gathering in Hampton, VA (Richmond Dispatch, 28 August 1880)
  • 1881 appointed clerk in the pension office (Baltimore Sun, 9 April 1881)
  • 1884 represented Norfolk, VA at the Republican National Convention.
  • 1888 represented Norfolk, VA at the Republican National Convention.
  • 1896 second vice president of Republicans in Norfolk, 4th Ward.
  • 1897 secretary for the development of the first colored beach resort
  • 1898 recognized by the Federal government as an agent to prosecute cases before the Department of Interior. He was disbarred from this practice in 1898 without explanation. (National Archives)
  • 1900 he was the president of the Central Republican League. (Virginian-Pilot, March, 15, 1900)

1901 appears to have been a rough year for George L Pryor. The Times in Richmond reported that he was also a clerk at the Navy Yard and was fined for charging illegal fees in a pension case as a government employee.

My curiosity is piqued on how out of slavery George L Pryor became a lawyer. How did he get from point A to point C?

Elizabeth Gaines Pryor Obit – 1912

The obituary of Elizabeth Gaines Pryor published in The Tennessean on 28 Jun 1912 provides some great nuggets to piece together this branch of the Pryor family.elizabeth-gaines-pryor-obit1

Elizabeth Gaines Pryor in the census records:

1910 Census Hamilton Co., TN
Chattanooga 1st Ward, ED#45, sheet 1b, house 203/15 William PRYOR 34 KY VA VA, insurance agent. Ruta wife 33 TN TN TN. Elizabeth PRYOR mother 72 widow VA VA VA (See 1912 death)

1900 Census Chattanooga, Hamilton Co., TN
10th Dist., page 91a, house 616 Oak St. Elizabeth H. PRYOR 10/1837 62 widow 10 children/2 living VA VA VA, William H. son 7/1875 24 KY VA VA, Philip J. son 7/1883 19 TN VA VA.

1880 Census Montgomery Co., TN
Samuel E. PRYOR 45 KY KY KY, Eliz F 40 wife KY KY KY, Mary C 14 dau KY, Sam 14 son KY, Martha 12, William 5, Virginia 3.

1870 Census Todd Co., KY
Trenton Twp. Page 461a. Samuel D. PRYOR 35 farmer VA, Elizabeth 32 VA, Richard G. 11 VA, Elizabeth V. 9 VA, Mary C. 6 VA, Samuel 4 VA, Pattie 2 VA, Samuel Gains 28 lawyer VA, Ada S. 22 VA, Frances 1 VA.

1860 Census Charlotte Co., VA
Charlotte Court House, page 247 house 422 Richard J Gaines 60 farmer Charlotte VA, Eliza W. 58 Charlotte VA, Mary C 28 Charlotte VA, Robt. H. 26 Charlotte VA, Robt. C. Bouldin 27 lawyer Charlotte VA, Mary R. 27 Charlotte VA, M. M. Bouldin (f) 8 Prince Edward Co. VA, Eliza L Bouldin 1 Charlotte VA, Sallie H. Morton 12 Charlotte VA, Wm J Roach 20 overseer Charlotte VA
Charlotte Court House, page 247 house 423 Sam E. PRYOR 26 Dinwiddie Co VA, Bettie F. 22 Charlotte Co. VA, R. G. Pryor (m) 2 Charlotte Co. VA

Nashville Pryor Names in A 1836 Chancery Sale in Williamson County, TN

This Chancery Sale notice was published in The Tennessean on December 13, 1836. It refers to Pryors in Franklin, TN. Williamson County was formed from Davidson County, so it doesn’t surprise me that the names in the notice were commonly associated with the Nashville Pryors.  The sale involved the sale of 3 slaves: Nancy and her children Reuben and Henderson.

bannister-pryor-nashville-tn

Banister L. Pryor (was the “L” sometimes transcribed as a “S” or vice versa?) was the postmaster in Prince Edward County, VA in 1831 and was recorded again as postmaster in Charlotte County, VA in 1840 and also on the 1840 Census in the same county. Were there two Banisters who separated themselves by using middle initials? Was there one Banister Pryor who was in VA and a defendant in a suit in TN?

I’ve seen Lancaster S. Pryor noted in online family trees as Banister’s brother, yet I’ve never seen his name mentioned in print before. I’ve tried to tackle the siblings in this family before (see post)

The sale wasn’t probably for Bannister’s brother Zachariah B Pryor because his will was signed on 19th September 1837, after this estate sale.

 

Samuel Pryor and Hamlin Surname

va-pryorsSamuel Pryor married Mary Ann Hamlin on 16 Oct 1821 in Amelia County, VA.

In 1841 James Boisseau Hamlin, a minor, sued his father’s estate. This case filed in the Amelia County, VA Chancery Court names James’ father William B. Hamlin, his widow Ann P Hamlin, and James’ siblings William B. Hamlin, Edward Y Hamlin, and Mary Ann Hamlin, wife of Samuel Pryor. The dispute seems to have been over advances in the estate given to James’ siblings before his father’s death. Edward was given slaves and land in Dinwiddie County. Mary Ann Pryor had received 8 slaves. The case also revealed the deceased Hamlin had 65 slaves in Virginia and 10 slaves in Tennessee.

Then in another Chancery Court Case filed in 1848 Samuel and Mary Ann Hamlin’s children are named. Samuel Pryor was the guardian of his infant children Samuel Edward, William, Anna, Virginia Frances, Lucy Osborne, and Agnes Epes Pryor. The suit also mentions a married daughter Mary Elizabeth Pryor, wife of James R. Craig. The suit was filed to gain interest in the estate of Anna Hamlin, widow of W B Hamlin.

Samuel Pryor and his children on the 1850 Census.

Samuel’s daughters were living near him in Dinwiddie County, VA: Southern Div., Page 478b, house 136 Lucy O. Field 40 VA, Susan E. J. Field 9 VA, Mary A. J. Field 7 VA, Sally J. J. Field 5 VA, Wellington E. Webb 33 Episcopal Clergyman 33 London, Eng., Sarah C. Webb 24 VA, Fanny V. PRIOR 13 VA, Lucy O. PRIOR 11 VA., Agnes E. PRIOR 8 VA.

Southern Div., Page 479a, house 142 Samuel PRIOR 50 farmer VA, Ann E. 53 VA, Anna J. 16 VA, Martha P. Broadnax 24 VA. (Samuel and wife Ann were on the 1860 Census in Campbell Co., VA. See Chancery Court case filed in Amelia County for names of other Pryor children.)

His sons were living apart from their father and sisters: William H Pryor was living in the household of a blacksmith in Hanover County and Samuel E. Pryor was a student residing in the Pike Powers Academy in Augusta County, VA.

The Hamlins were still in Amelia County in 1850 and onward. Anna P Hamblin age 55 and James B Hamblin age 24 were recorded in the same household on the 1850 Census (and together in 1860).

Now that I’ve jumped to the 1850 Census I need to look backward a quarter century and into Tennessee. On 19 April 1824 the following notice was published in the Nashville Whig (Davidson County, TN):

In Equity: Calvin Morgan, Gideon Morgan and Rufus Morgan, Com’s vs. Samuel Elam, and Elizabeth his wife, William B. Hamlin, Thomas Crutcher, and Nicholas B. Pryor, defts. William B. Hamlin not a resident of the state.

There was only one William B Hamlin on the 1820 Census and he wasn’t a resident of Tennessee… it’s the William B. Hamblin in Amelia County, Virginia who was counted with 60 slaves. This sounds like the same William B who was the father in law of Samuel Pryor. The 1820 census was recorded in alpha-order so it’s difficult to piece together who was living near who.