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Subject: [PRYOR-L] Nathaniel Pryor c1775-1831 Part 3
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 20:17:39 +0100
From: "John Prior" < >

Here is the third part of my Nathaniel Pryor Story. Nathaniel has just returned from the Lewis and Clark expedition but his life of adventure is far from over.

This article appears in the September 1999 issue of 'Family Connections', the newsletter of the Prior Family History Society. 
John Prior; Lincolnshire, England.

President Thomas Jefferson, in rewarding the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, asked Congress to double the soldiers’ pay ($250.75) and give each of the enlisted men 320 acres of land in the Louisiana Purchase.1
One outcome of the expedition was that a number of Indian chiefs were invited to meet with the President. One such chief was Shahaka, leader of the Mandan Indians. He travelled down river to St. Louis with the expedition and then on to Washington.2
Nathaniel Pryor was appointed ensign in the First Infantry of the U.S. army whilst in Washington on the 27th February 1807. He was given charge of twenty soldiers to escort Chief Shahaka and his family back to their home territory. Also accompanying them were a trading expedition and an escort party for a group of Sioux Indians. The total party, consisting of sixty seven persons, was put under the overall command of Nathaniel Pryor. These combined parties set out from Washington in late May 1807. By September 9th they had reached the Upper Missouri River when they were approached by a band of several hundred Arikara and Sioux Indians who ordered them to land and trade with them. Most of them were armed. Nathaniel, sensing the extreme danger his party was in, refused to land and continued upstream, the hostile Indians following along the river bank. A battle ensued and after about a quarter of an hour of heavy fighting on both sides, the expeditionary party made a retreat downstream. Nine of the party were wounded and four killed in the incident.4 Reporting on 16th October to William Clark, his former Captain and now Governor Clark of the Missouri Territory, Nathaniel had to report that his mission had failed.5
On 3rd May 1808, Nathaniel was promoted to the position of second lieutenant and was called to serve on the western frontier. He was stationed at Cantonment Bellefontaine, the first army post west of the Mississippi. Whilst there he helped build Fort Madison. After nearly two years service, he resigned on 1st April 1810.6

According to a tradition in one branch of the Pryor family, Nathaniel married Nancy S. Melton of Putnam County, Georgia on 23rd February 1811.He is said to have lived with her for only a few months before leaving to visit a brother in Kentucky. The plan was to travel to Missouri and Tennessee to bring back a drove of horses to sell in Atlanta, Georgia. Nathaniel and Nancy were supposedly living some six miles south of Atlanta at that time. Nancy Pryor never heard from her husband again. She thought he might have started with the horses and then been killed by Indians. She obtained a divorce in 1818 and later married a man by the name of Duke.
However Nathaniel and Nancy had a son, William Stokes Pryor, who was born on 15th November 1811, a few months after Nathaniel had left.7 If this story is true, Nathaniel had deserted his young bride and set up a trading business on the frontier. He obtained a licence from Governor Clark to trade with the Winnebago Indians at a place called De Buques Mines near Galena, Illinois. Apparently the business prospered and he eventually employed several men. Apart from trading in furs, he also established a lead-smelting furnace.8 Whilst at De Buques Mines, General Clark asked Nathaniel to gather information on the activities of Tecumsea, the leader of the Shawnee tribe. Tecumsea was friendly with the British who, learning that Nathaniel was making enquiries, turned the Winnebego Indians against him. On the evening of New Years Day 1812, about sixty of them attacked the trading post, killing two men. They captured Nathaniel and were about to kill him when the wife of one of the murdered men pleaded for his life to be spared. The Indians locked him in a building with the intention of burning it with him still inside. Luckily Nathaniel made his escape through a window whilst the Indians were plundering the stores. He crossed the ice on the frozen Mississippi River. Later he filed a claim for $5,215.25 against the government for the loss of his business.9 Nothing is known of Nathaniel Pryor’s whereabouts for a further eighteen months when he rejoined the army. On 30th August 1813 he was commissioned as First Lieutenant in the 44th Infantry. On 1st October 1814 he was promoted to Captain and served under General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Aged about 40 he was honorably discharged on June 15th 1815.10 Moving on again, Nathaniel returned to trading with the Indians. He set up a partnership with Samuel B. Richards at Arkansas Post on the lower Arkansas River. Trading under the name Pryor & Richards, their contact was with the Osage tribes. Early in 1817 the partners purchased five acres of land at Arkansas Post from Alexis Jordelais and his wife. Furs and pelts purchased from the Osages were taken to New Orleans to sell.11
After the death of Samuel Richards, Nathaniel obtained a permit to trade with the Osage Indians in the area that is now eastern Oklahoma. He set up his trading post near the point where the Neosho and Verdigris rivers meet the Arkansas River. Nathaniel spent much time getting to know the Osage people.12 Eventually he married one of their number, Osinga, by whom he had at least three children. 13 There was constant conflict between rival Indian groups. On one occasion a party of three Osage Indians killed three Cherokee hunters on the Poteau River. In response a large band of Cherokees chased the murderers as far as Nathaniel Pryor’s trading post. Nathaniel allowed the pursued Osages to escape by diverting the attention of the Cherokees with his latest consignment of copper kettles. Unfortunately they realized that they had been tricked and plundered the store.14
Throughout this period Nathaniel was acting as a go-between for the Osages and the government authorities.


1 The Many Faces of Nathaniel Pryor by A Shoemaker (True West, USA, Sept. 1988) p.49

2 The Mountain Men and The Fur Trade of the Far West -Nathaniel Pryor by Raymond W. Settle. Editor – L. R. Hafen (The A. H. Clark Co., Glendale, California 1965) p.279
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid. p.279-280
5 Ibid. p 280
6 The Many Faces of N. Pryor -op. cit. p.49
The Mountain Men and The Fur Trade of the Far West – op. cit. p.280
7 Ancestry of Captain Nathaniel Pryor by G. P. Middlebrooks and E. P.Harper
(Chronicles of Oklahoma - Volume 48, 1970) p.300
8 The Mountain Men and The Fur Trade of the Far West – op. cit. p.280
9 Ibid. p.280-281
10 Ibid. p.281
11 Ibid.
12 The Many Faces of N. Pryor op. cit. p.50
13 Notes supplied by Mayes County Historical Society, Pryor, Oklahoma
     – Wah-Hiu-Shah b.1817, Marie Pryor b.1818, Mary Jane Pryor b.1824
14 The Many Faces of Nathaniel Pryor - op. cit. p.50

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