It Began in England
The life of our twice or more great grandfather, George Pryor, is to me a tale of a young and independent pioneer. It starts with him leaving England at age 18 with his family and then learning the family trade, he set down roots and began building a life on his own in a young United States.
He was born to Thomas Pryor and Rebecca Hayes in 1824. Although his christening was recorded in Garstang, his burial monument states that he was born in Clitheroe, which is in Lancashire. The 1841 England census shows that he had two brothers and two sisters. I speculate that twenty year old Thomas was a half brother, born to the first wife of Thomas senior. This is them, living in Oswaldtwistle, just before they left for the US.
The elder Thomas was an engraver and young Thomas learned the trade too. Before Susannah was born in 1828, Thomas was an inn keeper, but his trade was always engraving even though he worked at other things periodically. I’ll explain what I learned about this type of engraving further on.
There is a family story that I’ve heard that says that Thomas Pryor of England attended Oxford. That’s it, no other details. A query to Oxford administration produced two students by the name of Pryor, but they didn’t seem related, nor were they him.
In 1842, the family arrived in Philadelphia. I have found nothing about their ship or exact arrival date, but I know of at least one thing that happened when they got here. According to the Library of Congress, any ship that made its way up the Delaware River to dock in Philadelphia between 1799 and 1893 had to be quarantined at the Lazaretto medical station before being officially admitted into the city. It’s likely that the Pryor family was detained there for a health screening too.
Sometime before 1850, the family migrated to Michigan. It was a turbulent time in Philadelphia with periodic race riots breaking out – mainly between the Irish Catholic and African American populations. But it’s always reasonable to assume that when families moved, it had something to do with opportunities for work. Michigan in those years was a popular destination. It was still growing northward and westward. Land sales and populations were growing in leaps and bounds. In 1850, Thomas and Rebecca were living in Dearborn along with two of their children, Edwin and Victoria. And Thomas had become a farmer.
But George remained in Philadelphia. My guess is he stayed for work opportunities and possibly an interest in a young woman named Violetta Graham. Whatever the circumstances, it was a brave move for a young man, barely eighteen years old, in a new and quickly changing country.
George and Violetta were married about 1845 and they settled in the Frankford Township in Northeast Philadelphia. I think I understand why he chose this place. Frankford was home to a successful Dyeing, Bleaching and Calico Printing Works.
The Family Trade
Roller printing was used in Lancashire fabric printing mills to produce cotton dress fabrics from the 1790’s. In the US, the process was used right through the 19th century. The repeating pattern on the fabric was produced by engraving a copper, brass or cast iron roller. There are many descriptions of how the roller was used to apply the pattern, but I gathered that it was usually aligned on a machine against a smooth roller that held the dye. And of course the fabric was pulled between the two which created a monochromatic pattern.
This photo, found at the angelasancartier.net website, shows an engraver working on a roller. This was the type of engraving that was passed down from old Thomas Pryor, to his sons, including George and then on to George’s sons.
The photo below was found in the public domain. It is a swatch of calico and is one that was “woven at Whitaker Mills and printed at a nearby manufactory in Frankford, Philadelphia between 1825 and 1900”.
Who knows? Maybe our 2nd Great Grandfather engraved the roller that was used to print this.
A skilled trade like this likely produced an upper-middle class level income. I’ve noticed that it was common for Violetta to have a domestic living under her roof, which attests to the idea that they were comfortable.
Back to New York, Of Course
George A Pryor, by then a naturalized citizen, was last reported living in Philadelphia near the beginning of the civil war. Some of the textile mills switched over around that time to making blankets and uniforms for the war effort. That included a few mills in Frankford. I suspect this is what at least partly prompted George to look elsewhere for work.
By 1870, George and Violetta had settled the family in Fishkill, New York and Thomas J. was now an engraver also. I speculate that both George and Thomas were employed at the Dutchess Print-Works in Wappingers Falls.
Sometime after the 1875 census was taken, George and Violetta purchased a house in Wappinger’s Falls. I’ve estimated from land maps that the house below was probably their home on South Avenue.
The house was located in front of the “tenement” buildings that were built by the Dutchess Company for it’s employees and a short walk down the street from the plant.
Although the house was nearly across from the Presbyterian Church, there is evidence that at least Violetta was a member of the Zion Baptist Church on Franklindale Ave.
George passed away in 1879. By then, all three of his sons worked for the Dutchess Company in some capacity. George Graham Pryor and Elmer also eventually became engravers. But at the turn of the century, the calico industry had all but died out. Thomas worked for the company until around the time it was sold in 1908 and the focus of the business changed. And at that point, it appears that he retired.
Young George took his skills a different direction. By 1900 he was an editor and living in Newcastle, Pennsylvania and this continued through at least 1907. There is a period where I can’t account for his whereabouts, but in 1920 he and his wife Jennie were in Chicago and he was employed as a traveling salesman. Once I heard a family story that he was a newspaper editor there. But I have no evidence of that yet. He passed in December of 1920 at age 61 in Chicago.
Elmer settled his family first in Wappingers and in 1900 was still engraving. But by 1910, the work had dried up for him too, so they moved to Waterbury, Connecticut and he was employed by the American Brass Company as an assistant manager of some sort. (Interesting to note that Waterbury is known as “The Brass City”, because of the production of brass products. I wonder if that was the draw for him and his engraving skills?) Elmer also disappeared from census records until 1930. Then he was still in Waterbury and working for the brass factory, but as an information/reception clerk. He passed in 1938 at age 73.
The Pryor men contributed to the skilled – and maybe artistic – part of the calico industry from it’s beginning, throughout its heyday, until it disappeared.
It’s clear from George Abram Pryor’s cemetery marker, as well as Thomas’ that both were Masons. In 1894, Elmer Pryor was elected trustee for the Wappingers Masonic Lodge. And there is evidence that George and all of his sons were members of that lodge. I don’t know exactly where the tie to the Masons began, but I know it was another thing that George, and maybe his father Thomas, saw as important association to have. Although my grandfather, Tom, didn’t see a lot of his father after 1910, and even though he was not a Mason himself, he believed it was a good thing to belong to. In fact, he compelled my father to join the local lodge in Bergen.
Thomas also joined the Odd Fellows 1871. But I’ve seen no evidence of the others joining. Remember though, that’s never proof that they did not.
The Family Data
If the genealogy part makes your eyes glaze over, please skip this last section. I won’t be held responsible for head injuries. But it’s there for you to refer back to. If you really are interested, just ignore my disclaimer and slog forward.
George and Violetta’s children:
1. THOMAS J. PRYOR was born in Apr 1847 in Frankford Twp,Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. He died after Apr 1921 in Possibly Union Vale,NY. He married (1) AMELIA COLE before Jun 1874. She was born on 17 Feb 1839 in Dutchess County, New York. She died on 30 Jun 1877 in Dutchess, New York. He married (2) IDA V. HOWARD. She was born in 1837. She died in 1895 in Dutchess County, New York.
Thomas J. Pryor and Amelia Cole had the following child:
i. IRVING JAMES PRYOR was born on 30 Apr 1877 in Wappinger Falls, Dutchess County, New York. He died on 14 Jul 1944 in Bridgeport, Fairfield, CT. He married (1) MINNIE AUGUSTA BAILEY, daughter of John Wesley Bailey and Alice Jane Racine, on 31 Mar 1897 in Glenham,Dutchess County,New York. She was born on 19 Sep 1882 in New York. She died on 14 Jan 1933 in Poughkeepsie.He married (2) LILLIAN SHOFER MAYBE SHAFFER. She was born about 1880 in England. She died on 07 Feb 1921 in Poughkeepsie.
2. ELIZABETH PRYOR was born in 1853 in Frankford Twp,Philadelphia. She died on 07 Aug 1921. She married Joseph Bunnell Pulling, son of William Pulling and Sarah Bunnell, in 1877. He was born on 05 Mar 1854 in New York. He died on 06 Aug 1927.
Joseph Bunnell Pulling and Elizabeth Pryor had the following children:
i. VIOLETTA PULLING was born about 1878 in new york.
ii. FREDERICK BUNNELL PULLING was born on 25 Oct 1878 in New York, New York. He died on 27 May 1953.
3. GEORGE GRAHAM PRYOR was born on 10 Sep 1859 in new york. He died on 08 Dec 1920 in Illinois (Death Age: 61). He married Jennie Scofield in 1880. She was born in Feb 1860 in Pennsylvania.
George Graham Pryor and Jennie Scofield had the following children:
i. EDITH PRYOR was born in Dec 1881 in new york.
ii. WILLIS SCOFIELD PRYOR was born on 01 Nov 1885 in Wappingers Falls, New York. He died on 12 May 1954 in Chicago. He married YVONNE LE DUC, daughter of Le Duc and Alma, on 03 Jan 1913 in Chicago. She was born on 12 Sep 1884 in Illinois. She died in Aug 1977 in Chicago.
4. ELMER LOCKHART PRYOR was born on 11 Jul 1864 in Frankford Twp,Philadelphia. He died on 06 Apr 1938 in Waterbury,Conneticut. He married Coraida Jaycox, daughter of Thomas W Jaycox and Sarah Jaycox, in 1885. She was born in Nov 1864 in New York. She died in 1939.
Elmer Lockhart Pryor and Coraida Jaycox had the following child:
i. KENNETH BRUCE PRYOR was born on 08 Jul 1888 in Wappinger’s Falls,Dutchess,New York. He died on 21 Dec 1934 at 133 Cedar Street in Hempstead,Long Island. He married FLORENCE MAE OLIVER. She was born on 30 May 1892 in Fishkill, Dutchess, New York, USA. She died on 22 May 1961 in Hempstead, Nassau, New York (Age: 68).