Nathaniel Hale Pryor

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Nathaniel Hale Pryor (1772–1831) served as Sergeant in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He was born in Virginia and was a cousin of fellow expedition member Charles Floyd. His family moved to Kentucky when he was eleven. He was married in 1798 to Peggy Patton, though the marriage may have ended before he joined the expedition on October 20, 1803, in Clarksville, Indiana; he was one of the "nine young men from Kentucky" who joined the Corps. Pryor was made sergeant in 1804, and led the First Squad of six privates. Lewis and Clark considered Pryor "a man of character and ability." In June, 1804 he presided over a court martial of privates John Collins and Hugh Hall, accused of theft of whiskey and drinking on duty; the men were found guilty and sentenced to a flogging.

In 2009 a genealogist pursued California mission records archived at The Huntington Library1 to find that a man named Nathaniel "Miguel" Pryor born about 1806 in Kentucky claimed Nathaniel Pryor of Louisville and Mary Davis as his parents. This new information indicates that the elder Pryor returned to Kentucky, fathering a child, after his journey westward.

In 1807 he was put in charge of an expedition to return Mandan chief Sheheke to his tribe, but he was forced to turn back when attacked by Arikaras. He resigned from the army in 1810 and was involved in the fur trade on the Mississippi for a time. He rejoined the army during the War of 1812 and, with help from Clark and Lewis, was commissioned a Captain, serving in the Battle of New Orleans.

He returned to the fur trade after the war, and in 1820 established a trading post on present-day Grand River near Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, where he married an Osage woman and had several children. With Sam Houston in 1829 and 1830, Pryor met with Claremont the Osage chief, and Matthew Arbuckle to avoid a war between the Osage and Delaware tribes.2 Houston was instrumental in recommending Pryor to President Andrew Jackson for a government post as an Indian agent and in a letter dated 15 December 1830, Houston stated to Jackson that further references to Pryor's character could be obtained from John Floyd, Pryor's first cousin and the governor of Virginia. He served briefly as government agent for the Osages, and represented the tribe in negotiations with the military at nearby Forts Smith and Gibson, from 1830 to his death in 1831. Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, Pryor, Montana, and the Pryor Mountains are named for him.

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1Baptism record in Huntington Library archives

21830 letter from Sam Houston to President Jackson