Being a member
of the Corps of Discovery called for frontier skills in all kinds
of areas. Taking on leadership in the Corps said even more for
Pryor was one of the expedition's original three sergeants appointed
by Meriwether Lewis. Pryor didn't
disappoint his captain. Pryor's jack-of-all-trade approach served
him well throughout the expedition.
one of the original "nine young men from Kentucky" whom
William Clark had selected for his friend
Lewis' approval. Pryor, who was born in Virginia in 1772, had
moved to Kentucky with his family in 1783. He had some famous
lineage: His mother had descended from a sister of Pocahontas.
Pryor's cousin from his mother's side, Charles
Floyd, joined the Corps at the same time and was also selected
as a sergeant.
to Clark for recruiting expedition members called for "good
hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried men, accustomed to the woods
and capable of bearing bodily fatigue in a pretty considerable
degree." Pryor stood 6 feet tall, above average height for
the time, with a solid build. He was quiet but with a dependable
air about him. Lewis called him a "man of character and ability."
Clark wrote that Pryor was a "steady, valuable, and usefull
member of our party." Pryor had been married in 1798, but
it is believed that the marriage had ended with either his wife's
death or a divorce before he joined with Lewis and Clark because
the expedition wasn't taking married men.
the journey, on Nov. 22, 1803, Pryor became lost while hunting
along the Mississippi River. He could not be found, and Lewis
decided to move on. Two days later Pryor hailed Lewis from the
riverbanks. "he was much fatiequed with his wandering and
somewhat indisposed," Lewis wrote.
was appointed sergeant in 1804, he led the First Squad, which
had six privates. In late June of that year, Pryor took on an
unusual role. He presided over a court-martial hearing of two
privates who had stolen from the expedition's whiskey supply and
had gotten drunk on guard duty. Both men were found guilty and
sentenced to flogging.
On Aug. 20
Pryor's cousin, Sgt. Floyd, died from a burst appendix. Eight
days later Pryor led Pierre Dorion, who had been brought along
as a Sioux interpreter, to the Sioux camp near the Missouri River.
They set up a council between the Sioux and Lewis.
kept a journal that was believed to have been lost at sea on its
way to France for publication, became the first American to describe
the classic Plains tipi. The description appears in Clark's journal
on Aug. 29, 1804:
Scioues Camps are handsom of a Conic form Covered with Buffalow
Roabs Painted different colours and all compact & handsomly
arranged, Covered all round an open part in the Centre for the
fire, with Buffalow roabs, each Lodg has a place for Cooking
detached, the lodges contain from 10 to 15 persons."
expedition came upon the Marias River in 1805, Pryor made the
first exploration of the Marias to determine if it was the Missouri.
The next day he accompanied Lewis up the same river.
the expedition Pryor battled an ailing shoulder that often made
it difficult for him to work with heavy objects. However, it didn't
stop him from stepping in to break up a fight with Indians on
a trading mission in January 1806 at Fort Clatsop, one of the
few altercations with Indians on the journey.
Pryor's last run-in with Indians. On the return trip in July 1806,
Pryor and three others were directed to drive the Corps' horses
overland and rejoin the rest of the party later. On July 22 Indians
stole the party's 24 horses while the men slept. Pryor came up
with a plan. The men killed some buffalo, stretched the skins
over a willow frame, made two boats, and eventually met with the
rest of the expedition down the Yellowstone River at its junction
with the Missouri. Unfortunately, the loss of the horses prevented
Pryor from delivering Lewis' letter to Hugh Heney of the North
West Company regarding trade with the Sioux.
expedition Pryor led an active life in the western territories:
he led an unsuccessful expedition for Clark to return a Mandan
chief to his territory. Four expedition members were killed
in an Indian ambush.
while trading in furs and doing lead mining in Illinois, at
Clark's direction he spied on Tecumseh, a Shawnee Indian prophet.
In retaliation Indian allies of the British destroyed all of
Pryor's holdings and captured Pryor to kill him. He escaped
while the Indians were plundering his store.
War of 1812 Pryor was a captain under Gen. Andrew Jackson in
the Battle of New Orleans.
became a trader with the Osage Indians and married an Osage
in present-day northeast Oklahoma. He and Osinga had at least
three children. He acted as a go-between for the Osages and
died June 10, 1831.
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