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PRYOR, NATHANIEL (1775?-1831)

Explorer, soldier, trader, and Indian agent, Nathaniel Pryor was a pioneer of the Three Forks Area in northeastern Oklahoma. Born in Virginia, he was a son of John Pryor and Nancy Floyd. Although his year of birth is uncertain, Pryor was about twenty-three years of age when he married Margaret Patton in 1798. He was probably a widower when he joined the Lewis and Clark expedition at Louisville, Kentucky, in October 1803. After serving as a sergeant in the expedition, he became an ensign in the First Infantry, U.S. Army, in 1807. He left the army in 1810 but reenlisted during the War of 1812. As a captain in the Forty-fourth Infantry he served under Gen. Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans.

Upon his discharge from the army "Captain" Pryor, as he was often called, settled at Arkansas Post above the mouth of the Arkansas River. There he and Samuel B. Richards formed a partnership to barter with the region's Indians. In 1819 Pryor received a license to trade with the Osage at the Three Forks of the Arkansas. Located about four miles northeast of present Muskogee, Oklahoma, the Three Forks is at the confluence of the Verdigris, Grand, and Arkansas rivers. There, on the Verdigris, about two miles above its confluence with the Arkansas, he established a trading post. Pryor, who married an Osage woman, shared a close friendship with the tribe. His patrons were Chief Claremore's band.

Whether guiding English naturalist Thomas Nuttall through the countryside, helping to establish Union Mission among the Osage, or purchasing Osage horses for Thomas James's 1821 trading expedition to Santa Fe, Pryor was invaluable to the residents and visitors at the Three Forks. Military and government officials frequently called upon him to help in negotiations with the Osage. His relationship with the tribe led Gov. William Clark of Missouri Territory to appoint Pryor acting Osage subagent in 1827. Governor Clark, Three Forks resident Sam Houston, and Fort Gibson commander Col. Matthew Arbuckle were among those who recognized Pryor's value and petitioned to have his position made permanent. That permanency was established just before his death on June 10, 1831. Capt. Nathaniel Pryor died at the Osage subagency, located southeast of present Pryor in Mayes County, Oklahoma. That community and neighboring Pryor Creek bear his name.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Grant Foreman, "Nathaniel Pryor," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 7 (June 1929). Grant Foreman, Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest (Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark, 1926). Grant Foreman, "The Three Forks," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 2 (March 1924). Glenna Parker Middlebrooks and Elizabeth Pryor Harper, "Ancestry of Captain Nathaniel Pryor," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 48 (Fall 1970). Raymond W. Settle, "Nathaniel Pryor," The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Vol. 2, ed. LeRoy R. Hafen (Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark, 1965).

Jon D. May

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