PRYOR, CHARLES R.
PRYOR, CHARLES R. (1832–1882). Charles R. Pryor, physician and instigator of the Texas Troubles, was born in Virginia in 1832. He moved to Dallas in 1850, having been preceded there by his older brother, Dr. Samuel B. Pryor, who became the first mayor of Dallas in 1856. Charles received a medical degree from the University of Virginia in 1853. During the 1850s he contributed articles to the Dallas Herald, and when that newspaper's editor and publisher, James W. Latimer, died in 1859, Pryor became editor. He held the post until 1861.
During his brief tenure as editor of the Herald Pryor was responsible for reports of an alleged abolitionist conspiracy that led to the slave insurrection panic of 1860. (see SLAVE INSURRECTIONS.) After a fire destroyed most of the business section of Dallas on July 8, 1860, Pryor, whose newspaper offices had also burned, wrote letters to the editors of the Austin State Gazette, the Bonham Era, and the Houston Telegraph and Texas Register, stating that local blacks had confessed to setting fire to the city and that they had been recruited for that purpose by white abolitionists in a concerted plan to ruin the economy of Texas and free the slaves. Beyond arson, their alleged tactics involved assassinations of community leaders and the infliction of horrors upon "certain ladies . . . selected as the victims of these misguided monsters," as Pryor stated in a letter to the Houston Telegraph.
Papers across Texas and over the South reprinted Pryor's letters and referred to the panic as the "Texas Troubles." The letters were used as a propaganda tool for secessionists, who alleged that northern Republicans knew about and approved of the supposed plot. Communities throughout the eastern half of Texas established vigilance committees to root out and punish abolitionists and their suspected black allies. At least thirty of both races died, but unsubstantiated reports indicate that many more deaths went unpublicized.
Pryor became secretary of state of the Confederate state of Texas in May 1861 and held the post until August 1865. In later years he appears to have practiced medicine, although there is little mention of him in available sources. In 1869 he was still living in Dallas, where he served on a committee to study the medical properties of jimson weed and tobacco.
Pryor eventually left Dallas and relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, where he continued to practice medicine. He died in a Boston city hospital on August 26, 1882.
See also ANTEBELLUM PERIOD, SECESSION.
Dallas Herald, September 4, 1869. S. W. Geiser, "Men of Science in Texas, 1820–1880," Field and Laboratory 26–27 (July–October 1958–October 1959). Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976). Donald E. Reynolds, Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1970). Donald E. Reynolds, "Vigilante Law during the Texas Slave Panic of 1860," Locus: An Historical Journal of Regional Perspectives 2 (Spring 1990). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Donald E. Reynolds, "Pryor, Charles R.," accessed July 24, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpr16.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 26, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.