PRIOUR, JOHN MARION
PRIOUR, JOHN MARION (1848–1931). John Marion Priour, natural history collector, son of Jean Louis Marie and Bridget (Hart) Priourqv (who went by her confirmation name, Rosalie), was born in Mobile, Alabama, on March 3, 1848. In 1834 the Harts had emigrated from Ireland to Texas as part of the Power and Hewetson colony. Thomas Hart, Rosalie's father, died of cholera on the day of arrival in Texas, and Elizabeth Hart and Rosalie left shortly thereafter for Mobile, Alabama, where in 1844 Rosalie was married to Jean Louis Marie Priour. Ten children were born to them, eight of whom survived to adulthood. In 1851 the Priour family moved from Mobile to Corpus Christi, Texas, where John Marion Priour received his education. Starting at the age of nineteen, he worked at various jobs including clerk, ranch manager, volunteer ranger, railroad engineer, carpenter, farmer, market hunter, taxidermist, natural history collector, and hunting guide along the Texas coast. Priour's interest in natural history was apparently stimulated by a chance meeting in 1878 with the ornithologist Nathaniel Stickney Goss, who was collecting in the vicinity of Corpus Christi. Impressed by Priour's knowledge of local birdlife, Goss employed him as a guide. In 1881 Goss again returned to Corpus Christi to collect with Priour. Having thus learned the basics of scientific collecting, Priour was intermittently employed over the next four decades as a guide and collector by a number of prominent eastern ornithologists and naturalists. During 1882 he worked as an assistant for George Burritt Sennett and Benjamin Franklin Goss. By 1886 he had become Sennett's main collector and was supplying specimens on a regular basis. In 1887 Sennett dispatched him to collect along the Texas coast to the mouth of the Brazos River. In 1888 he was sent to Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, where he contracted malaria. He returned to Mexico the following year in company with his brother Isadore to collect in the vicinity of Monterrey. Priour also collected for other naturalists, including George B. Benners (1884), Joseph Lane Hancock (1884), Frank Michler Chapman (1891), Samuel Nicholson Rhoads (1891), Arthur C. Pierce (1894), Vernon and Florence Merriam Bailey (1900), Nathaniel Atwood Francis (1919, 1920, and 1921), Frederic Hedge Kennard (1922), and Walter Burgess Savary (1927).
Through the years Priour collected thousands of specimens, the majority of which were later donated by his patrons to museums in the Midwest and East. He was one of the most productive collectors in the history of Texas ornithology, yet because of his habit of never affixing his name to his specimens his contributions have gone largely unnoticed. Priour is known to have collected the specimens from which Sennett described three new subspecies of birds: Merrill's pauraque, the chestnut-fronted titmouse, and the Texas tufted titmouse. His specimens also enabled Sennett to establish breeding records for the dowitcher, stilt sandpiper, knot, greater yellowlegs, and black-bellied plover on the Texas coast. S. N. Rhoads acknowledged Priour as his source of information on birds of the Corpus Christi region. Priour was also the collector of the holotype of Sennett's kangaroo rat, and many of his observations on mammals were included in Vernon Bailey's Biological Survey of Texas. Priour became somewhat of a celebrity following the publication by A. C. Pierce of A Man from Corpus Christi, or the Adventures of Two Bird Hunters and a Dog in Texas Bogs (1894), a humorous account of the adventures of Pierce with Priour and his dog, Absalom, while on a five-month camping and collecting trip. Priour was married on October 1, 1877, to Marguerite Elida Wanning, of Morgan City, Louisiana; five children were born to this union. Priour died on March 14, 1931, and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery at Corpus Christi.
Frank M. Chapman, Autobiography of a Bird-Lover (New York: Appleton-Century, 1933). Frederic H. Kenard, "John Marion Priour," Wilson Bulletin 48 (1936). John Marion Priour Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Stanley D. Casto, "PRIOUR, JOHN MARION," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpr19), accessed July 31, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.