From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Pryor, Margaret

(born: 1835  -  died: 1910) 

Margaret Pryor was the richest African American woman in Kentucky as a result of the fortune she inherited from her former owner, horse breeder Major Barak G. Thomas (1826-1906). Thomas, who among other things raced his horses, had left smaller inheritances to others, including $1,000 to his African American jockey and trainer, John T. Clay, and another $1,000 to Clay's sons, Johnnie and Barak. The will was challenged by Thomas's family and friends but was allowed to stand as written.

Maj. B. G. Thomas was born in South Carolina; in 1912 his family moved to Lexington, KY. After making his wealth in the horse industry and with the onset of failing health, Thomas sold his stud farm and settled in his city home at 194 West Main Street*, where he passed away in 1906. His home was next door to the Henry A. Tandy family home.

After Maj. Thomas's death, Margaret Pryor remained in the home and welcomed visitors from throughout the U.S. She died in 1910 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery [now Cove Haven Cemetery] in Lexington, though Maj. Thomas had stipulated in his will that she be buried beside him in the then segregated Lexington Cemetery.

Margaret Pryor's will was challenged in the Fayette Circuit Court by her heirs, Mary Walker and others. The court allowed to stand as written.

The challenges to the wills of both Maj. Thomas and Margaret Pryor were reported in all of the major newspapers and many smaller papers in the United States. In 1911, the Atlanta Constitution newspaper reported that Pryor had no children,  and that four women who lived in Macon and Eatonton, GA, were claiming to be Pryor's sisters who were seeking to claim $50,000 that they said was left to them by Pryor. All of the sisters were supposedly once owned by Skelton Napier of Macon, GA.

For more see "Major Barak G. Thomas is dead," The Thoroughbred Record, 5/19/1906; "Will of Major Thomas," The Thoroughbred Record, 5/26/1906; "Death of rich ex-slave," Washington Post, 5/13/1910, p. 11; "Margaret Pryor's will," Lexington Herald-Leader, 5/14/1910, p. 6; and "Negroes claim estate of wealthy sister," Atlanta Constitution, 1/24/1911, p. 5.

*Maj. Barak G. Thomas's home at 194 West Main Street had been renumbered to 646 West Main Street by 1907. The property faces the corner of present day Main Street and Old Georgetown Street.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Tandy, Henry A.
NKAA Source: Thoroughbred record (periodical)
NKAA Source: The Washington post (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Lexington herald-leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Atlanta constitution (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Davis, Ellen
NKAA Entry: Clay, John T.
NKAA Entry: Greenwood Cemetery / Cove Haven Cemetery (Lexington, KY)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Pryor, Margaret,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-06-14 16:02:02