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The Pruiett Family

Part 1

In the narrative that follows, the various spellings of Pruiett reflect differences in the source documents. The family name was spelled "Pruitt" by four generations, from Samuel Pruitt I around 1700 to Asa Pruitt in the early 1800s. During the 1800s, very few in the family could read or write. This explains the many different spellings of the name during this period including Prewitt, Prewett, Pruit, Pruitt, Pruet and Pruett. Family members signed many of their documents by making an X. Beginning around 1870, the family was spelling the name "Pruett" on a fairly consistent basis as demonstrated on the marriage license of Asa W. Pruett and Alice Climer dated Dec. 31, 1891. In the early 1900s, however, the family changed the spelling to its current form. Charles Pruiett's 1905 report card is the oldest surviving document that uses the spelling "Pruiett". William E. Pruiett's 1915 Indiana marriage license also uses the current spelling. In addition, both Asa's and William's 1920 U.S. census records have the current spelling.

Letter from Attorney W. M. Tredway, Jr. to William Ellis Pruiett
Letter from Attorney W. M. Tredway, Jr. to William Ellis Pruiett February 18, 1924

In 1924 William Ellis Pruiett received a letter from W. M. Tredway, a Chatham, Va. attorney, in which he discussed the various spellings of the family name. In his letter to the attorney, William Pruiett had spelled his name "Pruiett" and the attorney responded that he could not find that spelling in any of the family records he found. Despite this news, William Pruiett decided that going forward, the family would spell the name "Pruiett". William's father, Acy Pruiett, died in 1924. On his death certificate the name was spelled "Pruiett" although in a couple of places the "e" was inserted using a tick mark.

Our first confirmed Pruiett ancestor was Samuel Pruitt I. Some sources give Samuel Pruitt's birth year as 1684. Most sources, however, indicate that he was born on April 4, 1700 in Prince George's Co., Md. We have not seen a primary record that confirms the date and place of Samuel Pruitt's birth. At this time, the names of the parents of Samuel Pruitt are not known. Many sources indicate his father and mother were John Pruitt who was born in England in 1658 and Sarah Lessene who was born in England in 1662. Some sources indicate that John Pruitt and Sarah Lessene were born in Virginia, even that John Pruitt was born on Tangier Island. The Tangier Island connection is highly doubtful since, by tradition, the first settlement of Tangier Island was by John Crockett and his eight sons in 1686 (there are no records to confirm this); the first confirmed settlement of Tangier Island was by Joseph Crockett and his family in 1778. It appears that the first Pruitt to inhabit Tangier Island arrived in the late 1700s, after Joseph Crockett.

Unfortunately, we have no evidence that John Pruitt and Sarah Lessene were Samuel Pruitt's parents. There were several Pruitt families in Virginia in the late 1600s and it is not clear how to sort out the various relationships. It will take more reliable information than we now have to understand the lineages of the various Pruitts. One source suggests that it was actually John Pruitt's presumed father, Thomas Pruitt, who arrived in Charles River County, Va. in 1636 (renamed York County in 1643), married Sarah (unknown), and had four sons, Thomas, John, William and Henry. Henry Pruitt's line is fairly well documented, but his connection to the other three "brothers" and a father named Thomas Pruitt is not documented. This same source indicates that Thomas Pruitt's son John married Sarah Lessene and that their son Samuel Pruitt was born on April 4, 1700. It may be that Samuel Pruitt was descended from John Pruitt, but it is clear, based on DNA evidence from the descendants of both Henry Pruitt and Samuel Pruitt, that Samuel Pruitt was not related to Henry Pruitt. This evidence, however, does not rule out the possibility that either Samuel or Henry was a descendant of Thomas Pruitt, just that both cannot be descended from him.

Just to add one more wrinkle, there is a record of a Samuell Prewtt/Prewitt born in Northumberland Co., Va. to Rosamond Prewtt/Prewitt on Feb. 1, 1700. This is intriguing because of John Hawker's early connection to Northumberland County and subsequent migration across the Potomac River to St. Mary's Co., Md. and then Prince George's Co., Md. (see Hawker for more). It may be that Samuel Pruitt followed that same migratory route, arriving in Prince George's County in the early 1700s where he married John Hawker's granddaughter, Elizabeth Hawker in 1720. This record bears further research and can be added as one more possible scenario for the ancestry of Samuel Pruitt.

Elizabeth Hawker was born on Dec. 14, 1701 in Prince George's Co., Md. She was the daughter of Robert Hocker and Amy Selby. For more on the Hocker/Hawker lineage, see the Hawker family.

Prince George's Co., Md., which was created in 1696, encompassed an area that included the present day counties of Montgomery, Frederick and Prince George's and the District of Columbia. In 1748 Frederick County split off from Prince George's County and encompassed all of western Maryland including present day Montgomery County and the northwestern part of the District of Columbia. In 1776 Montgomery County was carved out of the southeastern portion of Frederick County. While the narrative that follows describes events that occurred in both Prince George's County and Frederick County, the actual location of these events was in present day Montgomery County and the northwestern part of the District of Columbia.

Samuel Pruitt and Elizabeth Hawker were married in 1720. There are several variations of the names of the children born to Samuel and Elizabeth Pruitt. This area needs more investigation, but here is one list:

The 1733 List of Taxables taken by Charles Perry, constable for Rock Creek Hundred in Prince George's Co., Md. showed:

Samuel Pruitt 1
Nicholas Hawkes [Hawker] 2
   Philip Hawkes [Hawker]

Nicholas Hawker was Elizabeth (Hawker) Pruitt's uncle.

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