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HAZEN, WILLIAM, businessman, politician, and office holder; b. 17 July 1738 in Haverhill, Mass., youngest son of Moses Hazzen and Abigail White and brother of Moses; m. 14 July 1764 Sarah Le Baron of Plymouth, Mass., and they had at least 16 children; d. 23 March 1814 in Saint John, N.B.

William Hazen’s father died in 1750, leaving a small inheritance to each of his five children. Nine years later, when soldiers were needed for Jeffery Amherst*’s campaign into Canada, William enlisted. After the war he set up as a merchant in what became Newburyport, Mass., and with the remainder of his small inheritance as capital he participated in the traditional staple trade of the New England “sedentary” or wholesale merchant.

Hazen’s interest in Nova Scotia was sparked by the activities of his two cousins James* and Richard Simonds, who had begun in the early 1760s to investigate business prospects around the mouth of the Saint John River (N.B.), and also by the closing to New England of the back-country trade after the Royal Proclamation of 1763. For established merchants the end of the Seven Years’ War meant dull trading, but for younger merchants such as Hazen the close of the war and the cancellation of wartime contracts often led to bankruptcy. With his business flagging, Hazen looked to Nova Scotia for opportunities to expand. In 1763 he was associated in a commercial venture with James Simonds, and the following year a partnership was formed to pursue the fishery, the fur trade, and other activities at Portland Point (Saint John, N.B.), where the Simonds brothers had obtained a licence to occupy lands from Lieutenant Governor Montagu Wilmot*.

The firm created on 1 March 1764 had three senior partners: Samuel Blodget, an established merchant in Boston, James Simonds, and Hazen. The three junior partners were Richard Simonds, James White, another of Hazen’s cousins, and Robert Peaslie, Hazen’s brother-in-law. The firm extended to Nova Scotia a pattern of trade already established in the Thirteen Colonies: Hazen and Blodget resided in New England where they operated as sedentary merchants; James Simonds and the junior partners set up a trading-post at Portland Point that was typical of back-country merchants. A perusal of the firm’s account-books reveals how trade was carried on in fish, fur, and feathers. These staples were sent from Nova Scotia to Hazen and Blodget, who sold the furs to British merchants, the fish to West Indian planters, and the feathers to coastal traders. Hazen and Blodget acquired the manufactured goods and provisions that Simonds and the junior partners used in domestic trade with the settlers who moved into Nova Scotia prior to the American Revolutionary War [see Israel Perley]. The firm also exploited the limestone quarries at Portland Point and supplied the garrison at nearby Fort Frederick. A sawmill was soon established, schooners were built, and both lumber (some of it acquired from settlers in payment of debts) and lime were exported. To further the company’s trade Simonds established branch operations 60 miles inland from Portland Point on the Saint John River and 70 miles south at Passamaquoddy Bay.

Early in 1765 Richard Simonds died and a few months later Peaslie retired from the company. In May 1766 Blodget also withdrew, and his share in the firm was bought by Hazen and Leonard Jarvis, whom Hazen had brought into the company in 1765. Consequently, on 16 April 1767, a new partnership was formed between Hazen, Jarvis, Simonds, and White. As associates of the Saint John River Society [see Beamsley Perkins Glasier*] embers of the original company had acquired large grants of land in the Saint John River valley in 1765. Seven years later Hazen decided to settle on part of his property, but the move was delayed until 1775. By that time conflict between the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had caused trade between Nova Scotia and New England virtually to cease, although Hazen managed to carry it on for a short time by using circuitous routes and questionable business practices. The company pursued the West Indian trade until the end of 1775, when it became both too hazardous and too expensive.

Like many New Englanders, Hazen had mixed feelings about the revolutionary war. His elder brother Moses was a general in the revolutionary army and family contacts were maintained; however, incursions into Nova Scotia by soldiers from New England persuaded Hazen that his future lay within the British empire. Although in 1776 the company was undisturbed by Jonathan Eddy’s ragtag army that attacked but failed to capture Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.), in the summer of 1777 Hazen and White were held prisoner for a time by forces under John Allan and that autumn the company’s stores were robbed by marauding privateers from the Thirteen Colonies. The firm complained bitterly to government officials in Halifax and later that year troops under Gilfred Studholme* began construction of Fort Howe, which overlooked the company’s warehouses at Portland Point. In 1778 the firm played a role in British attempts to secure the neutrality of the Micmac and Malecite Indians, who were being encouraged by Allan to support the American cause. As deputy to Michael Francklin*, superintendent of Indian affairs, James White was particularly influential; as commissary at Fort Howe, Hazen was responsible for distributing supplies to the Indians.

In 1773, Jarvis having left the company, Simonds, Hazen, and White had contracted a verbal agreement to carry on their trade. Five years later, with the business at Portland Point at a standstill, Simonds broke from the firm and moved inland. By 1781, however, Hazen had established a new partnership with White and Francklin. Francklin’s contacts with the government at Halifax helped secure a masting contract for the company and, despite the rivalry of William Davidson*, the business prospered. The new firm also dealt in furs, which were sent to the London firm of Brook Watson and Robert Rashleigh. Francklin, in effect, took the place of the sedentary merchant in the partnership and Halifax became the firm’s entrepôt for overseas trade.

Although the loyalists who arrived on the Saint John River in 1783 had little sympathy with pre-loyalists, Hazen was quickly recognized as a community leader, for his position at Portland Point was pre-eminent. He served as a loyalist agent, and he was the only pre-loyalist to be chosen in 1784 to sit on the Council of the newly created province of New Brunswick. He continued to be active in provincial politics and also served on municipal committees in Saint John, acting as commissioner of highways and overseer of the poor from 1791 to 1797. The influx of loyalists gave considerable impetus to his business. He was able to rent out the company’s wharfs and buildings and he supplied the new settlers with manufactured goods and lumber. Although many of his early land grants had been escheated, he had received other large holdings in compensation and was able to turn his property to profit by collecting rents from newly arrived tenants. In the late 1780s he was managing a grist-mill at Saint John which he owned jointly with Ward Chipman* and Jonathan Bliss*, both loyalists. When commercial relations were resumed with the United States after the war Hazen re-established his coastal trade, and with the end of privateering he was able to pick up the West Indian trade. He again engaged in shipbuilding, frequently selling a ship and its cargo to overseas merchants, and he continued his masting business, though demand declined after the war. Although prosperous, Hazen’s latter years were troubled by an extensive litigation with Simonds and White over the lands their company had acquired. The issue was not finally resolved until 1810.

Hazen’s career illustrates the dexterity of the 18th-century businessman, and his ventures into fishing, lumbering, shipbuilding, and trading were portents of New Brunswick’s future. His entrepreneurial skills both gave direction to the new colonial economy and guaranteed a future for the Hazen family. His progeny, which included at least 11 sons and 5 daughters, became stalwarts of the community. One daughter married Ward Chipman and another Amos Botsford’s son William*; a grandson, Robert Leonard Hazen*, became a prominent lawyer and politician in New Brunswick.

Rod Campbell

N.B. Museum, H. T. Hazen coll.; Leavitt family papers; Simonds, Hazen, and White papers; James White papers. “Letters written at Saint John by James Simonds, A.D. 1764–1785,” ed. W. O. Raymond, N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–97), no.2: 160–86. “Selections from the papers and correspondence of James White, esquire, A.D. 1762–1783,” ed. W. O. Raymond, N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–97), no.3: 306–40. “The James White papers, continued, A.D. 1781–88,” ed. W. O. Raymond, N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 2 (1899–1905), no.4: 30–72. Winslow papers (Raymond). W. T. Baxter, The house of Hancock; business in Boston, 1724–1775 (Cambridge, Mass., 1945; repr. New York, 1965). J. B. Brebner, Neutral Yankees (1969); New Englands outpost: Acadia before the conquest of Canada (New York and London, 1927; repr. Hamden, Conn., 1965, and New York, [1973]). R. C. Campbell, “Simonds, Hazen and White: a study of a New Brunswick firm in the commercial world of the eighteenth century” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., Saint John, 1970). Hannay, Hist. of N.B., vol.1. W. S. MacNutt, The Atlantic provinces: the emergence of colonial society, 1712–1857 (Toronto, 1965). Raymond, River StJohn (1910). A. M. Schlesinger, The colonial merchants and the American revolution, 1763–1776 (New York, 1957). W. O. Raymond, “At Portland Point,” New Brunswick Magazine (Saint John), 1 (July–December 1898): 6–20, 65–79, 132–45, 186–201, 263–79, 316–32; 2 (January–June 1899): 21–33, 78–91, 140–51, 205–22, 249–63, 311–25.

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Cite This Article

Rod Campbell, “HAZEN, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 5, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hazen_william_5E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hazen_william_5E.html
Author of Article:   Rod Campbell
Title of Article:   HAZEN, WILLIAM
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   December 5, 2023