Photo by Notman | Courtesy of Billingsley and Ward families
PICKARD, JOHN, lumber merchant and politician; b. 27 April 1824 at Douglas, York County, N.B., son of David Pickard and Hephziba Burpee; m. in October 1851 Mary Yerxa; they had no children; d. 17 Dec. 1883 at Fredericton, N.B.
As a young man John Pickard worked with his father, a well-known mill-owner and merchant in Douglas. Pickard later established his own business as a general merchant in Fredericton and from the 1850s to the early 1880s was a prominent lumber merchant in York County. His partner for much of this period was Thomas Temple*, with whom he owned a large sawmill in Fredericton which in the 1850s produced an average of 25 million board feet of lumber yearly. Among other business ventures, Pickard was a founder and director with Temple, George Luther Hatheway*, Alexander Gibson*, and others of the People’s Bank of New Brunswick, opened in Fredericton in 1864. He was also a director of the New Brunswick Railway Company which was incorporated in 1869, and one of the builders of the Fredericton branch of the railway completed in 1871. An active member in voluntary organizations, he was a master mason, grand master of the Orange order in New Brunswick from 1875 to 1878, and vice-president of the York County Agricultural Society in 1870, 1871, and 1878.
In 1865 Pickard became involved in politics when he and Charles Fisher* represented New Brunswick at a convention in Detroit at which a new reciprocal trade treaty between the British North American colonies and the United States was discussed. After the defeat of Samuel Leonard Tilley*’s government in the New Brunswick election in the spring of 1865, Pickard supported Albert James Smith’s administration in its opposition to New Brunswick’s entry into a Canadian confederation. When John Campbell Allen*, Smith’s attorney general, was appointed to the bench, Smith persuaded Pickard to oppose Charles Fisher in the York County by-election held in November 1865. Pickard was considered an ideal candidate because he was well known and liked in the county and it seemed that the pro-confederate Fisher stood little chance of success because he had been badly defeated in the earlier general election. However, on the hustings Fisher completely outclassed Pickard, who was not a good speaker. Pickard claimed that the majority opposed confederation, but he could not explain why, and Fisher resoundingly defeated him by more than 700 votes. The results of the closely watched battle gave new heart not only to the pro-confederates of New Brunswick but to their colleagues throughout British North America. Smith’s government was forced out of office by Lieutenant Governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon* in April 1866 and on 1 July 1867 New Brunswick became one of the four provinces of Canada.
Pickard re-entered provincial politics in October 1867 by winning a by-election in York County called when Fisher switched to federal office. With Fisher appointed to the bench in October 1868, Pickard was elected by acclamation as member of parliament for York County; he was re-elected in 1872, 1874, 1878, and 1882. An independent Liberal, he supported Alexander Mackenzie*’s administration from 1874 to 1878 and frequently attacked Tilley, the leading New Brunswick Conservative. Pickard was especially bitter following the Liberals’ defeat in 1878 when he accused Tilley of depriving him of the dispensation of patronage in York County because he opposed the new government. Although he vehemently attacked Sir John A. Macdonald*’s National Policy in 1882, Pickard’s voice was seldom heard in parliament. He was described as a “practical legislator,” and apparently had no special talent for politics. His repeated election by the voters of York County, however, testified to his reputation as an honest, friendly man who had earned people’s respect as a merchant and public-spirited citizen.
PANB, “N.B. political biog.” (J. C. and H. B. Graves), II: 165. Fredericton Evening Capital, 18 Dec. 1883. New Brunswick Reporter and Fredericton Advertiser, 30 June, 27 Oct., 3, 10 Nov. 1865; 21 May, 6, 16 Oct. 1868; 9 July 1869; 14 Jan., 13 May 1870; 31 March 1871; 28 Jan. 1874; 16 Jan., 25 Sept. 1878; 2, 9, 16 July, 10 Dec. 1879; 19, 22 Dec. 1883. Canadian biog. dict., II. Canadian directory of parl. (J. K. Johnson). CPC, 1883. Dominion annual register, 1883. Creighton, Macdonald, young politician; Road to confederation. Fredericton’s 100 years; then and now, ed. Frank Baird (Fredericton, ). Hannay, Hist. of N.B.; Wilmot and Tilley (Toronto, 1907). MacNutt, New Brunswick.