PRITCHARD, AZARIAH, army and militia officer, spy, colonizer, entrepreneur, seigneur, and
At the outbreak of the American revolution in 1775 Azariah Pritchard was a miller living in Derby, Conn. Remaining loyal to the crown, the following year he helped 160 loyalists cross the rebel lines to reach Long Island, N.Y. He was accused of transmitting information to the British but was acquitted by a military tribunal in 1777. He decided to flee to the province of Quebec with his wife and three children, and acted as a frontier guide in the Lake Champlain region. As a result of this decision 600 acres of land he owned along the Connecticut River were reportedly confiscated, together with his properties at Derby and a ship he had fitted out.
In 1779 Pritchard was serving as a captain in the King’s Rangers [see Robert Rogers*]. Stationed at Fort St – Johns (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), he was immediately put into service as a secret agent. He successfully carried out many missions into Connecticut and Vermont and did counter-espionage work within Quebec up to the time of his retirement from the army in 1784. During his years of service Pritchard often attracted suspicion for activities that he was thought to have carried on. He was accused of having traded illegally in beef with Vermont and of bringing counterfeit money into the province in 1782, and then of having trafficked in tea in the upper Lake Champlain region and of dishonestly acquiring lands on Missisquoi Bay in 1783. These accusations, which had no sound basis, were refuted in every instance.
Once the revolution was over, the British authorities contemplated demobilizing their troops and settling them on lands suitable for farming. Pritchard scoured the Yamamiche region near Trois-Rivières for settlers willing to establish themselves on Baie des Chaleurs. On 9 June 1784, after the troops had been discharged, 315 people sailed for that destination. The snow Liberty, with Pritchard and his family aboard, reached Bonaventure on 27 June. Since the good land was already occupied by Acadians, 77 of the new arrivals, including Pritchard, proceeded to the nearby site of Paspébiac. Lots were immediately marked out.
Clearly a man of enterprising spirit, Pritchard made an application on 18 August to build a grist-mill on the Rivière Caplan in order to help the new settlers at Paspébiac. He also began lumbering. Subsequently he made a number of applications for land grants, built a sawmill in the vicinity, and finally settled at New Richmond. The Pritchard family was well off financially and began to accumulate offices. Azariah became a captain in the Richmond Township battalion of militia around 1792 and a justice of the peace for the Gaspé District in 1811. His son Azariah was commissioned an ensign in the same battalion, and was appointed master culler and measurer of building timber in 1810.
In the mean time Pritchard’s career was at risk because of new suspicions. Specific charges of selling forged certificates of British citizenship and of trafficking in false papers of registry for trade to the Mediterranean were brought against him in June 1790. These dealings in counterfeit documents were supposed to have gone on for two years and to have spread as far as Virginia. Pritchard collaborated closely in the investigation; despite this, a warrant was issued for his arrest. At the end of the trial held at New Carlisle in July 1790 he was acquitted by the jury and he was thanked by Lord Dorchester [Guy Carleton*] for his zeal in uncovering these fraudulent practices.
In 1801 Azariah Pritchard acquired the seigneury of Le Bic through an exchange. In doing so he was expanding his lumbering venture. In 1822 he parted with this property in return for building lots in the town of Quebec. During his last years he let his son take over his affairs in the Gaspé.
ANQ-Q, CN1-99, 13 nov. 1810; CN1-285, 27 juin 1801, 18 oct. 1822. BL, Add.