Meet the Planters – Prichard

Meet William Prichard

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This family name is variously spelled as Pritchett, Pritchard, and Prichard. The name is of Welsh origin and the latter spelling is the only correct form. It was devised originally as follows: The prefix “Ap” meaning “the son of,” was added to the Christian name Richard. Thus, William Ap Richard, became William Prichard and a family name was established. The ancestry of the family can be traced back to 528 A.D., but for our purpose we shall begin with William Ap Richard or Prichard from whom descended all of that name in this country.

By his wife Elizabeth, William had a son Matthew, of Llannover Court, who was high sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1596 and died in 1622. Matthew’s wife was Sissylt Lewis by whom he had three Children, William, John (or Jenkin) and Benjamin. William ruined himself paying the fines of royalist prisoners. It is likely that William, here mentioned, was the father of William of Quaboag, the subject of our biography.

From a study of the facts, we conclude that William Prichard was born in England about 1617 and that he came to Lynn about 1636. He is listed as the proprietor of a house lot and other land on the South side of the river at Ipswich as of April 9, 1639. Waters, the historian of Ipswich, finds him entered for the first time in the town records of 1641. However, he explains, land grants were often recorded some time after they had been made.

William probably married at Ipswich about 1645, but no record has been found of this union. However, we believe that the eldest son, John, was born about 1646 at Ipswich, followed by William in 1648. In that year, William Pritchett is listed as a subscriber to Major Denison. During the next 14 years of his stay at Ipswich were born his remaining six children in the following order: Samuel, Mary, Esther, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Sarah.

William acquired a substantial amount of real estate at Ipswich. In 1654, he had a house and lot near the meeting house, adjoining Theophilus Wilson’s (father of another pioneer planter at Quaboag): in 1664, as Richard Jacob’s farmer, he had two shares on Plum island; and, in 1665, he owned lands in a field called “Pequitt Lots”.

And so we find in 1665, William Prichard, descendant of a noble Welsh family, about 48 years of age, married, father of eight children, substantial land owner and established inhabitant of Ipswich. For this man to decide to uproot himself and family to remove to an uncivilized wilderness to the West and begin anew, there must have been considerable motivation. This motive was probably religious discontent. The Prichard’s were of the original group to arrive at Quaboag in 1665 and the town plot was long to bear the name “Prichard’s Hill.”

The first concrete evidence of their presence at Quaboag is furnished by the account book of John Pynchon where on December 6, 1666, we find under the heading: “Goodman Pritchard Dr.” “Two Severalls brought from day book 01 07 02.”

Opposite this entry on the credit side we note that Mr. Prichard settled his account in full by giving Mr. Pynchon “112 pounds of pork at 3 pence per pound”. Soon after this (January 4, 1666/7) is found the beginning of the account of John Prichard, the eldest son of William. This account is interesting particularly because in addition to the purchase of the ordinary household items such as salt, pork, wheat, corn, etc., there appears an item for the purchase of two skins of moose leather. This was used for the making of heavy duty outer clothing. Also, of interest in the account is the mention of his brother Samuel in January, 1668.

William Prichard paid four pounds for his lot on the hill, more than three times the purchase price of an ordinary lot. Later real estate transactions show that the original grant was probably of more than 55 acres and that the home lot was located in a very advantageous position. It was situated at the East end of the settled area of the hill, at the bend in the road, adjoining the uncleared common lands. It is likely that the homestead was of substantial dimensions not only because the size of the family would seem to require it, but also because Mr. Prichard was a man of substantial means. A man’s status in the community was certainly reflected in the type of house which he provided for his family. The original purchase agreement read “for yourself and son” and would suggest that possibly this large lot was shared by William and his eldest son John, who was probably married as of this time.

William was prominent in the affairs of Quaboag from the beginning. He is found as one of the original proprietors in 1665, as one of the Prudential Committee of Quaboag in May of 1667, as a signatory of the unsuccessful petition to the General Court in October, 1670, and as one of the petitioners for incorporation of Brookfield in 1673. (Samuel also signed the latter petition, but strangely, the names of his two older brothers, John and William, Jr., do not appear amongst the petitioners. No explanation can be given of this unless it could be that they had both removed from Quaboag as of that date.)

In addition, William Prichard was concerned in the active management of the affairs of the Plantation. In 1673 and 1674, he served as constable, a position of considerable respectability. On March 30, 1675, he was appointed Clerk of Writs by the Hampshire County court and in 1675, he was a selectman of Brookfield.

His military status was that of Second Sergeant in the local detachment under command of First Sergeant John Ayres. It was in this capacity that he was to go to his death at the ambush on August 2, 1675.

Some insight into the other activities of Mr. Prichard during his residence at Quaboag can be gained by studying his accounts with John Pynchon. The major commercial enterprise in any community of that period was always the grist mill. Things were not different at Quaboag, and when John Pynchon decided to build a mill for the convenience of the planters, and for his profit, he enlisted the services of the men of the Plantation. William Prichard was instrumental in building the mill house and in other aspects of this project, since he was paid over 11 pounds for his interest by Mr. Pynchon. Also, in the agreement between owner John Pynchon and miller John Ayres in November, 1672, there appears a clause specifying “Goodman Prichard having liberty to grind his own corn only”. This was an exclusive privilege granted to no other planter at Quaboag and was probably allowed him because he had served as the first miller in Mr. Pynchon’s mill shortly after it was constructed.

Apparently William Prichard did some hunting and trapping in addition to his mill interests, husbandry, and civic activities. On several occasions he and his sons are credited with the killing of wolves and for selling of beaver skins.

That Mr. Prichard was a respected member of the community and enjoyed the confidence of his fellow inhabitants is attested to by the fact that he was chosen to represent them in court in the controversy between Mr. John Younglove and the inhabitants in June of 1672. On March 30, 1675, he again appeared in the County court, but this time was a witness to the “reviling speeches” against Samuel Kent by Thomas Wilson. In his official capacity of selectman of Brookfield, he appeared before magistrate Pynchon on June 18,1675 to answer to the charges that he had unlawfully ordered the Constable to distrein some pewter dishes of John Ayers, in an action of Replevy. There was no conclusive settlement of this case.

Of the vital record of the Prichard family during their stay at Quaboag, we have the following. On September 19, 1672, Mary Prichard was married to Judah Trumble by Magistrate Pynchon. On August 2, 1675, William Sr. was killed at the ambush in New Braintree. Samuel died soon after, during the siege, when the Indians captured him outside of the fortified house, decapitated him and mounted his head on a pole.

The loss of her husband and son must have dealt a disastrous blow to widow Prichard. After the relief of the siege, the Prichards’ removed to Suffield where some of them were to become prominent inhabitants. The household now consisted of Mary, age 23, wife of Judah Trumble; unmarried daughters, Esther 21, Elizabeth 19 and Sarah 13; and son Joseph, age 17.

On March 26, 1676, the inventory of the estate of William Prichard (erroneously call John) was presented to the court, but “the widow not appearing in court, it is left till some other convenient time to be settled according to law”. About one year later, on March 6, 1676/7, John Prichard signed an agreement with John Pynchon for the settlement of his father’s account.

Prior to 1690, a portion of the Prichard estate at Brookfield was sold to Hezekiah Dickenson at Hadley, who sold in 1693 to Stephen Jennings of Hatfield, the home lot and 55 acres, the future site of Jennings Tavern. In 1690, John of Topsfield and Joseph of Amesbury, sold the remaining portion of the estate of William Sr. and Samuel to their brother William Jr. of Suffield. And so ends the story of the Prichards’ of Brookfield until the second settlement when Joseph acquired a grant in 1718.

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