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BRADFORD, RICHARD, Church of England clergyman; b. 2 April 1752 in Rotherhithe (London), England, son of Richard Bradford, a farmer, and Susanna Cole; d. 12 May 1817 in Montreal, Lower Canada.

Richard Bradford’s parents died when he was young, and little is known about his early life and education. In 1783 he married Sarah, the daughter of the Reverend John Jefferey, vicar of Ludham and of Potter Heigham in Norfolk, and it is probable that he studied for the ministry under Jefferey, a Cambridge graduate. Bradford was ordained deacon at Norwich in 1785 and priest in 1788. After serving from the latter date as curate for various churches in the Ludham area, he emigrated to New York State in 1793 with his wife and eight children. A gap occurs in his history until 1800, when the Bradfords are found living in Ulster County, N.Y.; Richard was then principal of an academy at nearby Catskill. In 1802 the Protestant Episcopal Church appointed him to the recently formed congregation at Catskill. During his incumbency of about two and a half years he was instrumental in the building of St Luke’s Church. In 1804 he and Charles Caleb Cotton* were highly recommended to Bishop Jacob Mountain* of Quebec by the British consul general at New York City, Thomas Barclay*, and, with the approval of the bishop and of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Bradford opened in October 1805 a mission in Chatham Township, Lower Canada.

Circumstances surrounding the beginnings of the mission are obscure. An application was made for a clergyman as early as 1798, but it was not encouraged since the local subscription was not absolutely secured to the incumbent. Six years later the bishop assured Lieutenant Governor Sir Robert Shore Milnes* that a missionary would receive £100 from government, £50 from the SPG, and a possible £30 from local subscriptions. It was apparently because of this assured income that Bradford was offered and accepted the post, and thus became the founder of the Church of England in the Ottawa valley. For almost three years he laboured not only in Chatham Township but also in the adjacent seigneury of Argenteuil and beyond. The largely non-Anglican population was composed of Scottish immigrants, loyalists, and late loyalist settlers from New England, lumbermen, disbanded soldiers, and retired fur traders. Bradford himself established a farm on 96 acres given him in 1806 by a local proprietor, Colonel Daniel Robertson, and in 1808 purchased 1,000 acres for £125 from Pierre-Louis Panet, seigneur of Argenteuil.

In the latter year Bradford was asked by Jehosaphat Mountain, bishop’s official (commissary) for Lower Canada, to replace the Reverend James Sutherland Rudd at William Henry (Sorel). Having arrived there on 1 June 1808, he remained until September 1811; his parish registers attest to his faithful services to both the civil population, apparently composed of disbanded and retired soldiers, loyalists, and merchants, and to the 49th Foot, of which he was appointed chaplain in 1810. He presented a class of 32 for confirmation by the bishop in 1809. In applying to the SPG that year for an addition to Bradford’s stipend, the bishop called him “a man of very respectable exemplary conduct.”

Bradford strengthened his bonds with Chatham Township in August 1810 by purchasing for £2,500 a 5,000-acre property from the merchant Daniel Sutherland* and the estate of Colonel Robertson. He now owned more than 6,000 acres, receiving rental income on the small proportion that was settled. The rest was held partly as a heritage for his sons and partly, no doubt, for speculation, since Chatham and Vaudreuil were becoming increasingly settled. It was possibly his interest in the region’s economic prospects that motivated him in 1810 to accompany Captain John By* on a trip to investigate the water-power possibilities of the Lachute falls. In the autumn of 1811, arrangements having been made for a replacement at William Henry, Bradford returned with great relief to Chatham where some of his family had remained, moved into the large and elegant Robertson house, which he had acquired, and resumed work in his former mission. In October 1813, when Bishop Mountain paid the mission his one and only visit, Bradford was absent and was severely reprimanded. As a result of this absence no confirmations were made during his incumbency. By 1816 ill health had slowed down his efforts, and he died in Montreal on 12 May 1817.

Bradford’s middle-class, rural background in England, modest education, and experience with colonial society in New York State between 1793 and 1804 had all prepared him well for the frontier society in which he worked at William Henry and Chatham, but particularly in the latter place. The only settled clergyman in his widespread Ottawa pastorate, aided by a broadminded attitude toward non-Anglicans and undoubtedly by the Church of England’s exclusive right to hold civil registers, Bradford served his flock without denominational distinction. A landowner and farmer, burdened with family cares (he had 11 children), he lived as many of his people lived and understood their problems. If he was unable to get a church built, it was no doubt largely because of the interlude at William Henry, the unsettlement of the war years, and the denominational diversity of those to whom he ministered. His successor, the Reverend Joseph Abbott*, who arrived in 1818 to take up a post at St Andrews (Saint-André-Est, Que.) and two years later married Bradford’s daughter Harriet, was disappointed by the settlers’ resistance to church discipline, but wrote of the glorious harvest he reaped from the good seed sown by his predecessor.

Thomas R. Millman

[In [C. F. Pascoe], Classified digest of the records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1701–1892 (5th ed., London, 1895), 868, it is said that, according to tradition, Richard Bradford served as a midshipman under Captain James Cook*; recent investigations have turned up nothing to confirm this.  t.r.m.]

ANQ-M, CM1, 1er mai 1817. QDA, 332, H. C. Stuart, “The episcopate of Jacob Mountain.” St Luke’s Church (Catskill, N.Y.), Vestry minutes, 24 Aug. 1801–23 April 1805. USPG, Journal of SPG, 29: 68–74; 30: 16–17. Montreal Herald, 17 May 1817. Christie, Hist. of L.C., 6: 69. G. D. McGibbon, Glimpses of the life and work of the Reverend Richard Bradford as scholar, school principal, chaplain, priest of the Church of England and S.P.G. missionary (Calgary, 1970), 8, 31, 74, 88, 118. Millman, Jacob Mountain, 106, 138, 140, 195, 212–13. E. C. Royle, An historical study of the Anglican parish of Vaudreuil (Hudson Heights, Que., 1952), I-8–9. Cyrus Thomas, History of the counties of Argenteuil, Que., and Prescott, Ont., from the earliest settlement to the present (Montreal, 1896), 294. M. E. S. Abbott, “Social history of the parish of Christ Church, St Andrews, Que., from 1818 to 1875,” Montreal Churchman (Montreal), 22 (1934), no. 6: 8; no. 7: 12; no. 12: 8–9. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Louise Réaume-Fournerie-Robertson (1742–1773) et son pent-fils le colonel Daniel de Hertel (1797–1866),” RHAF, 12 (1958–59): 329.

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Cite This Article

Thomas R. Millman, “BRADFORD, RICHARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 13, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bradford_richard_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/bradford_richard_5E.html
Author of Article:   Thomas R. Millman
Title of Article:   BRADFORD, RICHARD
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   April 13, 2024