POLLARD, RICHARD, merchant, office holder, judge, jp, and Church of England clergyman; b. 1 Jan. 1753 in London; d. 6 Nov. 1824 in Sandwich (Windsor), Upper Canada.
Born into a “respectable family,” Richard Pollard attended grammar school in England and was then trained in law and business, probably being articled to a firm of solicitors. Edward Pollard, either Richard’s father or older brother, settled at Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.) in the 1760s, and Richard himself arrived in the province of Quebec in the spring of 1775. During the American invasion of Quebec in 1775–76 [see Benedict Arnold*; Richard Montgomery*] Pollard took up arms to repel the invaders, and later, “with much difficulty,” made his way to New York and boarded a ship for England. Arriving at the end of May 1776, he immediately petitioned the British government to permit him to export “gunpowder, arms and ball” to Quebec since these articles were urgently needed there. It is not known whether this request was granted; however, in 1777 he was back in the colony, setting up as an Indian trader at Cataraqui (Kingston, Ont.) and Niagara. He also performed legal work in Montreal, where much of his time was spent. In 1780 he began his association with freemasonry, joining St Peter’s Lodge No.4 in Montreal. He held various offices in the lodge over the next six years.
In February 1782 Pollard was trading with the Indians at the British settlement of Detroit. The following year he took out a licence for trading there in partnership with William Mason. He had accumulated enough money by 1784 to buy a tract of land at Petite Côte (Windsor) on the south side of the Detroit River near present-day Amherstburg, Ont. In 1787 merchant Laurent Durocher complained about “the Mackinac Company” (the General Company of Lake Superior and the South), a fur-trading organization based at Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.), and “that young fool Pollard” associated with it.
Durocher’s remark notwithstanding, Pollard was by then a prominent figure among the merchants of Detroit and the surrounding region. When on 16 July 1792 Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe* introduced a new system of counties for Upper Canada, Pollard became sheriff of Essex and Kent counties. He acted as returning officer in the 1792 election which saw David William Smith* returned for the riding of Suffolk and Essex. In September 1794 he was appointed registrar of deeds for Essex and Kent counties, and he held this post until his death. In that year as well he became registrar of the Surrogate Court, surrendering this position on becoming a judge of that court on 29 Aug. 1801, another position the versatile Pollard held for life. He also served during the course of his life as postmaster, justice of the peace, member of the land board of the Western District, and trustee of the district school.
These offices brought Pollard little wealth; indeed, the records of his business accounts throughout his life were to show him in continuing debt. Only on 8 May 1797 did Administrator Peter Russell* and the Executive Council grant him a salary of £50 sterling per annum, with arrears from 1792, for the shrievalty. By 1796, when the Detroit territory passed to the control of the United States and government offices moved to Sandwich, Pollard had managed to purchase or had been granted various other lands on the south side of the Detroit River. But his debts were such that he was soon forced to sell at a time when land prices were falling.
Pollard’s resources were further drained by his decision to undertake clerical duties that involved him in the toils of a missionary clergyman’s life. In the late 1790s Peter Russell and Jacob Mountain, bishop of Quebec, were looking for “a discreet good Clergyman at Sandwich” who would combat republicanism, Methodism, and other evils threatening law and order, as well as perform marriages for the new settlers. Pollard was an obvious candidate for holy orders since he had conducted Church of England services in Detroit as a layman since the early 1790s and at Sandwich in the government offices building from 1796. Chief Justice John Elmsley* wrote to Lieutenant Governor Peter Hunter* that Pollard knew Latin, read much, and “seems in no degree deficient in those branches of knowledge which every Man who lives much in the World ought to possess.” He would be “a very useful” parish priest and, even if Mountain considered Pollard “deficient in literary attainment,” Hunter should stress to him “the other qualifications of which he possesses so large a share.” Some people were relieved by Pollard’s plans for a new career. Isaac Todd*, Montreal merchant, told John Askin* that Pollard was “twenty times fitter for a clergyman than a sheriff.” Alexander Henry, an old trading friend of Pollard, thought he “may make a tolerable parson – anything for an honest livelihood.”
Equipped with many “very satisfactory testimonials,” Pollard was ordained deacon in Quebec by Bishop Mountain on 20 March 1802; two years later, on 2 June 1804, he would become a priest at the first ordination held in the new Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec. After entering the diaconate in 1802 Pollard was appointed chaplain to the garrison at Amherstburg and resident minister at Sandwich. Journeying back to Sandwich that year, Pollard stopped at Kingston to visit the Reverend John Stuart*, who was amused when the new deacon stumbled in his efforts to speak in a manner befitting his office: “When a sudden Oath escaped, he immediately checked himself for it, saying that, although not strictly clerical, he had a sort of Dispensation till he actually arrived at his Cure; after which he must not indulge himself in the use of such strong Expressions.” Back in Sandwich, Pollard relinquished the post of sheriff to his friend William Hands, who six years later would also assume Pollard’s post as registrar of Kent, Essex, and Suffolk counties.
As a clergyman, Pollard set himself the task of “raising the clerical Character to its proper Pitch” through conscientious exertion. Confronted with stark conditions he complained to Askin in October 1804, after being ill, that he had no church wardens, no assistance at communion services, no stove, and no servant to be hired at any price. In 1805 Pollard had recovered his health enough to begin making missionary visits to Detroit, something he did more or less regularly until 1821, initiating work which led to the formation of the diocese of Michigan. In 1806 he set about raising money to build St John’s Church at Sandwich; this log building, the first church west of Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake), was in use by 1807. Until 1810 Pollard continued to serve, without remuneration, as chaplain to the garrison at Amherstburg. Because of the cost of travel and the three days’ absence from Sandwich, he was limited to performing services on a monthly basis and visiting the troops in emergencies.
The war of 1812 brought Pollard great hardship. In September 1813 Major-General William Henry Harrison’s Kentucky militia burned the church at Sandwich. As chaplain Pollard accompanied the men of the 41st Foot in their retreat along the Thames River. Taken prisoner at the battle of Moraviantown in October 1813, he was soon returned to Sandwich. He stayed there until February 1814, when he was allowed by the American commander to journey to York (Toronto). He conducted services in a Lutheran church at York and also in Ancaster and in Barton Township (Hamilton) before taking temporary charge – as a replacement for John Langhorn* – of the townships of Ernestown and Fredericksburgh in June 1814. By June 1815 Pollard was back at Sandwich. His church remained in cinders, his furniture was gone, and his house was beyond repair. In 1816 he received a gratuity of £100 from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for losses “by fire and the enemy,” and the following year was granted another £50 by the SPG for building churches at Sandwich, Amherstburg, Chatham, and Colchester. In 1817 as well, despite attacks of fever, he made a circuit of 240 miles visiting these places, taking services, preaching, and leaving “useful sermons at the houses where I staid.” He agitated to have some of the clergy reserves sold off to help meet the building costs of his new churches, and later to provide for a new parsonage which his parishioners had neglected in their zeal for putting up the church at Sandwich. In succession the four churches were opened, aided by generous donations from himself: on 12 Dec. 1819 the brick church at Amherstburg; on 11 June 1820 St John’s Church, Sandwich; in October 1820 the church at Chatham; and by January 1821 the stone church at Colchester, covered in but not yet finished inside. Pollard visited Amherstburg until 1822 when Romaine Rolph, recently become a priest, was able to continue without assistance. He also regularly visited his new church at Chatham.
Richard Pollard’s exertions in his Gilbert and Sullivan combination of roles taxed both his finances and his health. When he died on 6 Nov. 1824 his finances were in disarray. His sister-in-law Ann Pollard, writing from England to his executor William Hands, commiserated with him on the unpleasantness of settling Richard’s concerns, “the state of which did not surprize me.” Pollard was remembered for the personal and pastoral qualities that he brought to his work in the church and in local government, two areas of endeavour which were interlinked in the informality of the frontier. “He was charitable, kind and humane, to all who acquainted him with their griefs and sufferings.”
Especially important in the preparation of this biography was A. H. Young’s article “The Revd. Richard Pollard, 1752–1824,” OH, 25 (1929): 455–80.
ACC, General Synod Arch. (Toronto), M73-3, Stuart-Addison letter, 1811. AO, Hiram Walker Hist. Museum coll., 20–108, William Hands corr., Pollard to Hands, 1820; Ann Pollard to Hands, 26 Jan. 1825; C. J. Stewart to Hands, 17 June 1825; 20–135, no.86; 20–186; 20–245; 20–265; Hist. plaque descriptions, “St. John’s Anglican Church, Windsor,” 12 Sept. 1965; ms 75, Pollard to John White, 25 Oct. 1797; ms 606, ser.A: 115–18; RG 1, A-I-6: 1695–96; RG 22, ser.155. MTL, John Elmsley letter-book, Elmsley to Peter Hunter, 18 Sept. 1801; Richard Pollard, commission as registrar of the Surrogate Court of the Western District of U.C., signed by Peter Hunter, 1800; W. D. Powell papers, B32: 52; Sir George Prevost papers, “memorial-book,” 1. PAC, MG 19, F16: 19–20; RG 1, E3, 13: 148; 60: 207–8; RG 5, A1: 4370–72, 5071–74, 19818–20, 20613–14, 21371–72, 28283–89, 34736–77 (mfm. at AO); RG 8, I (C ser.), 63: 86; 64: 67, 96; 65: 189. PRO, CO 388/62, no.81. St John’s (Sandwich) Anglican Church (Windsor, Ont.), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials, vol.2 (mfm. at AO). USPG, C/CAN/folder 441. Anglican registers, 1787–1814: Rev. John Langhorn, rector of Ernestown, Upper Canada, ed. C. L. R. Wanamaker and Mildred Parliament Wanamaker (Kingston, Ont., 1980). Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository (Montreal), 3 (July–December 1824): 573. Corr. of Hon. Peter Russell (Cruikshank and Hunter), vol.2. John Askin papers (Quaife). Mich. Pioneer Coll., 10 (1886)–11 (1887); 13 (1888). “Petitions for grants of land, 1792–6,” ed. E. A. Cruikshank, OH, 24 (1927): 107. Windsor border region (Lajeunesse). Detroit Gazette, 12 Nov. 1824. Montreal Gazette, 4 Dec. 1824. Weekly Register (York [Toronto]), 2 Dec. 1824 (supp.). Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian chronology (1967). “State papers – U.C.,” PAC Report, 1892: 289. John Clarke, “A geographical analysis of colonial settlement in the Western District of Upper Canada, 1788–1850” (phd thesis, Univ. of Western Ont., London, 1970). R. M. Fuller, Windsor heritage ([Windsor, 1972]). F. C. Hamil, The valley of the lower Thames, 1640 to 1850 (Toronto, 1951; repr. Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1973). Millman, Jacob Mountain. W. R. Riddell, The legal profession in Upper Canada in its early periods (Toronto, 1916). The township of Sandwich (past and present) . . . , ed. Frederick Neal (Windsor, 1909), 179–91. H. P. Westgate, St. John’s Church, Sandwich, Windsor, Ontario, 1802–1952: the beginnings of the Anglican Church in the Western District; a goodly heritage (2nd ed., [Windsor, 1952]). Wilson, Enterprises of Robert Hamilton. R. S. Woods, First centennial of the Anglican Church in the county of Essex, with special reference to the history and work of St. John’s Church, Sandwich (n.p., 1903). F. H. Armstrong, “The oligarchy of the Western District of Upper Canada, 1788–1841,” CHA Hist. papers, 1977: 87–102. Francis Cleary, “Notes on the early history of the county of Essex,” OH, 6 (1905): 66–75. T. R. Millman, “Pioneer clergy of the Diocese of Huron: Richard Pollard,” Huron Church News (London, Ont.), 1 March 1953: 10.
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Cite This Article
Christopher Headon, “POLLARD, RICHARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pollard_richard_6E.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:
|Author of Article:||Christopher Headon|
|Title of Article:||POLLARD, RICHARD|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1987|
|Year of revision:||1987|
|Access Date:||June 4, 2023|