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Echoes from the Past

Articles on the history of the Gatineau from the Patrick Evans column "Echoes from the Past", originally printed in the "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" - reprinted with permission - and subsequently compiled by Jay Atherton and published in book form by the Gatineau Valley Historical Society (under its former name the Historical Society of the Gatineau) at Chelsea, Quebec, 1998.

The Pritchard Homestead, Alcove

The Pritchard homestead at North Wakefield, now Alcove, Quebec, reputedly built in the 1840s, was likely the second residence of James and Judith (Ferguson) Pritchard, who settled on the north half of Lot 1, 5th Range of the Township of Wakefield about 1834. By 1842, James had cleared 40 acres and produced 20 bushels of wheat, 500 of oats and 200 of potatoes. His stock consisted of eight head of cattle, two horses, five sheep and five pigs. The sheep provided 30 lbs. of wool.

In all James and Judith had nine children, six successive sons, then three daughters (there may have been a fourth daughter). The fourth son, Andrew appears to be the next member of the family directly concerned with the homestead. Andrew married Mary Edey, born in Aylmer. He was industrious, enterprising and imaginative, motivated by the challenge of developing the area undoubtedly for personal gain. Whereas the other members of the family concentrated on farming, Andrew was primarily a businessman who owned farms, flour and grist mills, a tavern on Richmond Road and a hostel opposite the present Parliament Buildings.

James and Judith were Presbyterians, Andrew and Mary Weslyan Methodists. In 1861, Andrew had a meeting house at Alcove which would hold 100 persons and was valued at $150. In 1889 Mary donated land for a Methodist Church. The church was built largely by volunteer labour at a cost of $800. One man donated 6 days drawing materials from Ottawa. The church is still in use a century later, being now the Alcove United Church.

Andrew and Mary had nine children, of whom the youngest was James, born in 1869. James, from aged 12, was educated at a boys' academy in Coburg, Victoria College, Toronto and McGill University, Montreal. He graduated in 1897 with a gold medal in medicine. After practising for a short time in Old Chelsea he returned to Alcove in 1897.

Dr. Pritchard married Maude Pratt in 1895 and raised a family of six, five sons, one of whom died aged two, and one daughter. Two of the sons followed their father and became doctors. Dr. Pritchard conducted his practise from an office in the homestead as well as from offices in Low and Wilson's Corner. He became well known throughout the Gatineau Valley for both his medical skills and for his interest in community affairs. In 1906 Dr. Pritchard was instrumental in developing the single wire telephone line up the Gatineau to Farrellton and Low, and eventually to Kazabazua by 1915.

Following Dr. Pritchard's death in 1918, the homestead ceased to be used by the family as a year-round residence. It was used by a Mr. and Mrs. Fox as a summer resort until the middle thirties, and by the R.B. Pritchard family during the summers of 1938 and 1940.

Since 1945, Mary (Mrs. James I. Thompson-Bing), only daughter of Dr. James and Maude Pritchard has owned the old home. It has been used as a summer residence by the Thompsons since.

Above from "The Pritchard and Related Families" by Patrick M. O. Evans.

From 1932 there have been family reunions annually at the homes and on the farms of the Pritchards and related families, many at the old homestead, including the 50th, on 10 July 1982. It also marked the 150 anniversary of the arrival in Canada of James and Judith Pritchard.

This event, not surprisingly was special, being very well attended. There was, this year, an attendance certificate. As always there was the visit to family burial ground with its 26 memorials nearby.

Reunions have since been held each year. It is sad that Mary Thompson has been to her last. Let this serve as my memorial to her.


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