The first thing I learned as I wrote this blog post is that I don't know much about William. I thought I knew who his parents were, and some of his grandparents, but it seems more likely that Roger, whom I believed to be William's father, is actually his brother. And their parents aren't proven. In fact, their birth location is still a mystery, as far as proven records go. Pritchard is thought to possibly be a Welsh name, as in "ap Richard", but the name is also spelled Pritchett or Pritchet so I'm reluctant to do anything more than consider that as a possibility.
We are not even sure of his birth date, variously given as anywhere from 1617 to 1629, but it's believed that he was likely born in either Wales or England, not in New England. We don't know when he came to America, although he is not listed in the Great Migration Directory. There are early references to him in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1639 and in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1645. The two towns were located across the Ipswich River from each other and it is possible that he moved from one location to the other for his job. He is sometimes found in Ipswich and sometimes in Lynn until he later moved west. .
William was a mariner, a captain of a boat that traveled at least as far as Barbados in about 1647. We don't know if this was his only trip that far afield, but it seems unlikely that he would have captained just one trip. Also, as a captain he must have had earlier experience on the seas, as one didn't just become a captain. It was a position attained by hard work usually starting from the bottom of the ladder and working one's way up the ladder. He would have been a young captain indeed if he was born in 1629, so I suspect we need to look earlier for a birth date.
We also don't know who William's wife was, or whether he may have had an earlier wife. My tree shows his wife as Hannah Langton, daughter of George Langton, but that is still up for debate. A Hannah Pritchard married a Lovejoy in 1676 and it is thought that this was William's widow. This marriage supposedly occurred about 1652, and if that is correct than we need to be looking for an earlier wife, because our connection, Esther, was born in November of 1647, and a son John was born about 1645. So that search continues, also. William and his wife are credited with as many as nine children, although it's possible that some of these were the sons of Roger, who had died in 1671. Or perhaps these boys were raised by the couple and not noted in the lists I've seen.
Sea-faring was a hard life. As was the case with many seamen, William may have had a drinking problem, since it 1645 Timothy Tomlins testified in Salem that he, an innkeeper, and his wife were out of the house when William entered it and "he drew more wine himself and drank too much." This didn't necessarily mean that he wasn't a Puritan, but again, it's a possibility.
By 1667 William had either retired from life at sea or had otherwise resolved to turn over a new leaf. He and his family moved to Brookfield, Massachusetts, where he became an outstanding citizen. He was one of a commission of five to direct the early affairs of the town, was chosen "Clerk of the Writs". This seems to mean he dealt with a lot of the routine paperwork of a court, issuing summons to witnesses, taking bond petitions, applying attachments, and so on. So we know he was literate.
He also was part of the committee to purchase land for the settlement from the the indigenous people, and was a sergeant in the militia at Brookfield. This brings us to the final event in his life, which is quite well documented. On August 2, 1675, he and two other men were ambushed by native Nipmucs, and later in the day his son John was killed as he desperately attempted to gather supplies for the 80 people who were garrisoned in one home during what had been, to that point, a three day siege. Fortunately, military reinforcements arrived and the town was safely evacuated, although it was burned and resettlement did not begin for about 12 years. One can only imagine the horror of William's wife as she dealt with the death of her husband and son (or stepson), the loss of her home, and the need to care for her remaining children. If she was the Hannah who married in 1676, she needed all the help she could get.
There is a will for William Pritchard of Topsfield, which may be where the remnants of his family settled. It is dated March 27, 1677, so over 18 months after William's death at Brookfield, but the eldest son was John and other facts seem to show that this is our William. Interestingly, his widow was only referred to as "the woman" and she was not given her widow's third, probably because she had already remarried. The estate was valued at 109 pounds, and included land in Topfield and in Ipswich, plus some household goods and farm animals. There is no mention of the land in Brookfield so either this had been sold ((perhaps replaced by the land in Topsfield?) or it was considered worthless.
William's life came to an early end, but it was an interesting life. From England or Wales to the east coast of Massachusetts and then on to the "interior", from a life on the sea to a farmer, from a man who on at least one occasion imbibed a little too much to the Clerk of the Writs, this man was and is fascinating. I'm glad I learned this much of his story, and would certainly love to learn more!
The line of descent is:
William Pritchard-possibly Hannah
Esther Pritchard-John Hanchett
Johgn Hanchett-Lydia Hayward
Hannah Hanchett-John Stannard
Libbeus Stnnard-Eunice Pomeroy
Libbeus Stanard-Luceba Fay
Hiram Stanard-Susan Eddy
Louis Stanard-Mary Alice Hetrick
Etta Stanard-Loren Holbrook
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen