The Willard Memoir [Joseph Willard], Soldiers in King Philip’s War [George M. Bodge], History of Cambridge [Paige], History of Concord [Shattuck], History of Groton [Butler], New England Historical and Genealogical Register, all give interesting accounts of Major Simon Willard, one of the finest types of a Puritan, living in New England in the middle of the seventeenth century [1634-76].
Simon1 Willard was b. at Horsmonden, County Kent, England; bap. April 17, 1605. He was the son of Richard Willard by wife Margery, and brother of Margery [Willard] Davis, who married, in England, DOLAR DAVIS. The family name in England is very old. It may be found in the Domesday Book.
Simon Willard m., in England, Mary, dau. of Henry and Jane [Ffielde] Sharpe, who was the mother of nine children. She was b. at Horsmonden; bap. Oct. 16, 1614; she d. at Newtowne [Cambridge]. He m. second Elizabeth Dunster, who d. in six months; m. third Mary Dunster, sister of Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard College. He mentions in his will “my sister Willard, and all her children.” Mary [Dunster] Willard was living when her brother Henry’s will was probated. She was the mother of eight children, by Willard, born between 1649-66. She m. second, July 14, 1680, Dea. John Noyes of Sudbury, Mass., and d. in that town, Dec., 1715.
Simon Willard was living in Cambridge [New Town] 1634. His house was on the south-east corner of what is now Winthrop and Dunster Streets. He moved to Concord in 1635.
In the summer of 1635 Rev. Peter Bulkeley, ” a man of great learning, of large heart, of noble family, possessed of wealth, and distinguished as a divine, arrived in Cambridge, and to him Willard attached himself with affectionate regard.” This alliance with Bulkeley shows that Willard had no disposition to follow the Hooker congregation to Hartford, and that his mind was so constructed as not to become a recipient of those somewhat mystical dogmas which became rife the following year in the Antinomian controversy.
In describing this emigration from Cambridge to Concord in 1635, Johnson in his Wonder Working Providence [second edition, p. 5] says, “The band of Concord is led by Capt. Simon Willard, being a Kentish soldier.”
Again quoting from Johnson:
“Of the laborious worke Christs people have in planting this wildernesse set forth in the building of the Towne of Concord being the first inland Towne.
. . . “Upon some inquiry of the Indians who lived to the North-west of the Bay, one Captain Simon Willard being acquainted with them by way of Trade became a chief instrument in erecting this Town, the land they purchase of the Indians, and with much difficulties traveling through unknown woods and watery scrampes [swampes] they discover the fitness of the place, sometimes passing through Thickets, where their hands are forced to make way for their bodies passage, and their feet clambering over crossed Trees, which when they missed they sunk into an uncertain bottom in water, they wade up to the knees, tumbling sometimes higher, sometimes lower, wearied with this toile they at the end meet with a scorching plain; . . . lying in the open air, while the watery clouds pour down all the night season, and sometimes the driving snow dissolving on their backs, they keep their wet clothes warm with a continued fire, till the renewed morning give fresh opportunity of further travel; after they have thus found out a place of abode, they burrow themselves into the earth for their first shelter.” (Ibid., pp. 112-113.)
And thus was established by Rev. Peter Bulkeley and Major Simon Willard “the first inland Towne.”
Johnson, an Englishman, was contemporary with these times. He was in this country, and his descriptions are from personal observations.
“A beautifully rounded little eminence, following the triangle made by the junction of Sudbury and Assabet Rivers with the woodlands, meadows, and arable land attached to it, made a tract of about four hundred acres, bounded chiefly by the two branches of the Concord River; in the second division of the lands, two hundred and twenty-eight years ago, it fell to the lot of Major Simon Willard.” (Rev. Grindall Reynolds, D. D.)
The infant town of Concord probably owed more to Major Willard than to any other single person. He was its chief selectman; for eighteen years he was its clerk; for fifteen years its deputy to the General Court. From the beginning he was the military commander, and with two others made the legal tribunal before which all cases, between man and man, of small importance were tried. He was possibly the most influential man in the county. All through his later life he held the office of assistant. In Massachusetts, in the seventeenth century, an assistant was a person with high and varied duties. In the General Court he was a senator. To the Governor he was a councilor. In the administration of law he was a member of the only Supreme Judicial Court of the period. To all these honors and labors Simon Willard was called for twenty-two successive years, and just as he died received the largest vote given for any one for his twenty-third term. In 1641 to him and two others was given the whole charge of trade with the Indians. In 1655 he was promoted to the command of all the military force of Middlesex County. He settled innumerable cases of boundaries of land, and in one case that of the bounds between Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
In July, 1658, the selectmen of Lancaster, feeling the need of a ruling mind, thought “meet to order a letter of invitation to be sent to Major Simon Willard to come and inhabit among us.” A similar invitation in a previous year had been declined. But eight months before this last call Mr. Bulkeley had died: this may have weakened his affection for Concord. He accepted the invitation, and sold his farm. For twelve years he was the controlling mind in Lancaster. Then he moved to Groton, where his son was minister. There King Philip’s War found him. At seventy, with all the fire and vigor of youth, he took command of the Middlesex soldiers. He it was who, with his troopers and friendly Indians, rescued Capt. Thomas Wheeler and Lieut. Simon Davis, in their last extremity, at Brookfield. March 14, 1676, while absent from home, his house at Groton, with sixty-five others, was burned. One month later he died in his new home at Charlestown. “He was a noble specimen of a noble race. Weighty in judgment, versatile, trusty, of kindly temper, of indomitable industry, he filled well almost every conceivable post.”
Major Simon Willard d. April 0-4, 1676. His funeral was one of great pomp: it was on Thursday, the 27th of April. There was a military escort “of several hundred soldiers, consisting of three companies of foot, under the command of Captains Still, Cutler, and Holbrook; and three companies of horse, under command of Captains Brattle, Prentice, and Henchman, the last being commander of the whole.” (Willard Memoir.)
by wife Mary Dunster,
b. at Concord, June 4, 1655; m. first, July 18, 1675, Mary Lakin,
dau. of William Lakin of Groton.
She d. 1688. He m. second, 1689, Dorcas Cutler, who survived her husband and became the wife of Benjamin Bellows of Lancaster.
Henry Willard had a large estate. At one time he occupied one of the garrison houses in Lancaster. He d. Aug. 27, 1701.
His children, some of whom were men of note, speak well for the character of Henry Willard.
Josiah3 Willard, b. at Lancaster, 1693; m., 1715, Hannah Wilder.
She was b.1690, the grand-dau. of Thomas1 Wilder, b. in England, who m. at Charlestown, 1640, Anna Eames; removed to Lancaster, July 1, 1659; “a leading citizen and public officer until his death, Oct. 23, 1667.” John2 Wilder m. Hannah –, was a farmer in Lancaster, and father of Hannah [Wilder] Willard.
Col. Josiah Willard was the commander of Fort Dummer [Brattleboro, Vt.]. He was one of the settlers and principal officers in Lunenburg, Mass. He died on a journey from home, Dec. 8, 1750. “He was the grandson of the renowned Major Simon Willard; and was a gentleman of superior natural powers . . . . His death is a great loss to the public, considering his usefulness in many respects, particularly on the western frontiers.” The Secretary of State wrote to the son Josiah4 Willard, “I heartily join with you and your family, in the mourning for the death of your father, esteeming it a great public loss.” . . . (Willard Memoirs.) His wid. Hannah [Wilder] Willard was living in 1751.
Josiah4 Willard, b. at Lunenburg, Mass., Jan. 21, 1715; bap. at Lancaster, Aug. 6, 1721; m. at Groton, Nov. 23, 1’739., Hannah Hubbard.
Mr. Willard passed many years of his life on the frontiers. He succeeded his father in command at Fort Dummer, and was made lieutenant-colonel. Afterwards he was made colonel. He was in active service in the lines in the campaign of 1755, and was stationed with his regiment at Fort Edward in the same year. His father was one of the grantees of Winchester from Massachusetts in 1733. A church was organized in 1736, and Rev. Joseph Ashley,
a grad. Yale Coll., was ordained as minister; but the church was broken up and the town deserted of inhabitants on account of the Indian Wars.
But it was reorganized under a charter obtained by the son Col. Josiah Willard and his brothers in ’753. A new boundary line had been established, placing the town in the jurisdiction of New Hampshire. Col. Willard became the most important man in the town, holding all the offices of any trust or importance. In 1771 he was chosen the first representative of the town in the New Hampshire Legislature. He d. Nov. 19, 1786; his wid. Hannah [Hubbard] Willard d. Aug. 15, 1’791.
Eunice5 Willard, b. at Winchester, March, 1745; m., 1765, Rev. Micah Lawrence, who was the next minister of Winchester after Rev. Joseph Ashley. Their dau. Eunice Lawrence m. John s Wait; and they were the parents of Sarah Gilbert [Wait] Davis, the wife of William6 Davis.