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Major Simon Willard
(1605 - 1676)

From Vermont Historical Gazette, Vol. V, pg. 180, pub. 1890:
"...Major Simon Willard...emigrated to this country from the county of Kent in England.  He is first mentioned as residing at Newton (now Cambridge, Mass.) in 1634, where he became acquainted with the situation of Concord, Mass., by trading with the Indians.  He was one of the original purchasers of Concord and removed to that place as early as 1635, and became by his influence and the offices to which he was elected, the chief citizen of the town.  In 1654, he received the commission of Major and was commander-in-chief of the forces of Massachusetts in Ninegret and Philip's wars.  In 1660, he removed to Lancester
[sic - Lancaster] and was at Groton in 1672.  He died in Charlestown, Mass., April 24, 1676 [see following article].  He was a brave commander, a wise statesman, and a trustworthy man, retaining the confidence of his fellow citizens undiminished till the close of life.

"Major Willard had three wives, 1st, Mary Sharp, 2d, Elizabeth, sister of President Dunster, of Harvard college, 3d, Mary Dunster [my ancestor], a relative of the second wife.  By the first and third marriages, he had 17 children, 9 sons and 8 daughters, most of whom lived to marry and have families."

From Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. XX, pg. 240, 1936:
"WILLARD, SIMON (1605 - Apr. 24, 1676 o.s.) ["o.s." means old style, referring to the incorrect calendar which was re-calculated in XXXX, after the discovery that it was off by eleven days.  Thus, Simon's date of death would correctly be 5 May 1676, according to the modern accurate calendar.), colonist, fur-trader, the son of Richard and Margery Willard, was baptized at Horsmonden, Kent, England, on Apr. 7, 1605 o.s.  Emigrating to Massachusetts in 1634, he settled at Cambridge, where he engaged in the fur trade.  In 1635 he joined with Peter Bulkeley and others to establish the town of Concord.  From this time until his death he was one of the leading men on the Merrimac frontier.  At Concord he served as local magistrate and commanded the militia company.  He represented Concord in the General Court from 1636 to 1654, except 1643, 1647, 1648, and in 1654 he was chosen assistant and served until his death.  In 1653 he was made sergeant-major of the Middlesex regiment.  His activities, both public and private, were closely associated with the Indian trade and the affairs of the frontier settlements.  In 1641 he was appointed chief of a committee to carry on and regulate the fur trade, and in 1657 he and three associates farmed the trade of the Merrimac for 25.  In 1646 and afterward he assisted John Eliot in his work among the Merrimac tribes.  He was extensively employed by the General Court in Indian affairs, in locating and laying out land grants, in settling the bounds and regulating the affairs of the frontier towns.  In 1659 he sold a large part of his Concord estate and removed to Lancaster, Mass.  About 1671 he went to live in the southern part of Groton, now Ayer.

"In 1654 he was appointed to command a punitive expedition against the Niantic sachem, Ninigret.  On the approach of the English, Ninigret fled into a swamp, and the expedition ended in a parley.  Disappointed at this inconclusive outcome, the commissioners of the United Colonies reproved Willard for failure to carry out their instructions.  At the outbreak of King Philip's War, in spite of his advanced age, he took charge of the defense of the Merrimac frontier.  His most conspicuous service was the relief of Brookfield on Aug. 4, 1675.  Ordered thence to the Connecticut Valley, , he soon returned to Groton to defend the frontier towns from Chelmsford to Lancaster against the Indians gathered at Mount Wachusett.  His duties included the placing of garrisons, the patrolling of the frontier with a party of dragoons, and the relief of threatened settlements.  Called away by his duties as magistrate, he was absent when the Indians destroyed Groton in March 1676, but he arrived with a relieving force in time to assist in removing the inhabitants.  His own house was destroyed and his family forced to remove to Charlestown.  There, after further service eon the frontier, he died, 'a pious, orthodox man,' according to John Hull (diary in Archaelogia Americana: Trans. and Colls. Am. Antiq. Soc., vol. III, 1857, pg. 241).  He was married three times, first in England to Mary Sharpe, second to Elizabeth, the sister of Henry Dunster, and third to Mary Dunster, either his second wife's sister or cousin.  He had seventeen children, of whom Samuel, 1639/40 - 1707, was the most distinguished."

More information on my Willard ancestors and relatives can be found on my WorldConnect database.

Miriam Robbins Midkiff
26 June 2003

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