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Major Simon WILLARD

Male 1603 - 1676


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  • Title  Major 
    Born  1604  Horsmonden, Kent Co., England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Baptism  7 Apr 1605  Horsmonden parish church Find all individuals with events at this location 
    _MILT  Kentish soldier 
    _MILT  1653 
    Srgt. Major of Middleton Co. 
    _MILT  Between 1654 and 1655 
    Commander-in-chief of Narragansett Expd. 
    _MILT  1675 
    Served in King Philips War (age 71) 
    Died  24 Apr 1676  Charlestown, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Person ID  I158  My Genealogy
    Last Modified  14 Jan 2012 

    Father  Richard WILLARD,   d. UNKNOWN 
    Mother  Margery HUMPHRIES,   d. UNKNOWN 
    Family ID  F102  Group Sheet

    Family  Mary (Sharpe or DUNSTER),   d. UNKNOWN 
    Children 
     1. Elizabeth WILLARD,   b. Abt 1635, Old or New England unknown Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 Aug 1690
     2. Symon WILLARD,   d. UNKNOWN
     3. Sarah WILLARD,   b. 1642,   d. UNKNOWN
     4. Abouehope WILLARD,   b. Abt 1640, "8/30/164-" Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. UNKNOWN
     5. Simon WILLARD,   b. 23 Sep 1649,   d. UNKNOWN
     6. Mary WILLARD,   b. 7 Sep 1653,   d. UNKNOWN
     7. Henary WILLARD,   b. 4 Jun 1655,   d. UNKNOWN
     8. John WILLARD,   b. 12 Feb 1655/56,   d. UNKNOWN
     9. Danill WILLARD,   b. 26 Dec 1658,   d. UNKNOWN
     10. Samuel WILLARD,   b. 31 Jan 1639/40, Concord, MA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Sep 1707, Boston, MA Find all individuals with events at this location
    Family ID  F098  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1604 - Horsmonden, Kent Co., England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBaptism - 7 Apr 1605 - Horsmonden parish church Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 24 Apr 1676 - Charlestown, MA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Notes 
    • Simon Willard was born in 1604 at Horsmonden in the county of Kent, England. He was baptised April 7, 1605 in the parish church. In England he was a Kentish soldier. He had three wives. The first was Mary Sharpe daughter of Henry and Jane (Ffeylde) Sharpe. The second was Elizabeth Dunster, daughter of Henry Dunster (President of Harvard College), and Mary Dunster, neice of Elizabeth, daughter of Robert and Mary (Gerrett) Dunster.

      He came to America in the spring of 1634 with his wife Mary (probably Sharpe?). Along with others on August 25, 1635, he founded Concord as a plantation. He served as town clerk from 1635 until 1653. He was elected by the Concord freemen as a representative to the General Court from 1636 until 1654, and assistant and councillor from 1654 until 1676. He was appointed to train a military company. In 1653 he was Sargent Major of the Middleton Company. He was commander-in-cheif of British forces for the Narragansett expedition in 1654/5. In 1659 he sold his Concord homestead and in 1660 he moved to Lancaster, in 1672 he moved to Groton (now Ayer). At the age of 71, in 1675, he served in King Phillips War. Groton was attacked during the war, Major Willard's house burned (1675/6). He then settled in Salem. He became a magistrate, and died while holding court in Charlestown. It is unknown where he was buried.

      The Reverend Ebenezer Pemberton calls him "a sage patriot in Israel, whose wisdom assigned him a seat at the council-board, and his military skill and martial spirit entitled him to the chief place in the field." A letter from Major Simon Willard to the commissioners of the United Colonies in 1654 is contained in Thomas Hutchinson's " Collection of Original Papers relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay" (Boston, 1769). See his "Life," by Joseph Willard (Boston, 1858).
      (http://www.famousamericans.net/simonwillard ; Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM)

      Simon and the history of Concord (taken from SIMON WILLARD’S LIFE IN CONCORD, By Marian H. Wheeler, 91 Hayward Mill Road, Concord, MA 01742-3919; a talk delivered on August 2, 2002 to the members of the Willard Family Association at their 94th Annual Reunion held in Concord, Massachusetts.):
      Back in the birthing stages of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Crown of England declared that in order to start a new town there must be two leaders – a religious leader and a military leader – to be in charge of any group of pioneers who were ready to pool their resources and set forth into a new settlement.
      Well, among the arrivals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the year 1634, was a certain Reverend Peter Bulkeley, who had recently been ousted from his pulpit in Odell, England, through Bishop Laud, because he was not preaching to his parishioners the things that King Charles I wanted them to hear. Bulkeley’s beliefs and preaching were not acceptable, so he came to the Colonies seeking another band of Puritans who would like to follow him.
      And, at the same time, came a certain Simon Willard, age 31, with a young family, who had a background of military training in the British Army, held the rank of Major, and who was also an adventurous merchant bent on setting himself up in the business of fur trading – and a great humanitarian as well.
      So here were the two required leaders and a group of twelve or so families ready to expand into the wilderness, seeking a new and good living.
      Simon Willard had probably set himself up in the fur-trading business back in Horsmonden. Since he had been apprenticed to a merchant, he was learning to be a good businessman, and that probably was the prime factor in his decision to undertake this adventure in 1634.
      At any rate, once he arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and had his family settled comfortably, his adventurous spirit lured him into the wilderness, seeking the source of his furs. He ventured out beyond the protection of the Bayside villages following obscure Indian paths, and found himself in Musketaquid land, the Indian word for this Concord area – "Grassy rivers."
      Musketaquid was the heart of the beaver territory because of the numerous waterways that form the Sudbury and Assabet rivers, which meet at a place in Concord called Egg Rock, and from that point on it becomes the Concord River. It was near to the Indians of the Merrimack Valley and the Nashaway natives. For 10,000 years aboriginal people had been living here, and the Algonquian tribe had had a high civilization thriving in this area.
      The European explorers who had come ashore here to mingle with the natives had also brought their dreaded diseases of smallpox, measles, diphtheria, etc. There had been bad epidemics through the Indian camps in 1617 and in 1633, so when Simon Willard came upon this land, and found the place practically empty, but with fertile land ready for seeding, and this "pre"pared location already cleared of trees and rocks, it seemed like an ideal place to start a new community. Also from this Musketaquid region, Simon could better intercept the furs coming from the Nashaway and Merrimack and Pawtucket tribes, and no doubt this cut off trade for the Truck House in Cambridge, which was the outermost Trading Post for the Mass. Bay Colony at that time (corner of Mt. Auburn and Brattle Streets in Cambridge today).
      How did Simon know this little secret? Apparently through a friend from Kent, England – William Wood – an enterprising man, who had sailed to these shores with a crew of adventurers bent on investigating this wilderness to find out about its resources. He kept an accurate log, to which he added his own remarks, and when he returned to Kent, wrote a book about it, which was published in London in 1634, titled New England Prospects.
      So, Simon made friends with the Indians and learned to speak their language so that he could do business with them. He was a very honest man, never cheated them, and they trusted him; so there was never any trouble nor harassment from them in town, and that led to the naming of the town because the settlers lived in peace and harmony and "Con-Cord" with the native people.
      Concord became the first "inland" town in America to be established away from the Atlantic Ocean - therefore a real pioneer town, "a seed town" from which the 2nd and 3rd generations spread out to start more new towns to the west, north and south. It became a "shire town," where the Court House held all trials of wrongdoers at the sessions held twice a year, spring and fall, and being on the stagecoach route, inns and taverns became prevalent.
      Since Simon had dealt so fairly with the Indians, he was instrumental in the actual transaction of buying the land from them. This Englishmen’s concept of "buying" the land puzzled the Indians greatly because they did not "buy" things, they swapped things, value for value, or gave things away - a policy of give and take, and a fair exchange for something they wanted. They didn’t own the land - "it belongs to the Great Spirit - and we use it and take care of it, but it’s not ours to give." As the great Chief Seattle asked: "How can I sell you a cloud?"
      But the Englishmen insisted they needed to know where their bounds were. So the groups met under the Great Oak Tree - Jethro’s Tree - in the center of town, as it is now - five or more Englishmen and Squaw Sachem with several of her braves and they made a bargain agreeable to all. She asked for hatchets, hoes, knives, a little Wampumpeag (their form of money), but mostly the braves wanted cotton shirts, and Webbacowet wanted to look like Simon Willard, so they gave him a white shirt, a white linen band, a tall hat, shoes, white stockings and a great coat. Then Simon Willard set the bounds of the town by pointing to the four directions: 3 miles north, 3 miles east, 3 miles south and 3 miles west, making a six mile square area the white men could call theirs, and Squaw Sachem was satisfied. The natives could keep their hunting rights which were very important to them. This measurement of land became an example for other towns to follow.
      Simon was a man of means, and held in high esteem as a merchant. He owned a 1,000 acre tract of land in Concord and Acton, which he sold as he was leaving Concord to go to help the town of Lancaster that was being besieged by unfriendly Indians. The Concord land was bought by the proprietors of the Saugus Iron Works who set up a new Iron Works in Concord by the Assabet River after they found a good supply of bog iron there. (the Bloods??? Interestingly, Richard Blood - most probably a brother of Robert Blood, who married Simon's daughter Elizabeth - appears to have worked at the Iron Works on the Saugus River in Lynn - the first iron foundary in America c. 1640)
      About Simon’s personality - Clara Endicott Sears (whose estate in Harvard, Massachusetts, is now a museum called "Fruitlands") describes him as "a dashing personality - strong - tall - of good birth - great wisdom - handsome." Here is a quote from Concord Town Records: "He was held in high regard by his townsmen for his character, ability and shrewd but honest dealings with white men and Indians alike.
      They leaned heavily on him for Council, and, when 23 years later, the Town of Lancaster sent an invitation to ‘Come and inhabit among us’ - it was with heavy hearts that they let him go."
      This could have been a smart move on Simon’s part, as perhaps another lure was to be able to take over the Truck House there, and intercept the Connecticut River Valley fur trade. Here there would be fewer Englishmen and fewer rivals.
      In case you are not convinced that Simon was a busy, capable, intelligent, efficient and wise man, try reading the five columns of his achievements during his lifetime in the index of the massive book Willard Memoir; or Life and Times of Major Simon Willard, 1858 edition, by Joseph Willard. In the copy reproduced by Higginson Books of Salem, Massachusetts, there are 146 items mentioned of things he did. Ruth Wheeler suggests that perhaps Simon Willard was the one to name Walden Pond in Concord, after a place in England called Saffron Walden, and in honor of a Major Walden, who was also a fur trader and a contemporary of Willard.
      Has anyone here ever seen Simon Willard’s gravestone? A description of his death and funeral are available in Life and Times of Major Simon Willard. There had been a bad epidemic of a lung disease (influenza?? - pneumonia??) in April 1676 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Simon’s house in Groton (town of Ayer, now) had just been burned to the ground by savage Indians, and he had moved his family to a safer place in Charlestown. Shortly after his move he was stricken with the plague, and died within days of being ill, "struck down by a fatal disease - died from a plague of an epidemic cold." Six hundred people died at that time.
      "Several hundred soldiers marched, companies of foot and companies of horse marched to Major Willard’s funeral, then marched to Concord. There were probably crowds of public people to honor him."
      But his gravesite is still unknown. It is not recorded in Charlestown. To quote from Wyman: Charlestown Genealogies and Estates, 1879, "died April 24, 1676, here, buried from Groton 27th" - but no one has ever found it that I know of.


      The Noyes Family history tells that:

      Elizabeth's father Major Simon Willard (1605-1676) came to New England in April, 1634, on the ship with Dolor Davis, his brother-in-law who married Margery Willard. He settled first at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he lived for one year, receiving a grant of land August 4, 1634. He acquired a thousand acres of land along the Charles river and Boston town line, adjoining the farm of Dolor Davis, and had many grants of land from time to time. He was one of the founders and first settlers of Concord, and was the first deputy to the General court, elected in December, 1636, serving every year thereafter until 1664, with the exception of 1643-47 and 1648. He was elected in 1654 but declined to serve. He was a member of the council fifteen years, and for twenty-two years an assistant. He was given a patent by the General court in 1641 for trading with the Indians and collecting tribute from them. He was appointed magistrate, and during his life attended between seventy and eighty terms of the County court, his first term beginning November 28, 1654, his last April 4, 1678.

      For forty years be was active in military life, and rose to the rank of major, commanding the provincial troops against the Indians. In both military and civil life he became one of the most famous men of the province, and it was he that led the expedition against the Narragansetts in 1655. He was also at Brookfield and Hadley in King Philip's war, leading the Middlesex regiment. The town of Lancaster invited him by a personal letter, dated February 7, 1658-9, to make his home in that town, promising land and privileges. He decided to locate in Lancaster and sold his Concord estates to Capt. Thomas Marshall of Lynn in 1659. His first home in Lancaster was bounded on two sides by the Nashua river, and commanded a superb view of the valley and surrounding country. He lived there twelve years, and in 1670-71 removed to the large farm in the south part of Groton, where in 1671-2 he served as chairman of the committee to seat the meeting-house, and in 1673 was chairman of the Groton selectmen. He had a splendid farm at Still River (now Harvard), and doubtless moved to Groton to be nearer his property.

      He left Lancaster enjoying peace and good order, but King Philip's war was soon to devastate the country. He was one of the most conspicuous and honored men of his day, and he died April 24, 1676, at the close of King Philip's war, after having reaped his greatest triumphs. He was a stalwart Puritan, conscientious and of sound understanding, of brave and enduring spirit. He had wealth as well as honor, bringing to this country an ample patrimony, giving large amounts of land to his children and leaving 1300 acres, besides other property, at his death. He was buried April 27, 1676, and the inventory of his estate was filed later by his widow.

      He married (first) Mary Sharpe, born 1614 at Horsemonden in England, daughter of Henry and Jane (Field) Sharpe, died before 1651, at which time Major Willard married (second) Elizabeth Dunster, baptised April 26, 1619, at Baleholt in the Parish of Bury, County Lancaster, England, daughter of Henry Dunster of that parish and sister of Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard college. Elizabeth (Dunster) Willard died about six months after her marriage, and Mr. Willard married for his third wife, in 1652, Mary Dunster, daughter of Robert and Mary (Garrett) Dunster, baptised December 15, 1630, at Bury, Lancashire, England, who had come to New England in 1652, and is believed to have been a niece or cousin of Elizabeth (Dunster) Willard, the second wife of Major Simon. (See N. E. H. G. Reg., Vol. 80, p. 93.) By his third wife Major Willard had eight children, and after his death, the widow, Mary (Dunster) Willard, married (second) July 14, 1680, Deacon Joseph Noyes of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and died December, 1715.

  • Sources 
    1. [S02570] www.famousamericans.net, edited by Appletons Encyclopedia, (copyright 2001 Virtualology), http://www.famousamericans.net/simonwillard/.