Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Simon Willard is one of those figures in American history that played an important
part in the foundation of the colonies but who are largely unknown today. He
was born in 1605 in Horsmonden, Kent, England and emigrated to the Massachusetts
Bay Colony with his family in May, 1634 and became a fur trader. A year later he
and several other settlers purchased land from Indians that eventually became the
town of Concord. Reverend Peter Bulkeley was one of these settlers and so the group
met the requirements for a "'covenant town." Simon would serve as the town's
representative in the General Court from 1635 until 1654.

His good relations with the Indians did not go unnoticed by the colonial government
and he was given positions of authority in the militia, which might also indicate he'd
had some sort of military experience in England before he'd left for America. In 1653
he was made a Major in the Middlesex Militia and a year afterwards led an expedition
against the Narraganset Indians. Somehow he also managed to make time to also work
as a surveyor and in that line of work traveled as far north as Lake Winnipesaukee in

In 1658 the town of Lancaster invited him to take up residence there, citing a need for
a “controlling mind” or leader. But I wonder if perhaps this was also an attempt to gain
some respectability in the eyes of the colonial government by a town whose founder,
my other ancestor John Prescott, had not been looked upon favorably. And Willard’s
experience dealing with the local Indians might also have prompted the invitation by
the town on the western edge of the colony.

Whatever the town’s reason, Simon Willard accepted the offer and moved his family
from Concord to Lancaster in 1658. Twelve years later he moved again to the nearby
town of Groton where one of his sons was minister.

Simon Willard was now in his mid-sixties, an advanced age in a time where the average
lifespan was around thirty or forty years. He might have expected to live out the rest of
his life uneventfully, but that was not to be the case.


Miriam said...

Cousin Bill, thanks for writing this series about our Grandpa Simon Willard. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the posts!

Bill West said...

Glad you like it, Miriam.
Looks like it's turned into
"Simon Willard" week on
"West in New England"!

Donna Hague Wendt said...

I'm part of the Descendants of Simon Willard/ Mary Dunster party! In fact two of their children are my direct ancestors. My favorite being Mary Willard who was the grandmother of Capt Phineas Stevens of Fort #4 fame.
See you at the Feb 2011 Scanfest!