Friday, August 05, 2016


((Originally posted in Jan 2009 as "SIMON WILLARD PT2". Today is the 341th anniversary
of Simon's ride.He is my 9x great grandfather)).

In 1661 Massasoit,Sachem of the Pokanoket and the Wampanoag Confederacy
died. He'd had good relations for the most part with the settlers of Plymouth
Colony and a good case can be made that without his help, the settlement might
not have survived. But forty years of peace ended with his death. He was succeeded
first by his son Wamsutta, who felt his father had given the settlers too much
land and was seeking an alliance with the rival Connecticut colony when he died
under questionable circumstances in 1662. Massasoit's other son Metacom, now
became the grand sachem of the Wampanoags. He was better known to the
English as "King Philip."

Tensions mounted between the colony and the Indians as Philip sought to make
alliances with other tribes against the colonists and finally came to a head in1675.
John Sassamon, an Indian convert who'd gone to Harvard, warned the leaders
at Plymouth about Metacom's latest attempts to persuade the other tribes to
join in attacks on the settlers. A short while later Sassamon was murdered and
three Wampanoag Indians were arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime.
They were hung on 8 Jun 1675 . Two weeks later on 20 June, the town of Swansea
was attacked by Indians and destroyed five days later. The conflict that historians
call "King Philip's War" had begun.

Even though Simon Willard was now seventy years old, he was still in charge of
the defense of Middlesex County and despite his age went about it vigorously.
He led a small force of militiamen and friendly Indians and went from town to
town checking their fortifications and preparedness for attacks. At first these
were limited to the southern part of the colony but on 2 August a band of Nipmuc
Indians attacked the small town of Brookfield. The settlers took shelter in the
strongest building in town and held off the Indians for three days and made
attempts to send out messengers to find help.

Around noon on 5 August one found Simon Willard who was leading a mounted
force of 47 men from Lancaster to Groton. He immediately started out for
Brookfield which was about thirty miles from where the message had found him
and arrived at the besieged town shortly after dark. The Indians retreated at the
sudden arrival of Willard and his men and the Brookfield settlers were saved.

Four days later, the Indians attacked Lancaster, Simon Willard's previous place of
residence. Could it have been because of his rescue of Brookfield and his
prominence in the defence of the colony? Whether coincidental or deliberate,
the attack was one of many more to come.

It would be a busy fall and winter for Simon Willard.

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