Willard, Simon, 1605 - 1676
Simon Willard was born in Horsmonden, Kent, England where he had attained the rank of captain. In 1634, he, his wife, and small family removed to Boston, Massachusetts, initially residing at Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following year, John Winthrop, Jr. directed Lieut. Edward Gibbons and Willard, then a Sergeant, to begin the construction of the fort and buildings at the mouth of the Connecticut River in the Saybrook wilderness. There, Willard was exposed first hand, to the tensions between Indians and the English leading up to the Pequot War.
But Willard's time in Saybrook may have also exposed him to the lucrative business of the fur trade. Returning back to Cambridge, Willard began to explore the local waterways to discover one of the sources of the fur, beavers. He soon found himself at Musketaquid, where numerous waterways come together.
In 1641, the Court gave him liberty to trade beaver and otter furs with the Natives of the Merrimack River as superintendent of the company formed in the colony for promoting fur trade with the Indians. He was also commissioned to receive the wampum tribute from the Manises of Block Island, to negotiate with the Pequots on having them brought under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and to "demand all servants from the Indians."
Willard was one of the colonists who negotiated with the local Squa Sachem, Tahuttawon, and Nimrod for the purchase of a six-mile tract of land there, which was subsequently settled as Concord. Willard became one of the town's leading citizens, serving as its clerk (1635-1653). Besides being an and inn-keeper, he held several military ranks, lieutenant (1637), captain (1646), and sergeant-major (1653). One of his most important responsibilities was as a surveyor. In 1652, he became part of a commission that was established to determine Massachusett's northern border.
Throughout this time, he continued his involvement in Indian affairs. Willard accompanied Gookin and Eliot on their mission to Wamesit. He acted as an advisor to the Nashaway around Lancaster, Massachusetts. He led a force against Ninigret in 1654-55. Four years later, he and his family removed to Lancaster, where he served as a commander of colonial forces that protected the town from Indian attack. By 1671, he the Willard family removed once more to Nonacoicus at Groton.
During King Philip's War, Willard was commander of the Middlesex Regiment of Massachusetts troops, engaging against the Nipmuc at Brookfield in August 1675 and at Groton in March 1676. His forces were accompanied by Indian scouts from Springfield and the Mohegan and River Indian communities. From September 1675 to April 1676, Willard was engaged in settling garrisons along the Middlesex frontier and the settling of Indians at Concord and Chelmsford.
After his property was burned by hostile Indians, it was at Charlestown that he finally settled. He married three times, first in 1628 in England to Mary Sharp and, upon her death, to Elizabeth Dunster in 1651. He later wed Mary Dunster in 1658. Both marriages together produced fifteen children. In the early spring of 1676, a malignant epidemic engulfed Massachusett, where six hundred people died. In April of that year, Willard succumbed to a lung disease, most likely pneumonia.
The Society of Colonial Wars, List of Officers and Members (Milwaukee: Burdick & Allen, 1906), 53. Joseph Willard, Willard Memoir; or Life and Times of Major Simon Willard (Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, 1858), 125, 132, 142-150, 157, 183-184, 212. Joseph G. Bartlett, "Genealogical Research in England: Dunster, Willard, and Hills," NEHGR 241 (1907): 187. Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip's War, 119-126.