LETTER BY SIMON WILLARD TO HIS DESCENDANTS
Introduction by Joseph Willard
Let a voice from the past sound
in our ears and summon us anew to our duty. -- that duty we cannot neglect; which
terminates not in a consideration for what it begins and ends in self">
LETTER BY SIMON WILLARD TO HIS
DESCENDANTS Introduction by Joseph Willard
LETTER BY SIMON WILLARD TO HIS DESCENDANTS
Introduction by Joseph Willard
Let a voice from the past sound in our ears and summon us anew to our duty. -- that duty we cannot neglect; which terminates not in a consideration for what it begins and ends in self, but connects us with the past and the future equally with the present, and brings us into relation in the great circle of humanity. While "Spiritualism" has its advocates and victims, while speculations upon the unseen are rife, and the heart sighs for a revelation of the future, we may be permitted to inquire of the past and listen to its teachings. We would think of our ancestor, not as a disembodied spirit dwelling in distant spheres, but as still near to his countless descendants with a voice of warning and instruction, and thus speaking not in an audible language addressed to the ear, but in tones that come to the meditative soul with even more stirring utterance. Listen to his words:-----
" My children,--- for so I call you, though belonging to different generations,--- listen to my words of instruction, warning and advice. It is my privilege and my duty to hold converse with you, as I have been constituted by our heavenly father, the founder of a numerous race on these western shores. Born before the settlement of Jamestown and Plymouth, and of an age to remember the "Mayflower",--the news of which was brought even to my retired village of Horsemondon, -- I was permitted to live through an important epoch, when great principles were in discussion, the settlement of which would affect future generations in the establishment of justice and right, or the perpetuation of wrong under forms of law. The death of my mother, of blessed memory, when I was too young to know the extent of my loss, and that of my father in my early youth, not, indeed, before the remembered words of council and advice, but when I needed his protection and guidance, left me exposed to the temptations which invade the humble village as well as the larger resorts of man. But, though assailed, through Gods mercy I was saved from falling and trusting in him whom I had been in youth taught to reverence, I was brought safely through.
My early training was in the Church of England; and in the ancient parish church I received, in my infancy the waters of Baptism by the hands of the rector, Rev Edward Alchine, from whose instruction and catechistical teachings, when I came of age to understand them, I trust that I received spiritual benefit. But my religious preferences were in another direction, and I yielded to their persuasions. I well remember, even with the dawn of reason and reflection, the great controversy, which was then beginning to rage with unwonted heat, even to the dividing of families.
I had none to aid me in the shaping of
my future course; and though I was prospered in business and was very happy with the wife
of my choice, and might have borne my part in my native village, the feeling increased,
that this was not my proper sphere. Neighbors and friends, the men of Kent in various
quarters, were preparing to remove to the new world, where success had attended the
Plymouth settlers, and a larger and more imposing colony composed of those who lined the
shores of this beautiful bay. I was in sympathy with these Christians, while still loving
the Church from which I had separated. I saw the day approaching when sharp trials would
begin, and I should be excluded from the few religious which remained for those who
already were stigmatized as schismatic, I was determined to join those who were seeking a
place in the wilderness, where we might worship God in a way which we thought was of his
appointment. But how was this to be accomplished with a young family? Measures of
detention, which had now well-nigh reached their culminating point, were daily becoming
more stringent, required certificates of uniformity, and oaths of allegiance and
supremacy, of all who purposed embarking for the new world. Vessels were carefully
watched; and none could leave the realm, and take passage for New England, without special
permission, and having submitted to the various orders extracted by authority. I closed up
my business at Horsemondon made my preparations diligently and silently in connection with
a married sister and her husband, and bidding an affectionate adieu to those of the family
left behind, reached the coast in safety, where we found a boat in readiness to take us to
a vessel which was to bear us to our coveted retreat.
I cannot describe to my sensations on forsaking my native land. Scarce ever beyond the bounds of my little village, I was leaving home, with all its fond ancestral associations, never to return. My emotions, on taking the last view of old England, were such as almost to overpower me. All of the love, all of the memory, returned and I felt for a moment a doubt, whether I was in the way of duty in my removal. But it was only for a moment. When the last speck of the Kentish shore disappeared below the horizon, I girded myself to the undertaking; cast no more lingering looks behind but looked forward over the wide waste of waters toward my destined abode; addressed myself to all that belonged to, to its duties and obligations; and never for one moment afterwards, until the day God called me hence from earthly scene, did I regret the decision that I had taken. We were favored in our passage, and our little fleet reached these shores in the beautiful noontide of May, when all nature was bursting into life, as if to give us a glad and smiling welcome to our new home of our pilgrimage. I look around me; but all is changed that is in the power and control of man. In the populous towns and cities, which have sprung up, I cannot recognize the little hamlets, once my familiar acquaintance. Even my ancient dwelling places -- peaceful and humble abodes in Cambridge, Concord, Lexington and Groton --- can no longer be traced or divined, except by those marks, which God himself has established in the flowing water of the Charles, the Assabet, and the Nashway. Strange sights and sounds salute my senses; mysterious agencies of motion on land and water are all around me; and I almost feel as if man was in communion with forbidden spirits.
planted my stakes; here I have made my home, nor wished to return to the scenes of my
youth. My venture was here in new and untried existence, and I loved it. God favored me
with health, friends, and beloved children; while by his will and love of brethren, I
trust I was helpful to the Commonwealth at least in some humble measure,--in military,
legislative, and in judicial service, --- through a long period until my death. For all
that I was enabled to do, I was truly grateful, while conscious of my shortcomings and
lamenting that my success did not equal my intentions.
It was my earnest wish to train up my children to walk in the paths of virtue and usefulness, and to educate them in human learning according to their capacities, that they might serve their generation with fidelity. Herein I was aided and blessed in the schools, open to all, which our honored magistrates and deputies caused to be established, that " learning may not be buried in the grave of our fathers, in the church, and in the commonwealth; and by the teachings and instructions of worthy Mr. Buckley and Mr. Rowlandson. By their regular attendance on public worship, by observances, by worship in the family, my sons and daughters were in the sure way of preparation for good service in life, and of becoming good examples to their own children.
And now, in the day of small things, when we few in number and weak in power, surrounded by the savage, with none under God to help us save our own right arm, I was of service to church or commonwealth. I desire first of all to thank God, and to give to him the praise. I will not offer myself as an example for imitation, or commend myself for doing aught, but only to say that I have endeavored.
Considered what God has done for you. The wilderness and the solitary place have been glad for you; and the desert rejoices, and blossoms as the rose, in the days of Isaiah for the chosen people. Indeed, the little one has become a thousand; and the small beginnings which I witnessed have widened out to a powerful Commonwealth, filled with privileges, comforts and blessings, countless in number, and leaving little to be imagined or desired. Think not that your own right hand has wrought out this your happy condition; but give thanks to him that belong, and believe that there was never a people more highly favored.
You would honor my memory, and are very free in expressing veneration, but if you would honor me aright, if you feel the veneration you express, show it by your deeds; by reverence of that which is higher and holier; ration; by adhering to the old paths of justice, faithfulness, and holy trust; by sincerity in belief, abandoning all Antiformalism; by being bold for the right, modestly and firmly maintaining your opinions, whether called to public station or in the more private walks; following no man and no cause you believe to be right because of unpopularity or reproach; but avoiding the parasite and the selfseeker, and standing bravely by your own convictions. Thus did son, even Samuel, in the time of his pilgrimage, when he set himself in opposition to the greatest delusion that ever visited this land, subjecting himself to great trial in the coldness of friends and the harsh judgement of an entire community; but unmoved in his purpose, sustained by his unconscious view of right, calmly awaited the revolution in sentiment which at once was the earnest and reward of his long and patient suffering. FAREWELL" Excerpts from The Willard Family
SOLDIERS IN KING PHILIP'S WAR.
OF all the names that stand upon the pages of New England history, none are more honored than that of Major Simon W illard. His biography has been written in the "Willard Memoir," and therefore only a brief outline will be necessary here. He was born at Hors-monden. County of Kent, England, baptized April 7, 1605. He was the son of Richard and his second wife Margery. Simon married in England Mary Sharpe, of Horsmonden, who bore him before leaving England (probably) three children, and six in New England. He married for a second wife Elizabeth Dunster,"* who died six months after her marriage: and a third wife, Mary Dunster, who bore him eight children, between the years 1649 and 1669. Simon Willard arrived in Boston in May, 1634, and settled soon after at Cambridge. He was an enterprising merchant, and dealt extensively in furs with the various Indian tribes, and was the " chiefe instrument in settling the towne " of Concord, whither he removed at its first settlement in 16356, and remained for many years a principal inhabitant of that town. On the organization of the town he was chosen to the office of cleric, which he held by annual election for nineteen years. It is said upon respectable authority that he had held the rank of captain before leaving England, and in Johnson's "Wonder Working Providences," he is referred to ae " Captain Simon Willard being a Kentish Soldier." In 1637 he was commissioned as the Lieutenant-Commandant of the first military company in Concord. At the first election, December, 1636, he was chosen the town's representative to the General Court, and was relected and sensed constantly in that office till 1654, except three years. In that year he was reelected, but was called to other more pressing duties ; and afterwards to his death was Assistant of the Colony. In 1641 he was appointed superintendent of the company formed in the colony for promoting trade in furs with the Indians, and held thereafter many other positions of trust, cither by the election of freemen or the appointment of the Court, too many to admit of separate mention here. In 1646 he was chosen Captain of the military company which, as- Sergeant and Lieutenant,
. In 1653 Major Willard was chosen Sergeant-Major, the highest military officer of Middlesex County.
In October, 1654, Major Willard was appointed commander-inchief of the military expedition against Ninigret, Sachem of the Ny-antickg, fur the details of Which see the " Willard Memoir," Page 193 and onward. In the settlement of the town of Lancaster Major Willard had been of great service to the inhabitants, and their appreciation was shown when, in 1658, the selectmen wrote him an earnest invitation to come and settle among them, offering a generous Share in their lands as inducement. This invitation he accepted, sold his large estate in Concord, and removed to Lancaster, probably in 1659, and thence to a large farm he had acquired in Groton, about 1671, at a place called Nonacoicus.
At the opening of ^Philip's War," .Major Willard, as chief military officer of Middlesex County, was in a station of great responsibility, and was very active in the organization of the colonial forces. His first actual participation in that war was in the defence of Brookfield, the particulars of which have been noted. We must admire this grand old man of seventy, mounting"' to the saddle at the call of the Court, and riding forth at the head of a frontier force for the protection of their towns. On August 4th he marched out from Lancaster with Capt. Parker and his company of forty-six men, "to look after some Indians to the westward of Lancaster and G-roton " (Major Willard's home was in Groton at this time), and receiving the message of the distressed garrison at Brookfield promptly hastened thither to their relief, which he accomplished, as we have seen in a former article. Upon the alarm of the disaster at Brookfield, a considerable force soon gathered there from various quarters. Two companies were sent up by the Council at Boston, under Captains Thomas Lathrop of Beverly and Richard Beers of Watertown, and arrived at Brookfield on the 7th. Capt. Mosely, also, who was at Mendon with sixty dragoons, marched with that force, and most of Capt. Henchman's company (just off the pursuit of Philip from Pocasset), and arrived at Brookfield probably about August 12th (see (title, vol. xxxvii. page 177). From Springfield came a Connecticut company of forty dragoons under Capt. Thomas Watte, of Hartford, with twenty-seven dragoons and ten Springfield Indiana under Lieut. Thomas Cooper, of Springfield. These forces for several weeks scouted the surrounding country under Major Willard; the details of which service belong properly to the accounts of the several Captains. In addition to these were forty " River Indians "
from the vicinity of Hartford, and thirty of Uncas's Indians under his son Joshua, who scouted with the other forces. The Nipmucks could not be found, and it was afterward learned from the Indian guide, George Mcmecho, captured by the Nipmucks in Wheeler's Fight, that on their retreat from Brookfield on August 5th, Philip, with about forty warriors and many more women and children, had met them in a swamp six miles beyond the battle ground, and by presents to their Sachems and otherwise, had engaged them further in his interest; and all probably hastened away towards Northfield and joined the Pocomptucks, and thence began to threaten the plantations on the Connecticut River. After several days diligent searching, on August 16th. Captain Lathrop's and Beers's companies, the latter reinforced by twenty-six men from Capt. Mosely, together with most of the Connecticut, Springfield and Indian forces, marched towards Hadley and the neighboring towns, while Mosely went towards Lancaster and Chelmsford. Major Willard remained for several weeks at the garrison. Mr. Hubbard and Capt. Wheeler make this statement, and further relate that he soon after went up to Hadley on the service of the country. I think the visit to Hadley was after August 24th, as on that date I find a letter from Secretary Rawson to him, enclosing one to Major Pynchon, and advising him to ride up to Springfield and visit Major Pynchon " for the encouragement of him and his people." The writer of the " Wil-lard Memoir " states that he was in command of the forces about Hadley for some time in the absence of Major Pynchon, but I have been unable to find any confirmation of this, unless it may be the inference drawn from Hubbard, who states that when Major Willard " returned back to his own place to order the affairs of his own regiment, much needing his Presence," he left " the Forces about Hadley under the Command of the Major of that Regiment." The letter above contained directions about the disposal of his forces, ., which would naturally take several weeks to accomplish, and although the precise date of Major Willard's return from Brookfield is not given, some inference may be drawn from circumstances noted further on. Following is the list of those credited with service under Major Willard. from August 23d to January 25th, 1675 :
Grandmothers Attic Our Family Branches