Simon Willard (1605-1676)

B Horsemonden, Kent, England, April 1605 to Richard Willard and Marjorie Humphrie
D Charlestown, Mass, April 24, 1676
C Mary, Henry, John, Joseph, Daniel, Benjamin, and Hannah
Links about Simon Willard (includes his father's will) (Good Biography) (talks about the Simon Willard Woods in Concord, MA)


In 1630, John Winthrop, together with other English emigrants, sailed across the North Atlantic, royal charter in hand. The document provided that the new Massachusetts Bay Company, of which Winthrop was governor, would run its own affairs in a territory that stretched between what we know today as the Merrimack and Charles rivers. Seventeen ships brought over one thousand settlers that year - men and women seeking to build a new Puritan spiritual community and drawn by land and the opportunity it promised. Over the course of the next decade, twenty thousand more would follow.

Simon Willard arrived in 1634. Like many in the first migration, he was well-educated and of good social standing. Quickly he became involved in the lucrative fur trade, which sent him into the wilderness, away from the new villages sprinkled along the coast. Twenty-nine-year-old Willard wanted to establish a settlement inland, closer to the source of fur. At the Algonquian village of Musketaquid, with its few survivors, streams large and small flowed into two rivers, which in turn blended to form one. This offered abundant shad, salmon, and alewives, plus six potential mill sites. For decades the Algonquian villagers had cultivated the meadows and tracts of upland bordering the rivers, so the English immigrants would be spared the toil of clearing land for farming. Beyond stretched the forest, teeming with creatures whose fur Willard sought.

Though the Massachusetts Bay Company's General Court (the company's stockholders) likely found Willard's initiative impressive, they were not ready to have someone so young be a town founder. When the Reverend Peter Bulkeley arrived in Cambridge in 1635, Willard quickly befriended him. At fifty-two, Bulkeley was learned, respected, and quite wealthy; he brought with him £6,000. Willard, Bulkeley, and twelve families petitioned the authorities, and on September 2, 1635, the General Court issued the town grant:

"It is ordered that there shall be a plantation att Musketaquid, and that there shall be 6 myles of land square to belonge to it . . . and the name of the place is changed and here after to be called Concord."

The new town was the first in New England settled above tide waters.