Thursday, January 29, 2015

A LETTER TO ALL GENERATIONS: from 10th GGUncle Simon Willard

Let a voice from the past sound in our ears,
and summon us anew to our duty,
as that duty which we cannot neglect;
which terminates not in a consideration for what begins and ends in self,
but connects us with the past and the future equally with the present,
and brings us into relation with all time in the great circle of humanity.”
(from the conclusion to the Willard Memoir; Life and Times of Major SimonWillard, 1858, by Joseph Willard)

 A 17th-Century letter written by Major Simon Willard provides a first-person account of The Great Migration:
To 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 voyage of the 'Mayflower,' - the news whereof was brought even to my retired village of Horsmonden, - 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 the 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 a father in my early youth, not, indeed, before remembered words of counsel and affection, 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 men. But, though assailed, through God's mercy I was saved from falling; and trusting in Him whom I had been in youth taught 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 instructions and catechetical 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 range with unwonted heat, even to the dividing of families.

     I had none to aid me in shaping my future course; and though I was prospered in business and 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 the 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, and the 'tender milk' drawn from her breasts.

     I saw the day approaching when sharp trials would begin, and I should be excluded from the few religious privileges which remained for those who already were stigmatized as schismatic. I determined to join those who were seeking a home 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, requiring 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 various orders exacted by authority. I closed up my business in Horsmonden, made my preparations diligently and silently in connection with a married sister and her husband [10thGreat Grandparents, Margery (Willard) and Dolour Davis], 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 the vessel which was to bear us to our coveted retreat.

     I cannot describe to you 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 dear Old England, were such as almost to over power me. All of love, all of memory, returned; and I felt for the 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 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 towards my detained abode; addressed myself to all that belonged to its duties and obligations; and never at any one moment afterwards, until the day that God called me hence from earthly scenes, did I regret the resolution 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 the new home of our pilgrimage.

     I look around me; but all is changed that is under the power or 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, Lancaster, and Groton - can no longer be traced or divined, except by those marks which God himself has established in the flowing waters of the Charles, the Assabet, and the Nashaway. 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.

     Descendants, - Here I planted my stakes; here I made my home, nor wished to return to the scenes of my youth. My venture here in new and untried existence, and I loved it. God favored me with health, friends, and beloved children; while, by his will and the love of the brethren, I trust I was helpful to the Commonwealth, at least in some humble measure, in military, legislative, and 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 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 might not be buried in the grave of our fathers, in church and commonwealth; 'and by the teachings and instructions of worthy Mr. Bulkeley and Mr. Rowlandson. By their regular attendance on public worship, by observing the ordinances, by worship in the family, my sons and daughters were in the sure way of preparation for good service in life and becoming examples to their own children.

     And now, if, in the day of small things, when we were 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 any service to church or commonwealth, I desire to first of all thank God, and give him praise. I will not offer myself as an example for imitation, or commend myself for having done aught, but only say that I have endeavored.

      Consider what God has done for you. The wilderness and the solitary place have been made glad for you; and the desert rejoices, and blossoms as the rose, as 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 comforts, privileges, 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 to whom they belong, and believe that never was 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; by doing all your duty actively and earnestly in your generation; by adhering to the old paths of justice, faithfulness, and holy trust; by sincerity in belief, abandoning all Antinomian heresies [free grace theology preached by Puritan minister John Cotton] as you would the other extreme of dead formalism; 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 because of popularity, shunning no man and no cause you believe to be right because of unpopularity or reproach; but avoiding the parasite and self seeker, and standing bravely by your own convictions. Thus did my son, even Samuel, in the time of his pilgrimage, when he set himself in opposition to the greatest delusion that ever visited this land [Salem witch trials], subjecting himself to great trial in the coldness of friends, and the harsh judgment of an entire community; but, unmoved in his purpose, sustained by his conscientious view of the right, calmly awaited that revolution in sentiment which at once was the earnest and reward of his long and patient suffering.

"Farewell !"

Simon Willard
10th Great Grand Uncle, Major Simon Willard was born on Apr. 7, 1605 at Horsmonden, Kent, England. A brother to my 10th Great Grandmother, Margery (Willard) Davis, he arrived in New England in 1634 and was a founder of Concord, Massachusetts. As a military officer, Simon was Commander of Forces in Ninigret's & King Phillip's Wars. He also served as Representative of the General Court of Massachusetts from 1635-1657 and Assistant Governor 1654-1676. He became ill during a cold epidemic and died on Apr. 24, 1676 at Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

ETCHED IN OLD STONE: Simon Willard & the Endicott Rock

10th Great Grand Uncle SIMON WILLARD (brother-in-law to Dolour Davis)
 The "Endicott Rock"
Simon Willard's initials at top
Etched into the top of a large boulder in the mouth of the Merrimack River where it issues out of Lake Winnepesaukee is the name of John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts Bay.  Encircling this name are the initials of the official delegation sent by the Governor to find the northernmost boundary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The leaders of the delegation:  Commissioners Capt. Simon Willard and Capt. Edward Johnson along with  two surveyors, John Sherman and Jonathan Ince.  Their guides: Pontauhum and Ponbakin. The date:  August 1, 1652.  The place: Aquedoctan or "The Weirs" at Laconia, New Hampshire.

Under the original Massachusetts Bay Charter of 1629, the northern boundary of the colony was fixed as a line three miles north of the Merrimack but, despite an earlier expedition in 1638, the head of the Merrimack had not been determined.  So, on May 3, 1652, the court ordered:
"...for the better discovery of the north line of our Patent, it is ordered by this Court that Capt. Symon Willard and Capt. Edward Johnson be appointed as commissioners, to procure such artists [surveyors] and other assistants as they shall judge meet, to go with them to find out the most northerly part of the Merrimack river, and that they be supplied with all manner of necessaries by the Treasurer fit for this journey, and that they use their utmost skill and ability to take a true observation of the latitude of that place..."  After etching their claim upon the granite boundary marker, they returned to the Governor with the requested survey information:  "43 degrees Latitude, 40 minutes, 12 seconds with three miles running north into the lake."

Simon Willard was the brother of my 10th GGMother, Margery Willard, both of whom were born and raised in Horsmonden, Kent, England.  When Simon emigrated to New England with his wife and family in 1634, it is believed that Margery's husband Dolour Davis accompanied them, preparing the way for his wife and children to follow in 1635.  Both Simon and Dolour actively served the communities in which they lived but Simon stood out in his leadership roles.  As a captain of a militia and a long-time member of the general court as representative of Concord, Simon was chosen by Governor Endicott as a capable leader for the important historic expedition that would mark the northern-most boundary of the Massachusetts Colony's chartered territory.

History, however, sometimes has a way of becoming lost and forgotten.  Although Massachusetts could, after 23 years, finally lay official claim to its chartered region based on the results of this 1652 survey expedition, the historic boundary marker, the "Endicott Rock," disappeared under water and was not rediscovered until 1833.   In 1892, two hundred forty years after Simon's initials were chipped into that granite boulder, the State of New Hampshire completed a monument structure to preserve and protect this piece of early American -and our family's- history.

The initials "WP" are not identified and may have been incised at a later time.

Horsmonden is located in the Weald of Kent, England
St. Margaret's Church, Horsmonden where Simon and Margaret were baptised
Plaque in St. Margaret's honoring Simon Willard

Windows gifted to St. Margaret's by American Willard family in 1921

Window detail: "In the Glory of God and in memory of Major Simon Willard..."

 For more information:
The Report of the preservation, protection, and appropriate designation of the Endicott Rock at the Weirs, 1893
and a sketch by The Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society Museum
St. Margaret's Church, Horsmonden photo
St. Margaret's Church, Horsmonden photos, interior

Sunday, January 4, 2015

ETCHED IN OLD STONE: Dolour Davis, 1634 English immigrant to Barnstable, MA

10th GGParents: DOLOUR DAVIS-MARGERY WILLARD/to Hall-Blodgett-Whitney/Darte (Dort)
From East Farleigh, Kent, England to Barnstable, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts
1560 Geneva Bible
Dolour: a state of great sorrow, grief or distress
"...a good name is as a thread tyed about the finger, to make us mindful of the errand we came into the world to do for our master."
These words of a long-forgotten Puritan minister are often used to justify the naming customs of Massachusett's colonial period.  But, as we see with a number of our earliest immigrant ancestors (i.e. Hezekiah and Epenetus) the "Puritan Naming Revolution" was already underway in late sixteenth century England, inspired through the publication of a new, readily-accessible English translation of the Bible. Viewing  the typical baby names of their time as "too worldly," Puritan parents turned to their annotated scriptures for inspiration.  In an attempt to set themselves apart from their non-Puritan neighbors who typically named their children after family, royal, or political figures, they carefully selected names honoring biblical heroes or denoting virtues and models for Christian living.  But, as with any trend, extremes were inevitable.  Take for instance, Dolour.  What a woeful name to carry through life, serving to remind the owner of the pains of sin.   Fortunately, our ancestor was able to overcome his dreary name, and typically spelled it "Dolar," rhyming it with "dollar." 

It is believed that Dolour (or Dolor) was born in or near the English town of East Farleigh, Kent in the year 1593.  Although little is known about his youth, the biographer Otis dug into early records to provide the following chronology:
  • In 1614, eleven year old Dolour was a servant to Edward Clarke, gentleman, of East Farleigh. Mr. Clarke died that year but made provision for young Dolour in his will:  "I give to my servant Dolor Davis my house and lands in the parish of  Marden."  It is likely that he had to wait until he was 21 to claim his inheritance.
  • On the 29th of March, 1624, Dolour married Margery Willard in East Farleigh.  Margery's family was from nearby Horsemonden.   
  • In May, 1634, Margery's brother Simon Willard emigrated to America with his wife and children.  It is probable that Dolour accompanied them.  
  • On August 4, 1634, both Simon Willard and Dolour Davis were granted lands in the four-year old Puritan community of Newtowne, later named Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • In April, 1635, Margaret Davies (undoubtedly Margery Davis) with children John, Mary, and Elizabeth, sailed from London on board the "Elizabeth" bound for New England. 
  • Davis was granted a house lot in June of that year, just in time for his family's arrival.
  • By 1638 he has moved to Duxbury, helping to found and later establish a residence at  Barnstable in 1643.  
  • On March 24, 1644, daughter Ruth (my 9th GGMother) was born in Barnstable.  She married Capt. Stephen Hall in 1663.
The colonial records show that Dolour moved frequently, from Cambridge to Duxbury, Scituate, Barnstable, Concord, and back to Barnstable.  As a house carpenter by trade, he probably followed the need for his services in emerging communities as the colony grew. 
“Perhaps of all the families which came to New England, not one can be selected more worthy of our esteem, and unqualified approbation than that of Dolor Davis. As a man he was honest, industrious and prudent; as a christian tolerant and exact in the performance of his religious duties; as a neighbor kind, obliging, and ever ready to help those who needed his assistance; and as a father and the head of his family he was constantly solicitous for the welfare of all its members, cultivating those kindly feelings and amenities of life which render home delightful.” (Amos Otis, in Barnstable Families.) 
Otis, Amos. Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, a reprint of the Amos Otis Papers originally published in The Barnstable Patriot. Vol. I. Barnstable, MA, 1888.