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

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