GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2006-03 > 1142972509
Subject: History of Harvard, Mass. - by Nourse pp 28-30
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:21:49 EST
The History of Harvard, Massachusetts, 1643-1732, by Henry S. Nourse,
1894. - W. J. Coulter, Printer.
p.28 Still River, Harvard.
Henry Willard was the 4th son of the Major, born at Concord, Mass. June
4, 1655. He had lived at the Nonacoicus Farm (of Major Simon Willard at
his father giving him one-fourth of that estate upon his marriage to Mary
Lakin, July 18, 1674. He was a resident of Groton in 1684-5, but probably
removed to Still River, Harvard, two years later. In a rate list of 1688,
the names of those whose estates were charged with the building of the
minister's house given to Rev. John Whiting, Henry Willard appears, as also
do his younger brothers, Benjamin and Jonathan Willard, John Priest, John
Warner, John Bush, John Willard and Joshua Atherton.
Henry Willard married for his second wife, Dorcas Cutler in 1689. He died
in 1701, his Will being proved August 8 of that year. He left an extensive
landed estate, and nine sons to perpetuate the family name, all of whom
married and most of them spent their lives in Lancaster and Harvard.
Joshua Atherton was the 2nd son of James Atherton, one of the earliest
proprietors of the Nashaway Plantation. He was born at Lancaster, May 13,
1656 and died at Still River, Harvard in 1721. His first homestead of over
one hundred acres was upon the west side of the highway in Still River
extending to the Nashua, and his first residence probably occupied the
site of the home of his descendants, Oliver and Galen Atherton. Joshua
Atherton was a tanner by trade and came here from Milton about 1687.
John Warner and John Priest were immigrants from Woburn. They were church
members, young men, and evidently were deemed a desirable acquisition;
for as an inducement to their coming hither, the Lancaster proprietors
voted to each of them a special grant of 30 acres on the easterly side
of Bare Hill, Harvard. At their coming the two families seem to have
lived together, or at least very near each other, for the 60 acre grant
was made to them jointly and the record
specifies one part of it as "Laid out for 36 acres, be it more or Less,
on which they have built." John Priest died in 1704 and John Warner died
1722. Adjoining the Warner and Priest grant, thirty acres were given
by the proprietors to Nathaniel Wales, upon condition of his settlement
thereon. He failed to appear, and the concession was transferred to
James Frost, probably of Billerica, who, with wife, Hannah, became a
resident of Lancaster, though it is not certain that he built upon this
thirty acre grant at East Bare Hill (Harvard) Frost sold his rights to
Thomas Sawyer in 1708.
John Bush, probably of Sudbury also had a thirty acre grant from the
proprietors, and a gift of a lot from Major Simon Willard, "neer
Mahamachecamack's Hills - and Plum Tree Meadow." He built upon his lands,
but died in Sept. 1688, leaving a widow Hannah and children Sarah and
John Bush. Shortly after coming of age, John Bush, in 1710, sold the
lands to Benjamin Bellows and Samuel Willard.
Another recipient of a 30 acre gift of land adjoining the Willard farm,
and therefore undoubtedly a proposed, if not an actual resident, for a
brief time, upon Harvard territory, was John Willard. What relationship
he bore to Henry Willard, the commandant of the Harvard Garrison, has not
been discovered, though kinship seems probable from the location of his
acres and his known residence at Groton. His story is given place here
because it connects the first planters of Harvard with the mad persecution
for witchcraft in 1692, at Salem village.
John Willard, according to the historian, Charles W. Upham, was a thrifty
farmer with a wife and three children. He had some land intersts at
Salem - perhaps received with his wife, there being good reason to
suppose that she belonged to a Salem family - and he was there resident
when the hideous delusions began which ended in so many judicial murders.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, perhaps without historical proof, speaks of him as a
shrewd, active and honest man, who had a "little place of trade, where
he bartered English goods for Indian corn and all kinds of country produce."
John Willard was one of those who fell into the merciless clutches of the
Robert Calef, in his "More Wonders of the Invisible World," tells us
that John Willard had been employed by the authorities to arrest several
persons accused of practicing witchcraft, but after a time being ordered
to bring up for trial some whom he respected too much to believe guilty
of wrong practices, he refused the ungracious office; "and presently after
he himself was accused of the same crime, and that with such vehemency,
that they sent after him to apprehend him, he made his escape as far as
Nashaway, about 40 miles from Salem; yet tis said those accusers did then
presently tell the exact time, say now Willard is taken."
John Putnam, the Salem Constable, who made the arrest, delivered him to
the court May 18, 1692. He (John Willard) was tried, convicted upon some of
contradictory and absurd testimony recorded during the trials for witch-
craft and suffered on the gallows August 19, 1692 - the date of that
wholesale hanging in the historic picture of which two characters stand
forth in distinctive prominence: Rev. George Burroughs calmly repeating
the Lord's Prayer, standing in the dignity of conscious innocense under the
instrument of ignominious death and Cotton Mather, on horseback, youthful
in years but old in priestcraft and self-assertion, and skilfully exciting
superstitious fears, in order to smother the merciful inclinations of the
people towards the victims.
Within Groton's bounds in 1692, the garrison nearest the site of Jonas
Prescott's grist-mill on the Lancaster road, had assigned to it ten men
of military age in eight families, the heads of which were: John
Farnsworth, Matthias Farnsworth, Simon Stone, John Stone, Nicholas Hutchins.
It is not probable that any of these had their homes upon Harvard soil,
although Caleb Butler in his History of Groton (1848) says that they
"lived in the south part of Groton. and that part of Harvard called
"Old Mill." Jonas Prescott (son of John Prescott, founder of Lancaster)
had fixed his residence in the central part of Groton. There was a
small garrison at the Nonacoicus Farm (owned by Major Simon Willard)
which had come into the hands of Hezekiah Usher.
To be continued - p.31 - History of Harvard, Mass. - Nourse
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth