Biography - Simon Willard

SIMON WILLARD, M. D., is one of the comparatively few Americans who can trace his ancestry back as far as the days of the coming of the "goode ship Mayflower," but the line of descent is well connected and his claim authenticated by completes! details. He is a descendant of Major Simon Willard, of English birth, who crossed to the New World in the early years of the seventeenth century and settled in New England in 1640. There he took active part in the life of the young colony and passed the remainder of his life. His descendant, Jonothan Willard, spent his life in the then newly born "Green Mountain State," and it developed upon Jonothan Willard, second, to fare forth to unexplored sections of the country, he eventually established a new branch of the Willard family in the valley of the Mississippi and Ohio.

Jonothan Willard, second, starting out on his journey into strange lands, took the then popular means of locomotion and came down the Ohio river by flatboat, and up -the Mississippi as far as Cape Girardeau, where he died and was buried. His widow and four children then settled in that portion of the country now known as Union county, Illinois, where she passed away in the year 1872, at the venerable age of ninety-nine years, ten months and five days, all but reaching the centenary mark. She was Miss Nancy Atkins before her marriage, and the children born of her union with Jonothan Willard were: Elijah, born November 25, 1803, and who died April 30, 1848; Willis, born March 20, 1805, and died May 12, 1881; Anna, born November 28, 1809, married Winstead Davie and passed her life in Union county, Illinois, and it is she for whom the little city of Anna, Illinois, was named. She died in Jonesboro, Union county. William was the youngest child of the Jonothan Willard family, he having been born August 24, 1811, and died June 1, 1843.

Willis Willard was a youth just entering his teens when the family lot was cast in with the fortunes of the 'new country at the junction of the great waterways of the west, and he was at the age of about twenty-five years when he began the business of trading in and about the old town of Jonesboro, Illinois. His entire life was spent in a commercial way, and after his retirement in 1873 he lived but a few years. He was of Democratic persuasion, although not deeply interested in the politics of his section, and he lived apart from the influences of the church or other society. He was married to Frances C. Webb, who was born at Cooperstown, New York, June 17, in 1817, and died at Chicago, Illinois, January 25, 1883.

The father of Frances (Webb) Willard was the widely known pioneer Henry L. Webb, who came into this part of Illinois from New York in the year 1818, and in company with a Mr. Alexander settled at America, Illinois. Subsequently Mr. Webb and Mr. Alexander were partners in the work of exploiting the townsites of Trinity, situated at the mouth of Cache Creek; America, some fourteen miles above the mouth of the Ohio river; and Caledonia, a river point near to Grand Chain. Mr. Webb had been in Illinois only about two years when the Black Hawk war broke out, in which he took an active part, and when the war with Mexico was declared he enlisted promptly and was commissioned lieutenant colonel of an Illinois regiment, and served throughout the campaign under General Taylor. During the fifties he went to Texas, where he became interested in business ventures, and was there when the Civil war opened. The sympathies of Colonel Webb remained firm with the state of his adoption, and he joined the Confederate forces. Later he was made inspector general of the Confederacy for Texas, an official position of considerable note. After the close of the war he remained in Texas at his home until the last years of his life, when he began to feel the ties of kin and earlier associations drawing him, and he returned to Illinois, where he peacefully spent his remaining days, finally passing away at Makanda, Illinois, October 5, 1876, at the age of eighty-one years. The life of Colonel Webb was full of activity from first to last. Wherever he found himself, he was a man of affairs. Possessed of an unusually high order of intelligence and of a markedly progressive spirit, he was always a man of power and note, and was a splendid type of early American manhood and citizenship.

Colonel Webb was the son of General Samuel B. Webb, aide de camp to General Washington during the Revolutionary war. He was commissioned a brigadier general for valiant service, and among the many engagements in which he actively participated were Bunker Hill, White Plains and Trenton. Among the children of Colonel Henry L. Webb were: James Watson Webb, father of Dr. Seward Webb, of New York city, and a Mrs. Morrell. Colonel Webb was married at Hudson, New York, to Mary Ann Edmonds, a sister of former chief justice Edmonds of New York state. This marriage was productive of several children, and among those who reached years of maturity were: Frances C. Webb, Lydia Edmonds, Henry Watson Webb and Catherine Louisa.

The children of Willis and Frances (Webb) were: Henry, who died in 1865, leaving one child; Elijah, a resident of Durango, Mexico; Willis J., who passed away December 22, 1884, leaving two children; Mary Ann, the widow of Dr. M. M. Goodman, now a resident of Riverside, California; and Dr. Simon, the youngest of the family, a resident of Mound City and of whom we write.

The boyhood days of Dr. Willard were passed in the town of Jonesboro, where his father had passed the best years of his life and where he carried on a commercial business. It was after he had reached his sixteenth year that he made up his mind to equip himself for the duties of life by acquiring a wider education than was possible to attain in Jonesboro, and he became a student in the Pennsylvania State College. After completing his sophomore year there he did the preparatory work for the medical course. He took his senior year in that study in the medical department of the Northwestern University at Chicago, and was graduated from that institution in 1884. Upon his graduation he returned to the old home in Jonesboro, Illinois, where he began the practice of his profession, but after some little time decided to take a course in dentistry, which he did, completing a course in that study in the Chicago College of Dentistry in 1889. Following his studies in that department he came to Mound City and practiced dentistry for two years, after which time he resumed his original profession, that of medicine, to which he has given his attention from that time to the present day.

Dr. Willard has passed his life in the quiet companionship of his books, his friends and his antiquities. His nature is one which finds unalloyed pleasure in the pursuit of old and historic relics and mementos, and" his collection of family heirlooms and treasures is one to delight the soul of the connoisseur. His home and office are veritable treasure-troves, rich as they are in rare antiques and mementos of every variety, some invaluable as family heirlooms, and others of great intrinsic value because of their very rare and antique qualities. Among the many unique and delightful articles to be seen in his collection are odd and beautiful pieces of china which graced the banquet table of his English ancestor, and of his later ancestor of Revolutionary times; a wine glass from the the table at which General Washington was dined and wined; shooting irons of ancient pattern and peculiar to the early civilization period; and many other relics dear to the heart of the collector, although the interest of Dr. Willard in his collection is chiefly on account of the bearing it has upon his ancestry.

Dr. Willard has lived unpretentiously and happily serene in the performance of his professional duties, and unhampered by the cares of public life, for which he has never evinced any interest or inclination. Save for a few years of service on the Mound City Board of Education, a duty which he performed because he regarded it as such, the singular freedom of his life has never been broken in upon. His interest in fraternities caused him to become an Odd Fellow, and he has also taken the Scottish Rite degree of Masonry and the Commandery degree of the York Rite. His political convictions, in accordance with the ancestral faith, are purely Democratic.

Extracted 16 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 812-814.

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