WILLARD, SAMUEL, land agent, jp, office holder, militia officer, and merchant; b. 1 Dec. 1766 in Petersham, Mass., fourth child of Major Joshua Willard, a doctor, and Lucretia Ward; m. first 24 Feb. 1791 Lucinda Knowlton in Newfane, Vt, and they had two daughters; m. secondly in 1802 Elizabeth Patterson, and they had seven children; d. 28 Oct. 1833 in Stukely, Lower Canada, and was buried there three days later on his own land.
Samuel Willard’s forefathers, who came from the county of Kent in England, emigrated to North America in 1634 and made a respectable place for themselves in Massachusetts, notably in Boston. During the American revolution several of the family remained loyal to the crown and distinguished themselves in the army; still a boy, Samuel was even given certain secret missions.
Around 1784 he moved to Newfane and went into partnership with a general merchant for a few years; from there he went to live at Sheldon. When Lieutenant Governor Alured Clarke issued a proclamation on 7 Feb. 1792 offering land in Lower Canada, Joshua Willard, with six partners, applied for lands in Stukely and Orford townships. The whole family had great hopes, but upon Joshua’s death in 1794 the estate he left proved to be precarious. Samuel had visited Quebec in 1790 and explored the territory they sought. But like other applicants for lands, he was obliged to put up with delays and assume expenditures as a result of the uncertainty about regulations and the quarrelling between Governor Robert Prescott* and the Executive Council. He went back to Quebec and repeated his requests, but in vain. At the invitation of Elmer Cushing and Gilbert Hyatt, on 28 Nov. 1797 he participated in a meeting called at Missisquoi Bay to prepare a protest to Prescott about the situation. Willard was one of the five members of the committee that drafted the statement and the following day he signed the text, which after being passed by the meeting was taken by Jesse Pennoyer to Quebec. A few dissatisfied people eventually commissioned Samuel Gale to present their case in London in 1800; Willard assumed responsibility for a large share of the mission’s expenses.
On 3 Nov. 1800 Willard and his partners received half of Stukely Township. He settled there immediately and was soon recognized as the most prominent figure in the area. In 1803 he obtained a commission as a justice of the peace for the district of Montreal, which was renewed in 1810, 1821, and 1828. He transacted numerous land deals for himself and for others. As a commissioner and inspector of roads and bridges, he had an active interest in road works. He was in favour of roads being laid out to Montreal through the seigneury of Saint-Hyacinthe. His energies were to be concentrated on the construction of a vital road from Magog to Montreal.
From 1812 Willard was constantly harassed by claims, attachments, and sheriff’s sales. When war broke out, he sent Governor Sir George Prevost* a loyal address from the committee for the security of the Eastern Townships, and he requested a lieutenant-colonelcy for himself. Since he had already turned down the rank when Sir John Johnson offered it to him in 1806, he had to wait for a vacancy, and it was not until 1814 that he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd battalion of the Eastern Townships Militia. The following year he was promoted colonel of the 2nd battalion.
With the return of peace, Willard busied himself improving local conditions. He supported the creation of a judicial district and he sought in particular to set up schools. Appointed commissioner to erect two schoolhouses in Stukely Township in 1815, Willard, with the incentive of the House of Assembly’s ambitious plans, finally in 1823 obtained a salary of £80 for each of the teachers in the two schools. In the mean time, he had hired a private teacher to hold classes in his home, and he lent the books from his library to local young people. In 1827 he enrolled his son and one of his grandsons in the Collège de Saint-Hyacinthe.
In contrast, a general store that Willard had set up at Frost Village was a failure, as was a contract for carrying the mail. His creditors, chief among them Henry LeMesurier* of Quebec, sued him successfully and in January 1828 his assets were sold by the sheriff. He managed to save his farm at Stukely, and his friends bought his possessions at ridiculously low prices in order to sell them back to him.
Despite his financial setbacks, Willard retained the confidence of the authorities. He had been appointed commissioner to hear small causes on 18 July 1826, and he became commissioner to improve the road between Lac Massawippi and Saint-Hyacinthe on 30 May 1831, and census commissioner on 15 June. He declined a commission as justice of the peace in 1830, however. Having remained active till a few weeks before the end, he died at 66 years of age on the farm at Stukely which had caused him so much trouble.
Samuel Willard was remembered as an honourable man completely devoted to his family and to those who entrusted him with responsibilities. He was rather modest by nature, and his gentlemanly conduct revealed his great qualities of heart and mind. Even though he met with adversity in personal undertakings, his civic sense and his devotion to the community earned him a place among the builders of his country.
ANQ-E, CE2-42, 28 oct. 1833; CN1-24; CN1-27; CN2-21; CN2-26. Brome County Hist. Soc. Arch. (Knowlton, Que.), Samuel Gale papers; Misc. family papers, LeMesurier file; Personal notes of Marion Phelps; Township papers; Samuel Willard papers. PAC, RG 1, UL: 2487; RG 4, A1; RG 9, I, Al; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Docs. relating to constitutional hist., 1759–1791(Shortt and Doughty; 1918); 1791–1818 (Doughty and McArthur). British Colonist and St. Francis Gazette (Stanstead, Que.), 5 June 1823. Quebec Gazette, 18 Sept. 1817. Bouchette, Topographical description of L.C. Illustrated atlas of Eastern Townships. Langelier, Liste des terrains concédés. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). L. P. Audet, Le système scolaire, vol. 3. Boulianne, “Royal Instit. for the Advancement of Learning.” Caron, La colonisation de la prov. de Québec. C. P. Choquette, Histoire de la ville de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., 1930); Histoire du séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe depuis sa fondation jusqu’à nos jours (2v., Montréal, 1911–12). Day, Hist. of Eastern Townships; Pioneers of the Eastern Townships . . . (Montreal, 1863). Albert Gravel, Les Cantons de l’Est ([Sherbrooke, Qué.], 1938); Pages d’histoire régionale (24 cahiers, Sherbrooke, 1960–67), 16; 19–20. G. F. McGuigan, “Land policy and land disposal under tenure of free and common socage, Quebec and Lower Canada, 1763–1809 . . .”