Breckinridge County, Ky in NW Ky. Just over the Ohio River is Spencer, Perry, Crawford and Harrison Counties in Indiana. This is the area the Willards moved to in 1818.

Martin Willard

1793 Virginia -- ca 1865 Missouri


Martin Willard was the son of Henry “Harry” Willard. He was born in 1793 in Glade Hollow, Russell County, VA (near Lebanon). In 1803 Martin’s grandfather, John Counts, listed Martin Willard in his will. This was just before Martin’s father moved the family to NW Kentucky to Breckenridge County, where he grew up.


Martin’s family moved again to Indiana in about 1818, probably to Spencer County, Indiana. Here he knew Abe Lincoln, probably attending the same church--Little Pigeon Creek Baptist Church. His brother, James, was married by the pastor of that church. Martin’s grandson, Joseph Willard, said that Martin wrestled and split rails with Abe. But Martin was a wanderer. He was already 25 years old when they moved to Indiana, and before long he was wanting to explore new places. He moved around a lot before settling down--born in Virginia, lived in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and finally Missouri. Family stories say that when the Willards left Indiana they traveled down the Ohio River to the Mississippi on a flatboat (at right).


The same year Missouri became a state Martin married in Cape Girardeau County (in the SE corner of Missouri), April 8, 1821 to Mary “Polly” Lindsey. She was 18; he was 28. They were both listed as residents of “Tywappity township.” He was still on the census there in 1830, but that doesn’t mean he had stayed put all that time.


Stories from his grandson, Rev. Joseph Willard, say that Martin Willard was the first white man in Oregon County, (south) Missouri, before 1821. Martin was a trapper and traveled with an Indian guide. The first white men who permanently settled there in 1821 were named Huddleston, Thomas, Smith, and Perkins. Joe’s story goes that the Indian said before the white man arrived there came a big rain and washed away an Indian village there (probably at Thomasville on the banks of the Eleven Points River), and he warned that the white man’s settlement would end the same way. (Thomasville is still there, however.)


Martin didn’t stay long in the Thomasville area (which wasn’t called Oregon County until 1845). In 1822 Washington, D.C. let the Delaware Indians have all the southern part of the state of Missouri.  Then in 1830 that title was revoked and white settlers began pouring into the state.


For a while in the mid-1820’s they lived just north of St. Louis on the Illinois side.

  1. In 1823 his son Squire was born in Marion County, MO, across from Quincy, IL (according to Squire’s descendants).

  2. In 1826 Martin and his brother, Henry, Jr. signed a petition in Adams County, IL (probably in Quincy), on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, (along with Martin’s brother-in-law, William Lindsey and William’s brother-in-law, Solomon Greer).

  3. In 1826 his brother, James married Rachel Hoover in Spencer County, Ind.


In 1830 Martin was back in Cape Girardeau, MO. on the census. along with his brother, James. His mother may have been living with them. Next door was a Lindsey family that may have been Polly’s parents. By 1830 brother, Henry Jr. had moved to the very top of Illinois to Jo Daviess County, where they lived out the rest of his life. Martin’s sister, Margaret married in 1827 in Cape Girardeau to Ephriam Greer.


In 1840 Martin was in western Missouri. His son, John was born there in 1839 (St. Clair County).


In 1850 Martin and family were in Henry County, halfway between Springfield and Kansas City. They were living in Springfield towship, E-NE of Clinton, next to the border with Benton County. His married son, William Henry as also there. His son Squire was in Taney County, south of Springfield.


Fighting broke out in Kansas in Dec. 1855 between the pro-slavery settlers from Missouri and the abolitionist settlers in Kansas. The bloody violence there, which later extended to the border joining Missouri and Kansas, caused some counties be become almost empty of settlers and may have influenced Martin’s decision to move farther away from the border. During the Civil War many farms and homes of civilians in southern Missouri were destroyed by Union forces and by pro-southern bushwhackers.


Martin was probably in Christian Co, Mo (just south of Springfield, not far from his son, Squire) in 1856, as this story from the Turnbo Manuscripts suggests:

"The following was told me by Mrs. Sarah (Tripp) Davis, daughter of Thomas Tripp who was an early settler in Christian County, Mo.  In telling the story Mrs. Davis said that one day In 1856 her father and Martin Willard while hunting together on Barbers Creek, a tributary of Swan Creek, they come up on two bucks locked together by their horns. One was dead and its flesh had almost wasted away. The other was very weak yet he had strength enough to drag the remains of his dead enemy inch by inch over the stony ground. From his appearance his life would not have lasted more than a day or two longer. Father shot the buck and the men took off its hide. Then both men made an effort to separate the heads by pulling them in opposite directions but their work was a failure. They did not take the heads home but left the carcass in the woods except the hide of the one they killed."


In the mid 1850’s Martin’s son John moved to Oregon County in south-central Missouri. Martin had been there years before and knew the area. His brother, James Willard moved there in 1855 from Illinois because James’ wife’s brothers had moved there. So, by 1860, Martin had settled for good in Highland township of Oregon County (between Rover and Thomasville) and bought 80 acres of land (on Hwy 160) on Aug 1, 1860. Description: 5th PM, Twp 24N, Rng 6W, sec 13, SW1/4SE1/4

Below right is a plat of Highland township, Oregon County Missouri, Township 24N.

Martin bought land in section 13. His son, John had land in section 26.

John’s son, Joseph owned land in section 36. Albert also owned land in section 36.


Martin and Mary (Lindsey) Willard had 7 children:

1. Squire (1824-1912),

2. William Henry (b 1829- d ca1864),

3. Elizabeth Jane (b ca1830- d bef 1860, m Foster),

4. Nathan (b ca1838- d ?),

5. John (1839-1912),

6. Martin (b 1843- d bef 1860),

7. Mary Ann “Polly” (1848-1928, m Lowe).


Squire moved to the Springfield area and was a Union supporter in the Civil War,

while his brother John, was a Confederate Solider.

William and Elizabeth had children and died fairly young.

Nathan and Martin died young.

Only John and Polly stayed in Oregon County, MO.  They are the only 2 who directly

affected the Albert Willard family—John was Albert’s grandfather and Polly was

Albert’s great aunt.



Martin & Mary’s marriage license

This painting, "The Jolly Flatboatmen" (by George Caleb Bingham, 1846) would have been a familiar scene to Martin.

Martin’s son, William Henry and his wife, Mary

For more click the “Wm. Henry” link on the site map below

Martin’s daughter, Mary Ann “Polly” and her husband, Nathan Lowe


Martin’s son, Squire

For more click the “Squire” link on the site map

Willard Site map: Willard lineJames - Martin - Squire - Wm. HenryJohn - David - Joseph - home


Martin’s son, John and his wife, Sarah

For more click the “John” link on the site map

Martin’s land: sec 13, SW1/4 SE1/4

1-Henry Willard line -  2-James - 2-Martin - 3-Squire - 3-Wm. Henry -  3-John - 4-David - 4-Joseph - 5-Albert - 5-Gertrudehome