John Willard

1839 St. Clair Co, MO -- 1912 Oregon Co, MO

son of Martin Willard

JOHN Elbert WILLARD was born December 1, 1839, St. Clair (Co?), Mo. (the county of St. Clair is in western Mo. next to Henry Co. where his parents were living in 1850. There actually was no St. Clair County until 1841, before that time that area was called Rives County). 

Not sure that Elbert is his middle name. This site says, "Rev. Joseph Martin Willard, son of John Elbert Willard, Sr. & Sarah Jane Colyott...." However, the obit I have says, “The Rev. Mr. Willard was born 7 miles south of Thomasville July 14, 1865 to the late John and Sarah Colyott Willard.” I know no document that has Elbert on it.  However, John was a peach grower and one of the most popular peaches at that time was the Elberta peach. I kind of wonder if this became attached to him by someone?

John moved away from his family to Oregon County, (southern) Missouri around 1855. I can think of 2 reasons that may have influenced his decision:

  1. 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 later extended to the border joining Missouri and Kansas, and caused some counties on both sides to become almost empty of settlers.

  2. About 1856 his uncle, James Willard, moved to Oregon Co., Mo. from Illinois. James’ wife’s brothers had moved there and this probably encouraged John to do the same.

John’s parents (and siblings Wm. Henry, Nathan & Polly) joined him in Oregon Co., Mo. by 1860, where he was listed in the census as living with the "John Moor" family instead of with his parents, Martin & Polly Willard. It’s very likely he worked for them.

He joined the Confederate Army in August, 1861, the only one of his family to fight for the South.  Although most of the inhabitants of Oregon Co, Missouri supported the South, 2 of his cousins, Bill & James Willard, who were raised in Illnois, held to their childhood loyalties, walked back to Illinois and joined the Union Army. And John's brother, Squire, who lived near Springfield, Mo. (a Union stronghold) joined the Union Army. His brother, Nathan, went away to the Civil War and never came back. The family never knew what happened to him.

John's military records describe him as 5'8", grey eyes, light hair, fair complexion.  He was a private in Co. B, 8th Missouri Infantry. He was on a list of Confederate soldiers taken prisoner and paroled by Lt. Col. Stuart, 10th Ill. Cavalry at Van Buren, Ark. (near Ft. Smith).  His son, Joe related that John was in a P.O.W. camp at Fort Smith, Ark.  He said they were released on Thanksgiving Day, 1864--a cold day with frost on the ground--and since John was barefoot, he had to wrap sacks around his feet.  He walked over 200 miles back to Couch, Oregon Co., Mo.  But his capture and release must have happened in January 1863 instead of 1864 because:

  1. His military record of this release was dated January 25, 1863 with a note on it "list not dated.”  Another Civil War list shows "Putt, John, Co. I - Taken prisoner and paroled by Lt-Colonel Stuart, 10th Illinois Cavalry, at Van Buren, Ark. January 25, 1863." Also: "York, Felix - CoA, Ark 2nd - Captured and paroled by Lt.Col. Stuart, 10th Illinois Cavalry at Van Buren, Ark January 25, 1863. Listed as AWOL."

  2. The fall 1862 offensive by the Union army into NW Ark. gave them control of the whole area so that there was not another major battle in NW Ark. On Dec 7,1862 the Union was victorious at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Ark, and Dec. 28, 1862 they captured Van Buren, Ark., taking over 100 Confederate prisoners (Blunt & Herron, Union generals). John must have been one of those prisoners.

John is on a list of Confederate veterans buried in Oregon County, Missouri.   

John evidently stayed at home for a short time (maybe half of 1863), got married, and then rejoined his (or another) company.  He was reported left sick at the Pine Bluff hospital, July 17, 1863.  February, 1864 is the last month he was reported on the army roll.  

He married sometime between January and June of 1863 to Sarah Jane Colyott.  She was born in 1848 in Mo., probably in Madison Co., the daughter of Joseph Colyott and Mary "Polly" Brewer (both also born in Mo.). Sarah's mother's sister, Eliza (Brewer) Huddleston lived in Oregon Co. and since Sarah and her sister Louisa both married men from Oregon Co., they  probably met them on visits to their aunt Eliza's. 

Sarah and John Willard had 11 children and lived the rest of their lives in Oregon Co., Mo. where John owned a nursery.  He grafted apple trees, budded peach and plum trees, etc. and sold them for as low as 4-6 cents each. He developed the McGraw peach, a blue peach that ripens in October. For decades afterwards the area around Thomasville-Rover-Alton-Koshkonong-Thayer in Oregon County (and also into Howell County) shipped trainloads of peaches to the rest of the country by the Frisco Railroad, and Thayer and Thomasville had a canning factories in the very early 1900s. Peaches are still the favorite fruit of the communities there. The 1904 book, “The State of Missouri” by Walter Williams says, “The largest peach orchard in Missouri is in Oregon county. It numbers 102,400 trees.” (p 464). This took the settlers tremendous work since 3/4 of the land of the county was originally timber.
     John’s grandson, Arthur Willard had this to say: “Grandpa’s [John] old home place [SE of Rover, Oregon Co.] was west of the [Wm] Bales place where Dad and Mother [Joe & R
hoda] lived [later in life], the Israel [I.D.] Huddleston place, 80 acres of it on the north side of the road. [see map below, the “road” #322 runs below the I.D. Huddleston place west to M Hwy] Uncle Fred said that was where they were raised. Then 40 acres was bought later on the south side [of the road] and 40 acres on the west end on the north [side of the road] and added to it before I bought it after Israel died [1932]. Then I sold it to Bill Childres and he built a new house on the south side.”
This plat map (part of Highland Township of Oregon County) is undated but must be pre-1932. John’s son, Joe owned 120 acres in section 36, but when he was old, his son, Albert bought the 40 acr
es of the Wm. Bales place and put Joe on it. So, John’s land was the 80 acres west of that (I.D. Huddleston’s place), the S 1/2 of the SE 1/4 of section 26. This green map shows the same section above, with the roads. The * at left is at the intersection of P and 329 where Albert’s son, J.I. lived.

     Later, John and Sarah lived in Brandsville (just across the county line into Howell Co.) their last days together.  Sarah died there in 1909 or Dec, 1908, at the age of 60 (no death certificate; her tombstone reads 1832-1908).  John lived with their son Joe, near Rover, and died in their home
March 2, 1912 (of pneumonia, age 72).  See death certificate. They were both buried in the Jolliff Cemetery near Rover in Oregon Co., MO. 

Newspaper article, 1910, probably in the Alton, Mo newspaper: The South Missourian. "A Birthday Anniversary Celebrated - Friends, neighbors and relatives assisted John Willard in celebrating his 71st birthday anniversary on Thursday, Dec. 1, 1910. He was born in St. Clair, Mo., was married in the year 1865 to Sarah Colleott [sic: Colyott], to which union 12 children were born, 10 of whom are still living. Sarah Willard, his wife, died in the year 1909. The celebration above mentioned took place at the home of Mr. Willard's oldest son, Rev. Joseph Willard, three miles southeast of Rover. Those who planned it, to the number of 30 persons, began to arrive about 11 o'clock with well-filled baskets and boxes of provisions. The old gentleman was somewhat surprised, and indeed well pleased. It was a very pleasant occasion, and one long to be remembered by all who participated in it. John Willard is the son of Martin Willard and has one brother and one sister living - Squire Willard of Brisco, Tenn (sic), and Mrs. Polly A. Lowe, of Ozark County. He is an old citizen of Highland township, Oregon county, and is well and favorably known to a large circle of friends. His grandchildren can be numbered by the score. Formerly engaged in farming he has of late been living a retired life, making his home with his children."  

His son Joseph said that along with their children, John and Sarah also raised his brother, Nathan’s sons.  However, no children have been found for Nathan, who probably died as a young man.  Joe also said that his father raised Martin & Milam, who were sons of William Henry, who died when his children were young.  So, perhaps John kept these two nephews for a while.

4 of John’s 6 sons: Stonewall, Evan, Squire & Joe

John and Sarah had 12 children (10 were still living in 1910). I only have 11 accounted for. The 1900 census says Sarah had 12 children/10 living, so, there must have been a baby or young child who died. She had a baby every 2-3 years, so the only good place she could have had this baby was the 4 years between Fred and Johnny (1886-1890).


Joe (named for his grandfathers, Joseph Colyott & Martin Willard) was born July 14, 1865, Oregon Co, Mo. He married Susan Rhoda Spurlock (daughter of David & Mary Spurlock of Sharp Co, Ark).  Joe was a Methodist circuit-riding preacher.  



Pictured: Squire, Dovie & Joe

Squire was born 1867, named for his father’s brother; married 1898 to Emily Matilda Roundtree (daug of John); married 2nd Rosa Williams (a blind woman; no children).  He was a Hardshell Baptist minister; died in 1958; he & Emma buried Oak Lawn Cemetery, West Plains, Mo.



Pictured at right: Evan & family

Pictured at left: Stonewall, Evan, Squire & Joe

Evan was born 1869; married May 31, 1894, Oregon Co., Mo. to Nancy Matilda Baty (daughter of Samuel G. Baty & Brittina Judd. He was a Freewill Baptist preacher, and lived in Peace Valley.  Matilda was buried in Jolliff Cemetery near Rover in 1927. Evan was buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery in West Plains in 1951.


"Sissie" was born 1871, named for both her grandmothers: Polly Willard and Polly Colyott (this was a nickname for both grandmothers, their real names were Mary; Sissie’s real name may have been Mary too).  She married Wyley House (b 1865). 


Lilly was born April 1874, named for her mother; married May 19, 1894, Oregon Co., Mo. to William Riley Baty.  She died Oct. 1935; buried Jolliff Cemetery.


"Lithie" was born 1878 (the only namesake that seems plausible for her is her uncle Squire's wife, Talitha). Lithie married Nov 14, 1892, Oregon Co., Mo. to Jim Stevens. She died as a young mother. 


Stonewall was born 1879; married July 25, 1902, Rhoda Francis.  Both were buried at Francis Cemetery in Howell County, MO

Pictured at left: Stonewall, Rhoda & children

Pictured at right: Stonewall & Rhoda with Louise & Melvin


"Dovie" was born June 9, 1881, named for her mother; married Joseph Howard Quay, Aug 9, 1897 (marriage record says Jan. 2, 1897); moved to Sand Springs, Ok; he died June 1, 1924; she died July 5, 1981, Ok; both buried Springfield, Mo

  1. 9.LINNIE N. WILLARD, born 1884; married John Parsons.  He died and she m 2nd Will Quay. 


 - Pictured: Fred & Joe

Fred was born Dec. 30, 1886; m Eva Talliver; m 2nd Mattie Dowdy Holloway (no children); d Feb. 3, 1981, West Plains, Mo., buried near Brandsville.  

11. JOHN WILLARD "Johnny Smoker", b 1890, named for his father; m Elsie Wall, had one child; m 2nd ? Palmer, had several girls.  Lived in Rockford, Ill. and Hardy, Ark.