if he did almost fall asleep on the job, Pvt. Alexander Willards
fellow soldiers still named a creek after him!
Hamilton Willard was born in 1778 in New Hampshire. At 22 he enlisted
in the general army and was part of the Corps of Artillerists.
He was among the first men chosen to join the Corps of Discovery
in 1803. He boasted that "his fine physique enable[d] him
to pass the inspection for enlistment in the expedition"
that many younger men had failed. Willard and John
Colter were companions who served together under the command
of Sgt. John Ordway and shared many
experiences together on the expedition.
On July 12,
1804, Willard was caught sitting down while on guard duty, and
Ordway charged him with "Lying down and Sleeping on his post
whilst a Sentinal." He was tried and convicted. Willard confessed
that he was "Guilty of Ly Down, and not Guilty, of Going
to Sleep." While the usual punishment for such an offense
was the shooting of the negligent soldier, Willard was graced
with the less severe punishment of 100 lashes.
blacksmith works in a shop much like one that Alexander Willard
would have set up during the winter at Fort Mandan, where
he and John Shields used their blacksmithing skills to establish
a thriving trade with their Indian neighbors.
As an assistant
to John Shields, Willard also served
as a blacksmitha trade at which he had adequate skill. He
was able to repair equipment and make tools for trading with the
At the end
of July 1805, Meriwether Lewis and
other members of the Corps passed Last Chance Gulcha great
gold deposit was discovered there years laterand temporarily
settled on a small creek. The captains decided to name it "Willards
Creek," in honor of Willard. That creek 60 years later was
renamed Grasshopper Creek, which is located near todays
Beaverhead River in Montana.
In 1807 Willard
married, and he and his wife eventually had 12 children. In 1852
his family emigrated in a covered wagon to California, where they
took permanent residence.
March 6, 1865, Willard died at the age of 87 in Franklin, CA,
near Sacramento. He is buried in the Franklin Cemetery.
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