Willard Glazier (1841-1905)[Section 29 Lot 26]

Civil War General, POW, author, explorer, namesake to Glazier Lake

Willard Worchester Glazier was born in Fowler, N.Y. on August 22, 1841. He was the eldest of eight children to Ward Glazer and Mehitable C. Bolton. His grandfather, Jabez Glazier, was one of the leading businessmen in St. Lawrence County, working as a manager and land speculator for the Theodosius Fowler, owner of the township. Jabez also served as postmaster, justices of the peace, as well as several town offices. Willard’s family lived on his grandfather’s property, which was known as Maple Grove.

Willard attended Gouverneur Wesleyan Seminary and worked as a trapper when he wasn’t in school. From trapping, he saved enough money to attend the State Normal School in Albany. The two-year program at State Normal School, which later become the University at Albany, was the only opportunity for students to extend their education and “solidify their teaching skills,” coming from rural and western New York. Williard ran out of money after a semester and taught in Schodack from 1859 - 1860, before returning to finish his degree.

With the onset of the Civil War, Willard enlisted in the Harris Light Cavalry, the 2nd New York Cavalry Regiment as he had a horse. He was taken as a prisoner of war on October 18, 1863, nears Buckland Mills, Virginia, and sent to Libby Prison, which was notorious for their harsh conditions. In February of 1864, Williard and about 100 other Union soldiers were successful in break out up but caught. He was transferred to Georgia, South Carolina, and back to Georgia, to Andersonville Prison in Sylvania. He was successful in escaping thanks to the assistance of slaves, returning to Albany in December of 1864. Willard reenlisted in February of 1865 as a First Lieutenant in the 26th New York Cavalry until the end of the war two months later. In 1867 he was promoted to Brevet General for his meritorious service.

In 1868 Willard married Harriet Ayers of Cincinnati. They lived in Albany and had two daughters, Alice, and later Helen, who they adopted in 1900.

After the war he devoted his life as an author and gave lectures. His 1865 book The Capture, the Prison Pen, and the Escape: Giving a Complete History of Prison Life in the South, is a biographical account of his 14-month journey as a POW. The book sold over 400,000 copies and was known as one of the bestselling, non-fiction books at the time. Willard went on to publish Three Years in the Federal Cavalry (1870); Battles for the Union(1874); Ocean to Ocean by Horseback (1876); Heroes of Three Wars (1878); Peculiarities of American Cities (1883); and Down the Great River (1887).

In addition to his writings, Willard became an amateur explorer and documented his travels. In Ocean to Ocean by Horseback he gave a narrative description of what an early 1800 journey to California would have been. Predating the Erie Canal and trains, the only ways possible was by foot or horseback. Willard started his journey in 1869 out of Boston and continued his journey west to San Francisco. The book was part narrative, adventure, and historical nonfiction as he mentions in the novel that prior to the American Revolution, Chicago was part of the colony of Virginia, later known as Illinois County upon Virginia joining the Unions in 1778.

In 1881 he canoed 3,000 miles of the Mississippi River, starting in Louisiana. During his journey, he made claims to discovering a small lake south of Lake Itasca in Minnesota, though it was already on maps from government surveys. Willard campaigned in 1887 to rename Elk Lake, which he called Glazier Lake, as the true source of the Mississippi River. The Minnesota Historical Society investigated his findings referring to him as a “quack explorer and charlatan adventurer.” Willard later confessed he had not visited any streams feeding into Elk Lake. To solidify Lake Itasca as the true source of the Mississippi, the Minnesota Legislature passed a resolution, so their “earliest explorers be not robbed of their just laurels.”

Willard returned briefly to military service in the Spanish-American War as a Colonel of the Illinois Infantry Provisional Regiment. Though his exploring way waning due to old age, in 1902 he explored uncharted territory on the Labrador Peninsula in northern Maine. His exploration resulted in the discovery of what is known as Glazier Lake along U.S. / Canadian border north of St. John’s River.

Willard died April 26, 1905, at the age of 64 of heart’s disease in Albany. He is buried at Albany Rural Cemetery at what is known as Millionaires Row. Willard’s monument is a large granite marker marked with his accomplishments, crossed swords, a bugle, and an American flag. In addition to his accomplishments, he is also the subject of an 1884 biography Sword, and Pen by John A. Owens.