Select Sawyer Miscellany

Here are some Sawyer stories and accounts over the years:

Sawyers from Cawston in Norfolk

The English family name of Sawyer emerged in the county of Norfolk where they were recorded as a family of antiquity seated with the manor of Cawston and estates in that shire.  They later established themselves at Heywood in Berkshire.  John Sawyer was a high sheriff of Berkshire and Sir Edmund Sawyer married into the Whitmores of Apley.  Admiral Sir Herbert Sawyer was a distinguished naval commander, as was his son of the same name.  A member of the family was the chef to Charles II. 

Sawyer's Almshouses in Kettering

As lords of the manor of Haselfield in Kettering, the Sawyers were a leading town family for 150 years until 1723, when they were brought down by the South Sea Bubble crash.

Edmund Sawyer, who died in 1687, was a prosperous traveller and merchant who settled in Aleppo in present-day Syria.  He remembered Kettering when he made out his will onboard his ship at Santander.  He left £600 to his sister Joyce to be used to benefit the town.  The Almshouses, which still stand, were built with this money.

Early New England Immigrants - Edward, William, and Thomas Sawyer

Three Sawyer brothers - Edward, William, and Thomas - came over to New England from Lincolnshire in 1636 on a ship commanded by Captain Parker.  Their progeny was prolific, possibly outnumbering any other family in New England.

It was said:

"These Sawyers were well-named - they were in fact sawyers.  If the Sawyers were not born with saws in their hands, the saws came very readily to their hands.  Every town, village, road, and lane throughout New England bears witness of their skill and industry.  They were millwrights, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, coopersmiths, carpenters, coopers, and they were the pioneers in the use of water power."

Early New England Immigrant - Thomas Sawyer

Thomas Sawyer, the ancestor of many of the Sawyers in New England, was born in England in 1616.  He came to Rowley, Massachusetts and then to Lancaster in 1647 where he followed his trade of blacksmith. Thomas married Mary Prescott, the daughter of John Prescott, and they had thirteen children.  He died in 1706 at the grand old age of ninety.

The family had their problems at Lancaster with Indian raids.  The attack in 1676 during King Philip’s War had resulted in the death of their second son Ephraim, as well as the loss of relatives and friends.  The inhabitants of Lancaster had to be evacuated to Watertown on the coast.  They remained there for about three years until it was deemed seemed safe to return.  The Sawyer family came back and rebuilt their damaged farm home.

The eldest son Thomas was a sawyer by trade.  In 1705, aged 56 and working with his son Elias and a friend at his sawmill, the three of them were captured by Indians and taken to French Canada. 

As the French had no sawmills, Thomas recognized his opportunity and offered to trade his knowledge of mills and sawing for his freedom.  Although the Indians felt that they were being cheated of a good subject for torture (having already tied him to the stake), a priest who desired his release brandished a key.  He threatened to unlock purgatory and thrust all Indians into eternal fire if they did not untie the prisoner.  He was set free, built the first sawmill in Canada, and was allowed to return home.

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The following were the first twelve lines of Mary Had A Little Lamb, as written by John Roulstone and presented to Mary E. Sawyer:

"Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day;
That was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see the lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out;
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Til Mary did appear."

This was the little poem that Mary received in the little red schoolhouse in Sterling.  Her home in that town, a classic New England Cape, has been preserved over generations by Sawyers as the Sawyer Homestead.

The Methodist Missionary

The Rev. Joseph Sawyer was an American Methodist missionary who crossed the border in the early 1800's to preach in Canada. 

He was an itinerant "circuit rider." 
One day, the story goes, he could not make himself heard above the loud praying of his congregation.  So he rode onto his next appointment.  When the same time happened again, he told them plainly that he had come to preach and that he intended to be heard.  They could do their praying when they were alone.  They listened to him.

Native Indians often were the closest neigbors of these travelling preachers.  But evangelization here was slow in coming.  Joseph Sawyer made the first conversion in 1801, baptizing a young boy of the Ojibwe Indians in Credit river.  Possibly the young boy needed redemption.  He had been sold by his father for a bottle of liquor.  He took the name of his baptizer, Joseph Sawyer.  Later he and his son David were to become chiefs of the Ojibwe Indians.    

Tom Sawyer's Town

Mark Twain remembered it as a "white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer's morning."  But Hannibal, Missouri, tucked away in the heart of the country, attracts more American visitors as Hawaii and as fourth as many as Europe.

Hannibal is Tom Sawyer's town.  Mark Twain spent his boyhood years there.  Later he wrote that boyhood into two books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

So closely has Hannibal become linked with its author that the town is seldom thought of as having a history before 1839 when a four year old red-headed boy came to live there and stay until he was seventeen.  The home where Mark Twain spent his childhood has been restored, even to "the room Tom Sawyer slept in," the bedroom he shared with two of his brothers.

In 1935 Hannibal erected a lighthouse on the site of the home of Mrs. Holliday, the original of the widow Douglas in Tom Sawyer.  When Mark Twain was on the river, she kept a lamp burning in her window each night as a guide for the Mississippi steamboat pilots.

The Sawyer Home at Oshkosh

Edgar and Mary Sawyer lived in a fine Second Empire style home on Algoma Boulevard.  At that time Algoma Boulevard was called "the Gold Coast" due to the number of prominent well-off families that lived there.  This house was then demolished in 1907 to make way for a newer and grander modern house.

The new house, now part of a museum, was designed by the Oshkosh architect William Waters in a style said to be "Gothic and Old English."  Built of Indiana brown brick and Bedford limestone, it had a slate roof. Included was an elevator that serviced all four floors and both gas and electrical service.  The Sawyers had contracted with the prestigious New York firm of Louis C. Tiffany to design and furnish the interior.  One of the most recognizable Tiffany features of the house was the iridiscent stained glass windows on the landing. 

The family moved into their new home in 1909.  Sadly Mary passed away from heart failure the following year.  Afterwards Edgar maintained the house with a full staff of servants but seldom lived there.  He donated the house to the city of Oshkosh in 1922.

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