Jonathan Sawyer by Rev. Geo. B. Spalding, D. D.

1. John Sawyer, a farmer in Lincolnshire, England, had three sons, William, Edward, and Thomas, who emigrated to this country in 1636, being passengers in a ship commanded by Capt. Parker. They probably settled in Rowley, Mass.

2. Thomas Sawyer went to Lancaster, Mass., as early as 1647, when he was twenty-four years of age. This section of the Nashaway valley, comprising eighty square miles in extent, had been purchased in 1643 by Thomas King, of Watertown, Mass., of Scholan, sachem of the Nashaway Indians. Thomas Sawyer was one of the first six settlers. His name appears in the petition made to the general court in 1653 for the incorporation of the town of Lancaster. In 1647, the year of his arrival, he married Mary Prescott. She was the daughter of John Prescott, to whom belongs the honor of being the first permanent inhabitant of Lancaster. The eminent historian, William H. Prescott, traces his ancestral line to this John Prescott. There were born to Thomas Sawyer and Mary Prescott eleven children. This family figures largely in that most tragic page of the history of Lancaster which tells of the massacres and captivities of its inhabitants, and the entire destruction of the town itself by the Indians. On the land of Thomas Sawyer stood the Sawyer garrison, into which were gathered the survivors of that most murderous attack made upon the town in the winter of 1675-76. At this time his second son, Ephraim, who was at the Prescott garrison, was killed by the Indians. Thirty-two years later, 1708, the oldest son, Thomas, and his son Elias were captured by the Indians and taken to Canada. When the party reached Montreal, the father offered to put up a mill on the river Chambly, on condition that the French governor would obtain the release of all the captives. Thus the first mill in Canada was built by Thomas Sawyer. He was liberated, but his son Elias was detained for a time to teach the Canadians "the art of sawing and keeping the mill in order, and then was dismissed with rich presents."

3. Caleb Sawyer, the sixth child of Thomas, was born in 1659, in Lancaster, Mass. He married Sarah Houghton, thus effecting an alliance between two of the most prominent families who organized the town of Lancaster. Caleb Sawyer died in 1755, leaving two sons and two daughters.

4. Seth Sawyer, the oldest son of Caleb, was born in 1705; married Miss Hepsabeth Whitney; died in 1768.

5. Caleb Sawyer, the second son of Seth, was born in 1737, at Harvard, Mass., a part of Lancaster which in 1732 had been incorporated as a town by itself. He married Miss Sarah Patch in 1766. They had two sons, Phineas and Jonathan. Jonathan remained on the home farm at Harvard, which is still occupied by his descendants.

6. Phineas Sawyer was born at Harvard, Mass., in 1768. He went to Marlborough, Mass., now Hudson, in 1800. He bought a mill property there, consisting of a saw, grist, and wire-drawing mill. In 1806 he built a cotton-mill, and operated it until the close of the war in 1815. It required in those days immense enterprise and energy to project and carry on such a work as a cotton-factory. The machinery was procured from Rhode Island. The ginning-machine had not yet come into general use. The cotton, when received, was distributed among the farmers, to have the seeds picked out one by one by their families. It was carded and spun by water power, at the mill. It was then sent out again among the farmers to be woven into cloth. Phineas Sawyer was a man of great independence of character, self-reliant, and full of courage. These qualities, so conspicuous in his business affairs, shone out with undiminished power in his religious life. He lived at a time in Massachusetts when Methodism was regarded with special disfavor. But Mr. Sawyer, believing that the Methodists were right, believed so with all his heart, and the petty persecutions to which his faith was subjected only intensified his zeal and loyalty. His house was the home for all traveling Methodists, and the place where they gathered for religious worship. He was well versed in the best Methodist literature of his times. He stands forth in the annals of his church as one of the foremost men, for sagacity, boldness, and piety, in the Needham circuit. He had for his wife a worthy helpmeet, Hannah Whitney, of Harvard. She was as ardently attached to Methodism as was her husband, and bore her full share of service and sacrifice for it in its days of weakness and persecution. The sudden death of her husband, which took place in 1820, left Mrs. Sawyer to provide for the support of twelve children, the youngest, Jonathan, being then two years old. This truly noble woman, with but little means, faced the difficulties before her with an unflinching spirit of faith and hopefulness. It required superlative fortitude, finest sagacity, and sternest self-sacrifice to have enabled this mother to successfully rear these twelve children, give to them a good education, and establish all of them in respectable positions in the world. She continued to live in Marlborough some nine years, leasing the mill property. In 1829 she went to Lowell, where she lived twenty years, dying there in 1849, greatly respected by all who knew her, and held in honor and affection by her many children.

7. Jonathan Sawyer, the subject of this sketch, was the youngest child of Phineas. He was born at Marlborough, Mass., in 1817. He went with his mother and other members of the family when he was twelve years old, to Lowell, where for the next few years he attended school. He was a member of the first class that entered the high school of that city, having among his mates Hon. Benjamin F. Butler, Gov. E. A. Straw, and G. V. Fox, assistant secretary of the navy during the civil war. Bishop Thomas M. Clark was the principal of this school. On account of a severe sickness, young Sawyer at sixteen years of age left school, and while recruiting his health made a visit to his brother, Alfred Ira Sawyer, who, after some experience as a dyer at Amesbury and Great Falls, had come in 1824 to Dover, N. H., where he was operating a grist-mill, a custom carding and cloth-dressing mill, converting this last into a flannel-mill. Jonathan remained in Dover two years, going to school and working for his brother. In the fall of 1835 he returned to Lowell. His mother, for the purpose of conferring upon her son a more complete education, sent him to the great Methodist school at Wilbraham, which at that time was a most flourishing preparatory school for the Wesleyan University at Middletown, Conn. Here he remained two terms, when, at nineteen years of age, returning to Lowell, he went into a woolen establishment as a dyer. Afterwards he went into this business on his own account, and continued in it until 1839.

During the latter part of this time he was not so engrossed in his business but that he found time to make frequent visits to New Ipswich, where Miss Martha Perkins, of Barnard, Vt., was attending school. In 1839 they were married, and went to Watertown, N.Y., where Mr. Sawyer became the superintendent of the Hamilton Woolen Company. After two and a half years, Mr. Sawyer went into business for the manufacture of satinets. In 1850, his brother Alfred having died at Dover, N. H., the year before, and the children being too young to carry on the business, Mr. Jonathan Sawyer assumed its control in connection with his brother Zenas. Two years later Zenas retired, and Francis A. Sawyer, who had been a prominent builder in Boston, became a partner with Jonathan, the object being to continue the manufacture of woolen flannels. In 1858 the property below known as the "Moses mill," another flannel manufactory, was purchased. This mill was enlarged in 1860 to four sets of machinery, again in 1863 to eight, and in 1880 and 1882 to sixteen sets. The old machinery is now completely replaced by new. The old mill, started in 1832, was in 1872 replaced by the present substantial structure, which contains fourteen sets of machinery, with preparing and finishing machinery for thirty sets in both mills.

Since 1866 the attention of these noted manufacturers has been entirely devoted to the manufacture of fine fancy cassimere cloths and suitings. Already they have established for these goods a foremost place in their class. At the Centennial Exhibition, at Philadelphia, a medal and diploma were awarded the Sawyer goods, for their "high intrinsic merit." The business has, since 1873, been carried on as a corporation, having a capital of six hundred thousand dollars. The corporation consists of the old firm of F. A. and J. Sawyer, and Charles H. Sawyer, the present agent of the establishment. In 1866 this company made a bold innovation on the method that was so long in vogue among manufacturers, of consigning their goods to commission houses. The undertaking upon which this company entered, of selling their own goods, was met with great opposition; but their boldness and foresight have already been justified by the success which they have made, and the adoption of their methods by other manufacturers. This establishment can now look back upon a half-century of remarkable history. The unmarred reputation for strictest integrity which these managers have won, their far-reaching enterprise, and the unsurpassed excellences of their fabrics, have enabled them to prosperously pass through all the financial depressions and panics which so many times have swept over the country during this long period.

Mr. Jonathan Sawyer, with his vigor of mind and body still unimpaired, lives in his elegant mansion, which looks out upon a magnificent picture of wood and vale and mountain range, and down upon the busy scene of his many years of tireless industry. He loves his home, in the adornment of which his fine taste finds full play. When free from business he is always there. He loves his books, and his conversation shows an unusual breadth of reading in science, history, and politics. He is possessed of a strong, clear intellect, a calm, dispassionate judgment, and sympathies which always bring him to the side of the wronged and the suffering. At a time when anti-slavery sentiments were unpopular, Mr. Sawyer was free in their utterance, and was among the first to form the Free-soil party. Since the organization of the Republican party, Mr. Sawyer has been among its strongest supporters. He has persistently declined the many offices of honor and profit which those acquainted with his large intelligence and sagacity and stainless honesty have sought to confer upon him. He is abundantly content to exercise his business powers in developing still more the great manufactory, and his affections upon his large household and his chosen friends, and his public spirit in helping every worthy cause and person in the community.

The children of Mr. Sawyer, all of whom have grown up to maturity, are Charles Henry, Mary Elizabeth, Francis Asbury, Roswell Douglas, Martha Frances, Alice May, Frederic Jonathan.