HISTORY OF ILLINOIS
JOSIAH MILLIKEN SAWYER. Of peculiarly interesting order is the association of Mr. Sawyer with the civic and business interests of the fair little city of Tremont, Tazewell County. Here he was born and reared; he has ever looked upon Tremont as his home.; from this place he went forth as a gallant young soldier of the Union in the Civil War; here he has been long and actively identified with business interests; and here he is a venerable and honored citizen who still finds a satisfaction in giving constructive attention to his well ordered real estate and insurance business. Here the birth of Josiah M. Sawyer occurred April 28, 1846, and he is a son of Josiah and Harriet R. (Bates) Sawyer, the former of whom was born at Peterboro, New Hampshire in 1808 and the latter of whom was born at Bellows Falls, Vermont in 1805, both having been members of families that were founded in New England in the Colonial era of our national history.
Josiah Sawyer was a son of Abiel and Sibyl (Buss) Sawyer, who were born in New Hampshire and were of Scotch-Irish ancestry, their marriage having been solemnized November 15, 1832 at Bellows Falls, Vermont, and the subject of this review being the younger of their two children. The elder son, Abiel B., was a lawyer by profession and was a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, at the time of his death, his marriage to Rebecca A. Bailey having occurred March 26, 1863, at Pekin, Illinois, and he having been survived by two sons and three daughters. Abiel Sawyer and his wife were lifelong residents of New Hampshire, and that he was influential in public affairs in his home county is shown by his having served as a member of the state legislature.
Josiah Sawyer, eldest in a family of nine children, was reared and educated in his native state, and at Waterford, New York, he learned the machinist trade. There he eventually erected a large machine shop, and this he conducted successfully until the building was destroyed by fire. It was within a short time after this business loss that he came to Tremont, Illinois, where he established his home about the year 1836 and where he passed the remainder of his life. Here he established and equipped a grist mill that was operated by a wind wheel, but the experiment did not prove an unqualified success. When he had grists to grind the wind frequently refused to blow sufficiently to give the required power, and when there was adequate wind he often had so little to do in grinding grists that he finally found it expedient to abandon the enterprise. He formed a partnership with Nathaniel Pratt, a wheelwright, and with a lathe and other equipment they engaged in the manufacturing of table legs, bed rails, bed posts, etc. Mr. Sawyer later modified his turning-lathe in such a way as to make it available for the production of wagon material, and in the pioneer community he eventually became a successful manufacturer of wagons, his shop having been on the lot now occupied by the residence of his son Josiah M. of this sketch. He became the sole owner of the business, which developed into one of no minor magnitude, and for a time he had as an associate C. C. Peak, a cabinetmaker by trade. The financial depression that came in 1857 caused the shutting of the shop, which had in stock material for the construction of about fifty wagons. Thereafter Josiah Sawyer lived virtually retired from active business until his death, in 1883, and his sterling character gave him secure place in the confidence and esteem of the community in which he had gained much of pioneer precedence. His wife survived him by several years, was an earnest communicant of the Protestant Episcopal Church and was loved for her abiding human sympathy and helpfulness, she having been unstinting in her efficient service as a nurse in the homes where sickness was present in the community. The names of these honored pioneers well merit place in the annals of Tazewell County history.
Josiah M. Sawyer received his youthful education in the village Chicago & Alton Railroad, at Petersburg, Illinois, and after several years of such railroad service he was employed a few months as bookkeeper for a business concern in Pekin, judicial center of his native county. He next held for six months the position of station agent and telegraph operator at Grayville, in the employ of the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville Railroad, and he then became a bookkeeper in a large lumber yard at Memphis, Tennessee. In 1885 he became a rod man with a surveying party that surveyed a railroad line through Arkansas swamps and on the Memphis, Tennessee, this line being now the main division of the Frisco system on its line to Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Sawyer later assisted in a survey of the Mississippi River from Commerce Cutoff to Friar's Point, under government auspices, and he then resumed work as a lumber bookkeeper near Memphis. He finally resigned his position in order to return home and care for his parents whose health was greatly impaired, and he has since continued to maintain his home in his native village, where he is still engaged in the real estate and fire insurance business. He has long held commission as notary public, and he gave a total of sixteen years of service as township clerk. He is a past commander and now (1925) the chaplain of Jo Hanna Post, No. 117, G. A. R. and on the starr of the commander of the national organization of this great and noble patriotic body whose ranks are rapidly thinning with the passing years. Mr. Sawyer has been in former years active and influential in local councils and has served as secretary and chairman of various conventions of his party.
May 4, 1870, recorded the marriage, at Petersburg, Menard County, of Mr. Sawyer to Miss Elizabeth M. Walker, who was born in Missouri, a daughter of Rufus and Angeline (Terhune) Walker, their marriage having been solemnized in Kentucky, whence the removed to Missouri, from which latter state they later came to Illinois and established their home in Menard County. The supreme loss and bereavement in the life of Mr. Sawyer came when his loved and devoted wife passed to eternal rest, she having been seventy-three years of age at her death, January 1, 1923, and their companionship having thus covered a period of more than half a century. C. Harriet, eldest of the children, is the wife of Louis B. Dean of Tremont; Alice is the wife of Harold L. Dean who is of no kinship with Louis B. Dean, and they likewise reside at Tremont, and the only son, Hubert Norton Sawyer likewise maintains his home in his native village of Tremont.
Reverting to the military career of Mr. Sawyer, it may be stated that he gained the rank of sergeant of Company L, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, which became an independent battalion in the Tenth and Twenty-fourth Army Corps. At Petersburg, Illinois, Mr. Sawyer has affiliation with the following named Masonic bodies: Clinton Lodge, No. 19, A. F. and A. M.; DeWitt Chapter, No. 119, R. A. M.; and a charter member of St. Aldemar Commandery, No. 47, Knights Templars at Petersburg. At Peoria he is a member of Peoria Council, No. 11, R. and S. M., and of the consistory of the Scottish Rite, besides being there a noble of Mohammed Temple of the Mystic Shrine. At Tremont hs is a member of Camp No. 998 of the Modern Woodmen of America.
Submitted by Betty Doremus