Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Before continuing on with some of the more serious stories concerning my
Willard family relations and the Indian wars in New England, there's one
story about how a Sawyer cousin escaped death.

Deacon Josiah Sawyer was the son of William Sawyer and Hannah Houghton
(also related to me from my Houghton line) and grandson of Thomas Sawyer.
He was born in Lancaster, Ma. in 1714 but at the time of this story in 1735
he was living in Bolton, Ma. with his father. He would later go on to be a
Deacon of the church in Berlin, Ma.

I'll let author William Richard Cutter describe the incident:

"While returning home one evening afoot, as was his custom, an Indian
waylaid him, just as he was descending the hill north of the Quaker
Sawyer dodged the upraised tomahawk and took to his
heels. Fortunately for him,
he was a good runner, for he was unarmed.
The savage soon saw that he was
outclassed, and gave up the pursuit.
By measurement the next day it was found
that one of the leaps, as the
footprints showed, was sixteen feet. That leap is
famous in Berlin history."

(William Richard Cutter, Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical and
Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Middlesex County, Massachusetts
N.Y., N.Y., Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908 p 1379)

Now two things about this tale makes me smile. One is the wording of the first
sentence. On a first casual reading, it might make you think it was poor Josiah's
habit to be waylaid by Indians while walking home.

The second is the image of the leap measuring. It must have occurred while a
party of Josiah's neighbors were looking for the Indian and following the
tracks of the chase. I wonder how they measured the jump, did they actually
measure it? And was it actually 16 feet, or did it grow in the retelling?

Finally, did his escape from his Indian pursuer and his miraculous leap perhaps
inspire Josiah Sawyer's calling to the clergy?

For if it did, then I suppose we could call it a leap of faith!


Gayle Gresham said...

Great story, Bill!

Pifro said...

Hey, Bill. I am a Sawyer descendant - and I've heard that story before. Tks for repeating it! I'm putting together a history for my children so if you have any more stories I hope you'll share them. Thanks, Paula