Monday, July 15, 2019


My 7x great grandfather Thomas Sawyer Jr. lived in "interesting times" when life in Lancaster Massachusetts resembled that in the American West of a few centuries later. The town, like others west of Boston, was the site of Indian attacks and Thomas was himself held captive for a time in Canada by the French and their native allies. Ellery Bicknell Crane tells the story in this bigographical sketch of my ancestor.

(II) Thomas Sawyer, son of Thomas Sawyer (1), was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, July 2, 1649, the first white child born there. His capture by the Indians forms one of the most familiar stories of the colonial period in Massachusetts. He was, a man of fifty-five when the event took place, and was living in the garrison as described above. Queen Anne's war was making the lives of the colonists unsafe especially on the frontier. Indians made frequent attacks and massacred men, women and children. On October 16, 1705, Thomas Sawyer, Jr., his son Elias. and John Bigelow, of Marlboro, were at work in his saw mill when they were surprises and captured by Indians. The Indians took their captives back to Canada, and turned Bigelow and young Sawyer over to the French to ransom. The Indians kept the other Thomas Sawyer to put to death by torture. Sawyer proposed to the French governor that he should build a saw mill on the Chamblay river in consideration of saving his life from the Indians and giving the three captives their freedom. The French needed the mill and were glad of the opportunity. But the Indians had to be reckoned with. They insisted on burning Thomas Sawyer at the stake. They knew him and knew he was a brave man, not afraid of torture and death. The crafty French'governor defeated their purpose by a resort to the church. When Sawyer was tied to the stake a French friar appeared with a key in his hand, and so terrible did he paint the tortures of purgatory, the key of which he told them he had in his hand ready to unlock, that they gave up their victim. Indians fear the unseen more than real dangers, and doubtless the friar took care not to specify just what he would do in case the auto-de-fe was carried on. Sawyer built the mill successfully, the first in Canada, it is said. He and Bigelow came home after seven or eight months of captivity. Elias Sawyer was kept a year longer to run the mill and teach others to run it. The captives were well treated after the French found them useful to them.

Thomas Sawyer married three times: First, Sarah , 1670; second, Hannah , 1672; and third, Mary White, 1718. He died at Lancaster, and his grave there is marked by a stone. He died September 5, 1736, in the eighty-ninth year of his age (so said), but was probably eighty-seven, if the records are correct. His will mentions four sons and two daughter. He bequeathed twelve pounds to purchase a communion vessel for the Lancaster church. Children of Thomas Sawyer were: 1. William. 2. Joseph 3. Bazalies. 4. Elias. 5. Mary, married Joshua Rice, of Marlboro. 6. Hannah, married Jonathan Moore, of Bolton. 7. (perhaps) Sarah, married Rev. Nathaniel Whitman, of Dcerfield. Massachusetts.

I'm descended from two of Thomas' children, Joseph and Hannah. I believe their mother was Hannah Lewis, Thomas' second wife..

Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts: With a History of Worcester Society of Antiquity, Volume 1 
Lewis Publishing Company,  N.Y., N.Y. 1907

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