Saturday, March 2, 2013

Surname Saturday ~ Sawyer of Lancaster, Massachusetts


This is another case of “three brothers came to America”.  There were three Sawyer brothers, and they settled in Rowley, Newbury, and Lancaster, Massachusetts.   Tradition is that they came together, but there is only proof that Thomas arrived early and Edward and William do not appear in records until after 1643.
Thomas Sawyer lived first in Ipswich, and appears in the records in 1636.  In 1643 some land in Rowley, Massachusetts was set off to Thomas Sawyer and to Edward Sawyer.  Thomas left Rowley to settle Nashaway Plantation, now known as Lancaster, where he is on the list of proprietors in 1647.  He was admitted as a freeman in 1654.  His house was on the East side of Main Street near  today's Seventh Day Adventist School (Atlantic Union College).   

During King Phillip’s War the local native Indians held several raids on Lancaster.  On 10 February 1675 there was a massacre which killed Thomas Sawyer’s son, Ephraim, and his father-in-law, John Prescott.  The town was abandoned for several years, and when it was re-settled Thomas Sawyer was a local leader in the growth of the town.  In 1705, another war broke out between England and France and there was another raid on the town.   Thomas Sawyer was able to survive all this and died in 1706, at age 90.  He has a very primitive gravestone in the Lancaster burial ground.

Thomas Sawyer's headstone
Thomas’s son, Joshua removed to Woburn in 1670 and was elected a freeman.  He fought in King Phillip’s War as a member of Captain Henchman’s company in 1676. 

For more information on the Sawyer family, see the History of the Town of Lancaster, Massachusetts by Abijah Perkins Marvin and the book The Birth, Marriage and Death Register, Church Records and Epitaphs and Lancaster, Massachusetts 1643-1850 by Henry S. Nourse, 1890.  There are two articles in The American Genealogist,  “Mary Carter, First Wife of Nathaniel Sawyer of Lancaster, Massachusetts” by Frank G. Lesure, 2000, Volume 75, pages 51 – 54 and also “The Children of Thomas Sawyer of Lancaster” by Claude W. Barlow, 1954, Volume 30.  See also the book Sawyer Familes II: Edward, William, Thomas, 1636 – 2005 by Eleanor Grace Sawyer, Penobscot Press, 2005.  There is a manuscript at NEHGS “Genealogy of the Sawyers of England, from which the American line descended” by Fannie Sawyer Quinn call number Mss A 4631 (8 typed pages).

My Sawyer genealogy:

Generation 1:  Thomas Sawyer, son of John Sawyer and Agnes Sharpe, born in 1616 in Lincolnshire, England, died on 12 September 1706 in Lancaster, Massachusetts; married on 2 July 1648 in Rowley, Massachusetts to Mary Prescott, daughter of John Prescott and Mary Platts alias Gawkroger, baptized on 24 February 1630 in Sowerby, Yorkshire, England and died in April 1716 in Lancaster, Massachusetts.  Thirteen children.

Generation 2: Joshua Sawyer, born 13 March 1655 in Lancaster, died on 14 July 1738 in Woburn, Massachusetts; married on 2 January 1678 in Concord, Massachusetts to Sarah Wright, daughter of John Wright and Priscilla Byfield.  She was born on 16 February 1652 in Woburn.  Seven children.

Generation 3:  Mary Sawyer, born about 1681, died 1766; married on 19 December 1698 in Woburn to Robert Convers, son of James Convers and Hannah Carter.  He was born 29 December 1677 in Woburn, died on 20 July 1738.  Twelve children.

Generation 4:  Susanna Converse m. Caleb Simonds
Generation 5: Ruth Simonds m. Andrew Munroe
Generation 6: Luther Simonds Munroe m. Olive Flint
Generation 7: Phebe Cross Munroe m. Robert Wilson Wilkinson
Generation 8: Albert Munroe Wilkinson m. Isabella Lyons Bill
Generation 9: Donald Munroe Wilkinson m. Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I notice the gravestone says SAWER. I always thought that was probably an alternate for Sawyer. It's the surname of an old boyfriend, who would talk about his Scots ancestry.

    1. From what I understand, a sawyer runs a sawmill. That is probably the origin of the surname.

  2. Thanks Heather for this post. As we've discussed, Thomas Sawyer and Mary Prescott were my 9th great-grandparents. Then I take off with their daughter Mary Sawyer who married Lt Nathaniel Wilder. I didn't have the tombstone photo, and that's a nice list of resources for more info that you posted. Thanks!! Cousin Donna Wendt

    1. Hi Donna! I was just about to forward this post to you, but you saw it before I had a chance to email it. How's the weather in Hawaii? Just about this time of the year winter is getting pretty long here in New Hampshire and I start daydreaming about Honolulu again...

  3. Hi Heather. Windy in Hawaii. 77 degrees but I'm wearing sox! Burr. I know, it's really cold where you are. I noticed you said in this post that John Prescott was killed in the same Indian raid as Ephraim Sawyer. But I have that John Prescott died Dec 1681. Perhaps different John Prescott?

  4. Hi Heather--

    Interesting page. I am also descended from Thomas Sawyer: then Thomas Jr., Joseph, Joseph Jr., Jabez, Jabez Jr., Charles Orville, Leroy, and Bayard [my father]. This line also includes James Fenimore Cooper and Emily Dickinson -- plus a ton of difficult and dysfunctional people! :-) Book material . . .

  5. Hello, Thank you for posting this. I am in the 11th generation. I did not realize that Thomas lost a son in the King Phillips war. My line goes: ,Billie 10, Marvin9, .William8, Artemas7, Peter6, Josiah5,.Ephraim4, Ephraim3, Nathaniel2, Thomas1. I did not realize Thomas lost a son in the King Phillips War. Ephraim4 and and Ephraim3 fought at bunker HIll. Ephriam4 moved to N. Hero, Vt. Josiah5 signed for a land grant in the Eastern Townships of Quebec opened up and got 39 other men to sign. He founded Sawyerville in Eaton, PQ. Peter6 married Mary (Polly) Hall. They are buried up on the hill past Josiah's home by the stream in town. Artemas7 married betsey Sunbury, the granddaughter of Henry Sunbury. They're buried at Eaton cemetery. William8 Williams Sawyer was a farmner in Essex and Derby, VT./Canada. Marvin0 was a customs agent at times for the American side, at times for the Canadian side.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Merrylyn. Genealogy blogger Bill West has an entire blog post dedicated to Thomas Sawyer Jr. at this link:

  6. Greetings, My name is David Sawyer from MN and Thomas Sawyer and Mary are also my ninth great grandparents in direct line, so since 1636, we just had our 11th generation Sawyer born last
    May. Wife and I took a trip out east two years ago and spent a week roaming through towns the ancestors lived and numerous cemeteries. So much rich Sawyer history

  7. Hi Heather
    The record I find for the marriage of Thomas Gilman Sawyer to Mary Prescott in 1648 is from The Birth, Marriage and Death Register, Church Records and Epitaphs of Lancaster, Massachusetts:1643-1850. I find no record of them being married in Rowley, MA. What do you think?


  8. Thank you for this information. Thomas Sawyer and Mary Prescott are my 8th great grandparents on my father's side and 7th GG on my mother's side. Their daugther Mary married a Wilder on my Mum's side and their son Thomas married Hannah Lewis on my Dad's side. I have had my DNA tested should anyone want to compare.