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Samuel Elwell Sawyer of Gloucester was a patron of the arts. He visited F. H. Lane’s studio, purchased paintings by him and hired him “to make a sketch of old Homestead for Haughton." (1) Sawyer and Joseph L. Stevens also supported Gloucester artist D. Jerome Elwell in his European studies. We know that in August, 1864, Sawyer ordered two paintings from Lane "to be done [when] he is at leisure," and that he also purchased a painting by Lane for $50 in 1864 at a "Sailors Fare."
Samuel E. Sawyer was born in Gloucester on November 25, 1815 and died at the ancestral homestead in Gloucester on December 15, 1899. He was the fifth generation of Sawyers to occupy Brookbank, an early eighteenth-century gambrel-roofed house located at Freshwater Cove. The Sawyer family history goes back to William Sawyer, who came to New England about 1640.
Samuel's wife was Abigail (Abbie) Ingersoll Meads - they married in Boston on October 30, 1845. They had no children but lived an idyllic life, spending November through March in Boston, and April through October at the family homestead in Gloucester. They spent many years enjoying an accumulated wealth which was generously shared with others. However, life was not always easy for Samuel Sawyer, as he started at the bottom and suffered several financial reversals along the way before becoming financially secure.
Sawyer began his business career as a clerk in Samuel Stevens' dry goods store on Main Street in Gloucester. (2) He soon went to Boston, where he secured a job as a salesman with the firm Kimball and Jewett. He then entered the field of shipping and commerce, and became a partner in the firm of Haughton, Sawyer and Adams. This position took him to all parts of the world, and from it he amassed a fortune as a merchant.
Although a good deal of Sawyer's earlier life was spent in Boston and in travel, nothing could entice him away from the scenes of his childhood. At their Freshwater Cove home, he and Mrs. Sawyer enjoyed their middle age and later years. It was during this period of his life that Samuel Sawyer became one of Gloucester's leading philanthropists. His many gifts and bequests ranged from schoolhouse fences to the present clock in the City Hall tower, and from substantial contributions to the Female Charitable Association to a fund that made it possible to introduce music into the public schools. His most memorable gifts were funds for medals to be given annually to students for scholastic excellence, provision of the building and endowment fund for the Sawyer Free Library, and the land now known as Ravenswood Park.
Mr. Sawyer died from pneumonia at the homestead in Gloucester on December 15, 1889 at the age of seventy-four. Mrs. Sawyer had passed away the preceding year, also from pneumonia.
– Mary Rhinelander McCarl and Stephanie Buck
(1) August 25, 1864 in Samuel Sawyer, Diaries: 1854-1874, trans. Mary Rhinelander McCarl.
(2) Obituary of Joseph L. Stevens, Jr., Gloucester Daily Times, September 21, 1908. Samuel Stevens was Joseph L. Stevens, Jr.’s uncle. When Joseph L. Stevens, Jr. came to Gloucester from Maine in 1840, he first worked in his uncle Samuel’s store.
24 x 38 in.
Gloucester City Archives
"Drawn on a scale of one hundred feet to an inch. By John Mason 1834–45 from Actual Survey showing every Lott and building then standing on them giving the actual size of the buildings and width of the streets from the Canal to the head of the Harbour & part of Eastern point as farr as Smith's Cove and the Shore of the same with all the wharfs then in use. Gloucester Harbor 1834–35."
This map is especially helpful in showing the wharves of the inner harbor at the foot of Washington Street.
Sawyer Free Library, Gloucester, Mass.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives