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Our Sayer Connection
Personal Information Page for

James Patterson Sayer
s/o Henry A. Sayer and Margaret Boyd Patterson, h/o Mary F. Sharp
August 6, 1845 - July 22, 1892


Although he is not a direct line ancestor of ours I do believe that ANY and ALL information that might lead to pertinent information should be recorded. Therefore I am adding the following with respect to James Patterson Sayer, nephew of Robert Campbell Snodgrass and Elizabeth Agness Sayer. According to `History of Washington Co., Pa.' by J.H. Beers & Co., Robert Snodgrass raised two of his wife's nephews, James Patterson Sayer and Charles B. Sayer (pg.343).


Biographical sketch of James Patterson Sayer, Page 340 Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893)

James Patterson Sayer, whose name and worth will long be remembered in Washington county, throughout the length and breadth of which he was known and respected, was a native of the Keystone State, born in the city of Allegheny, August 6, 1845.

He was the eldest son of Henry A. Sayer, who was an Englishman by birth, and was the nineteenth son in a family of twenty-four children full brothers and sisters. Henry A. crossed the great waters of the Atlantic, to make a new home on American soil, and whether infatuated with the ocean, or not, the greater part of his life was spent on the waters of our most navigable rivers, acting in the capacity of steward. In form he was tall and slender; in religion he was a Protestant, worshiping with the Methodist Episcopal denomination. At the age of thirty he was married in Allegheny to Miss Margaret Boyd Patterson, and to them three children were given, viz.: Eliza R., James P. and Charles B. The duty of rearing these children devolved largely upon the mother, the father being absent from home much of the time. The parents resided in the town in which they were married until 1864, when the mother died and was buried in the Allegheny cemetery, where in the year 1888 kind friends conveyed the remains of the father, and laid them side by side with those of his beloved wife, there to repose until the resurrection morn.

James P. Sayer in his childhood was considered rather delicate, and in view of the frequent attacks of disease, the family physician advised that he be sent to the country. Accordingly, when he was four years old his aunt Lizzie Snodgrass took him to their home three miles southwest of Washington, Penn., where he soon outgrew the malady, and developed into the robust boy that he was. While it can be truthfully said of these foster parents that no child received more care and affection than they bestowed upon young Sayer, it can be added that few children were more obedient, loving and kind than was he to them. The following incident relative to the first money he earned may be here related: His uncle owned an interest in a mill, and consequently there was a considerable amount of hauling or teaming to do which the uncle kept four horses. One morning, when "Jemmie" (as they lovingly called him) was about ten years old his uncle offered to advance him 10 cents if he would groom two of the horses, and the lad earned his pay so well that he secured a steady job; for a long time after it was his business to clean two of the horses, while his uncle groomed the other two and placed the harness on all four, the one dime paying for all. At the age of twelve years he was placed on a two-horse wagon, and for two or more years he hauled the coal with which to run the mill.

James P. Sayer received a good common-school education, and in his seventeenth year (while a student at Washington College) he enlisted in the war of the Rebellion, entering the service as a corporal in 1862. He went out with the One Hundred and Fortieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers Company C, of which the lamented David Acheson, who was killed at Gettysburg, was captain. He was discharged with the rank of sergeant, October 25, 1864, on account of wounds received in action. In May, 1863 at Chancellorsville, he was one of the few who, at the call of Gen. Hancock, volunteered to remove a battery, which had been a special mark of the enemy, and from which almost all the horses had been shot away. It was a brave deed, and was done by courageous men. At Gettysburg Sergt. Sayer was terribly wounded, receiving two shots in the right arm, one in the left shoulder, and one in the leg, which latter finally led, twelve years later, to the amputation of that limb. From the date he received these wounds he was a great sufferer, compelled to go on crutches, and his friends would naturally suggest that he should have the leg amputated. But he was a man who seldom changed his plans after having come to a decision, and his reply to such suggestions invariably was that when it (his limb) went, he would go with it. Poor fellow, life's prospects did not promise for him much pleasure; indeed, regarding death as only a sweet sleep, he manifested little concern as to whether he lived or died.

After his return home from the war Mr. Sayer taught school for a time at Point Lookout, Amity, and at Baker's school-house, both in this county, and for two years he pursued the study of law under the direction of E. M. Sayer, of Waynesburg, completing his course with Alex. Wilson, of the Washington bar, and was admitted to practice December 13, 1869. As a lawyer he was careful, industrious and honest, for which and other reasons he was successful, securing the confidence and respect of the people, his brother practitioners and the court. And he was not only successful in his law practice, but also in his oil ventures, being interested with John W. Donnan and others in some wells at Coffey's Crossing, which paid him handsomely. On August 22, 1879 he was appointed judge advocate of the staff of Gov. Beaver, with the rank of major, serving in that capacity five years. Early in the "seventies" he was elected by the Republicans to the office of county treasurer, and he discharged the duties of that position with entire satisfaction to the county and credit to himself. The success of the Prohibition amendment campaign of 1889, in the county, was largely due to the effective work of Mr. Sayer as county chairman. His stronghold, however, was in the line of memorial and patriotic speeches, and he was always in demand wherever there was a reunion of old soldiers, or when the season for decorating soldiers' graves was celebrated with memorial services.

In October, 1870, Mr. Sayer was married to Mary F., daughter of Isaac Sharp, a well- known merchant of Washington, Penn., and one child came to make bright their home, Mary Lavina Boyd Sayer born September 12, 1876, at present a student at East End College for Women, Pittsburgh Penn. About a year after the birth of the daughter, the father was informed that in order to preserve his life, amputation of the wounded limb was a necessity; and now with more than self and former friends to live for he yielded to advice and solicitation. His wonderful will power and endurance were shown when that operation was performed; he made all preparations for it himself, bade his friends "good-bye" pleasantly, saying he would not see them for a day or two, and to very few did he tell what was to occur. He placed himself on the operating table, refusing to take any anaesthetic, and directed the operation in a measure himself.

Just eleven weeks before his death he was taken seriously ill while in town, and was at once removed to his home, where he grew worse, his condition indicating an organic change in progress in his brain, the result of wounds received while in the service. Thus he lingered with great suffering, which he bore with true Christian fortitude, until summoned to his long home by the Angel of Death. At five minutes after 8 o'clock on the evening of Friday, July 22, 1892, in his forty-seventh year, he breathed his last, and the spirit of a worthy man was borne away. Death had no terrors for him, and he passed from things temporal to things eternal with his hopes firmly anchored to the Rock of Ages. His wife and daughter, and also a brother Charles, in one of the Government departments at Washington. D. C. and a sister Eliza, the wife of Rev. Edwin R. Jones, a M. E. minister, in Ohio survive him. Maj. Sayer had resided in Washington until about five years ago, when he purchased the pleasant country home about two miles west of the borough, on the National road.

In the death of James Patterson Sayer the community lost one of its best citizens, for a noble man and valiant soldier had gone from among them. In the Temple of Justice, the Post room of the G. A. R., in church, Sunday-school, and business and social circles generally, his absence is noted with regret and his departure keenly felt. He was a man of sterling integrity. His views on all moral questions were pronounced, and his acts public and private were invariably the consistent exercise of the principles of an upright Christian gentleman. If one element in his nature predominated over another, it was the religions sentiment.

The following letter written by him on his twenty-third birthday, bears testimony to the deep religious feeling he was possessed of: Sunset Farm, On Buffalo's Creek, near Farmington, Marion County, West Virginia

August 6th, 1868.

Again time in its remorseless flight has another time brought the anniversary of my birth. I am twenty-three (23) years of age and now, upon a close review of my past life, the question arises, Is the world any better for my being in it? Oh, how very unpleasant it must be to realize the awful fact that you have done nothing to alleviate the toils and sufferings or to advance the interests of your fellowmen. I rejoice to feel that I am, in my weak way, attempting to serve God, and although very weak I pray to my Heavenly Father that my faith fail not, but that I may serve him faithfully during life, and when my race on earth is over that I may be so happy as to reach Heaven and there in company with God and angels spend the countless ages of eternity.

I have spent most of this year at Uncle R. C. Snodgrass' in W. Va. I went to Amity, Pa., Aug. 19th, 1867. Taught school seven weeks. Left there Oct. 23rd, arrived at Uncle's Nov. 6th, and was obliged to remain all winter as my limb was so very sore that I was unable to work. Remained until April 6th, 1868 when I returned home to Washington Co., Pa., and remained three weeks, and April 19th solemnly dedicated myself to God in the M. P. Church, J. D. Herr, pastor, and now desire to serve the Lord. Came back to West Va. and now expect to leave for home Aug. 31st. Have been reading law this year, and wish to finish Blackstone this fall.

In conclusion I wish to record my thanks to a kind Lord for having thus brought me safely through another year. I now consign myself for future life.

James P. Sayer

He was unfailing in his devotion to the church, and prompt in his attendance on all its services. As superintendent of the Sunday-school of the Methodist Protestant Church, of which he had been for years a consistent member, he was an indefatigable worker, and when in charge of a Bible class, a better or more zealous teacher could not be found. At the close of the Sunday school on the Sabbath following the death of its superintendent, after some feeling remarks made by its (then) superintendent, M. Sharp, the following resolutions were presented and adopted:

Whereas, Our highly esteemed brother and fellow laborer in the Sabbath-school, James P. Sayer has been called from the sorrows and afflictions of this life to his Heavenly home: therefore, Resolved, That in the death of Bro. Sayer we have lost an intelligent and devoted worker in our Master's vineyard and one esteemed and loved by all who knew him.

Resolved, That we endeavor to follow his wise counsel and so to live that we may meet him where sorrow and separation never come. The members of the bar met and adopted minutes on the death of their respected and deeply lamented colleague, which were ordered spread on the records of the court. The following pertinent remarks thereon are from the pen of H. M. Dougan:

The memorial just presented, embodies all of Major Sayer's history and character which was thought by the committee necessary to go upon the records of the court; much more might with propriety have been said of him, but to have said it would have made the report cumbrous and unsuited to the permanent tribute of affection and respect which the court directs to be placed among its records. It is proper that what was left unsaid be spoken of at this time.

Most of those who are here will recall Major Sayer's prominent characteristic in the conduct of legal business, While he was always courteous, and never took an advantage of his opponent which he was not fairly and properly entitled to, he was always combative; with him the trial of a case before the court was a battle, and he "fought for his own hand." This was the natural conduct of the man, for he was born a warrior. It was as natural for him to oppose, and fight while there was a chance to fight, that which he thought was wrong or which threatened to unduly interfere with the interests of his client, as it was natural for him to breathe. He did not, however, fight for the mere love of fighting, his sympathies must first be enlisted for the cause he represented. Like all other lawyers, he was often on the wrong side of a case; but whether he was on the right or wrong side, his conduct was the same. His side was presented to the court or to the jury with all the force that he could give to it.

As I stood by his coffin, the thought that was chiefly in my mind was that we were about to bury one who had been a fine specimen of the patriotic young American manhood of thirty years ago. In the years from 1861 to 1865 hundreds of the spirited youth of this county cheerfully left their homes to encounter the hardships and dangers of service in the Union army; of all of them none rendered better service in his sphere than did Sergeant Sayer. He remained in the army but a little more than a year, and in that brief time he showed that he was as patriotic and brave as any man in it. I have heard his conduct at Chancellorsville spoken of in words of high commendation by his comrades. When Gen. Hancock asked for volunteers to go upon an important and very dangerous errand, Sayer was among the very first to step forward. In time of battle, the ordinary duty required of a soldier in the ranks is arduous and dangerous, but the chivalric courage of our deceased friend was displayed at Chancellorsville, when he with a few equally worthy and brave comrades saved Lapeine's Maine battery from capture after all the officers and men of it had been disabled, and the horses all killed by the fierceness of the enemy's firing. At the great battle of Gettysburg he was wounded five times; one of his wounds caused the very great disability of which the members of this bar find almost daily vision; and I do not doubt that the injuries received at this battle were the cause of the distressing malady which brought his life to an early close. He was, notwithstanding his combative disposition, a man of great modesty; but he was very proud of his army record. Of a record such as he had, it was right that he should be proud. Under circumstances which tested one's courage, constancy and devotion, he had shown himself to be a soldier worthy of the cause for which he fought.

His name will not live in history as one of the great heroes of the war; but so long as life lasts to those who knew of him in that great army, the history of which confers an immortality of honor on all who belonged to it and faithfully did their duty in it, he will be remembered as one of the humble and modest heroes of those splendid but dangerous days which witnessed the wicked but futile attempt to destroy free government on this continent.

He was one of the most courageous and manly men I ever was acquainted with. When he became certain that he was stricken with a mortal disease, he retired from public view, and calmly awaited death in the quiet of his own home. For him death had fewer terrors than it has for most; he had too often faced it in his boyhood to be afraid in his mature age, and, like one Great Commander for whom we had so much admiration and respect, he did as he had lived, fearlessly.

The rich joyousness of summer and the solemn gloom of winter are now alike to him; the recollection of the mighty events in which the part he bore was highly honorable, will never again thrill his breast; the call to duty here, which he kind ever obeyed with all the alacrity of his soldierly nature will not again receive from him the wanton response; his army comrades and the members of this bar will never again hear the genial and cordial greeting of this true-hearted and loyal gentleman; but when those who knew him recall his patriotic, unobtrusive, helpful and altogether worthy life, his memory will be thought of as something to be dearly loved and tenderly cherished.

His memory.--He had a remarkable memory. He could give the day and date of almost every event which came under his observation from the time he was four years of age till his last sickness. He could tell the kind of weather that occurred on each day through all these years. A prominent merchant of Washington who noted in his diary the changes of weather for each day in the year, at one time called Mr. Sayer into his office and questioned him on each day of the year for some four years, and his descriptions corresponded in every particular with the diary. Mr. Sayer took great pleasure in spending an evening with his old schoolmates and reminding them of all their tricks and the various events that once occurred in the schoolroom. The failure of his mind and memory were among the most notable features of his speedy decline. Punctuality. Mr. Sayer was always on time. He would allow nothing to keep him from meeting his engagements. In inspecting the National Guard of Pennsylvania he was never known to miss a train or disappoint a company.

This was characteristic of him from his childhood. An engagement might extend over months, yet at the time of meeting it he would not vary a minute. Benevolence. Mr. Sayer was a very benevolent man. He always remembered the poor; and was a stanch friend and helper of the church and all its benevolent enterprises. He was a willing supporter of every good cause. Will power. Mr. Sayer's success in life was largely due to his will power. If he decided upon a certain course, bodily sufferings, and seemingly insurmountable difficulties never seemed for one moment to check him. When in the hospital suffering from his wounds, the attendant physician told him that he would not live till morning; he replied that he intended to return home in the morning and so he did. The doctor said his will power alone bore him through. This was characteristic of him till his death. In his last sickness his pains at times were almost excruciating, yet he would bear them with scarcely a chance of countenance.

The funeral services of Maj. James Patterson Sayer were held at his late residence in North Franklin township, on Monday following his decease, and were participated in by several clergymen, the funeral address proper being made by Rev. Mr. Conway. The members of the G. A. R. and of the bar attended in a body to the cemetery. The hearse was followed by a large cortege of friends. At the grave imposing ceremonies were performed, and the impressive service conducted by G. A. R. comrades, the choir sang one of his favorite hymns; "Abide with me," and as the body was lowered into the unfeeling clay, the bugler sounded the call for "Lights out," the chaplain delivered a short touching address, and benediction was pronounced, and the assembled multitude mournfully turned from the last resting place of a brave soldier, a kind father, a loving husband and a useful citizen.