Major James SAWYER

Born: 1738 (some sources say 1735) at Drowned Lands district, near Goshen, NY
Died: 1782 in Goshen, NY

Father: (?) James SAWYER (1694/6-1771)
Mother: (?) Martha ?

Spouse: Elizabeth BRADNER? (1740?-1802) or Elizabeth ALLISON?


  • James II (1760-1775)
  • Temperance (1761-1???) m. Nathan JONES 1780
  • Elizabeth (1764-1???) m. John KNAPP 1878
  • Sarah Elizabeth? (1765-1???)
  • Benjamin (1769-1838) m. Hannah WOOD 1789
  • Moses (1771-1821) m. Eleanor HOLLY bef. 1793
  • Mary (1774-1???)
  • Mathew (1777-1???) m. Rachel MATTHEWS/MATHERS

    This James is the earliest confirmed ancestor of this branch of the SAWYERs. The GFHCNY source below (p. 1546) has a good write-up on this James (assumes he is descended from Thomas via James Cornet, James or Benjamin):

    Major James SAWYER, son of James or Benjamin SAWYER, was born in 1738, according to "Aunt Sally" (SAWYER) POST, of Goshen, Orange county, NY, and died in 1782. "Aunt Sally" lived to be 97 years of age, and she was a granddaughter of Major James Sawyer. She said that he was born at the Drowned Lands district, known as Gardnerville, near Goshen, NY, and that he died there also. As the STEWARTs and LUDLUMs live there [today in 1912], and as they intermarried with the SAWYERs, this seems to prove that he did live there. She said that he was a young man when he died and that his wife had a hard time to support the children. He served in the French and Indian war and in the revolution. He is described as follows, on the roll of the French and Indian war: "James SAWYER, carpenter, 5 ft. 7 1/2 tall, black hair, and in 1758 was a member of Capt. Peter SMITH's Orange Co. company." When the war of the revolution broke out, he was living on his farm in the Drowned Land district near Goshen. His name, "James SAWER," is on the list for NY in the revolution from Albany county militia, Second Regiment, Colonel Abraham WEMPLE's regiment, Capt. T.B. BANCKER's company. He was made a captain in Colonel William ALLISON's regiment, 6 Feb 1776, and 28 Feb 1776 he was appointed quartermaster with rank of major, being reappointed 28 Feb 1778 (see p. 291, in "Archives of the State of New York"). He was with his regiment in the Minisink campaign, and according to family tradition he was wounded at that time. He also served at the engagements of Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery, 7 Oct 1777. From Dec 1776 to Apr 1778 the regiment was called into service 12 times and spent 292 days in the field (see "Our Country and its People," a memorial history of Tioga County, NY, p. 635). Major James SAWYER also was a member of the Goshen exempts (in Vol. 4, public papers of George CLINTON, first Governor of NY state, another reference is found). Major James SAWYER's will was proved in 1782 at Goshen, and in it he mentioned his wife Elizabeth, sons Benjamin, Moses and Mathew, and daughters Sarah, Mary and Temperance. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. John BRADNER. Her will was filed at Goshen, dated 14 Aug 1794, proved 25 Dec 1802; she mentioned her sons, Mathew, to whom she gave his father's sword, Moses and Benjamin, and daughters Mary and Temperance and granddaughters Elizabeth JONES and Elizabeth KNAPP.

    The HWNYV source below (p. 267) shows the descent of Major James from Thomas via John (b. 1661 m. Mary BULL) and James (father of Major James), which is the path I have assumed. I'm not sure exactly how or when the family migrated to Goshen yet.

    There is some evidence that James may be descended from the New England SAWYERs through parents James and Martha (?) SAWYER and grandparents John and Mary (Bella BULL) SAWYER. It seems that James, son of John and Mary, migrated to eastern Long Island from Hebron, CT before 1727, when the first reference to a SAWYER on L.I. occurs when a James SAWYER appears as a witness to a deed (passed from John PECK Sr. to John PECK, Jr.). A James SAWYER family appears in the 1771 Shelter Island census, but not the 1776 census. The 1771 census indicates the family had 1 male under 16, 1 male 16-60, 1 male over 60, 1 female under 16 and 1 female over 16. Its not easy fitting the Major James SAWYER family to the 1771 census numbers, but one possible way is as follows:

    - 1 male under 16: Ben (age 2)
    - 1 male 16 to 60: Major James (age 33 or 36)
    - 1 male over 60: James Sr. (age 75 or 77, living in his son's household?)
    - 1 female under 16: Sarah (age 5)
    - 1 female over 16: Elizabeth (in her 30s)

    This assumes James Jr (age 11) and Temperance (age 10) were living away from home at the time (perhaps with relatives to escape building tensions related to the Revolution, since Long Island was soon to be a British stronghold area?) and that daughter Elizabeth had already died by 1771. So far, I don't know of any other James SAWYER family that could better fit the data.

    A James SAYRE is shown as having received permission to come from Blooming Grove, Orange County to secure his property on Long Island. If this is Major James SAWYER, it would suggest that he migrated from L.I. to Orange County sometime between 1771 and 1776. However, source 3 (p. 554) below shows a James SAYRE from a different family (apparently unrelated to SAWYERs) as being "permitted to go to L.I. for furniture, but not for traffic (Clinton Pap., 1. 512). On Apr 23 1780 Maj. Thomas MOFFAT wrote from Blooming Grove, Orange County, NY to Gov. CLINTON asking for a pass to James SAYRE, allowing him to go to the East end of L.I. and to bring off some property (Clinton Pap., 5. 650)." This family of SAYREs is as follows:

    According to DAR records, James (b. 1738) served as captain from 1776-78 and was later appointed quartermaster with the rank of major in Col. William ALLISON's regiment. He was at Minisink Forts, Clinton and Montgomery (more about NY Forts), where his son, James, was taken prisoner and died in captivity. The DAR records also indicate that James died in Goshen, NY in 1782.

    Interestingly, the Dear Folks reference indicates that James was born in England and himself died in captivity (of starvation in a British prison on Long Island). I'm not sure yet which of these accounts is correct, but most sources indicate it was James' oldest son James who died in captivity (one source says he died 10 Jul 1775 on board a prison ship).

    Most of the DAR records (39767, 41607, 43671, 43672, 45454, 56782, 57991, 86827) show James' wife as Elizabeth BRADNER. However, there is one (51543) that shows his wife as Jane WILSON. So this is also a question. I believe this is a confusion with Major James' grandson James (via son Moses), who married a Jane WILSON.

    Doris (SAWYER) JIMISON has done research to suggest that Elizabeth BRADNER was NOT the wife of James SAWYER, but rather the wife of John STEWART. She found a reference in Elizabeth HORTON's files that this "myth" was initiated when an author signed "JBL" wrote an item for a column in the Independent Republican of 1900. The column was on "Historical and Genealogical Notes and Queries relating to Orange County's Old Families". This item appeared 10 Apr 1900 and asserted that Major James SAWYER's wife was Elizabeth BRADNER, daughter of Rev. John BRADNER, the first Presbyterian minister of Goshen. In subsequent issues, AE (Antoinette ELMER/EDWARD?) challenged JBL on this point and others, but apparently JBL never admitted to the errors. Doris was able to document that Elizabeth BRADNER was married to John STEWART and was having and raising her family concurrently with Elizabeth, wife of Major James SAWYER. There are some indications that James' wife could have been Elizabeth ALLISON, but this requires more research.

    Richard and Martha ALLISON had a daughter Elizabeth, who married Samuel CARPENTER (see Benjamin CARPENTER page). Also, Ed and Mary YONAN ( mention another Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph ALLISON (listed as "not of age" in 1752 when Joseph wrote his will).

    A descendant (named Phoebe) of the CARPENTERs of Orange County found a deed record showing that land was sold by one of her CARPENTER ancestors to a James SAYRE in Orange Co. The record shows that Mr. CARPENTER had bought the property from Benjamin HARLOW Jr. who had had the property conveyed to him by William BULL. The record indicates that the property was formerly called Thomas SAYRE's lots and bordered land owned by Richard and John BULL.

    I've asked Phoebe to send me a copy of this deed, since it appears to be very good evidence that this James is linked with both Thomas SAWYER (his presumed great grandfather) and Mary Bella BULL (his presumed grandmother). I'm not sure if the James SAYRE in the deed record refers to the James of this page or his father, if either. Hopefully the date will clarify this. Also, SAWYER often appears as SAYER or SAWER, but not sure about SAYRE, which seems to have been another family.

    If these assumptions (CT to LI to Goshen migration) are correct, Major James was probably born at Shelter Island, Long Island, NY, since his father James appears to have migrated from his birthplace (Lyme or Saybrook, CT) to Shelter Island before 1727 and then later (between 1771 and 1776) to Goshen, NY. Since Major James' granddaughter "Aunt Sally" POST thought he was born near Goshen, maybe he was born while his family visited there or maybe she was mistaken or maybe the LI connection is incorrect. I need more evidence.

    Phoebe ( submitted a list of wills relating to Goshen, NY, one of which states: "1754 Job SAYRE Southampton has land in Goshen and Jerseys Son Nehemiha, James went to Goshen, Joseph m. Mary dau of Isaac HALSEY, and Benjamin Dau Susannah, dau Elizabeth (dead), son in law Rev. Timothy JOHNES Morristown, dau Abigail.

    Could this James SAYRE be connected?

    Lisa Stitt, a fellow participant in the NYORANGE rootsweb list, provided the following information from the ERFPC source, p. 49, Register of members: June 2nd 1782, Elizabeth SAWYER, Widow of Capt. Jas. SAWYER, received as a member, never before in communion.

    In Early Orange County Wills, Vol. 1, p. 30, Lisa found the following: JAMES SAWYER, Orange Co. Farmer Liber 33 page 411 Will dated 16 Feb 1782 Proved 23 Nov 1782, Wife: Elizabeth, Daus.: Sarah, Marah, Temperance, Sons: Benjamin, Moses and Matthew, Exec.: Wife, Elizabeth SAWYER, John STEWARD, Esq., Benjamin CARPENTER, Witnesses: Anthony DOBBINS, Michael JACKSON, Thaddious FINCH

    Other mentions of James SAWYER:

    In the will of JOSEPH ALLISON (p. 21) Prct Goshen, Orange Co Liber 28, page 274. Will made 6 June 1772 Proved 16 June 1772
    Wife: Abigail Daus. Deborah and Mary
    Sons: Richard and Joseph Bro. William ALLISON
    Exec.: Bro. Nathaniel Roe and cousin, James SAWYER

    James SAWYER witnessed the will of Samuel JONES, Jr. (p. 27) of Goshen, made 6 Apr 1777 and probated 5 July 1784. James' daughter Temperance m. Nathan JONES, so there may be a connection there.

    John A. ALLISON, former president of CATO Institute (c2012-4) and before that CEO of large banking company BB&T, may be connected to the Orange Co. ALLISONs. Check into this.

    Also the will of Elizabeth SAWYER in volume 2, p. 55:
    Elizabeth SAWYER of Town of Goshen Liber B page 362. Will made Aug. 14, 1794 Probated Dec 20, 1802
    Daughters: Mary and Temperance
    Sons: Matthew, Moses, Benjamin
    Grandchildren: Elizabeth JONES, Elizabeth KNAP
    Executors: Benjamin SAWYER, John STEWART
    Witnesses: William ELMER, Andrew JONES, Christian WOOD

    Received 8 Dec 2000 from Dr. Joseph BOYLE (, Registrar, MAPES Family Association, an answer to my queries about Major James to OCGS (Orange County Genealogical Society): James SAWYER was b. in Goshen, NY and his wife's name was Elizabeth BRADNER. James' father is also James b. 1696 in Lyme, CT. His mother's name isn't given. This information comes from the Ancestral Table of William A. CATERSON published in the OCGS Quarterly, vol. 30, p. 18, 2000.

    He lists as MAPES sites:

    Fellow Orange Co., NY researcher Lisa STITT suggests that perhaps Major James m. Elizabeth STEWART, daughter of John and Elizabeth (BRADNER) STEWART. Hmmm.

    Historical Note: George WASHINGTON 1732-99 and Joseph HAYDN 1732-1809 were contemporaries of Major James SAWYER.

    Contemporary Events (mostly from BN HT, CHME):
    - for earlier events see ThomasS
    - 1660-1730 'A time of moral, spiritual, social collapse in England, anti-Puritan purge'
    - 1683 Historic defeat of Ottomans outside Vienna (hinge of history)
    - 1688 Glorious Revolution in England, Protestants Wm/Mary enthroned, John Bunyan dies (b1628 60yo)
    - 1691 Plymouth Colony merges with MA Bay Colony
    - 1701-13 War of Spanish Succession, Britain beats France, Q Anne r1702-14
    - 1704 Battle of Blenheim, Brit Marlborough/Austrian Savoy end French dream of 'universal monarchy', Isaac Newton publishes 'Optics', John Locke dies (b1632 72yo)
    - 1706 Ben Franklin b. 1/17 Boston; Major James' ggdad Thomas d. 9/12 Lancaster, MA
    - 1707 Act of Union unites England & Scotland as Great Britain
    - 1711 David Hume born (d1776 65yo) empiricist philosopher
    - 1712 J J Rousseau born (d1778 66yo) sparked romantic movement
    - 1713 RCC condemns (quasi-Protestant) Jansenists in France; Spain cedes Gibralter to UK
    - 1714 K Geo I of Britain to 1727 13yrs, 1rst Hanoverian monarch
    - 1715 1rst Jacobite uprising in Scotland, in support of James Edw 'the Old Pretender'
    - 1716 Leibniz dies (b1646 70yo) eminent German Christian rationalist philosopher
    - 1720 Collapse of John Law's MS Co in France, 'S Sea Bubble' in England, financial panic
    - 1721 1rst Brit PM Sir Robt Walpole to 1742 21yrs
    - 1723 17yo Ben Franklin flees forced apprenticeship to older bro James, heads to Philly; Adam Smith born (d1790 67yo)
    - 1724 Immanuel Kant born (d1804 80yo) premier Enlightenment philosopher
    - 1725 Catherine I widow of Peter 'the Great' succeeds to Russian throne
    - 1726 Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' published, biting satire and arguably 1st dystopian novel
    - 1727 K Geo II of Britain to 1760 33yrs
    - 1729 Edmund Burke born (d1797 68yo), arguably 'the 1st [modern] conservative'
    - 1730 26yo Ben Franklin m. Deborah Read (2 sons, 2 daus)
    - 1732 George Washington born 2/22 in VA (d. 12/14/1799 Mt Vernon 67yo)
    - 1735 John Adams b. 10/30 Braintree (now Quincy), MA (d. 7-4-1826 90yo Quincy, same day as Thomas Jefferson)
    - 1738 Treaty of Vienna resolves War of Polish Succession, (Major) James born
    - 1739 John Wesley (1703-91) founds Methodist movement
    - 1740 Frederick II 'the Great' K of Prussia to 1786 46yrs
    - 1741 Antonio Vivaldi dies 28 Jul in Vienna
    - 1743 Thomas Jefferson b. 4/13 VA (d. 7-4-1826 83yo Monticello, same day as John Adams)
    - 1744 F II t Grt invades Bohemia, but is repelled by Austrian/Saxon forces; 'King George's War' between Britain and France in N America to 1748 4yrs
    - 1745 Francis Asbury born (d1816 71yo) Methodist circuit-riding preacher, also 'the 45' 2nd Jacobite uprising led by Chas Edw Stuart 'the Young Pretender'
    - 1746 Battle of Culloden, Jacobites' final defeat
    - 1748 Jeremy Bentham born (d1832 84yo) utilitarian philosopher
    - 1749 Goethe dies (d1832 83yo), major figure of Romantic movement
    - 1750 J S Bach dies (b1685 65yo) greatest German composer
    - c1750-c1850 the Romantic movement (Baroque c1650-c1750), sparked by Rousseau's 1749 'conversion' (br-crm)
    - 1750s 1rst Great Awakening subsided i.e. 1720s-50s, began in NE
    - 1751 James Madison born 3/16 VA (d. 6-28-1836 85yo Montpelier, VA)
    - 1752 Chinese invade and conquer Tibet, Ben Franklin invents lightning conductor
    - 1753 George Berkeley dies (b1685 68yo)
    - 1754 Ben Franklin 1st becomes public servant
    - 1755 Montesquieu dies (b1689 66yo), very influential to American Founders; Alexander Hamilton born (d. 7-11-1804 1 day after duel w/Aaron Burr, 49yo)
    - 1756-62 Seven Years' War (aka French and Indian War 1755-63 in NA); Britain v. France, frmr wins after key 1759 battles of Quebec and Quiberon Bay (cf br-1759 'The Year Britain Became Master of the World'); Mozart b. 1/27/56 Salzburg (d1791 Vienna 35yo)
    - 1757 Brit Robt Clive defeats Bengalis, est. Brit rule in India; 22yo Robt Robinson writes the classic hymn 'Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing'
    - 1760 K Geo III to 1820 60yrs (fateful for USA), Zinsendorf dies (b1700 60yo) wealthy pietist ldr, sheltered Moravian Brethren, fnd'd Herrnhut
    - 1758 Jonathan Edwards dies (b1703 55yo), sparked 1rst Grt Awakening in 1734 MA
    - 1761 Wm Carey born (d1834 73yo) Calvinst Baptist missionary pioneer
    - 1762 J J Rousseau publishes 'The Social Contract', Catherine II the Grt to 1796 34yrs
    - 1763 Ottawa Indian chief Pontiac leads uprising against British (MI + ?)
    - 1764 Spinning jenny invented by Englishman James Hargreaves, English slave-trader John Newton converted, later writes 'Amazing Grace'
    - 1765 Stamp Act passed by English Parliament (uh oh), repealed 1766
    - 1767 Townshend Act imposes import taxes on Americans, Mason-Dixon line est. between free N and slave S (MD/PA), Capt. James Cook's 1rst voyage to 1771 (Australia)
    - 1768 Freidrich Schleiemacher born (d1834 66yo) father of modern (liberal, feelings-based) theology
    - 1770 Boston Massacre, 5 k., Townshend repealed but tea tax retained (uh oh), George Whitefield dies (b1714 56yo) ldr of 1rst Grt Awakening, Hegel born (d1831 61yo), German philosopher of intellectual evolution; Beethoven b. 12/15-6 at Bonn (d1827 Vienna 57yo)
    - 1773 Boston Tea Party, Peasant uprising in Russia led by Cossack Pugachev
    - 1774 K Louis XVI of France to 1792 (ends badly), 'Intolerable Acts' passed in Britain, so First Continental Congress meets at Philly to protest
    - 5 May 1775, Ben Franklin returns from London (served as delegate since 1757, tried to avoid war), 2wks after Rev War began that 'April Morning', chosen next day as rep to Continental Congress
    - 1775 June, Battle of Bunker Hill, 1rst of war (but after Lexington, Concord)
    - 1776 Declaration of Independence (Ben was 7yo), War of Indep to 1783, Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations' published, late '76 70yo Ben Franklin to Paris as Minister (Amb)
    - 1777 Christianity introduced in Korea, Battle of Saratoga, Gen. Burgoyne surrenders
    - 1778 France enters war on American side (as does Spain 1779), Voltaire dies
    - 1781 Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown (Ben is 12yo), Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' pub'd (relegates religion to emotions)
    - 1783 1rst successful hot air balloon (French bros Joseph/Jacques Montgolfier)
    - 1784 Brit PM Wm Pitt 'the Younger' est. political cntl of India; Kant's influential 'What is Enlightenment?' pub'd, answer? sapien aude ('dare to know')
    - 1785 Ben Franklin returns to Philly, serves 2yrs as 'Gov' of PA
    - 1787 US Constitution put into force (after mtgs at Philly, 81yo Ben Franklin tells woman [you have] 'a republic, if you can keep it'); Wm Wilberforce's famous 2-fold goal recorded in his journal for Su 28 Oct: suppression of slave trade and reformation of manners
    - 1788 1rst Brit convicts sent to 'Botany Bay' prison colony in Australia; Schopenhauer born (d1860 72yo) post-rationalist philosopher
    - 1789 French Revolution begins, President #1 Geo Washington (to Mar 1797)
    - 1790 Mutiny on the Bounty, 1rst Brit settlers colonize Pitcairn Island; Ben Franklin d. 4/17 84yo (wife d. 1874)
    - 1791 Bill of Rights passed, 1rst 10 Amendments to US Constitution, John Wesley dies (b1703 88yo) Methodist fndr, emphasized Holiness, Christian perfection; Mozart d. 35yo
    - 1792 Charles G Finney born (d1875 83yo) ldr of 2nd Grt Awakening (optimist, reason-based, used pressure tactics)
    - for later events see BenC

    The leading figures of the Great Awakening (c1700s-1760s) were Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), George Whitefield (1714-70) and John (1703-91) and Charles (1707-88) Wesley (cf Joel Rosenberg's book 'Implosion').

    By 1759, after a long struggle against France, Great Britain had become the world's #1 Great Power, retaining that role until 1945. Its European trading rivals were France, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. China (Manchu aka Ta Ch'ing dynasty 1644-1912) remained mostly closed, India was added to the British Empire in 1757, and Ottoman decline continued (see ToN.html).

  • Dear Folks
  • DAR Records
  • The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, 1972, via Mesa LDS FHC
  • Genealogical and Family History of Central NY (GFHCNY), ed. William Richard CUTTER, A.M., Vol III, Lewis Hist. Pub. Co., 1912
  • History of Waverly, N.Y. and Vicinity (HWNYV), Capt. Charles L. ALBERTSON, 1943
  • Early Records of First Presbyterian Church in Goshen (ERFPC), compiled by Charles C. COLEMAN, 1934
  • BN HT = History's Timeline, Barnes & Noble, 1981, own.
  • CHME = Christian History Made Easy, Dr Timothy Paul Jones, Rose, 2005, own.