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Notable Associations of the McQuesten and Sawyer Families

(through my maternal great-grandfather, Frank Payson Sawyer)


Family relationships

The McQuesten family originally came to America from Argylshire, Scotland, and Coleraine, Ireland, in 1735. William McQuesten (1685-1769) married Margaret Arbuckle (1688-1776). They had four children: John, William, Simon, and Margaret. William McQuesten (1732-1802) married Margaret Nahor (1738-1796). They had ten children: William, David, Hugh, John, James, Elizabeth, Lucy, Sarah, Mary, and Jane. David McQuesten (Sept. 27, 1757 - July 29, 1829) married Margaret Fisher (April 18, 1760-April 1833). They had eight children: William, Samuel, Sallie B., David, Margaret N., Eliza, Calvin, Mary Parker. Calvin McQuesten and Sallie B. McQuesten were therefore brother and sister.

Sallie B. McQuesten (July 10, 1791 - Dec. 31, 1857) married Stephen Sawyer (died Nov. 4, 1870) on December 6, 1824. They had four children: Luther Dimmock Sawyer (1826-1892), Samuel Foster Sawyer (1828-1860), Mary E. Sawyer (1829-1900) and Stephen Payson Sawyer (1832-1911). Stephen Payson Sawyer (Jan. 13, 1832 - March 23, 1911) married Frances Phoebe Billett (Sept. 1, 1832-March 18, 1897) on June 21, 1853. They had seven children: Ida Mary, Frank Payson Sawyer (1856-1930), Aura Ann, Clarissa (married Simon Stein), Ormiston, Samuel Fisher, and Jean Hurd. Frank Payson Sawyer was the father of Aura May Sawyer Durham (1884-1978), who was the mother of Joanna Durham McGaughey (1911-2001), who was the mother of William McGaughey (creator of this website). He was also general manager of the Muscatine Oat Meal Company of Muscatine, Iowa, which later became part of Quaker Oats.

Calvin McQuesten (Sallie's brother) was born on August 1, 1801, and died on October 20, 1885. He married three times. His second marriage, to Ester Baldwin, took place on September 9, 1844. There were two children from that marriage: Isaac and David. Isaac McQuesten (died 1888) married Mary Baker, daughter of a minister. They had five daughters and one son. The son, Thomas Baker McQuesten, was the highway minister of Ontario in the 1930. He was responsible for installing public gardens in Niagara Falls, Canada, and chaired the commission that built the Rainbow bridge to the United States. Thomas McQuesten and his sisters never married. They lived together in a large house near downtown Hamilton, Ontario, which is today a historic site known as "Whitehern", owned by the city of Hamilton. Bill McGaughey and his mother Joan D. McGaughey visited the sisters in their home around 1960.

The fortunes of the McQuesten and Sawyer families became interwined when an agricultural-implements company in Hamilton, partially owned by Calvin McQuesten, engaged the services of McQuesten's three nephews: L.D. (Luther Dimmock), Samuel, and Payson (Stephen Payson) Sawyer, who were expert machinists. They gradually assumed control of the company and, in 1857, McQuesten sold his interest in the firm to them. The Massey Harris firm of Toronto bought a 40 percent interest in L.D Sawyer Co. and the combined firm became the Sawyer Massey Company. It lasted until 1910. Then the Massey Harris firm operated on its own until it merged with the Ferguson Company in 1953 to become Massey-Ferguson. Today it is a part of AGCO Corporation.


About Calvin McQuesten

"Dr. Calvin McQuesten of Whitehern
Founder Of Hamilton's First Foundry
Aug. 7, 1801 - Oct. 20, 1885

Dr. Calvin McQuesten was born on August 7, 1801, in Bedford Town, New Hampshire (now Manchester). He was one of the nine children of David McQuesten (1757-1829) and Margaret (Fisher) McQuesten (1760-1833). He was one of the third generation of the McQuesten family to be born in New England. His grandfather William II (1732-1802) was born in New England and had eleven children; his great-grandfather William I (1675-1769) emigrated from Scotland via Ireland to New England in 1730 and had eight children.

Education and Medical Practice

Calvin McQuesten was educated at the Bradford Academy in Bradford, Massachusetts where he obtained a teaching certificate in 1825. He then taught school at Stoneham, Massachusetts, for two years. In 1827 he returned to school at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine to study medicine. The college was established in 1794, but the medical school commenced in 1821. Calvin's older brother David was also a medical doctor with a practice in Washington, New Hampshire, and Calvin spent some time working with him there. Calvin received his "Degree of Doctor of Medicine" in September 1830. His medical certificate is extant in the archives at Whitehern Museum. Dr. Calvin McQuesten practiced medicine in Sandbornton, New Hampshire and, in 1832, he moved his practice to Brockport, New York, where he also entered into a partnership in a pharmaceutical business known as McQuesten and Budlong. He was the medical consultant for the partnership and took very little active part in the business (W0139, July 4, 1839).

Three Marriages, Family and Home

In 1831, Dr. Calvin married Margarette Lerned (1809-41) and they had three sons, two of whom died in infancy, leaving one son Calvin Brooks McQuesten (1837-1912), who was four years old when his mother died in 1841. Calvin Brooks eventually became a doctor and practiced in New York. He never married. Dr. Calvin married for a second time in 1844. His second wife was Estimate Ruth (Esther) Baldwin (1816-51) and they had two sons, Isaac (1847-88) and David (1849-54). David died at the age of five in a stove fire, and Isaac Baldwin McQuesten was four years old when his mother died in 1851. Isaac eventually became a lawyer, married Mary J. Baker (1849-1934) in 1873, and they had seven children (one died in infancy). The six remaining children grew up and died at Whitehern--They never married.

By 1851 Dr. Calvin McQuesten had been widowed twice and had two young sons, half-brothers, Calvin Brooks, fourteen years of age, and Isaac Baldwin who was four. Dr. Calvin needed a mother for his boys, and Elizabeth Fuller, a teacher, presented herself in her letters, and otherwise, as a loving and kindly person, and Dr. Calvin married her in 1853. In the same year Dr. Calvin McQuesten purchased Whitehern (then "Willowbank") for £800, and moved in with his family. However, Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten was not at all interested in being a mother to the two young boys; she instructed them to call her "Mrs. McQuesten," and she promptly sent them away to school. She spent a great deal of her time traveling and shopping in the U.S. and Europe. Many of the fine furnishings at Whitehern are the result of these shopping trips.

Industry, Hamilton 1830s

During the 1830's Dr. Calvin McQuesten formed a partnership in the foundry business in Hamilton, Upper Canada, with his cousin John Knox Fisher (who moved to Hamilton), Joseph Janes (Hamilton), Priam Hill (Brockport, New York). This was the first foundry in Hamilton, and was the beginning of Hamilton's growth to become "The Birmingham of Canada."

In 1835, the partners purchased a property at James and Merrick Streets and built their foundry, McQuesten & Co., "a furnace and manufacturing business." It was:

a building of not less than 18 X 24 feet and was located on the west side of James Street. The source of power for the operation was a horse-power in the basement. It was used to power a bellows that introduced a blast to the cupola. The cupola was fed scrap-iron and pig-iron by the bucketful from the top and molten iron was removed at the bottom. The shop was equipped with a lathe, planing machine and crank. The latter machines were for turning out the wooden patterns that made the impressions in sand moulds and for cutting out the various parts of the machines they planned to produce.

They began manufacturing stoves and the new threshing machine, which was initially greeted with skepticism by the farmers, but proved a success at harvest time. The foundry burned down in1855 and a larger foundry and machine shops were built at the foot of Wellington St.

The firm experienced some difficulties: There were partnership conflicts and Janes left the firm in 1838. Skilled labour, good quality materials, and patterns were difficult to obtain. The political situation during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 and 1838 was personally threatening because Fisher and Dr. Calvin were Americans, and Fisher, who was actually living in Hamilton, felt especially vulnerable . His good friend, John G. Parker, and minister of his church (Presbyterian) was taken prisoner on suspicion of being one of the rebels. Also, the company was refused a bank loan by Allan MacNab because of their American connection. There is little doubt that Dr. Calvin delayed moving his family to Hamilton until the political situation eased and the business was established, which was in 1839.

Over the years as the firm expanded, they were able to replace the horse-drawn power in the basement with a steam engine. He and Fisher formed an equal partnership and by 1845 they were able to pay off the mortgage, and the business became successful. In 1853 Dr. Calvin sold a portion of his interest in the firm to his two nephews, Luther & Payson Sawyer and a cousin William McQuesten. Another nephew, Samuel Sawyer was an engineer with the firm.

John Fisher entered politics in Hamilton, and was elected Mayor in 1850; in 1856 he sold his portion of the business and returned to the U.S. and settled in Batavia, N.Y, and in 1868 he was elected to the 41st congress as a Republican. In 1857, Dr. Calvin McQuesten retired from active ownership of the company, putting the three Sawyer brothers in charge as active partners. They operated the company under the name of L. D. Sawyer and Co. In 1889, H.A. Massey of the Massey-Harris Co. Ltd., became a part of the company, and by the turn of the 19th century, the firm became known as the Sawyer-Massey Co.

Retirement, Church, Social, and Cultural Contribution

In 1857 Dr. Calvin McQuesten sold his business to his three nephews and retired with a fortune of $500,000, but retained the deeds to the foundry lands and buildings, and had other investments. He put his son Isaac, a lawyer, in charge of many of his financial interests. Dr. Calvin became director of the Gore Bank in 1862 and vice-president in 1867.

After retirement, Dr. McQuesten proceeded to indulge himself in his favourite avocation, the study and practice of Evangelical Protestant theology, and in the building and design (architecture, acoustics) of Presbyterian Churches in Canada and the U.S. He was a financial benefactor and prime mover in the establishment of MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, and Knox Presbyterian Church in Dundas; and he assisted in the design of Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton. He was an elder and trustee in the MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, an elder in the Central Church, and a generous contributor to the missionary work. He was treasurer of the Hamilton Branch Bible Society (1844-49) and vice-president (1849-85). Dr. Calvin was also involved in the establishment of the Wesleyan Ladies' College in Hamilton in 1861 and served as vice-president (1861-72) and president until his death in 1885. In spite of its name, Wesleyan College granted a non-sectarian degree. The ladies' college reflected the McQuesten's commitment to education for women as well as for men, which was influenced by their Scottish Enlightenment philosophy.

Old Age and Death

As Dr. McQuesten aged and his health began to fail, his wife Elizabeth Fuller and two sons, Isaac and Calvin Brooks, became increasingly involved in a legal struggle over the disposition of his estate upon his death. As Dr. McQuesten began to grow senile this struggle became urgent and the letters between Isaac and his half-brother Calvin demonstrate the legal strategies that became necessary in order to thwart Elizabeth, which they achieved with Dr. McQuesten's full co-operation. In 1880, Dr. Calvin McQuesten drew up a legal declaration to transfer control of his estate to his two sons, stating that his wife, Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten: "has become more indifferent, intolerable and unkind . . . and has absented herself from house for a lengthened period recently without the consent and contrary to the wishes and directions of said Calvin McQuesten." He had already (in 1863) deeded the house "Willowbank" (later named "Whitehern") to Isaac. After Dr. Calvin's death Elizabeth was granted an annuity and she returned to the U.S. Dr. Calvin McQuesten died in his bed on October 20, 1885, and is buried in the family plot in the Hamilton Cemetery.

The Decline of the Family Fortune

Dr. Calvin McQuesten's son, Isaac, took control of the estate while Dr. Calvin Brooks continued his medical practice in New York. Unfortunately, Isaac lost the family fortune through bad investments and alcoholism, and died very suddenly in 1888, leaving his estate in bankruptcy. He lost his father's fortune, most of his half-brother's share, and much of his wife's inheritance from her father, Rev. Thomas Baker. His widow, Mary Baker McQuesten (1849-1934), became the matriarch of Whitehern and raised her six children there in a state of genteel poverty. None of the children married and, in 1959, the house "Whitehern" was deeded to the City of Hamilton. In 1968, when the last remaining member of the family died, Rev. Calvin McQuesten, Whitehern reverted to the City to be used as a Museum. Dr. Calvin McQuesten's home is intact today, open to the public, and complete with all family furnishings and possessions from three generations of the McQuesten family, including thousands of books, artworks, letters, diaries and documents. It is a virtual time capsule."

from: Whitehern Museum Archives, from Canada's Digital Collections initiative in partnership with the Hamilton public library


About the Sawyer-Massey farm implements company


The Sawyer Massey Company: We present the following history of the Sawyer-Massey Company, compiled by the late Roy Botterill of Grimsby, Ontario and as publisher in 1985 for our Silver Anniversary book.



John Fisher from New York State founded the company in Hamilton in 1835. In 1836 he produced the first threshing machine ever built in Canada. Realizing the possibility for the company but lacking capital, he convinced a cousin, Dr. Calvin McQuesten of Lockport, N.Y. to become a partner with him. The firm prospered and much of their production was shipped to Western Canada. The company was then known as the Hamilton Agricultural Works. In the 1840's their supplies of iron ore were often in short supply during the winter season as it had to come in by ship from the New York State and from Long Point in Ontario.

In the Early 1840's L.D. Sawyer with his brothers Payson and Samuel joined the company. They were nephews of Dr. McQuesten and also expert machinists. In time they became members of the firm and gradually assumed control of the business. After the death of John Fisher in 1856 the firm's name was changed to L.D. Sawyer & Co.

By 1869 the firm was manufacturing Separators, Tread Mills, Horse Powers, a combination grain drill with clover seeding attachment copied from the better American machines such as the Empire. The Company also sold at this time the Ohio Reaper and Mowers, the Woods Mower, the Dodge Self Rake, the Pitts Threshing Machine, the Rochester Cutting Box and the Birdsell Clover Huller. Early in the 1880's they began building a return flue portable steam engine and in 1887 they added horse drawn road machinery and also became agents for Aveling and Porter stream road rollers.

In 1889 Hart A. Massey, Walter E. Massey and Chester D. Massey purchased 40% interest in the L.D. Sawyer firm. Hart Massey was president of the Massey Harris Co. of Toronto and was also elected President of the L.D. Sawyer Co. A re-organization took place and the company name was changed to Sawyer & Massey Co. Ltd. There was no corporate relationship between the two companies. All went well until 1910 when differences arose over the future of gasoline tractors. The Hamilton firm wanted to greatly increase the production of steam traction engines while Masseys favoured developing the gas tractor. The upshot was the Masseys withdrew their interests in the Sawyer & Massey Co. and the firm was re-organized as the Sawyer-Massey Co. Ltd. The following year the new two word circular trade mark appeared on all their machines. Beginning in 1912 this two word circular trade mark appeared in bold letters on the smoke box door of their steam traction engine.

By the mid 1880's the firm was building the LDS portable engine - named after L.D. Sawyer. It was a return flue type with steam dome and a full water front. The engine was mounted at the rear of the short broad boiler with the belt wheel on the right hand side. A few years later this same unit appears as a traction engine. Although the LDS was a very satisfactory machine public preference for the locomotive style traction engine caused the firm to change their design in the mid 1890's. The open bottom locomotive boiler without steam dome was adopted and hundreds of little 13 H.P. single cylinder side mounted engines were built around the turn of the century. When self feeders and straw blowers were added to the separator more power was needed so the 17 H.P. and 20 H.P. engines of the same side mounted design were turned out. Steam domes were added and the straight smoke stack changed to slightly tapered one. The new smoke stack included the Diamond Spark Arrester with its cone top and spark arrester pipe. The double eccentric link reverse gear was used on all single cylinder engines until 1908. Then the Woods Patent single eccentric valve gear was adopted. All tandem compound engines were fitted with the Woolf reverse gear. The Waters governor was used on all portable engines, traction engines and road rollers.

In 1914 Sawyer-Massey became the only Canadian company to adopt the idea of rating steam traction engines and portable engines by their brake horse power. (This idea was pioneered by the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. of Racine, Wisconsin.) Thus the old 17 H.P. became 51 H.P. and the 20 H.P. became 60 H.P. The 22 H.P. simply became 68 H.P. and the 25 H.P. became 76 H.P. The 27 and 30 H.P. tandem compounds became 87 and 100 H.P. respectively. Steam pressure for all engines was now 175 P.S.I.

Threshing machinery continues to be improved. After the open cylinder machines an endless apron type of thresher patterned after the Pitts Machine was produced. Then in the late 1870's a moving deck machine called the "Grain Saver" was produced. It was almost an identical copy of the "Vibrator Separator" built by Nicols & Shepherd of Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1887 L.D. Sawyer & Co. introduced a new vibrating type separator which they called the "Peerless". This new separator was invented and patented in 1885-86, had both decks in forward and upward motion through a pitman driven rocker shaft. The Peerless became the firm's standard product and was offered in a variety of sizes. A sturdier model of the Peerless was built expressly for the Western trade in sizes up to 40" cylinder width. It was called the Great West separator. In later years to accommodate the owners of small gas tractors they built first in wood construction and then in steel machines simply called No. 1, No. 1B and No. 2B. They had cylinders 22", 24" and 28" wide respectively. In the last years of production the steel separator was sold under the Massey Harris name.

During the first part of this century Sawyer-Massey built a very efficient clover huller which they called the "Monitor". It was phased out during World War 1. A portable sawmill basically similar to the other portable mills of the time was produced but it was discontinued in the mid 1920's.

Finally, prior to World War 1, Sawyer-Massey began to manufacture a gasoline powered tractor. They built a 22-45 H.P. size intended for Western Canada. It used a chassis fitted with steam traction engine wheels and gearing and mounted a four cylinder, slow speed engine lengthwise well to the rear of the tractor. It drove the pully and transmission through a bevel gear.

This machine was followed by a 30-60 model during World War 1. After this war Sawyer-Massey also built smaller sized gasoline tractors of 11-22 H.P. and 17-34 H.P. for a few years. Plus a limited number of 17 H.P. and 20 H.P. steam traction engines. These later steamers were built with the old double eccentric link reverse gear and the "Gould" balanced valve. By the mid 1920's gasoline tractor production ceased and Sawyer-Massey became a distributor for the Wallis tractor. Steam traction engine production stopped at the same time.

Post World War 1 conditions in the threshing machinery line caused Sawyer-Massey to concentrate their production on road construction machinery. They were now producing steam Road Rollers, Rock Crushers, Rock Screening Equipment, Dump Wagons, Tank Wagons, pull type Road Graders (This included light maintainers up to the heavy leaning wheel grader.) Construction Plows of all types, Tow type reversible scarifies, Tow type Rollers, Drag Scrapers, and Fresno Scrapers.

In one area Sawyer-Massey pioneered in Ontario. They built the first Motor Grader in Canada, or as it was called then "One Man Power Maintainer". It had hand controls, and 8 foot blade, 39" wide scarifier, and for power, your choice of a Fordson fitted with Trackson tracks, a Cletrac model K Crawler tractor, or a McCormick Deering tractor fitted with hard rubber tires. Eventually the Crawler tractors were fitted with pneumatic tires and complete hydraulic controls replaced the hand controls.
In May 1927 Sawyer-Massey was sold to a new interest. T.A. Russell President of Willys Overland of Canada became the new president. By 1930 Sales were poor and Sawyer Massey started building Motor truck bodies and semi-trailers in an effort to stay solvent. Nothing seemed to work. In the late 1930's Sawyer-Massey became a distributor for the Austin Western Road Machinery Co. of Aurora, Illinois and the manufacture of construction machinery under their own name ceased. Finally after World War 2 the company was terminated. Stelco and General Steel Wares now occupy the former Sawyer-Massey buildings on Wellington Street North in Hamilton."



About Ontario highway minister, Thomas McQuesten

"Thomas McQuesten (June 30, 1882 - January 13, 1948) was an athlete, militiaman, lawyer, politician and government appointee who lived in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada ....

McQuesten served as an alderman between 1913 and 1920, and tirelessly promoted parks as chairman of the Works Committee. In 1917, he and others presented a well-written but ultimately unadopted report on town planning with emphasis on railway lands.

Since his electoral ambitions reached higher, he began his climb in the Liberal Party of Ontario. In the early 1920s, he was an executive of the Hamilton Liberal Association and by the early 1930s he rose to provincial president. Finally, in 1934, he was elected as an MLA (later styled MPP) for Hamilton (the Legislative Assembly site says the riding was Hamilton Wentworth, but other sources say Hamilton West).

The newly elected MLA entered the provincial cabinet, serving concurrently as minister of highways (a position he held until 1943) and minister of public works. Among the many construction projects he spearheaded across Ontario were:

the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Burlington Bay Skyway Bridge linking Toronto, Ontario with Fort Erie
the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara River and the Rainbow Bridge over it in Niagara Falls
the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia
the Highway 20 link to the Niagara Escarpment in Stoney Creek.
the Highway 2A through Oshawa, Ontario, now Highway 401.

Due in part to the start Second World War, Liberal Premier Mitchell Hepburn decided to keep the legislature and its second term government going longer than was popular. McQuesten participated in this strategy, adding a shifting number of portfolios to highways: mines (1940, 1942-43), municipal affairs (1940-43), and public works again (1942-43).

McQuesten did not stand for re-election in 1943 and the Liberal Party was defeated by the Conservatives, banished from government until David Peterson became premier in 1985. His government appointments, however, continued after he left elected office.

Appointed politics

Throughout his life, McQuesten was able to parlay electoral success into permanent appointments to non-partisan agencies. This suited his technocratic (and sometimes autocratic) nature, allowing him to focus on necessary and useful but rarely politically interesting or rewarding activities.

For instance, his advocacy for parks on Hamilton City Council earned him an appointment to the permanent position on the Board of Parks Management in 1922, where he remained until his death in 1948. In this position, he supported the construction of the Rock Gardens at the Royal Botanical Gardens in the 1920s and 1930s. After his retirement from electoral politics, McQuesten resumed his interest in the RBG and became and executive member of that organization, active there until almost before he died.

Among the many Hamilton civic leaders and boosters, McQuesten helped encourage McMaster University to relocate from downtown Toronto to the west Hamilton in 1930. His motivations may have included the fact he had to move himself to attend university and that while there he lost the Rhodes Scholarship to a fulltime Toronto resident in what was regarded as a slight against Hamilton.

After being elected an MLA in 1934, he served for a decade as the appointed chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission. Fort George at Niagara-on-the-Lake was rebuilt during his tenure.

He used his role as transportation minister to secure appointment as chairman of the Canada-U.S. Niagara Falls Bridge Commission in 1939. In addition to the more usual transportation aspects of the job, he used his position to engage in petty rivalry with wartime Prime Minister of Canada and fellow Liberal Mackenzie King over an inscription on carillon bells ....

His historic downtown family home was willed to the City of Hamilton after the death of the last of his five unmarried siblings in 1968. After its restoration was complete in 1971, Whitehern has been open as a civic museum and has occasionally served as a period film location."

from Wikipedia/Thomas_McQuesten


Obituary of Stephen Payson Sawyer, father of Frank P. Sawyer

"THE MUSCATINE JOURNAL", Muscatine, Iowa, Thursday, March 23, 1911, page 10




Was For Many Years Prominent In Mercantile And Industrial Circles Of The Pearl City

S. P. Sawyer, for many years one of the most prominent and influential citizens of Muscatine, passed away shortly after midnight last night, at his home at 112 Locust street. The life of usefulness and service came to a close at 1:40 o'clock, and followed a prolonged illness. His departure from this life was not unexpected, as his condition was precarious for some time, and it was realized that his weakened constitution would not withstand the ravages of the ills which he suffered. Hie death was due to a complication of organic disorders, incident to advanced age.. He was taken ill last October and except for a brief time during the early part of the new year, he was bedfast.-

Is Regretted

The announcement of the death of Mr. Sawyer was received with deep regret by the entire city today. For many years the deceased was very prominent in local business circles, and up to the time of his death he retained an interest in local commercial institutions. While not a pioneer resident, Mr. Sawyer has been prominently known in Muscatine since the early seventies. His activity, together with the support given him by business associates, brought to Muscatine one of the largest industrial institutions, the oatmeal mill, but had severed his connection with it before it was merged into the Great Western Cereal company. Following his advent to Muscatine, he engaged in the mercantile business, and later became identified with local industries and gained a position of prominence in banking circles. Mr. Sawyer combined honesty with integrity and these, together with his wisdom and foresight, enabled him to court the success which he enjoyed. He was highly esteemed and respected by all those with whom he was associated and his death removes from Muscatine, a man whose life was worthy of the most sincere emulation.

Born In New England

S. P. Sawyer was born in West Amesbury, Mass., January 13, 1832, and was a son of Stephen Sawyer and Sallie B. ( McQuesten ) Sawyer. His father was a native of Massachusetts and his mother of New Hampshire. S. P. Sawyer made his home in Massachusetts and New Hampshire until 1849, and was educated in the public schools of those states. At the age of 17 he went to Hamilton, Ontario, where he continued for 23 years engaging in the manufacture of agricultural implements, being the chief founder of the industry at that point, which has since grown to be the largest in its line throughout the dominion of Canada, now known as the Sawyer-Massey Agricultural Implement company. In 1871 he retired from the active management of the business, and has ever since resided in this city, with the exception of two years which he spent in California. Here he was for eighteen years a member of the firm of McQuesten/Sawyer, the partners retiring in 1894 in the interest of their sons, who then took charge of the business, organizing the McQuesten/Sawyer company. Since the death of the son, S. F. Sawyer, his interest was acquired by William McQuesten. On the 21st of June, 1863, Mr. Sawyer was united in marriage to Miss Frances Giillitt, a daughter of David Paul and Lucinda ( Hall ) Gillitt, a native of Newport, New Hampshire. She died March 18, 1897, after a long life of usefulness and unselfishness.


Mr. Sawyer held a membership in the Presbyterian church and for many years was one of its trustees. Politically he was in sympathy with the republican party. He was known as a good business man and a patriotic citizen and has always assisted to the extent of his ability in advancing the public interests. Through years of earnest endeavor he won success, and ranked as one of the substantial men of Muscatine, belonging to that class which leaves a permanent impress for all that is most desirable in American life. Mr. Sawyer was one of the organizers of the Muscatine oat meal company, and was at one time a director in the Muscatine National Bank, associated with G. A. Garrettson, J. B. Dougherty and others; but his interests were closely identified with the First National Bank, of which his son-in-law, Dr. S. G. Stein is the president and his son, F. P. Sawyer, one of it's directors. He is survived by four daughters and one son, who are, Ida S. Welker, wife of Colonel F. Welker, in whose honor the Welker Veteran Association was organized; Clara S. Stein, wife of Dr. S. G. Stein; Jean S. Day, wife of Lyle C. Day, cashier of the Hershey State bank; Miss Aura A. Sawyer, all of this city, and F. P. Sawyer, who has recently removed to Milford, Pa. One daughter, Armina Rosaline, preceded him in death, passing away at Hamilton, Ontario, at three years of age, and one son, Samuel F., died April 13, 1901, leaving his widow Nellie Stephens Sawyer, now assistant librarian at the P. M. Musser library.


The funeral will be held on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 0'clock from the family residence. Dr. J. N. Elliott, pastor of the First Presbyterian church will conduct the obsequies, which will conclude with the interment of the body at Greenwood cemetery."


Muscatine businesses in late 19th century

“Friends Oat” was a famous product of Muscatine. The mill started business in December, 1879, when several oatmeal mills were doing business, mostly by the barrel. Their capacity was 60 barrels a day. By 1900, the two-pound package of Friends Oats had revolutionized the business. 240 people were employed in the packaging department alone with a capacity of 60,000 packages each 24 hours. A carload of lumber was needed daily for boxes and another carload of labels and stock was used each week. In 1887, Friends Oats was awarded a gold medal for quality by the International Exposition in Brussels, Belgium. The mill closed in Muscatine in 1903, transferring all operations to Cedar Rapids, which then became the cereal center of Iowa.

The street fairs of the 1890’s displayed the imagination of Muscatine’s merchants as each tried to outdo the other with booths and displays of their wares. In October, 1899, McQuesten and Sawyer Company Hardware Store had one of the most unique booths on the street. It was supported by pillars of galvanized pipe, lined with shining sheets of tin and zinc and hung with tin cups and pots. Inside was a display of all kinds of stoves handled by the store. The Cadets of Temperance had a free ice water booth in front of Welch and Knapp Tailor Shop. Colorful bunting added bright touches to booths which drew large crowds to the five block shopping area.


The mill where Friends Oats was manufactured in Muscatine, Iowa

Bennett's Flour Mill

by David Metz

Bennett’s Mill is most notable for its location close to the river and that the building is still standing. Joseph Bennett built the mill in 1848. It measured 50’ X 85’ and stood five stories in height. His new steam powered flour mill had four runs of buhr stones and could produce five hundred and twenty barrels of wheat flour in one day. Being located on the corner of Front Street and Pine Street directly across from the town’s steamboat landing, Bennett could ship his flour simply by moving the barrels across the street to the landing.

On August 23rd, 1851, the mill burned with a total loss of $33,000. Even though Bennett had no insurance, he managed to completely rebuild his mill within 90 days. In 1868 he sold the mill to J.B. Hale who renamed it Muscatine Mills. Milling continued till 1876 when the Huttig Brothers purchased the mill and converted it into a sash and door factory. It operated as millwork plant till 1879 when Muscatine Oatmeal Company purchased the building and converted it to an Oatmeal plant.
Muscatine Oat Meal soon became one of the largest producers of oatmeal in the Midwest. The original Bennett’s Mill grew to include several other buildings on the site and two grain elevators on the river front across the street from the mill. By 1883 the oatmeal plant had 25 employees and could produce 175 barrels of oatmeal a day. Steady growth of the mill continued till 1887 when employment had grown to 250.

By 1900 the mill could produce 60,000 two-pound packages of oatmeal a day. It consumed 9,000 bushels of Iowa grown oats each day to feed the mill. In 1901 the owners of the mill decided to combine its operation with several other mills and formed the Great Western Cereal Company. During this same period other oatmeal mills were consolidating. These included a group of eastern mills centered on Akron, Ohio. Among them a mill in Ravenna, Ohio that used the “ Quaker Oats TM ” brand and the North Star Mills of Cedar Rapids Iowa. Formed in 1907 the owners named the new combine the American Cereal Company. In turn American Cereal Company reorganized and adopted the name Quaker Oats due to its name recognition. In 1912 the Great Western Cereal Company passed into ownership by the Quaker Oats Company.

With the much larger newer North Star Mill in Cedar Rapids close by and having excess capacity, the new company decided to close the Muscatine plant in 1913. This ended the use of the Bennett’s Mill building as a mill.


See also 1897 statement of Frank P. Sawyer (in mother's family web page)


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