Page prepared by Donald Richardson from documents provided by Barbara Reale

To get the whole picture one should read this first! Some Notes on Charles Wesley Sawyer, Sr.

Written by Mabel H. Roney [notes added by Donald Richardson]

Coles County's glorious history can not be written without the story of its pioneers. The leader of these men was Charles Wesley Sawyer Jr., not only because he was the first to buy land and build his home upon it in the western half of Coles County but also because he saw to it that church services and educational facilities were furnished by himself and eight or ten other pioneer families who followed the Sawyer family from Hardin County, Kentucky to find a [unreadable].

Charles Wesley Sawyer Jr. was an Englishman. His father and uncle had emigrated from near London to Baltimore, Maryland in the latter part of the (unreadable) eighteenth century because of their religion. The Sawyers were stanch followers of the Methodist leader, John Wesley. The English government at that time was Catholic. The Methodists were so persecuted that many left their homes and fled to the new world.

Charles' father and his brother came first to Baltimore, Maryland [unreadable] found the Catholic influence of the ruling Calvert family against Protestants even in the new world. So the Methodist Sawyers moved westward to Kentucky over the famous trail first laid by Daniel Boone.

[It should be noted that Charles W. Sawyer's wife was Ann Richardson who he married in Worcester County, Maryland. She and her brother Robert Richardson and family along with the South family also moved to Kentucky. Ann Richardson Sawyer went on to Illinois with her son and is buried there.]

The Sawyers followed Boone's trail into the "dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky and settled near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a tiny pioneer settlement started by Boone. There the family associated itself with the Breckenridge District of the Methodist Church of Kentucky, which embraced this portion of the State. There they bought land from a Virginia land company and built their homes on "Friends' Creek" near Elizabethtown in Hardin County, Kentucky. Besides being a farmer, Charles' father was a skilled brick mason. The soil there was such that brick could be made from it so Charles and his father were soon busy building brick houses in Elizabethtown. These houses remained for perhaps two generations in this neighborhood. The court house built by the Sawyers has been restored and is still in use. It was while the Sawyers were working at their trade in Elizabethtown that a traveling Methodist evangelist from the East rode into the settlement and stopped to talk with the workmen. Charles, Jr. was so impressed by him and his words that he persuaded the Evangelist to go to the "Friends' Creek" community and preach in the Sawyer home. Charles Jr.'s argument was, "There are many in "Friends' Creek" who are not saved. This is your opportunity to convert them to our Christian Methodist Faith." As a result of the Evangelist's efforts all of "Friends' Creek" became devout church members. They organized a Methodist Church and began services in the new building donated by [unreadable] who had constructed the building for use as a "still house" for making corn whiskey. The building has been kept in use as a church ever since. It was rebuilt three times. Today, an active Methodist Church organization is there although the name has been changed to "Pleasant Grove Methodist Church". [ Robert Richardson and his wife died together about 1803, near Elizabethtown, KY, the cause is not known : fire, accident, indians?]

Charles Wesley Sawyer, Sr. died in 1826 his will was filed for probation 5th of February 1827 in Hardin County Kentucky. His grave is in Meeting Creek Cemetery (now called Moore Cemetery) near the village of Big Clifty, Kentucky. His will divided his property equally among his wife and children. He named his oldest son, Charles Wesley Jr., not only Executor of the Will but also Trustee of his four married sisters' shares. This document is now among the Sawyer family files and records.

The Sawyers were opposed to slavery so, when Illinois was admitted to Union in 1818 as a free State. Charles wanted to sell his land in the slave state, Kentucky, and buy land in the free Illinois wilderness to make a new home for himself and family. Another reason he wanted to pioneer in Illinois was a law was enacted by Congress requiring surveying done by the Government so land descriptions would be correct and legal. This was the first time this precaution had been taken. It prevented the confusion of legal descriptions to land that occurred in Kentucky and Tennessee when land was all bought by large Virginia Land Companies from the Government and careless or illegal survey descriptions had caused many to lose their farms bought from these private Virginia companies.( Daniel Boone had the experience of losing his homeland twice in Kentucky and once in Missouri through faulty and illegal deeds to the property.)

In 1825, Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. first saw Illinois when he came to what is now Coles County with Government Surveyors hired from his vicinity of Kentucky.

The surveying party came by way of the Ohio River crossing at Henderson, Kentucky; then northward to Vincennes, Indiana. They crossed into Illinois and traveled north to Paris. From there they struck westward. They crossed the Embarass River at a ford just south of what is now Charleston.

The surveyors followed an old Indian trail (now the Old State Road) to their destination the west side of Coles County. They worked throughout the summer of 1825 in the vicinity of what is now Paradise and Mattoon Townships. Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. saw the fine agricultural soil and wooded land. He decided to buy a tract of land and build his cabin home on it. (This spot is in Section 33, Mattoon Township. It still remains in his descendants' possession.) His deed was recorded in Vandalia, then the capitol of Illinois. He hired a man named Bates who lived on the east side of the county to build his cabin for $10.00. At the end of the surveyors' working season, Bates went with them to Kentucky.

James Nash, a seasoned pioneer woodsman, secured permission from Sawyer to spend the winter in the cabin, even though he would be the only white man In the region.

Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. spent the winter in Friends' Creek, Kentucky making preparations for his spring journey to his new home in Illinois. Charles' wife was Rebecca, the daughter of a neighbor named, Daniel Linder. The Linders, a Methodist family, emigrated from Germany by way of England to Pennsylvania because of religious persecution in the old world. After serving in the Midwest under Colonel George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War, Daniel Linder moved to Kentucky and settled near the Sawyers in Hardin County, Kentucky. The spring of 1826 arrived. Rebecca Linder Sawyer rode her Kentucky saddle horse (a present from her father). Their youngest child, about 3 years of age, rode behind the Mother's huge side-saddle with its three pronged horn and well filled saddle bags. Two daughters were married: one to John Young, the other to Henry Cole. Their families came Illinois with the Sawyers and settled nearby. Charles and Rebecca's other children were: Juliet, John, Lurana, Cala, Charles III, Riza, Israel, Rebecca, Permelia, and Adi was born in Illinois October 18, 1829. Gilla was the wife of John Young, Juliet was wife of Henry Cole. William died in Kentucky [He is buried next to his grandfather in Moore's Cemetery].

In ox-drawn wagons, the family brought their treasured household goods. Some pieces had been brought from England in the eighteenth century. There was the Grandfather's clock with wooden wheels, the cherry high-boy, plus china and silver pieces. Cows, hogs and sheep were driven behind the wagons.

The Sawyer family arrived at Wabash Point in 1826. The first church services were led by Charles W. Sawyer, Jr. at his home. So began the famous "Camp Meetings", the first held in Coles County. They were continued for many years by that community. The minister stood upon a crude elevated platform built between four conveniently placed rows of trees. The congregation sat in front of him on rows of split halves of logs on the ground. Picnic dinners were taken and these revival meets, as they were called, lasted for several days with several preachers taking turns at expounding the gospel. At night, distant staved with friends in the little settlement. Others camped out.

People came from all over the country. Great opportunity for religious uplift was given to all who attended. The little Sawyer neighborhood at Wabash Point gained a fine reputation for godliness as well as for educational and economic advantages that has come down even to today in County history. After two years of church services in homes and at camp areas in the woods nearby, the small settlement in the wilderness, decided to erect a log building to be used only as a church. To do this, the settlement had to be under the Methodist Church's District jurisdiction. Brother Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. with George Morris and Rev. James Graham rode back to the Breckenridge Methodist District in Kentucky, where they still were members. They asked for instructions to organize a new church at Wabash Point. They were officially instructed to return to Illinois and to apply for inclusion in the nearest Methodist District already established. (This was the Shelbyvilie "Methodist). The three men went there and made proper application for membership. The Shelbyvilie District extended its eastern limit to include Wabash Point settlement and further authorized [unreadable] Committee from there to act as stewards and collect $5.00 in cash or in provisions to that amount for the purpose of buying land for the church and cemetery. They bought four acres in the northeast corner of the northwest quarter of Section 11, and built a log church on the present site of old Camp Ground Cemetery at Wabash Point. It was the first church building in west side of Coles County and was built in 1828-29. The first preachers in the settlement' S new church, were Rev. James Graham, Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. And [unreadable] church had been active use until later was removed to another location north of the first church and has now been sold and remodeled for use as a dwelling. The Cemetery is still in use with a Board of Control made up of descendants of the first pioneers. James Nash was the first pioneer to die, his was the first burial in this cemetery in 1829.

With the first church, came the first school in the community. The first school was held in the cabin of the teacher, a Mrs. Green. There were 5 or 6 pupils, each paid their teacher $2.50 or 3.00 per quarter. The term lasted one quarter per year. In l826-l827 a donation was given by the people of the community to build a separate log cabin for a school, on land bought for this purpose. The first teacher of this privately supported school was John Graham, son of Rev. James Graham. He boarded with the settlers and was paid a small salary in money or in provisions. The site of this log school building was across the road from the first church.

The first log school had two fire places; one at each end of the room. The window panes were made of oiled paper. A writing bench and table made of clapboards stood along the side where "the copy" was set for the pupils to learn to write. Pupils came from miles around to attend this first school in west Coles County. In the 1830's some came from North Okaw Township. Lurana Sawyer married Jonathan Edge Graham on April 29, l829 and Cala Sawyer married William Graham August 11,1830. The two Graham brothers were from North Okaw Township. The couples were both married in Shelby County as there wasn't a Coles County then.

In l831, the Commissioner's Court in Charleston appointed Charles W. Sawyer, Jr., Rev. James Graham and George Morris as the first school trustees in Mattoon Township. Their duties concerned maintenance of this first school in west Coles County.

The first court in Coles County was held in Wabash Point settlement in i828 when a settler had a cowhide stolen from a sapling top, where he had stretched it to "cure" and to keep it from animals. During the night it vanished and was traced to its hiding place under the floor of the cabin of the thief. Miles Hart was chosen as Judge and twelve others as jury men. The thief was found guilty and was sentenced to 29 lashes plus immediate and permanent expulsion from the settlement. This was carried out. The last seen of him and family was as they hastened westward along the trail toward unknown parts. They were never heard from again in Wabash Point.

The first regularly laid out village in West Coles County was platted by Charles W. Sawyer, Jr. on his farm in Section 33, Mattoon Township in 1828-1829. Rev. George M. Hansen persuaded Sawyer to name his village "Paradise" [unreadable] streets and blocks in regular square order with names such as Clear Street and Richmond as well as names of trees. There were 7 or 8 blocks in the village.

Within a short time after the Sawyers migrated to Illinois Rebecca's parents, the Linders, followed. They settled upland a little north of the Sawyer home (in what is now Mattoon Township). The land is still in the hands of their descendants. John Sawyer, Charles's brother, came to Illinois and built his cabin a short distance east of Charles's home. John Sawyer's wife was Hannah Radley, a niece of Sarah Nash Lincoln. Lincoln visited in their home on many occasions when traveling through here attending court in Shelbyville and Charleston. The Sawyers had a great influence on the Thomas Lincoln family to move to Illinois.

Other Kentucky neighbors who soon followed to Wabash Point were John Houchins, Miles Hart and his brothers, the Richard Champion family, the Currys, Drakes, Crosses, Brinegars, and Alexanders. All of these pioneers have many descendants now living in Coles County, Moultrie and Shelby.

The first store in this area was opened in 1830 the owner Mr. Slover. The mail first came regularly to this store by a horse rider who carried it southeast of Coles County, north through Wabash Point settlement on west by way of the Old State Road to Shelbyville. The horse rider had to go out of his way to stop at the Paradise store. Since Rev. Hansen's cabin was east about a mile directly on the mail carrier's path to the State Road, the mail was left at his home. He went to Washington D.C. and secured an appointment as Postmaster of Paradise. The mail came to his Post Office home until the first Government stage came over the Old State Road. It carried the mail on its twice-a-week trips from the east to Shelbyville and on westward. The mail was then left at Langston's Tavern where the horses were changed. Travelers were given food and lodging there. This location was three miles north of Paradise Village. A new village grew up west of Langston's Tavern on the Houchin farm alongside the Old State Road, it was called Richmond. The mail was left there at a store kept by G.W. Naab until after Mattoon began at the intersection of two railroads in 1855. After that the mail came to the Mattoon Post Office by way of the railroads. The residents of the settlements of Paradise, Wabash Point and along the State Road came to Mattoon Post office for their mail. This continued in practice until many years later when the rural mail delivery was instituted by the Government . Paradise Post Office had its last letter in 1847. Stamps so from 5c to 25c. By 1854, Paradise Village had died. Had the railroad passed Paradise, it no doubt would have been an important has become an important town and city as Mattoon has become.

In the 1830's, Coles County Government was organized. Charleston was chosen by the population of the County as the County seat. The old Indian Trail is the only original road through the County. It is now the "Old State Road" and is still in use. Another early trail from South of the County to Charleston and west to Dead Man's Grove thence northwest to Sullivan and Decatur, crossed the Okaw River near Fuller's Point which was earliest settlement made in North Okaw Township. (1830's)

By 1832, the Indians of Illinois had been pushed farther westward until they were no longer east of the Mississippi River. This was after the white men won the Black Hark War in Illinois. so, the Indians were no longer a menace to white settlers in the State.

Lurana Sawyer and Jonathan [unreadable] Graham bought land in North Okaw township in the 1830's. They bought land in Moultrie County about the same time. Cala Sawyer and husband, William Graham bought land in both Counties. Permelia Sawyer and husband James Jackson Osbern bought land in North Okaw township in 1847. The Graham brothers were sons of Jonathan Graham and Annie Hill Graham who were pioneers in the State of Indiana until 1831 when they sold out to Thomas Springer, father of the Hon. William Springer, and moved to Coles County, Illinois.

Permelia Sawyer Osbern was my maternal grandmother. They bought land in Section 33 in North Okaw township, built a cabin home. Her descendants have always owned and lived on this land. In 1891 she built the home where I, her granddaughter now owns and lives. This land was purchased from the U.S. Government for $1.25 per acre in 1847.

Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. spent the rest of his life on his Coles County home place. He died December 18, 1862 and was buried in the Old Camp Ground Cemetery at Wabash Point. His first wife, Rebecca Linder Sawyer died in 1853. Charles married Rebecca's, widowed sister, Elizabeth Linder Richardson. Both wives are buried at his side, Elizabeth died in 1866.

[Elizabeth Linder Richardson went to Illinois with most of her family. Later, "after two crops", Daniel Linder Richardson and his family returned to Hardin County, Kentucky. Daniel Linder also returned to Hardin County, Kentucky and is buried there.]

We, the descendants of Charles Wesley Sawyer Jr. look back with reverence to his personality of virtue and renown to the mighty purpose he had in view when he came to the Illinois wilderness of Coles County as the first homemaker, home builder and staunch organizer of the church and school in the west half of the County. By his labors and trough his leadership, he persevered against mountainous odds to secure for us, his descendants, a land in which we can worship God as we please and better our living conditions in economic and intellectual freedom. And a land that will always hold his best rewards for righteous, freedom-loving men.

They were a picked people, those sturdy ancestors of ours; they knew what they wanted; with Godís help they set out to get it. They were ready and willing to endure every privation and to face every difficulty and hazard, to attain the ends they sought - the righteous pursuit of happiness for themselves and their descendants.

No settlement ever started on its career with a leader of stronger character or higher moral earnestness than did the Wabash Point settlement of Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. He relied upon himself and his neighbors to take care of everyone in the little group. They dared to shape their own destiny. They were self-reliant people, believing in God and the principle of freedom. Some call it backbone. But whatever its name, it is the priceless quality of character that Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. Had and has handed down to posterity for which we are ever grateful. May we never fail to give due credit to our pioneer ancestors who made possible for us our opportunities and even our very existence.

Today, our heritage from Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr. Comes down to us not only by deeds accomplished, he speaks to us from the yellowed pages of a century-old small calfskin-bound Bible. His custom was to present a Bible to each of his grandchildren at birth. My mother, his grandchild Nancy Elizabeth Osburn Wamsley, received her Bible on June 10th 1859. Her grandfatherís words of wise admonition apply to all who read them. His words make a fitting ending to this story of his life, exemplifying, his life-long Christian faith:

"The Word of God which is Eternal Life to All them that believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

"When this you see, remember me. Fare-you-well, my children."

Charles Wesley Sawyer, Jr.

Written by Mabel H. Roney

Some additions by Dena Graham, Sec.

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This page last updated on December 11, 2002